46: Mike Huckabee

46: Mike Huckabee

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 46 •

Former Governor of Arkansas, presidential candidate, and host of Fox News Channel’s Huckabee

In 1972, the Expo ’72 evangelistic conference was held in Dallas, Texas, sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. It was a weeklong evangelistic training for youth from all over the world, and 100,000 people were gathered there. I was one of them. I was fifteen years old, and I went with two other kids from my high school. Every day we would go out and be trained, witnessing and sharing our faith, and then every evening we would go to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for big rallies. Dr. Graham was the speaker on the final night, a Friday. The next day there was a big outdoor rally with a quarter of a million people in attendance, and he spoke there as well.

Even though I was young, I already knew about Billy Graham. I’d watched the crusades on television and seen many film clips of him preaching. I admired him not only because he spoke with authority and compassion, but because I never sensed that he was trying to impress me with how smart he was. He just wanted to introduce me to the Christ he knew. He spoke with such clarity that even as a boy I could understand every single thing he was saying. He didn’t try to lead me into some theological thicket. He just focused on the simplicity of the Gospel and its availability to me.

So on that Friday night, it was especially thrilling for me to be in a stadium where Billy Graham would be preaching. Since I came from a little bitty town (Hope, Arkansas, population 8,000), I had never thought I would be able to see him in person.

As we entered the Cotton Bowl that night, we were all given a small candle and told to hold on to it. When Billy Graham spoke, he told us about how one person can make an impact and that every life matters. Right at the end of his message he spoke of the power of the Gospel, saying that if you let your light shine, and shared it with someone else, that power would be extraordinary.

All the lights in the Cotton Bowl were turned off, so it was dark. Then Billy Graham lit his candle on the stage. A few moments later he lit the candle of Dr. Bill Bright, head of Campus Crusade, and then they both turned and lit the candles of two other people, so the two became four. The four in turn lit four more candles, and so there were eight. And this went on, multiplying all the time. Within a very brief period of time, as people lit the candles of the people next to them, it was as if a fire had started moving around the Cotton Bowl. It was astonishing how fast this happened because the amount of light was doubling every couple of seconds. Within a matter of minutes, you could see an orange glow emanating from the Cotton Bowl. It was so overwhelming that people living in the neighborhood called the Dallas Fire Department and told them the Cotton Bowl was on fire. And it really was, but not in the way they had supposed.

What made this such a powerful moment was not just the 100,000 candles and how quickly they were illuminated. I was seated quite a distance from the stage, and what stunned me was that in this total darkness, once the lights were turned down, even the one little flame from the stage penetrated the darkness all the way to where I sat. Important and powerful as it was to see 100,000 candles, it was the power of that one candle at the beginning to penetrate all that darkness that was such a revelation to me. It was a visual affirmation of Billy Graham’s message that the darker things are, the more even a small light will stand out and make a difference.

It wasn’t difficult for anyone to understand that Billy Graham, the most influential Christian, probably, since the apostle Paul, could stand on that stage and have an impact on people. That was easy to see, but what I learned was that even my tiny little insignificant light could still make a difference. That was what made it so powerful. And that’s why I’ll never forget that night at the Cotton Bowl. It was one of those incredible, life-changing moments.

Since then, in talking to people, I’ve often used this story as an illustration. I tell them, you may consider yourself insignificant, that you’re not a very bright light, that you don’t have great training or theological degrees, or wonderful human gifts, but if you will be faithful in the life you have, you will stand out, and it will have an impact.

In a dark world, like the one we are living in now, that is something worth remembering. And I am grateful to Billy Graham for first showing it to me, all those years ago, when I was a fifteen-year-old kid at the Cotton Bowl.

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