Franklin Graham talks about his rebellious past, his journey of faith and his passion for sharing the Gospel and helping the poor. (Part 2 of 2)
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Franklin Graham: And when I got to that point in my life where I just cried out to God and said, "I've sinned and I'm sorry. Forgive me. And I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died for me, that You raised Him to life and I want to invite him now to come into my heart. And if You can just take the pieces of my life and somehow put it together, you can have it. But I realized, I couldn't do it.
End of Recap
John Fuller: Well, that' is a pivotal moment for each one of us when we come to God and say, "I can't do it." And that's Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, describing that time when he turned his life over to Jesus Christ. This is "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and last time we shared a conversation that was recorded with Franklin at the Billy Graham training center at The Cove. And Jim, that is a beautiful retreat and conference center in Asheville, North Carolina.
Jim Daly: It's gorgeous, John and I encourage anybody, if you can get there for a retreat, I would do it. And what a thrill to sit down and chat with Franklin Graham about his life and his ministry. Last time he described his rebel ways as a young boy and teenager, smoking and drinking and at times, getting into trouble with the law. I thought there was some humor in those stories, but a lot of pain.
Jim: And I'm sure he was driving his mom and dad crazy. I can't imagine what their pillow talk was like, speaking of Billy and Ruth Graham. I mean, "What are we gonna do with this son?" And then as that clip indicated, God got ahold of Franklin's heart and transformed his life and that had to be a joyful moment for his mom and dad.
Today he's the president and CEO of two major ministries--the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, which we'll hear more about later today.
John: Yeah and if for any reason you missed the conversation last time, it is available on CD or as a download. Just get in touch and when you do, also ask about the book Franklin wrote, capturing his life story, Rebel with a Cause.
Jim: And this is good stuff and I think you'll really appreciate part two of the conversation we had with Franklin Graham about the legacy of his father and mother and his own legacy, as he looks to the future and his ministry today.
John: Well, here now, the conclusion of that conversation with Franklin Graham, on today's "Focus on the Family."
Franklin: I remember when my children were growin' up, I was prayin' for who they were gonna marry. When they just turned teenagers, I mean, scared to death. (Laughter) But Lord, You've got somebody out there for 'em and I don't know who that person is. But I'm gonna start prayin' for 'em right now, that You would bring the right man or right woman into their life.
And that's happened and God listens to prayer. And God will hear the prayers. So, you know, parents, start prayin' for your children the moment they're conceived. Don't wait till they're born to start praying for 'em. When our children were in the womb, we were prayin'. Jane and I were prayin' for that child.
John: What kind of prayers?
Franklin: Lord, we don't know if this is a boy or girl. You know, I didn't want a sonogram. I didn't want to know--
Jim: You didn't want to cheat.
Franklin: --ahead of time whether it's a boy or girl. You know, when it comes, it's a surprise. Okay, but we began to pray, "Lord, we want this boy or girl to be a man or a woman of God. We want them to grow up to serve You. And Samuel was given by his mother to Eli. Well, she gave him to the Lord, but he served Eli in Shiloh. And here was a young boy who was 100 percent given to the Lord's service.
And for us as parents to give our children to the Lord's service. We don't know what they're gonna do, where they're gonna go, but Lord, they're in Your service. We give them to You. You can spend them however You want. They're not ours. They're Yours. And I think that's important, that we do that, that we give our children to the Lord.
Franklin: And then we set the example in the home. The only picture that our children may see of our Lord is gonna be through the parents. And if the parents aren't living for Christ, then the kids are gonna be mocking. I remember, this is years ago, I was in California speaking at a church. And the father said, "Franklin, my oldest son, we used to have a great relationship. And we did things together, but he's so distant. And he won't communicate with me and when you preached tonight, I think he's gonna come and sit on the back row. How can I communicate with my son?"
I remember preaching that night and sure enough, the boy came and sat down and before I finished, he got up and walked out. I found out several years later that this man had, had an affair and the boy knew it. And so, he's wanting me to try to reach his kid, but yet, he has not been living for God and had sin in his life and the boy knew it. And so, we have to set the example at home.
Jim: And let me ask you this, Franklin, because I think it was a revelation for my parenting with my boys, being able to recognize, as you said earlier, that we're all sinners saved by grace. I mean, it's not an act that we can do. It's God's gift to us.
Franklin: Saved by grace through faith.
