From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me


I am humbled by the gracious comments the contributors to this book have made about our ministry — although only God deserves the credit for any impact it has had. I am not a great man — but I do serve a great God, and I give Him all the glory for whatever my associates and I have been able to accomplish over the years.

Knowing that some readers of this book may not have had the opportunity to attend one of our crusades or view one of our telecasts, Chicken Soup for the Soul kindly asked me to write something they could include here that would give the essence of the message I have preached. Unfortunately, poor eyesight prevents me from writing anything new now — I recently turned 94 and have age-related macular degeneration.

In response the publishers asked if they might include instead a message I delivered to more than 250,000 people in New York City’s Central Park on September 22, 1991. It is based on one of the most familiar verses in the Bible — a passage I’ve probably preached on more than any other.

I trust you will take time to read these words and reflect on them in your soul — and perhaps share them with a friend. May God richly bless you and give you His peace.

Billy Graham

December 2012

Montreat, N.C.


Today I want to speak to you on one of the most familiar verses in the Bible. It is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That is the Gospel in a nutshell — because everything we need to know about our salvation is found in this one verse of Scripture.

Many people ask me, “If God loves the world, then why is there so much suffering? Why is there so much disease, war, poverty, hate, loneliness, boredom, emptiness, unemployment, violence? Why doesn’t God just stop it all?” Some of you may be thinking, “I can’t take it any more — the pressures of life are too great.” Perhaps you’re saying, “Why has God abandoned us?” But God hasn’t abandoned us — we have abandoned Him.

Or you may even be asking, does God even exist? Yes, He does. I can’t take you to a laboratory and prove to you that God exists — but the evidence for God’s existence is all around us, if we’ll but see it. But what is God like? What does the Bible say about Him?

The Bible tells us first of all that God is the Creator. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). All the stars you see at night — God created them. And He created you.

Then the Bible also tells us that God is a Spirit. He doesn’t have a body like you and I do; if He did, He could only be in one place at a time. But God is a Spirit — and because of that, He can be everywhere at once.

The Bible tells us something else very important about God. It tells us that God is absolutely holy and pure. He cannot even look on sin — and because He is holy and pure, He is also a God of judgment. The Bible says, “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Think of it: Some day all your secret thoughts, and all those things you thought nobody knew about, will be brought into the open. God has appointed a day when He will judge the world — and you are going to be there.

But the verse I just read from John 3:16 says something else about God. It says, “For God so loved the world….” God is a God of love! And if there is one thing I want you to take with you when you leave here today, it is this: God loves you. God loves you! He knows all about you; he knows all the sins you’ve committed — and yet He still loves you! God is a God of love! The Bible says, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

This is why God created the human race. Have you ever wondered why you are here? God is love — and He created us because He wanted someone who would love Him in return. He created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and He put them in a perfect paradise without sin or death. And He gave them a choice: to obey Him and be His friends — or to turn against Him and go their own way. God gave them a free will to choose which way they would go — and they chose to rebel against God. As a result they were cut off from God, and death entered the world.

What is wrong with human nature? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Why is there so much hate, and racial prejudice, and jealousy, and greed? Why are there so many wars and conflicts? It’s because the human race has a spiritual disease — and that disease is called sin. Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). We are all guilty; the Bible says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin not only comes between you and God. It comes between you and peace, between you and happiness, between you and the assurance that if you were to die tonight, you would go to Heaven. We can have Hell in this life — but we also can have Hell in the life to come. And we will, if we refuse God’s way of salvation.

But God saw us, lost and stumbling in darkness, and He decided to do something about it — because of His love. What did He do? He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to pay the penalty for our sins. God became a man — and that man was the Lord Jesus Christ. He came into the world for one reason: to die for our sins. One day the Romans took Him outside the walls of Jerusalem and nailed Him to a cross — and in that terrible moment all our sins were laid on Him. He was without sin — but all our sins were transferred to Him. Think of it: He became guilty of every sin you ever committed. The Bible says, “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

But Jesus didn’t stay on the cross! God raised Him from the dead. I’m not speaking to you about a dead Christ — I’m speaking to you about a living Christ! And this living Christ can come into your heart and life today by His Holy Spirit. He can forgive you and cleanse you of all your sins, and He can make you a new person. Now when God looks at you, He doesn’t see your sins; they have all been wiped away.

What does God require of you? First, you have to repent of your sins. The first sermon Jesus ever preached was “Repent” (Matthew 4:17). What does the word “repentance” mean? It means you confess to God that you know you are a sinner, and you want to turn from your sins. It means you are willing to let God have His way in your life, and that you want to follow Him and serve Him from now on.

Then you have to come by faith to Jesus Christ, believing He died for you and trusting Him alone for your salvation. You can never work your way to Heaven. No matter how good we are, we still fall short of God’s standard — which is perfection. The Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved, through faith… not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). You deserve God’s judgment for your sins — but on the cross Jesus took your place. He took that judgment for you. He gave His life for you. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” That is God’s promise to you. That is God’s greatest gift!

Have you asked Jesus Christ to come into your life? Are you trusting Him alone for your salvation? Come to Him today, and by a simple act of faith commit your life to Him. I invite you today to pray the same prayer countless others like you have prayed:

Oh God, I know I am a sinner. I am sorry for my sins, and I want to turn from them. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior, I confess Him as my Lord, and I invite Him to come into my life today. From this moment on, I want to make Him the foundation of my life, and to serve Him and follow Him in the fellowship of His church. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

May God richly bless you.

God’s Greatest Gift, by Billy Graham © 1991, used by permission, all rights reserved.

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