Last week the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association met in Chicago and chose Billy Graham’s new book Nearing Home as the “2012 Best Christian Book of the Year.” Dr. Graham turned 93 in November of last year. In his book, he says, “Growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life. … When granted many years of life, growing old in age is natural, but growing old in grace is a choice. Growing older with grace is possible to all who set their hearts and minds on the Giver of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
No individual has had a greater impact in shaping our spiritual landscape in the last century than Billy Graham. He first rose to prominence in 1949 when he preached an evangelistic crusade in Los Angeles, California that was extended for eight weeks. That event launched a career that spanned more than half a century with crusades in more than 150 countries. More than three million professed Christ in Graham crusades, but they are only a fraction of the number impacted by his messages via radio, television, books and movies.
I first heard Billy Graham preach in 1971 at Texas Stadium in Irving, the Dallas Cowboys’ famous open roofed structure, before the first game was ever played in the stadium. Tom Landry gave his testimony quoting Augustine, “Our hearts are restless indeed, O God, until they find their rest in thee.” I have followed Dr. Graham since that time and have found him a constant reference point for Christian faith and witness. I am glad that he has chosen to write once more from his unique perspective at ninety-three.
While he would be the first to admit that he has made mistakes, his life has been remarkable. Graham has served as a spiritual confidant for every president since Harry S. Truman and took bold stands as a leader for integration during the civil rights movement. Unlike many “televangelists,” he had himself placed on a salary early in his career and avoided any hint of scandal. He and his wife, Ruth, had an exemplary marriage for sixty-three years before her death in June, 2007.
Dr. Graham’s book is filled with hope and inspiration while taking an honest look at the challenges of old age. He writes, “I can’t truthfully say that I have liked growing older. At times I wish I could still do everything I once did – but I can’t. I wish I didn’t have to face the infirmities and uncertainties that seem to be part of this stage of life – but I do.” He asks the important question, “Is old age only a cruel burden that grows heavier and heavier as the years go by, with nothing to look forward to but death? Or can it be something more?”
The remainder of his book contains his reflections on these important questions and reveals how life can be full and meaningful at every age.