Drawing encouragement from Billy Graham

This week, we have joined countless others in  remembering and giving thanks for that great man of God, Billy Graham.  He has influenced me in many ways through the years, but none more than in his encouragement to read the Bible.

In a writing class taught by author, Jerry Jenkins (Left Behind series), I first heard this story, which he recently repeated in a blog post. While writing the autobiography of Billy Graham (Just as I Am), Jenkins asked Graham “What form does your searching the Scriptures take?”

Graham’s response: “Wherever I am in the world, in someone’s home, my home, a hotel room, here in my office, anywhere, I leave my Bible open where I’ll notice it during the day. Every time I see it, I stop and read a verse or two, or a chapter or two, or for an hour or two. And this is not for sermon preparation; it’s just for my own spiritual nourishment.”

Jenkins shared in class that he looked over and sure enough, an open Bible lay on Graham’s desk.

This story impressed me powerfully. If this great man Billy Graham needed this spiritual nourishment, how much more would I? And what would be my response to the question, “What form does your searching the Scriptures take?”

It has taken many forms during the years. In my early years of walking with the Lord, I often read Decision Magazine, the magazine of the Billy Graham Evangelistic organization. In it Graham said this, “I used to read five psalms every day-that teaches me how to get along with God. Thin I read a chapter of Proverbs every day and that teaches me how to get along with my fellow man.”

I followed that advice for years, so no matter what else I was reading, I included Psalms and Proverbs.

For many years, I used a Bible reading guide loosely based on the New Common Lectionary. Other years, I read continuously through the New Testament.

This year, I’m doing something different. I found a plan for reading through the Bible in a year that doesn’t involve being stuck in Leviticus for a couple of weeks. It has an epistle, law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy, and gospel reading each week. I’ve done it for two months now and love this flow. I’ll provide the link to the printable plan at the end of this post.

It doesn’t really matter what form your searching the scriptures take. It only matters that you’re searching them.

Graham said, “The Bible can change our lives as we read it and obey its teaching every day.” Reading the Bible has certainly changed my life. I will often open its pages and find a word that speaks to a situation I am dealing with on that very day. “His powerful word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey” (Hebrews 4:12).

I am so thankful I had opportunity to hear Graham preach in person and I'll never forget sitting in a darkened hometown theater as a teen watching his movie The Restless Ones. The title track to the movie captures who God is in my life today, He's Everything to Me. I, like many, many others owe Billy Graham much. 

HERE is the 52-week printable Bible reading plan. If you feel so led, share it with someone else in memory of that servant of God, Billy Graham.

Jerry Jenkins wrote a wonderful tribute to Billy Graham this week that includes the story I first heard him tell in class as well as many other wonderful memories. It is HERE.