(Photo: AP Images / Nell Redmond)
Billy Graham celebrates his 93rd birthday Monday. Having impacted lives around the world with the Gospel, the famed evangelist has attracted blessings and well wishes from thousands.
"Rev. Graham, happy birthday, and thanks for all you have done and wjat (sic) BGEA continues to do. You are loved more than you know," wrote Shawn Werre on the evangelist's Facebook page. "I'm 44 and remember first listening to your crusades on TV with my grandparents. You've played a big role in my spiritual development and I thank you. :)"
Graham's birthday comes just after the release of his newest book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well.
In it, he says, "I never thought I would live to be this old. All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die.
"I wish they had because I am an old man now, and believe me, it's not easy."
The Charlotte, N.C., native shares his personal reflections on growing old and "nearing home." The book is geared not only toward the elderly but to readers in all stages of life as he hopes to prepare them before the challenges of old age arrive.
He repeats in his book that old age "is not for sissies" and says physical ailments have taken their toll on him over the last year. Nevertheless, he stresses that growing old isn't something to despise or dread.
"While the Bible doesn't gloss over the problems we face as we grow older, neither does it paint old age as a time to be despised or a burden to be endured with gritted teeth (if we still have any). Nor does it picture us in our latter years as useless and ineffective," Graham writes.
"Instead the Bible says that God has a reason for keeping us here."
In his years as a traveling evangelist, Graham has preached to over 210 million people in over 185 countries. While he held his final evangelistic crusade in 2005 in New York City, his ministry – the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association – continues to spread the Gospel.
Just last week, the BGEA made Graham's messages (more than 1,600 of them) available online.
"Mr. Graham was the first world evangelist; he traveled to all corners of the world. Now we can put it (his messages) on the Internet and make the Gospel available even where we can’t reach,” Ken Barun, senior vice president of communications at BGEA, told The Christian Post earlier.
According to the BGEA, Graham is still looking to be used by God at this stage of his life.
“I am amazed at the wonders of technology and am grateful for the ways in which we are able to use it to share the Gospel around the world,” he said. “I look forward to seeing how God may still be able to use me to serve Him in these latter years.”
While still making an impact at 93 years old, Graham said he is looking forward to heaven and being reunited with his late wife Ruth, who passed away in 2007.
"More than ever I look forward to that day – not just because of the wonders I know Heaven holds in store for me and for every believer but because I know that finally all the burdens and sorrows that press down upon me at this stage of my life will be over," he says in his book.
But before that day, Graham wants to impart these words of wisdom to the world: "What home are you preparing for? Some people spend their lives building ultimate dream homes so they can enjoy their twilight years ... Others spend their last days in nursing homes.
"For those of you who do not know Him, choosing your eternal home is the most important decision you will ever make."
Currently, Graham is spending as much time as he can with his family, including weekly lunches with his son, Franklin, who heads the BGEA. He also occasionally hosts old friends and Christian leaders and keeps up with the news each day, the BGEA reported. His priority, however, is reading the Bible and praying. The evangelist is regularly visited by his pastor for prayer and discussions on Scripture and spiritual matters.
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren," Graham emphasizes, "is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”