President Obama Gives a Eulogy at Billy Graham s Funeral

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1 President Obama Gives a Eulogy at Billy Graham s Funeral Today we join together to celebrate the life of Reverend Billy Graham. It is fitting that we celebrate here at his library in Charlotte a place that lies only five miles from the home in which he was raised; a place that exemplifies his journey from a small- town farm boy to the one of the most influential evangelists this world has ever seen. I met Reverend Graham in April of 2010 at his mountaintop home in Montreat. I m sure he thought it was odd to see the presidential motorcade slowly ascend up the mountain. As soon as we greeted each other, with a big smile, he said, I m so proud of you. Those words may seem small, but they made me feel as if I was a part of something bigger that God had been guiding me every step of the way. To this day, those words stay with me. Reverend Graham and I talked about our lovely wives, our passion for golf, and his remarkable crusades. Once it was time to go, we prayed for each other and for the country. I am honored to have met him. In times of tribulation such as these, Reverend Graham taught us to look to the Word for guidance. In Isaiah Chapter 4, God assured us that when we pass through the waters, He will be with us; when we walk through the rivers they will not overflow us; and when we walk through the fire, we will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn us. Let us be mindful of this assurance as we lament the loss of our friend. It is well known that roughly two billion people have heard Reverend Graham preach. It is well known that he ministered to several United States presidents, including me. It is well known that he was an illuminating light in a world that sometimes seems quite hopeless.

2 But today I want to share three stories about Reverend Graham that will remind us of the man past the pulpit; the man away from the altar. As a young boy, William Billy Graham worked on his family s dairy farm on Park Road, a few miles southwest of where we now gather. Nearly every morning, Billy s eyes would fly open at 2:30 when his family s Big Ben alarm clock sounded. His job was to milk twenty cows every morning and afternoon, as well as shovel steaming manure and refill feed troughs with fresh hay. When rain delayed his work, Billy would sneak away to his family s red barn and listen to the relentless rain slap the barn s tin roof. He would kneel on a sweet- smelling pile of straw, bow his head, and speak with the Lord. This barn was Billy s sanctuary. This barn shaped Billy s character. Billy would eventually preach to enormous crowds. He would eventually be one of the most influential preachers the world would see. But he did not desire fame and fortune. He desired to love God as God loves us. In 1937, Billy was a student at Florida Bible Institute. He often paddled a wooden canoe across the Hillsborough River to a small island near the school. On the island, he practiced preaching to birds, alligators, and cypress stumps to sharpen his skills. During those times he struggled to understand God s will. He doubted that he was on the right path. He contemplated if he should preach the rest of his life. But one night, Billy was taking one of his usual walks around the Temple Terrace Golf Club. Suddenly, he fell to his knees at the edge of the 18 th hole, directed his eyes to the heavens, and prayed, Oh, God, if You want me to serve You, I will.

3 1 Peter 5:10 says, After you have struggled a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. That night, the struggle subsided, and the Lord confirmed Billy s purpose. This story is important because it shows how Billy s struggles molded his character. He had to walk through dark valleys to find refuge. He had to work hard to move mountains. The first time Billy laid eyes on Ruth Bell was at Wheaton College in Billy said, I first saw her walking down the road towards me and I couldn't help but stare at her I felt that she was definitely the woman I wanted to marry." Billy and Ruth were married two months after they graduated from Wheaton. They were married for over 60 years, and every day their love grew stronger. Ruth passed away in 2007 and was laid to rest here in the Prayer Garden at the Billy Graham Library. Now, her husband will lie by her side. Ruth and Billy were one of the most influential Christian couples to have walked this earth. It would have been suitable if they had chosen extravagant caskets; but they rest in plain, plywood caskets built by Richard Liggett a convicted murderer from Angola Prison in Louisiana. Liggett made a bad choice earlier in his life, but once behind bars, he was transformed. He found the Lord and became an expert carpenter his specialty was constructing caskets.

4 In 2 nd Samuel, David fell short of the glory of God he committed adultery and murder. But when his sins confronted him, David s heart broke in repentance, and God granted him grace and a second chance. Ruth and Billy had no doubts that God had given Richard Liggett a second chance. The caskets in which Ruth and Billy rest symbolize this conviction of God s grace. Through 3 stories, we have seen that Reverend Graham was not only a proficient preacher, but also a moral man. He loved God, he worked hard, and he believed in second chances. In 1957, Reverend Graham gave a powerful sermon at his New York Crusade. He passionately asked, You know how many minutes there are in a day? Fourteen hundred and forty. You know how many hours there are in a week? One hundred and sixty eight. It s interesting to me that rich people cannot buy more hours. Scientists cannot invent new minutes. Do you realize how important every single day is? Our lives will pass as swiftly as evening shadows; they will wither away like parched grass. So how will we all be remembered? What type of legacy will we all leave behind? I hope we all strive to live like Reverend Graham did. We should love God, we should work hard, and we should believe in second chances. Reverend Graham said that when he died and got to heaven, he would ask God, Why me, Lord? Why did You choose a farm boy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century? I believe that once Reverend Graham entered those gorgeous gates and heard those

5 alluring angels sing, God answered his question by saying, Billy, I chose you, a farm boy from North Carolina, because you loved Me, you worked hard, and you believed in second chances. May God bless you all. Thank you.

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