Friday, December 16, 2011

A Review of "Nearing Home" by Billy Graham

Billy Graham has my vote for "Man of the Century." When we think of the many iconic figures of the past century, it is astounding how many of them are negative: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao come to mind immediately. Others are mixed in their impact: FDR and John Kennedy for example. In science one cannot help but think of Albert Einstein. In business many great entrepreneurs and inventors come to mind including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. An unlikely trio of allies conspired to overthrow the "Evil Empire" and deserve honorable mention: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. History may judge the latter to have saved the Roman Catholic Church from becoming just another declining liberal denomination.

But my vote goes to Billy Graham. He preached the Gospel to more people face to face than anyone else in history. He preached faithfully for an entire (long) lifetime without so much as a whiff of financial or sexual scandal. His biggest failing was allowing himself to be used by US presidents who loved his coattails but did not always take his message seriously. But that is surely a minor flaw.

He integrated his crusades early on and he proved that he, at least, could work with a diverse group of Christian sponsors in his crusades without compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was the closest thing Evangelicals have had to a pope and many Evangelicals would agree that if you could guarantee that all future popes would be like him they would gladly become papists!

Billy Graham, like the Apostle Paul, used every possible medium for getting his message out: city-wide crusades, radio, TV, books, magazines, the internet etc. But now, at age 92, Graham has written yet another book and once again he preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every way possible.

Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well is a book sure to appeal to a wide audience, but especially senior citizens and those contemplating retirement. In it, Graham reflects on his own experience and consults Scripture on how to develop godly attitudes toward the challenges of growing old. He begins by writing: "I never expected to live this long." But of course none of us control how old we get; that is in the hands of our Creator.

In ten chapters, Graham discusses such topics as not retiring from life just because you retire from a job and how to cope with a decline in physical vitality and strength. He finds aging humiliating, but at the same time character-building for learning to accept our weakness and rely on God's strength is near the heart of the Christian life.

Graham also discusses death, something most people prefer not to think about too much. But his living and vital faith shines through as he is able to look death in the eye and know it will not have the last word. In many ways, more so that his other books, this book is Billy Graham's personal testimony to the grace of God in his life. As he ages he still finds that he believes what he has preached all his life and that, after all, is the real test of authenticity is it not?

Billy Graham is a great man whose greatness lies in the fact that he views himself as an ordinary man who serves an extraordinary God. His genuine humility, faith and love for Jesus Christ come through in this unusual book. What a great Christmas present it would make for anyone who expects to grow older.

No comments: