24: Charlie Daniels

24: Charlie Daniels

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 24 •

Grammy Award-winning country music singer, guitarist and fiddler, and member of the Grand Ole Opry

I started hearing Billy Graham’s name when I was just a child. He was preaching the Gospel of Jesus to a changing world entering the nuclear age, with all the inherent fears and rampant rumors that went along with it.

It was a strange and confusing time, just a few short years after the national nightmare of the Second World War and we were already facing a new enemy with a whole new vernacular like “Cold War” and “Iron Curtain,” a belligerent, godless enemy who stared down a war-weary America and held on to vast territories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

For the first time, man had a weapon capable of destroying civilization.

America needed God and needed to be reminded of it.

Billy Graham preached with a fire, enthusiasm and common Gospel sense that touched the down deep part of man that nothing but the blood of Jesus can reach, and thousands came to accept salvation at his crusades.

In 1949, Mr. Graham held a crusade in a tent in a parking lot in Los Angeles and for reasons that are not completely clear, attracted the attention of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who instructed his national chain of newspapers and magazines to promote Billy Graham.

The now legendary crusade ran for eight weeks and the rest of the nation learned what the people in the Southeast had known for some time. Billy Graham was here to stay and he was bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him.

I’ve been performing for over sixty years, reaching the top of the charts, producing albums, writing for Elvis, playing at the Grand Ole Opry, and meeting many famous people that I admire, everyone from President George W. Bush to Bob Dylan. Yet I cannot name a public figure I respect more than Mr. Graham. When we received an invitation to play at a crusade, we were honored and accepted with gratitude and humility.

The night arrived, the choir sang, the invited speakers spoke, we did our songs and then it was time for him to speak.

Mr. Graham’s message usually contains some humor, some acknowledgement of the area he’s in and a few lighter statements, but no matter the preamble, he is always headed in the same direction, bringing the message of hope, forgiveness and love and explaining the simple process of making a decision to accept Jesus Christ.

To sit on that stage when the invitation is given and watch the first person come to the front, then the trickle, then the deluge, as thousands of people come down from the heights of a massive stadium to seek salvation, is a sight like no other I have ever experienced.

Billy Graham is a humble man. Though he has been spiritual advisor and confidant to several presidents, foreign dignitaries and international celebrities through the years, from his Western Carolina accent to his unpretentious manner, it’s evident that he is still just “one of us.”

I remember a night in Charlotte when the governors of North and South Carolina were there to present proclamations honoring their local boy, Mr. Graham was gracious as always in accepting, but quick to tell one and all, “This is not about Billy Graham.”

He refused to let anything distract from the fact that he was on a mission to win souls — nothing else mattered, just the souls that would come forward to accept Jesus that night.

That’s the laser-like focal point of this great man of God we call Billy Graham and this world is a much better place for having him pass through it.

I am much blessed for having known him.

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