10 Inspirational Lessons We Can All Learn From Billy Graham's Life

As you know, Billy Graham passed away a few days ago at the age of 99.  He impacted so many people over the years.  I have personally met several people who came to Christ as a result of attending one of his crusades. 

As I sit and think about Billy and his legacy, there are 10 inspirational lessons that I've learned from his life.  I decided to put them in writing.  Here they are.

Lesson 1 - Greatness in ministry is not measured in years, but in decades.  Billy was ordained for the ministry in 1939.  Do the math.  When he died, he had been serving the Lord for 79 years!  

I believe that the best way to be successful in ministry is to stay in ministry.  For all those years, Billy paced himself, guarded himself against moral failure and walked with God.  

I'm sure he heard the words "well done, good and faithful servant."  That inspires me to stay faithful and strive to finish my course as well.   I'm sure it does you as well.

Lesson 2 - It's all about the Gospel.  I heard Larry King, who is not a believer to my knowledge, say this. 

"He always answered the questions, but it always came back to 'Is Christ your Savior, Christ loves you, Christ is with me'."

In 2000, Graham wrote an article for Decision magazine, encouraging all believers to...

1. Reaffirm our commitment to the truth of the Gospel.

2. Reaffirm the priority of evangelism.

This should inspire us to make sharing the Gospel with the world our number one priority.  Let's share the Good News wherever we are.

Lesson 3 - Make guarding your integrity a top priority.  Over the years, we have all seen Christian leaders who had moral failures.  When we hear that another leader has committed adultery or lied or embezzled money, it's almost to the point where nothing surprises us anymore. 

Billy made sure he guarded his heart against these things. 

I'm sure you've heard of the guardrails he put up in his life - never traveling alone, never meeting with a lady who was not his wife alone and sending someone in the hotel room ahead of him to make sure no one was there in waiting.

Early in his ministry, he also insisted that the entire organizational staff be placed on a set salary so no one could accuse them of using the crusades to make a profit.  He also used the majority of his book royalties to fund many charitable organizations.

They say if you walk with integrity, then those closest to you should think the most of you.  His son, Franklin, said this about his father.

"I guess one thing that has always impressed me over the years has been the humility of my parents and their deep integrity.  They were always careful not to do anything that would hinder the Gospel."

This should inspire us to walk in integrity and put up safeguards that will protect us from the snares of the enemy.  May we be inspired to never bring harm to the name of Christ through our actions.

Lesson 4 - Effective ministry comes from behind-the-scenes prayer.  Billy was a man of prayer.

He said "When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God."

He also said, "In the morning, prayer is the key that opens to us the treasures of God's mercies and blessings; in the evening, it is the key that shuts us up under His protection and safeguard."

One thing, you may not be aware of about Billy and prayer is this.

Billy grew up in a small farming community in North Carolina.  There were a group of men in his community that had been earnestly praying that God would raise up someone to take the Gospel to the world.  Billy was the answer to that prayer. 

This not only should inspire us to pray, but also be a reminder that God may answer our prayers by raising up someone else to fulfill the vision He has placed in our heart.

Lesson 5 - Make sure your message is grounded in Scripture.  If you listen to Billy's sermons, there were filled with Scripture.  He knew the power was in the Word of God, rather than in man's reasoning or persuasion.

May our lessons, devotions, sermons and ministries be built upon the foundation of God's Word.  Lives are not changed through our words, but through the Word of God.

Lesson 6 - Value everyone equally and treat them with respect.  Billy was given the opportunity to meet with presidents, celebrities and other famous people.  But those who knew him personally said he treated the doorman, the driver and the janitor with just as much respect as the famous people.  He was kind to everyone.  He smiled at everyone.  He didn't play favorites. 

This should inspire us to see everyone as a 10.  Treat everyone with respect.  Honor everyone with our words and actions.

Lesson 7 - Love your family.  I think one of the most inspiring things about Billy is the fact that he and his wife, Ruth, were married for 63 years before she went to heaven.

While they haven't been perfect (who is), all 5 of his children have grown up to love Jesus and are involved in ministry. 

This comes from a home that is full of love for each other.

This inspires me to love my wife and kids with everything I've got.

Lesson 8 - God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  While Billy was obviously gifted, he would have been the first to tell you that it was God's grace and power that enabled him to preach the Gospel to millions of people. 

There were 2 other men who started preaching with Billy when he first began.  Those who heard the 3 men speak, said that the other 2 men were more gifted and had more potential than Billy did.  Out of the 3 men, Billy was the least likely to make a world-wide impact for Christ. 

But the other two men both had a crisis of their faith and dropped out of ministry.  You've probably never heard of them, even though they were more gifted and more talented than Billy. 

This should inspire all of us.  We all have those voices, both internally and externally, that remind us of our shortcomings.  That tell us we are not the smartest or most talented or eloquent. 

The good news is this.  God is not looking for the smartest person or the most talented person.  He is simply looking for ordinary people who will surrender to His will.  The greatest ability is availability.

All we have to say is "Here I am Lord.  Send me."  When we do that, He will do more in us and through us than we could every ask or imagine. 

Lesson 9 - The message doesn't change, but we must be willing to change our methods of sharing it.  Billy Graham was among the first to use new communication technologies to help spread the Gospel.  During his “global crusade” from Puerto Rico in 1995, his sermons were translated simultaneously into 48 languages and transmitted to 185 countries by satellite.

From radio to television to movies to the internet, he was was willing to change and adapt his methods to reach people.

This reminds me that I must be anchored to the truth, but be geared for the times.  I must know the difference between truth and tradition and cannot let the latter dictate how I share it.

Lesson 10 - You can do more with a team than you can by yourself.   While Billy was the face in front of the cameras, he knew he couldn't do it by himself, and so he surrounded himself with a great team that made the ministry successful.

George Beverly Shea was Graham's soloist from 1947 to 2005.

Cliff Barrows was the director of music for Graham for more than 60 years and hosted the ministries' "Hour of Decision" radio program.

Art Bailey served for more than 20 years with Billy, directing crusades and counseling.  He said,

"Billy was the type of person who recognized early on that he could not do everything.  He trusted us and knew that we had gifts that were integral to what we did."

May we be inspired to partner with others, empower them and release them to do the work of the ministry.  It's not about what we can do by ourselves.  It's about what we can empower others to do.

So there's my list of 10 inspirational lessons we can learn from Billy Graham.  I'd love to hear what you learned from him.  You can share your thoughts with everyone in the comment section below.