Jim: Through faith and in that context, we're going to stumble. Now that's a big one that you just described. But in so many ways, we fail to find that humility. When we've offended our children, somehow we act like they don't deserve an apology, 'cause they're our kids. That's not a good spirit, is it? You want to be able to go to your children when you've failed and demonstrate and ask for forgiveness of them. I mean, that would've been a good thing for that father to do with his son.
Franklin: No question, I think, asking your children, say hey, listen. I made a mistake. And forgive me for what I said or what I did. No question, that's something all of us need to do, whether we're a parent or not, Is when we've offended somebody to go correct that. But we also have to remember that we are not our children's best friend. We're not that. We're parents. And we have to make decisions that they may not like.
Jim: Franklin, let me ask you about the legacy of your dad. We're sitting here at The Cove. And uh … this is one aspect. I was saying to a colleague of mine, just the impact that your father has had and that you're following with your work at Samaritan's Purse and helping millions of people around the world. When you think of your father though and of course, your mom's support of his efforts, what do you think his legacy is? And what do you think he wanted his legacy to be if he wanted that at all?
Franklin: Well, I remember when my mother passed away, you know, I went to Daddy and asked him what he wanted on her tombstone. And then let the other siblings have their say, too. But Daddy was gonna put on there what he wanted (Laughing). So, he told us what he wanted. And so, then I asked him privately a few months later, "Daddy, what do you want on your tombstone?" 'cause I needed to know, 'cause if something happened, I want him to give input into that. He thought about that. He just said, "Billy Graham, Preacher."
Jim: That was it.
Franklin: That's it.
Jim: 'Cause that really did sum up his heart.
Franklin: He wants to be known as a preacher. And so, when we talk about a legacy, he's just a preacher of the Gospel; that's all.
Jim: Proclaiming the Gospel.
Franklin: That's all, just a preacher.
Jim: I think that is so good.
John: Franklin, in light of that conversation you had with your father about what should be on your mother's gravestone and on his, as you think back and kinda consider your own life, what will your legacy be when it comes time to leave? What kind of conversation will your children have about what to put on dad's tombstone?
Franklin: Well, again, I've always just seen myself as just a sinner saved by God's grace. And you know, on my headstone one day, just "Franklin Graham, Sinner, Saved by God's Grace." And that's all I am. And my mother for years every time we'd go through a construction zone here in North Carolina at the end of the construction zone, there was always a sign, "End of construction; thank you for your patience." (Laughter) And my mother would say, "I want that on my tombstone." So, that's what's on her tombstone.
Jim: Oh, my.
Franklin: Yeah, Ruth Bell Graham, "End of Construction; thank you for your patience."
Jim: I like that.
John: That is powerful.
Jim: That is good. Did your dad ever talk about those interactions with Presidents and heads of state? Did he ever mention those to you?
Franklin: Oh, just a few, but he was very careful not to reveal private conversations. He would say, "Well, I remember when I was with LBJ and we were drivin' across his field." Or you know, he would tell me about something that maybe they did together, but as far as an intimate conversation he had with a Pres … no, he never revealed those.
Jim: Hm. I think it's so amazing and it's actually a model that I want to emulate. Sometimes people could be critical of meeting with people who oppose a Christian worldview. My sense is, how do we change their mind if they don't get a chance to dialogue with somebody who knows the Lord? It doesn't mean you have to give up your principles. And your dad illustrated that so well that he could meet with Democrats and Republicans, God-fearing people, godless people and stay true to his convictions and walk away from that encounter, hoping that I'm sure, that he made an impact on that person. Do you think we're losing our willingness in the church today to engage the culture that way?
Franklin: Well, I think what's happened is, we have succumbed to the culture in many ways. We want to look like the world. We want to smell like the world. We want to taste like the world, thinking that, that will attract the world. That doesn't attract the world. We're just a bad imitation.
Franklin: The world wants to see, is there really something different with our life?
Franklin: That's what …
Jim: Is it real?
Franklin: Yeah. When my father was at the height of his ministry, Republicans and Democrats were nicer in those days. As a country, the Republicans had an idea; the Democrats had an idea and um … they learned how to work together. And they may disagree, but they disagreed kind of respectfully. And you would have an election and whoever won, I mean, you shake hands. And we don't really do that much anymore in Washington. It's become so divisive, you know.
Jim: Is that a breakdown of character? Is that because people are no longer growing up with the kind of education that your mom and dad gave you--
Franklin: Well, it's …
Jim: --that you don't be disrespectful and …
Franklin: No, breakdown of character is … yes, I guess that's one way of saying it. But it's the breaking down of the biblical values of this nation and our turning our back on God.
