On Sunday, the second and final night of the Oklahoma City Good News Festival, Franklin Graham preached from Luke chapter 19, with the story of Zacchaeus as the backdrop for his Gospel message.
There was one particular phrase toward the end of Franklin’s message that resonated with many, especially a man named Terry: “Your sins are forgiven.”
Terry, who has fallen on some hard times, found his way to the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday night. He probably couldn’t have told anyone what he was looking for, but he knew he needed something.
Or rather, Someone.
And Providence brought the answer he needed: that Someone is Jesus.
Providence also brought just the counselor he needed—a man who wasn’t actually planning to be a Festival counselor.
George Williams, a local retired pastor, had planned on serving as an echelon volunteer—a facilitator who stands on the floor to ensure that everyone who comes forward to pray or talk with a counselor gets matched with one.
But when George spotted Terry, he sensed in his spirit that he could not simply pass him off to a counselor, but that he was the one who should speak and pray with him.
As it turns out, Terry was recently laid off from his job as an oil field worker. As the two men got further into conversation, it became apparent that Terry had been involved with a tough crowd and had hurt many people in his life.
George, who does ministry with the local City Rescue Mission, frequently counsels men who have fallen on hard times, whether through addiction, poverty, job loss or relational issues.
“I pray with men every week that are just like Terry—who have the same kind of issues,” George explained. “I know his story well, since I have seen it in so many others.”
It was obvious that God had already prepared George to meet with Terry.
“He was very emotional,” said George. “As soon as I placed my hand on his shoulder, he just started crying. And as Franklin continued to speak, every time he uttered the phrase, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ it would just trigger new tears.”
Because George knows stories like Terry’s all too well, he knew exactly how to encourage him to stay strong in his new-found faith: “I just told him, ‘Look, you’re going to have struggles. And when you do, know that God still loves you. You need to know how to deal with this, because you will have thoughts telling you that God doesn’t love you and won’t forgive you.’”
George also encouraged Terry to get involved in a local church with sound biblical teaching and to learn 1 John 1:9—a reminder of the power of confession and the depth of God’s forgiveness.
“I also told him to keep a copy of the commitment card from tonight. And any time those feelings of being unforgiven and unloved by God come creeping in, to look at the card and remember that his standing before God was settled once and for all on this night,” said George, as he beamed. “He will never have to go back to the way he was before.”
Like Franklin Graham said of Zacchaeus, Terry had a need. But before he walked through the arena doors and heard the Gospel, he couldn’t pinpoint that need. What Terry really came to the Festival to find was Jesus. He just couldn’t see Him because the barriers of sin blocked his vision.
But God mercifully took away that barrier Sunday night, so Terry could have a clear vision of his Savior.
Do you want to see what happened at the Oklahoma City Good News Festival? You can watch the Saturday and Sunday night events in their entirety at billygraham.org/live until Aug. 30.