As you’ve probably heard, Billy Graham passed away on Wednesday, January 21, 2018. With news articles galore circling the globe about his legacy, there’s one aspect I would like to highlight. The world-renown evangelist once said,
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” – Billy Graham
I’m not sure truer words have ever been spoken. Graham certainly passed on a legacy of character and faith to his children, and to all of us. A legacy of character and faith is what every generation ought to strive to leave behind to the younger generation.
My Papa’s Legacy and My Conversion
My papa (grandfather for those unfamiliar with the term) was a man of utmost character. He worked hard, loved one woman, was faithful to God, and tried his best to live with integrity. He was a character loved by his community. At his funeral, as I walked in with the rest of my family, I looked around in awe of how many people were in attendance. My father turned and whispered to me, “That’s the blood that runs through your veins.” What he meant was, “You come from a line of men of character. All of these people are a testimony to your papa’s.” Certainly then, and probably now, I had not “lived up”. At the time, 19 years old, I was living a rebellious lifestyle doing whatever pleased me for the moment.
Not long after my papa’s funeral I moved off to college where my sinful lifestyle only worsened. But one night, as I was driving to a party, a thought ran through my mind. A thought I was unfamiliar with. “What would papa say?” Now, don’t be confused. Though I certainly felt guilt, what I really felt was pride. I wasn’t proud of myself, but I was proud to belong to my papa’s lineage. I’m proud to be his grandson. I’m proud to be my father’s son. So I looked at him, and looked at myself – driving to a party to debauch myself. I was disgusted. Who had I become? With such a cloud of witnesses before me, how had I fallen so far? The problem was sin. The answer was God’s love through Jesus. I knew if I was ever going to be the man my papa was, I would need God’s love. I also knew I was not deserving of this love, but that He promised it to me anyway. Somehow, from the grave, my papa had led me to Christ. I was moved to tears. I had to pull over on the side of the road and let it all sink in. After a good cry, I turned my car around and went home. I was never the same. I never turned that car around again, so to speak. I repented of my sins and began following Jesus. I went to church for the first time in years. Fast forward about six years, I am now a children’s minister at the church I grew up in – at the church where papa would sit a pew behind my family every Sunday morning.
I think Billy Graham’s words are some of the most important words ever spoken. There exists in America today a generation, or generations, that are wholly indifferent to the idea of a legacy of character and faith. As a millennial, I feel lucky to have been exposed to such godly men. I know such men are few and far between these days. Perhaps, this is what drew me to children’s ministry in the first place. What the millennial’s, and generations following need is inspiration. They need a cloud of witnesses – who in the face of a culture so depraved, did not falter in their integrity, character, and faith. I suppose, in short, they need someone to look up to. Where are the heroes? Where are the men and women who, through “ordinary” lives like my papa’s, leave such an extraordinary legacy? My papa didn’t accomplish much according the world’s standards, but the legacy he left to those who knew him was tremendous. I wish I could tell him how much his legacy means to me. While he was still with us, I was too busy to realize all of this, but I know one day I will see him again. For the legacy he left behind has made an eternal impact in the life of his grandson.
What legacy will we leave behind?