In His Steps

Billy Graham

Dear GCI Family,

Greg and Susan Williams

While touring the most popular attraction in Charlotte, I was struck by some coincidental characteristics between myself and the personality for whom the museum was honoring. The video film introduced our main character as, “A southern farm boy from North Carolina who became a gospel preacher and worldwide evangelist.” You may have guessed that I was touring the Billy Graham Library and my “aha moment” was, “Hey, I too am a southern farm boy from North Carolina, and a preacher of the gospel.” It feels good to associate with the likes of Billy Graham (though I don’t have any notions of filling stadiums as he did).

Over the course of the tour I saw more insights into Graham that intrigued me. He had a friendly relationship with every US President from Harry Truman forward. There were pictures of him playing tennis and golf with a few presidents. There were other shots with him at retreat sites or their personal properties, like Lyndon Johnson’s farm in Texas, or George Bush’s vacation home in Maine. Billy Graham was active, athletic and a rather “normal” guy who was good company to presidents and ordinary people alike. I aspire to be rather normal myself.

During his long and storied life of 99 years, Graham displayed humility. He readily admitted that his wife Ruth was a better Bible student than he was. He touted Ruth as being his chief spiritual counselor throughout his ministry. Again, I felt a kinship with him knowing just how important Susan is to me.

Another similarity is that Billy Graham’s greatest attribute was pointing others to Jesus. At his best, Graham was simply reflecting the Jesus in him. More than any aspiration to be like Billy Graham or any other spiritual leader, my greatest aspiration is to be like Jesus. I’m sure this is your aspiration as well.

In several gospel accounts, Jesus was a regular party guest, and I bet he would have fit very well into the social scene of spending time with the presidents of our modern era. Both Matthew and Luke identify Jesus as a “friend of sinners,” and they add glutton and drunkard to their critical review. Ironically, the “friend of sinners” label was meant as a criticism and yet it is one of the highest compliments awarded Jesus. I hope the same label will be awarded to the leadership of GCI. It is a mystery how religious people want their leaders to be other-worldly instead of approachable and likable.

The apostle Peter challenges believers to be like Jesus and to follow in his steps. In his first letter, he reminds us we have been called to be like Jesus in our patient endurance, especially in the light of unmerited suffering. What!?! How am I supposed to do that in a world that has programmed me to stand up for my rights and to fight back against any type of abusive treatment? It is only in the vicarious humanity of Christ that I find the strength to walk in his steps; it is Jesus who has saved me from sin and death, and only him living in me can empower me to endure the struggles of this life.

Following in the steps of Jesus is different from the typical protégé coming along behind a senior mentor and trying to follow his or her pattern of life. Following Jesus is also more than reading about Jesus in the pages of the Bible and then, through our determination and human effort, striving somehow to be like him. Following in the steps of Jesus means actively walking with him, in communion, continually relying on him, and becoming more and more like him in this Christian journey known as sanctification.

The bottom line is that Jesus is more than a historical example. He is the God-Man who is real, relational, and desires to make his home in every single human. Following Jesus means more than admiring him and hoping to be like him. It means participating with him and coming to the realization that we can do all things only through him (Phil 4:13; John 15:5).

From this southern farm boy who shares some commonalities with the late Billy Graham, allow me to echo the sentiment of pointing you to a day-by-day vibrant relationship with your Lord and Savior, Jesus. As the great evangelist said, “I have never known anyone to accept Christ’s redemption and later regret it.”

Walking with him,

Greg Williams

14 thoughts on “In His Steps”

  1. Greg,

    Thanks much for addressing the “humanity of ministry”. I am convinced that we can only effectively serve fellow human beings when we are willing to make ourselves vulnerable for the Gospel’s sake. There is much truth to that old saying “it takes one to know one”. Or, to put it in another way… “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find the bread.” (Daniel Thambyrajah Niles).

    Blessings,
    Santiago

  2. Here is your quote: He is the God-Man who is real, relational, and desires to make his home in every single human.
    True statement but not all will be called to that station in this age. He has already died for all but most humans will not be drawn by the Father to the Son in this age. Why is that so? Why just first fruits and not a full harvest now? Is it because we could not be properly tested as ” called out ones” in this age? Is that the main reason?

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I will be visiting Charlotte in May and hope to visit the Billy Graham Library with my husband. We will be visiting my daughter and her family who live just across the border in South Carolina.

  4. Thanks Greg, I’ve long thought of you as a “regular guy” who is off to a good start in pointing us all to Jesus.

  5. Gracias Ptr. Greg for simple & light article to read but embedded with spiritual insight of deep implication.

  6. Thank you for sharing this story, This reminds me of a song, “Evangelism is true to the song, ” I’m just a nobody”, trying to tell everybody, about somebody, who can save everybody, The William Brothers.” We all have to reach the point that we all share the gospel, often through deeds and not words.

  7. Hello Greg,
    I live in the United Kingdom, but I was born in Trinidad, in the Caribbean. I can remember many years ago sometime between the years 1955 and 1961 attending a Billy Graham crusade in the Queens Park Savannah in Port of Spain, the capital. I was not even in my teens at the time. The memory of that event is etched on my mind. Billy Graham certainly pointed people to Jesus Christ, he was an effective preacher. I was baptised into the fellowship of WCG/GCI in 1966, and do not regret being a member of the church. Like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ my wife and I lived through the dramatic changes in our fellowship 1995/1996. We experienced the journey from legalism to a trinitarian Christ centred Christianity. As for being called, 1 Corinthians 1:9 is applicable: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship (or communion) of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” God is a holy loving relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are privileged to be called into that relationship, the ultimate destiny of humanity!

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