The great writer Ernest Hemingway said, “As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary”. I have found that to be true. Age does not diminish the need for heroes, they just become harder to find, but they are still necessary. Our children, especially when they are younger, look up to us as heroes. For the sake of our children, we as fathers also need heroes and mentors we can look up to and draw strength and wisdom from. King Solomon said, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Truer words were never spoken.
Rick Martin said, “Heroes represent the best of ourselves, respecting that we are human beings. A hero can be anyone from Gandhi to your classroom teacher, anyone who can show courage when faced with a problem. A hero is someone who is willing to help others in his or her best capacity.” Such a hero and mentor, for me, was Billy Graham, both spiritually as a husband and as a father. Sadly, he was buried last Friday. The world mourns his passing but so do I, and for more reasons than one. Watch the full funeral Service here:
Warwick Marsh – Tribute to Billy Graham
Growing up in a broken home, I knew from a very young age I did not want to repeat my parents’ mistakes. I loved my mum and dad, but I did not want to follow their route of marital disharmony. So very early in my life I was looking for men who not only achieved success in life, but were also good husbands and good fathers, both at the same time.
I always remember reading the story of a young famous multimillionaire entrepreneur who was out on a speaking tour of Australia from Texas, USA. He was into oil and property and was reportedly very successful and yet this same man was now on his third marriage with children scattered all over the USA. I concluded that he was an abject failure. True success is found in the quality of the relationships you nurture over your lifetime.
Wikipedia says Dr Graham reached 215 million people through person to person preaching and 2.5 billion through TV and radio. Billy Graham preached the gospel to more people in person than anyone in the history of the world and yet remained a loving and faithful husband to his wife. Dr Graham was a friend and confidant to presidents, kings, queens and world leaders for over six decades and yet was a devoted and caring father to his 5 children, 19 grandchildren and many great grandchildren until his passing on the 22 February 2018, only 9 months short of his 100th birthday.
Having said that, Billy Graham recognized the mistakes he made with his own family. He said, “Every day I was absent from my family is gone forever. Although much of that travel was necessary, some of it was not.” He has also publicly admitted that he put his family through unnecessary hardship by his long absences on the road preaching at crusades overseas.
As Billy Graham once said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
Yes, he made mistakes as I dad, and haven’t we all, but he was assiduous in his dedication to a life of sexual integrity with no impropriety in either the use of money, or in his relationship with the opposite sex, for his whole lifetime. This, I believe, was an amazing achievement in the days in which we live, for such a high-powered achiever on the world stage.
In the following excerpt from his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham went into further detail about these resolutions in terms of financial integrity, sexual morality, publicity and partnership with the local church. Several of his team wrote down resolutions in 1948 in Modesto California, which became known as ‘The Modesto Manifesto’.
“One afternoon during the Modesto meetings, I called the team together to discuss the problem. Then I asked them to go to their rooms for an hour and list all the problems they could think of that evangelists and evangelism encountered.
When they returned, the lists were remarkably similar, and in a short amount of time, we made a series of resolutions or commitment among ourselves that would guide us in our future evangelistic work. In reality, it was more of an informal understanding among ourselves—a shared commitment to do all we could do to uphold the Bible’s standard of absolute integrity and purity for evangelists.
The first point on our combined list was money. Nearly all evangelists at that time—including us—were supported by love offerings taken at the meetings. The temptation to wring as much money as possible out of an audience, often with strong emotional appeals, was too great for some evangelists. In addition, there was little or no accountability for finances. It was a system that was easy to abuse—and led to the charge that evangelists were in it only for the money.
I had been drawing a salary from YFC (Youth for Christ) and turning all offerings from YFC meetings over to YFC committees, but my new independent efforts in citywide campaigns required separate finances. In Modesto we determined to do all we could to avoid financial abuses and to downplay the offering and depend as much as possible on money raised by the local committee in advance.
The second item on the list was the danger of sexual immorality. We all knew of evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel. We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife. We determined that the Apostle Paul’s mandate to the young pastor Timothy would be ours as well: “Flee … youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 1:22,).”
For me, as I shared in the above video, Billy Graham was the real deal, both as famous celebrity who was named in the top 10 men in America Global Poll for 61 years, and as a humble man of God who loved his wife and family unconditionally. These are just some of the many reasons that Billy Graham was a both a hero and mentor to me and dare I say, he could be the same for you.
Billy Graham’s autobiography “Just as I am” is more than worth the read, but if nothing else, why don’t you create your own version of the Modesto Manifesto. Many people mocked him for this, but most of those who did so are on their second, third or fourth marriages and trust me, this is not good for your children.
Yours for more heroes and mentors
PS. I had the honour of speaking at a men’s breakfast in Broken Hill while Billy Graham’s grandson, Will Graham, listened in the audience. The ironic thing was that he was the main speaker and I was just the support act, so to speak. I later had a number of meals with Will Graham and personal time with him and his team. I can vouch that Billy Graham achieved the words in his quote about leaving a legacy in his grandchildren. “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” That my friends, is an achievement that I am working towards. If you have not watched my tribute video for Dr Graham please watch it now!