11: Dr. David Bruce

11: Dr. David Bruce

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 11 •

Executive Assistant to Mr. Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Montreat, North Carolina

Of all the special moments I have had with Mr. Graham while serving him, his organization and his family for twenty-five years, one impactful encounter surpasses them all and opened a window into the soul of this American icon and faithful preacher. In one sentence, Mr. Graham not only summed up the meaning of his worldwide ministry, but also revealed his unique and counter-intuitive humility.

Several years ago, a broadcast organization announced its desire to present a life-achievement award to Mr. Graham in honor of his role in founding a radio ministry that today covers a several state region with a signal emanating from the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The award was to be presented on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the station’s founding by both Mr. and Mrs. Graham — a little known addendum to a long and faithful evangelistic ministry. As the banquet date approached, Mr. Graham fell ill, meaning that he would disappoint the audience since he was not well enough to leave home.

Mr. Graham had often remarked in both private and public moments that he was troubled by the presentation of awards honoring him. He never sought them and was quite challenged by receiving them, never feeling that he deserved any recognition. His finest response at such a heartfelt dilemma is what he spoke on the floor of the United States Capitol, standing under the great dome when receiving the Congressional Gold Medal with Mrs. Graham in 1996. On that occasion, he spoke eloquently to the Vice President, Congressional representatives, diplomats and Congressional aides who had gathered to honor him when he stated: “As Ruth and I receive this award we know that some day we will lay it at the feet of the One we seek to serve.”

On this occasion, too sick to attend the radio banquet, Mr. Graham called me to his home to ask a favor. Approaching his bedroom and study, I found Mr. Graham lying flat in bed — covered with blankets up to his chin. Speaking softly, he motioned for me to take a chair near him. I strained to listen to him — weak as he was, as he declared to me that he could not make the banquet. “David,” he said, “please go in my place tonight and accept this award. I just don’t have the strength to go. Give those wonderful folks my deep apologies, and thank them for thinking of me. Remind them of the reason the stations were first established, and encourage them to continue the strong Gospel witness which has been part of the stations’ forty years.”

Of course, I was privileged to stand in for Mr. Graham. I promised I would tell the assembled guests everything he said, and I would do my best to represent him by thanking them for the honor. With that promise, I excused myself and encouraged him to rest. As I left the room, I glanced back at him and noticed his eyes were trained on the ceiling — I could see Mr. Graham was deep in thought.

I walked away from his bedroom through his study — walking slowly down the long hallway that runs the length of his home, pondering what I would say and the greetings that I would bring from him. Mr. Graham was the only one at home that day — Mrs. Graham had traveled into town. The only sound was the creaking of the antique wooden flooring beneath my feet.

Just before I reached the end of that hallway in the Grahams’ log cabin home, I could hear the sound of struggle — like someone pushing covers away and attempting to get out of bed. I heard the sound of something hitting the side of the bed — and I knew immediately that Mr. Graham was attempting to stand.

I stopped in the hall just as I heard my name being called — “David, David!” I turned to answer and began to walk back down the hall toward the bedroom. Just them Mr. Graham came into sight. He had pulled himself out of bed and made it to the door of his study just outside his bedroom.

As I turned back, Mr. Graham spoke with a strong voice and a determined posture. “David — I forgot something. Tell those people tonight when you stand to receive the award — tell them to give God the glory! Don’t forget to give God the glory!”

“Don’t forget to give God the glory!” In that split second, I stood transfixed looking at this man. I knew in that instant I had seen the soul of the man, the heart that made his ministry endure for decades without failure, and the hallmark of a faithful man who knew that he could not share any of God’s glory no matter what an adoring public said. This man knew that if it took all of his energy and strength, he could not let me leave his house that day until I had heard that directive — till I understood that this sentiment was pivotal in his life. I knew I would never be the same again after witnessing what I consider a poignant and powerful illustration of why God entrusted an incredible worldwide ministry to Billy Graham all along — Mr. Graham’s incredible understanding of his place before Almighty God.

Someone once said that as Christians we should live to be forgotten while pointing all the time to a Savior who is to be remembered! This is what Billy Graham sought to do throughout his life and ministry. And because he lived that way, conscious of his standing before God and faithful with the message of Jesus Christ… Mr. Graham inevitably will never be forgotten, and God would be pleased with this amazing life yielded totally to Him. “Don’t forget to give God the glory!”

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