PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “BILLY GRAHAM-THE REAL ‘LEFT-BEHIND’ STORY”
By: Ron Woodrum
In his book, Just As I Am, Billy Graham reminds us that the ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was and is a team effort. He writes, “The dedicated men and women working with us have been willing to do anything and everything. In the case of Grady and T.W. Wilson, both gone home to be with the Lord, the ties go back to our youth. They were heaven-sent ones who propped me up…” “As long as I live, I will miss Grady Wilson at my side. From the beginning of our friendship, he was a God-given balance wheel. His down-to-earth sense of humor saved the day…and did not let us take ourselves too seriously…he often filled in for me when I had laryngitis. His style was different from mine, but the Holy Spirit always used him to point people to Christ.” T. W. Wilson, his older brother accompanied Billy in all his travels in the early years, and had oversight of all the radio stations. Billy writes, “I leaned on him in practical ways perhaps more than any other person”. I heard Billy Graham tell a funny story about him and T.W. Wilson. They were traveling back home in the early days of crusades, when they often traveled by car. T.W. was driving. Billy was exhausted from all the activity. He lay down in the back seat of their car to get some rest while T.W. drove through the night. T. W. stopped for gas, pumped it, and went in to pay. Billy was still asleep. Waking up…Billy got out and went to use the restroom. While Billy was in the restroom, T.W. returned to the car, assuming Billy was still sleeping in the back seat, and left…leaving Billy behind! Billy came out of the restroom only to find himself stranded…left behind. He was unshaven; hair disheveled, and looked nothing like the famed evangelist! In days when there were no cell phones…there was nothing for him to do but to wait at the gas station for T.W. to discover he was gone and return. He just prayed it would not be for too many miles, or hours! He told quite a humorous story about trying to convince the owner of the gas station that he “really was the real Billy Graham!” The owner kept saying, “Sure…you’re Billy Graham…and I’m the President!”
In his December 2011 Facebook post, Billy Graham told another story. This time Billy was traveling alone. He was driving through the South, in a big hurry to get home. He got pulled over for speeding. The officer issued him a citation, not recognizing the famous evangelist. In those days, in that particular town, offenders were taken right to court to plead, pay the fine, or have a court date set. Billy chose to take care of it immediately. He appeared before the judge. The judge asked him how he pleaded. Billy admitted, “Guilty”. The judge hit the gavel-and ordered “ten miles over the limit…ten dollar fine!” (One dollar per miles over in that day). Then the judge, looking back over the ticket, saw the name William Franklin Graham. He looked closer and asked, “Aren’t you…Billy Graham?” Billy, who had already pulled out his wallet to pay the fine, looked kind of sheepish as he agreed, saying “yes I am your honor”, putting his wallet back in his pants! The judge said, “I am sorry. There are no exceptions to paying the fines for breaking the law!” Billy got his wallet back out. But then, to his surprise, the judge got up from his chair, walked over to the court clerk, took out his wallet and paid the fine for Billy. Then dismissed court and took him out for a steak dinner! Billy said, “What an example of God’s grace!” Jesus took our penalty, and then treats us to love beyond measure. Amazing Grace!
One of my favorite stories that Billy Graham told during his preaching ministry was about Albert Einstein. Einstein often took the railway to his speaking engagements. He did not drive. He was always nearly late for the train’s departure and always seemed quite disorganized when he boarded the train. On one occasion he came in at the last minute, boarded the train, and took his seat. As the conductor came by to collect the tickets Einstein was searching his pockets for his ticket that he had misplaced! The conductor assured him it was ok…”I know who you are Professor Einstein!” The conductor proceeded to collect ticket/boarding passes. As he came back to where Einstein was, he was on his knees looking under his seat. The conductor again assured him, “Don’t worry Professor Einstein, we know who you are, you ride the train so often, not to worry”. Einstein stood up…replied to the Conductor…”I know who I am too…what I don’t know is where I am going!” After Billy Graham told that story, he said, “Because of Jesus Christ I know who I am…and because of the cross, and my personal faith in Him, I can say that I also know where I am going!” The same faith in the Savior and His Cross can give that assurance to all who believe in Him that they know where they are going!
Billy said, “Someday you will read that Billy Graham has died. Don’t you believe it…I will be more alive then than ever before!” He has “left behind” again…left this old world behind…and gone to be with the Lord that he so loved and served! Only eternity will be long enough to recount the number of lives that he touched for His Lord. We could never come close to such influence…but we can impact our world too, as God opens the door. Go and be faithful to your own calling. Billy Graham’s 32nd book was called The Reason for My Hope. Today’s message tells us how we can share our own story to our world.