NOT BY MIGHT NOR BY POWER,
BUT BY MY SPIRIT, SAYS THE LORD.
What is spiritual power? Where does it come from? How is it made available?
Contemplate for a moment the work output of Billy Graham in his lifetime the sermons prepared and preached; the books written; the miles traveled around the globe; the congresses and the crusades conducted on every continent; the conferences with world leaders; the demands of an international organization with hundreds of employees and with offices seemingly planted everywhere; the world wide media exposure and ministry through television, films, and the press; the responsibilities of the home with a wife and a large family; the enormous correspondence; the syndicated daily newspaper column; the weekly radio broadcast that reaches around the planet; the oversight of a Christian monthly magazine with the world's largest circulation ..."and more," as the TV promoters like to say. We are amazed at the sheer work of the man. Conducting such a ministry would tax the strength of a superman, which Graham is not. His own body has paid a heavy price. Yet he is still actively crusading. How does he do it?
We need to understand something that happened to Billy early in his career. His biographers note that as a teenager, Billy went forward to receive Jesus Christ at an evangelistic service in North Carolina .
Then, as a student at the Florida Bible Institute, he knelt and surrendered his life afresh on the eighteenth green of a golf course. But a few years later, he underwent a different kind of spiritual experience .
During his visit to Britain in October 1946, a meeting was arranged at Hildenborough Hall in Kent where Billy was to be introduced to Christian leaders before his evangelistic tour of cities in England, Ireland, and Wales. He arrived in time for the closing service of a youth conference, at which the speaker was Stephen Olford.
Olford, born of missionary parents in Angola, had planned to be an engineer, but a motorcycle accident in England brought him face to face with God while he was recovering in a hospital. He attended St. Luke's College and served as World War II chaplain to His Majesty's Forces, who were leaving for the Dunkirk action. Later he became an itinerant evangelist.
At Hildenborough Hall Olford preached a fervent message on the text: "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the spirit."1 When he had finished, he seated himself and rested his head in his hands. He became aware of someone nearby and looked up to see Billy Graham standing over him.
"Mr. Olford," said Billy, "I just want to ask one question: Why didn't you give an invitation? I would have been the first one to come forward. You've spoken of something that I don't have. I want the fullness of the Holy Spirit in my life too."
Billy told his biographer John Pollock, "I was seeking for more of God in my life, and I felt that here was a man who could help me. He had a dynamic, a thrill, an exhilaration about him I wanted to capture."2
They arranged to meet in Wales where Billy was scheduled to preach in a town named Pontypridd, eleven miles from the home of Olford's parents . In a room in a stone hotel in Pontypridd, Stephen and Billy spent two days together. Billy told Stephen. "This is serious business. I have to learn what this is that the Lord has been teaching you."
The first day was spent, according to Stephen, "on the Word and on what it really means to expose oneself to the Word in the quiet
time." They spent the hours turning the pages of the Bible, studying passages and verses. Billy prayed, "Lord, I don't want to go on without knowing this anointing You've given my brother."
That night Billy preached to a small crowd. The sermon was "ordinary," according to Stephen, and "not the Welsh kind of preaching." Billy gave an invitation, but the response was sparse.
The next day they met again, and Stephen began concentrating on the work of the Holy Spirit by declaring, "There is no Pentecost without Calvary," and that we "must be broken" like the apostle Paul, who declared himself "crucified with Christ." He then told Billy how God completely turned his life inside out. It was, he said, "an experience of the Holy Spirit in His fullness and anointing." He explained that "where the Spirit is truly Lord over the life, there is liberty, there is release the sublime freedom of complete submission of oneself in a continuous state of surrender to the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit."
According to Stephen, Billy cried, "Stephen, I see it. That's what I want." His eyes filled with tears something rare with Billy. It seems he had no appetite that day, only taking a sip of water occasionally. Stephen continued to expound the meaning of the filling of the Spirit in the life of a believer. He said it meant "bowing daily and hourly to the sovereignty of Christ and to the authority of the Word."
From talking and discussing, the two men went to their knees praying and praising. It was about midafternoon on the second day that Billy began pouring out his heart "in a prayer of total dedication to the Lord." According to Stephen, "all heaven broke loose in that dreary little room. It was like Jacob laying hold of God and crying , 'Lord, I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.' "
They came to a time of rest from prayer. Billy exclaimed, "My heart is so flooded with the Holy Spirit!" They alternately wept and laughed, and Billy began walking back and forth across the room, saying, "I have it! I'm filled. I'm filled. This is the turning point of my life. This will revolutionize my ministry."
