Hasten the Day

I remember watching the ”Hand Over” of Hong Kong back to China on July 1st, 1997. The scratchy images coming thru on the TV on that rainy night made my heart sad.  I remember thinking, “I feel like Dorothy and we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

Now you may think it’s crazy to feel that way, but we’d lived in Hong Kong, have a lot of friends there and knew that from now on their lives would never be the same because of the increasing influence of Communism.  The first hints of change came when we heard that the international school in Hong Kong would now be required to include “Loyalty” classes in their curriculum. A little scary, it was as if some of my carefully arranged world was being taken away.

Last Thursday (Australia time), Billy Graham died, and I felt those same emotions washing over me again. Say what you will, he was one of the ‘rocks’ in my perfect world, a man who remained faithful to the end of a long and productive life.

It rained all day here, and we were forced to “stand down” from our deck-building project. Actually the rain had nothing to do with it, but on that day one of us threw out his back and was unable to stand up. So after some thought, we just decided to take a ‘personal day’ and read news clips on the internet and think about one man’s legacy, thanking God for the huge influence he had on so many.

Just about everyone I talked to, and I’m guessing some of you, were affected by Billy Graham’s life and witness. Thankfully the media, even here in Australia, has been very generous in sharing so many things about him.  But personally, we also have many memories, as I’m sure do you.

Where to begin?

We attended several of his crusades, including two in Japan (1980 and 1994) and a very poignant one in Russia in 1992 as we were adopting Nicki.

My stepsister, who was tragically killed in an auto accident when she was 24, had recently gone forward in the Denver Crusade in the mid 60”s.

Our good friend here in Australia, as it turns out, gave her life to God in a RADIO broadcast!

The list goes on.

Not long ago, I was reading the book, “Unbroken”, the story of  Louis Zambarini, an Olympic runner, who spent many years as a POW in several terrible Japanese prison camps.  He was finally freed at the end of the war and spent all of his time planning his revenge, particularly on one Japanese prison guard referred to as “The Bird”.  Louis’s PTSD was so bad one night he woke up with his hands around his wife’s neck trying to choke her to death while dreaming it was the Bird.  Following that, his wife insisted that he go with her to seek help from a Billy Graham crusade. He went against his will, and on the third night there in Los Angeles, he was leaving during the invitation, feeling nothing but anger: at his wife, at God and at The Bird. Suddenly Billy’s words reverberated over the speakers, piercing his heart as he said, “I would ask anyone who is leaving right now to stop where you are and give your problems to Jesus.” The invitation was so personal and spot on, Zambarini did just that.

The change that began in his life that night was nothing short of miraculous. He soon began an evangelistic association himself and continued in the tradition of Billy Graham, winning even more to Christ.

With our world going the way it is today, I feel like another truly “good” thing has been taken from it.  Oh I know that Billy himself, in his last hours, proclaimed again that he was just a sinner saved by grace and that nothing about anything he actually did mattered a whit in the big picture, but only Christ crucified.  And that’s true…. But I can’t help but thank God for using a man like him to turn people like us back to the truth.

In fact, many of you may not know there is a ‘Billy Graham Law’ that he (obviously) instigated and that most evangelicals in ministry are constrained to follow.  Simply stated, it is that no ‘opposite’ sex will be alone with another unless they are married.  Good advice, as we saw it prove true with Billy’s life.  We even heard that the last years of his life he always had two nurses with him to ‘avoid scandal’……..and he did.

Last September when we were at our missionary reunion in our Southern Baptist encampment center, Ridgecrest, in Asheville, North Carolina, there were so many of us that some had to be billeted a few miles away at ’The Cove’, a conference center owned and operated by the Billy Graham Evangelistic group.  We were impressed with the facility and then going a few miles farther down the road, we had a chance to tour his childhood home and visit the museum there. It was amazing to see what humble beginnings he came from, then to see how far and wide his ministry has stretched over the years.  But that’s what happens when a person gives himself or herself to Christ. The outworking of a life in service may not be as obvious as that of Billy Graham, but I feel pretty sure that everything done for the Kingdom will bring absolute praise from our Father.

I’m guessing that most of you who are reading this have already given your lives to Christ.  That’s a good thing, and encouraging to think that for us oldies it’s just a way of life that’s become as natural as breathing. But back to where I began; our world is changing, and not always for the better. For those of us who have enjoyed God’s blessings for so long, the changes seem especially painful. Yeah, I realize that the “good old days” weren’t all that good, if I’m honest with myself… but there’s so much going on around us today that makes those bygone days seem like Heaven on Earth.

God promises us a new heaven and a new earth, when every tear will be dried (Rev. 21:1-4), but before I join Peter in praying “hasten the day!” (2 Peter 3:12), I have to remember all those who have yet to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those were the ones who drove Billy Graham to a lifetime of service, always reaching for one more lost soul to be won for the kingdom.  I think maybe God left him here on earth to be a light in the darkness for those 99 and a half years.  Can I do any less?

Thanks for traveling together with me, Marsha

Comments are closed.