Billy Graham: On Faith and Faithfulness

Billy Graham: On Faith and Faithfulness

In honor of Billy Graham's 95th birthday, we share a Guideposts interview in which he discusses the challenges people face in turning their lives over to God.

Rev. Billy Graham in 2000

The following interview with the Reverend Billy Graham first appeared in the November 1977 issue of Guideposts.

When plans were being made here at Guideposts to offer Billy Graham’s new best-seller How to Be Born Again as a book selection to our subscribers, one of our editors said pensively, “All across America, many people will respond to the message in this book. But some will not. I wonder what Billy Graham would say about the mental roadblocks or emotional barriers that hold such people back?”

“Why don’t we go and ask him?” another editor suggested. And so not long after that we sat on the terrace of the Grahams’ North Carolina home. 

Guideposts: Dr. Graham, in your new book you outline certain steps that must be taken if a person wishes to be "born again." Do you think there are some mental attitudes or other conditions that make it difficult or even impossible for a person to take those steps?

Billy Graham: Yes, I’m sure there are.

Guideposts: Could you tell us about some of the major ones, please?

Billy Graham: Well, one of the first that comes to mind might be called intellectualism, the tendency to approach Christianity only from the rational point of view. I think there are sincere people who have intellectual problems with the whole idea of a God-man who lived two thousand years ago, died at the age of thirty-three, rose from the dead, and is our only way to salvation.

To the purely rational mind the whole thing is–well, it’s much like what St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth–it all seems like foolishness. Paul even used a word which is the one we derive our modern word ‘moron’ from. He said that Christianity can seem moronic to some people, because when man sinned against God in the beginning, man’s intellect was affected. A veil is drawn over the eyes of people who refuse to "become as little children," and only the Holy Spirit can lift it. That’s where the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation comes in.

Guideposts: Can you give us an illustration of how this block can be lifted?

Billy Graham: Yes, of course. I remember the case of a man named Fred Smith, one of the greatest biochemists in the world. He was an Englishman who was brought over to this country by the University of Minnesota to do cancer research. Fred Smith was an avowed agnostic. He couldn’t accept Christianity intellectually or any other way.

Now, Fred Smith had an American neighbor who was a devout Christian. They met each other, liked each other, became good friends. One day an evangelistic crusade came to the big stadium in Minneapolis, and the neighbor asked Smith if he’d like to go. At first he refused. “I was reared in the Church of England,” he said, “and I’ve studied Christianity. I’ve rejected it, and I don’t even want to think about it.”

But the neighbor was rather persistent, and finally Smith agreed to go with him just once. So they went, and Smith was very impatient and scornful. On the way home, he said he didn’t like the music; it was corny. He said that he didn’t like the preaching; it wasn't logical. “The whole evening was a waste of time,” he said. “I didn’t get a thing out of it.”

But that night for some strange reason, before he went to bed, Fred Smith remembered a verse of Scripture that had been quoted: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9) That’s a rather long Scripture to remember, but he remembered it word for word.

All that night and all the next day in his classes that passage kept echoing through his mind. He came home and thought about it that night. He talked to his wife about it. On the third night, without ever going back to the crusade, he got down on his knees and said, “God, I know there must be a Supreme Being. If this is Your way of salvation, I accept it. I accept Jesus Christ.”

Fred Smith began to study the Bible as if it were a text book. He grew in spiritual stature very rapidly. He and his wife became tremendous Christians. What I’m showing you is that God can take a passage of Scripture and reach the intellectual mind.  The Holy Spirit lifted the veil from Fred Smith’s mind. The preaching at the crusade that night didn’t have to be clever, or argumentative, or even logical. Something was supernaturally done by the Spirit of God on the mind and in the heart of Doctor Fred Smith.

Guideposts: There are certainly many such success stories. But what do we say to men and women to whom these revelations don’t occur?

Billy Graham: Well, I think that we witness to them, but we have to realize that the true communicator of the Gospel is the Holy Spirit. When I stand before a group of people, a small group in a classroom or thousands in a big stadium, I have a terrible feeling of helplessness. I know that I don’t have the ability to really to win those people to Christ. But I also know that I’ve got another standing beside me who will do the winning if I’m faithful in my witness.

When the Gospel is presented, some people will respond and some won’t. It seems at times that you could almost have identical twins standing side by side, one accepting and one rejecting. It’s like the sun that melts the butter and hardens the clay. This is a mystery that I don’t understand; it’s part of the sovereignty of God. But I do know that when we faithfully proclaim the Gospel, his word will not return void. It accomplishes what God wants it to.

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