Said Olford, "That night Billy was to speak at a large Baptist church nearby. When he rose to preach, he was a man absolutely
anointed." Billy's Welsh audience seemed to sense it. They came forward to pray even before the invitation was given. Later when it was given, Olford said, "The Welsh listeners jammed the aisles. There was chaos. Practically the entire audience came rushing forward."
Stephen drove back to his parents' home that night, deeply moved by Billy's new authority and strength. "When I came in the door," he said later, "my father looked at my face and asked, 'What on earth has happened?'
"I sat down at the kitchen table said, 'Dad, something has happened to Billy Graham. The world is going to hear from his man. He is going to make his mark in history.' "3 The heavenly reservoir had overflowed.
A close colleague of Billy's before Pontypridd, Chuck Templeton, heard the young preacher after that experience. Astonished, Templeton remarked that Billy's preaching had taken on "a certain magnificence of effect...fascinating...really impressive."
Speaking in modern terms with a bit of imagination, we might say that for Billy now the High Pager was on. An ordinary pager, such as is carried by thousands of people today, may appear small and even insignificant to the eye, but actually it is loaded with unseen power. It receives signals from a distant point, communicated invisibly and electronically by means of power transmission. Its function is to keep the carrier in touch with home base. This electric signal may operate from a satellite, in which case its range can be international. Ordinarily it operates on a low frequency from a tall tower which, depending on the topography, may be erected on top of a mountain peak. The shining steel towers seen on many skylines could very well be transmitters for pagers.
The analogy holds. The Holy Spirit is simply the High Pager, the invisible, incorruptible, infinite, immortal Source of spiritual power. He pours out the love of God from the heights of heaven into the hearts of believers all over the planet. One might aver that every day from sunrise to midnight, God is "paging" men and women, young and old, rich and poor. He is saying, "Come to me. Hear, and your soul shall live."4 And using the same analogy, the moment a believer receives God's message and responds by yielding his or her life in
complete surrender, the High Pager's switch is open, and the power is on.
That, if I may say so, is what happens to anyone who enters into communion with Jesus Christ through the Spirit of the living God.
Many people claiming to be "religious" know little or nothing about the Holy Spirit.5 Some, like the twelve disciples at Ephesus in the apostle Paul's day, have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. Such people are easily baffled by the Billy Graham "phenomenon." They look at his attractive person, hear his eloquent voice, are deeply impressed by the adulation of many, including persons of importance, and decide it must be his "personality" that draws people. They try by observation to detect other clues to Billy's greatness. But human qualities do not explain this man's many accomplishments.
Here is the secret: Billy Graham is filled with the Spirit of God. That is the source of his inner power. His life is not so much controlled as invaded by this unseen Source. No matter where he is, no matter what the situation might be in which he finds himself, no matter what his physical condition, he is never more than half a second out of touch with God.
If there is anything special in the makeup of Billy himself, it is an utter lack of pretension. There is no aura about the man. In his spiritual life Billy is not trying to imitate anyone or prove anything or even hint at anything. His behavior is not a pose or an approach or a "thing " he does. The posture of professional holiness is alien to him.
Recently a friend of mine, in company with another Christian gentleman, inadvertently walked into a hotel room where Billy Graham was talking with some church dignitaries. My friend said that Billy walked over and shook hands with them and, after chatting a few moments, said, "It's such a relief to get away from all these big matters and just talk with someone about Jesus!" That's the real Billy .
Many important things about the Third Person of the Trinity are discussed by Dr. Graham in his best-selling book, The Holy Spirit,
published by Word Books in 1978. He explains that it is when the Holy Spirit has filled a new Christian with God's love that the Christian is enabled to accept the Bible as truth. It is when God's spirit is communicating clearly that the Christian can believe that God will do what the New Testament says He will do. The Spirit's reservoir of strength and greatness can be drawn upon whenever the High Pager in on.
To the world, believing in the truths and promises of the Bible and seeking to abide by them is "intellectual suicide." To the world, this whole chapter is metaphysical mishmash. The world seeks every avenue to disprove the sacred text, both by argument and by holding it up to withering scorn. But God's ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts,6 as we shall see.
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1. Ephesians 5:18 (KJV).
2. John Pollock, Billy Graham (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1966), 62.
3. Letter from Stephen Olford, May 9, 1996. Cf. Marshall Frady, Billy Graham (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979); William Martin, A Prophet with Honor (New York: William Morrow, 1991).
4. Cf. Isaiah 55:3.
5. Cf. Acts 19:2
6. Cf. Isaiah 55:8
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