In the Year Billy Graham Died…

After Billy Graham died at age 99, many people wondered who could ever replace him. In some ways, the answer might be no one – for Graham was a unique minister of the gospel and ambassador for Christ. Like Queen Esther, he was anointed to speak to kings, presidents, prime ministers, and the entire culture “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

But there’s another answer that might surprise you. When looking for Billy Graham’s replacement, you need look no further than your mirror. Believe it or not, YOU have a wonderful chance to be Billy Graham’s successor.

Alright, I’m not implying that you’ll necessarily have a worldwide ministry or share the gospel in huge stadiums. And it’s highly unlikely you’ll have opportunities to pray with every President in your lifetime.

However, there’s Scriptural evidence that you can expect something powerful to occur in your life this year – the year when Billy Graham died.

Let Me Explain…

One day the prophet Isaiah had a stunning vision of the Lord: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1). The passage goes on to describe a heavenly scene where angelic creatures continually cry out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (vs. 2-3).

Notice what it says about WHEN this vision occurred: “In the year that King Uzziah died…” Uzziah had been a good king, the type of king people put their trust and confidence in. We certainly need godly leaders like him today, in both the political and ministry spheres of influence.

However, there’s a downside to good leadership! When a nation, a movement, or a church has a strong, godly leader, we tend to put our hopes in that leader instead of in the Lord. Meanwhile, we tend to absolve ourselves of personal responsibilities, assuming the leader take care of bringing about the needed changes in our society or our church.

Some evangelical Christians did this when Ronald Reagan was President, becoming complacent in our prayers and activism, because he seemed to represent our values. In the same way, many in the African-American community left it to Barack Obama to deal with race relations in our nation and assumed he would bring about transformation in inner-city neighborhoods.

The psalmist warned about our tendency to overly rely upon our human leaders: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9 NLT).

When a good leader like King Uzziah dies, we’re presented with an opportunity. If we’ve allowed them to eclipse our vision of God, we need to repent. In Isaiah’s case, he wasn’t able to clearly see the King of the universe until the earthly king was removed. But Uzziah’s death provided an opportunity to experience a heavenly encounter with the Lord, which resulted in a new commission.

Perhaps you find yourself in need of a fresh encounter with God today. Maybe you’re bored by your substandard Christian life, crying out to the Lord for new instructions. Like Isaiah, you’re ready to say once again, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8).

A New Lease on Life

Isaiah’s story, and the death of Billy Graham, illustrate why your new lease on life may be much closer than you think.

Billy Graham faithfully served God throughout his life, but now he’s gone. No longer can we put our trust in him to take the gospel to the nations or speak to the world’s political leaders.

But events like Mr. Graham’s passing give us an opportunity. It’s a chance to once again see the Lord high and lifted up, and also an opportunity to rediscover our own calling.

The principle shown in Isaiah 6 is found in a number of other Bible passages as well:

  • Joshua’s commission: “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lordspoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them – the children of Israel’” (Joshua 1:1-2). After many years of being mentored by Moses, now Joshua’s revered mentor was dead. Unable to rely on Moses anymore, it was time for Joshua to “arise” and “go” – the same commission God is giving to us today.
  • A double portion: Since the prophet Elijah was a great hero in Biblical history, it could have seemed a great tragedy when his ministry ended. However, his protégé Elisha received a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, and ultimately performed twice as many miracles (2 Kings 2:1-15). I’ve been blessed to experience many spiritual movements during my lifetime: the evangelical movement, Jesus movement, charismatic movement, prophetic movement, apostolic movement, church growth movement, and many others. I’m thank for what God has done in the past, but could it be that He’s preparing a new move of the Holy Spirit – a spiritual tidal wave that will dwarf everything we’ve seen in previous decades and even centuries?
  • Greater works: Before the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus made an astounding statement to His disciples: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” (John 14:12 NLT). Although cessationist commentators try to explain away Jesus’ words, His message actually fits in perfectly with the “greater works” pattern throughout the Bible: Joshua was called to take the Israelites further than Moses was able to do; Elisha had double the effectiveness of his mentor Elijah; the New Covenant was far more glorious than the Old Covenant; and the new temple had glory surpassing the previous one (Haggai 2:9).

A Great Time to Be Alive

Moses is gone. Elijah is gone. Uzziah is gone. Billy Graham is gone. And Jesus physically ascended from earth to be seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven.

At this strategic time in history, will we discard anything that has eclipsed our vision of the Lord? Will we heed His commission to arise and go? Will we allow Him to stretch our faith to do greater works than we’ve ever seen before?

When great human leaders like Billy Graham are taken away, we have a fantastic opportunity to see God do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within US (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).

An exciting future awaits when you gain a fresh glimpse of the Lord and your personal commission to change the world.