Jim: How do we not despair in that? And how do we be people of hope? Even though these things are true and I think in our heart of hearts, we all know it and we see it. How do we not respond in a way that is fearful, but hopeful?
Franklin: Well, I don't have any hope in any politician, whether it's a Republican or Democrat or whatever. I think they've all failed miserably. The only hope for any of us is in God Himself.
Homosexuality is such a big issue today. And anytime you say anything about them, they call you a homophobic or whatever. I'm not afraid of any of 'em. I love them and I want them to know the truth--
Franklin: --that God is going to judge all sin. Homosexuality is a sin. But I know a people who are afraid to say something to a neighbor because one of their children has just so-called "come out of the closet." And the neighbors are best friends and they don't want to [hurt] the neighbor, "Oh, well, isn't it okay? God must've made 'em that way, right?" They're looking for someone to sympathize with them. No, wrong.
Franklin: This is sin. And God will forgive all sin, whether it's heterosexual, homosexual, lying, stealing, God will forgive. But we have to come through the blood of Christ and we have to repent and we have to turn. I just got back from Poland and I was in Tbilisi in Georgia--
Franklin: --and just preaching a simple Gospel message and giving people an opportunity to respond. The Holy Spirit takes the Gospel and He drives it into a person's heart. I don't understand it, okay. All I know is it works. When you tell a person that if they're a sinner and that their good works doesn't [sic] cut it, you offend them.
When you tell a person that Jesus Christ died for our sins, they look at you, how does that work? I wasn't even born. He lived 2,000 years ago and He died for … I don't get it.
And when you tell a person that Jesus shed His blood on a cross, they look at you like what kind of pagan religion do you believe in? And you say that He was buried and He rose from the grave, they say, "Well, I don't believe that either." It's foolishness to them. But there's Holy Spirit filled power in that message. And Jim, I don't get it. I don't understand it; I just know that it works. God takes this message.
And this is the Gospel message, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that He died on a cross for our sins. He shed His blood for our sins. He was buried for our sins and God raised Him to life. That is the Gospel. And God takes that and supernaturally drives it into a person's heart like a stake, like a knife. And it brings 'em to their knees, brings 'em to tears, it brings 'em to repentance. And so, there's power, Holy Spirit filled power in that message alone.
Jim: Well, and it changes your life and that's what the Lord did for you--
Jim: --not because you were a Graham, but because--
Franklin: I'm a sinner.
Jim: --you're a sinner saved by grace.
Franklin: And Christ died for my sins.
Jim: Hm. Franklin, one of the wonderful things of the many things that you do at Samaritan's Purse is Operation Christmas Child. And my wife and I, we have done that for years with our boys and we get excited about it. They go. We give 'em the money and they pick out the goodies and we box 'em up. Focus on the Family, we bring hundreds of boxes in from the staff and ship them off to somewhere in the world. And talk about the origin of that and what you're trying to accomplish with that.
Franklin: Okay, but when I got a phone call about June or July about 1990, I think it was. And the war in Bosnia was going on. And a man in England called and said, "We're gonna take some gifts, shoebox gifts, to children in Bosnia this year. Would you be our North American partner?" I said, "Yeah, I'll be glad to."
Franklin: Well, I mean, it's summertime. You don't really think about Christmas. So, probably within two or three days I forgot about that conversation. And about the first of December, my secretary came in the room and she had this look on her face, like "you're in trouble" look.
Jim: (Laughter) You made another promise.
Franklin: Yeah and I looked. I said, What? What did I do?" (Laughter) She said, "Remember that guy in England?" I said, "What guy in England?" I [she] said "The guy that you promised shoebox gifts to." And then I remembered and my heart just sank. And I said, "Yes, I remember. Put him on the phone.
So he wanted to know how many shoeboxes we had collected. I said, "Listen, we're still workin' on it; call me next week" (Laughter) and boy did we work on it. I went to one church in Charlotte, Calvary Church in Charlotte. The man was on our board of directors, Ross Rhodes. And we took an empty shoebox, filled it with some toys and I gave it to him and I said, "Could you show this to your church and just kinda unpack it and then repack it and … and ask people next Sunday to brings gifts in?" Well, he called me; this was about a week and a half later. He said, "Franklin, you need to come down here and get these boxes." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, they're everywhere." He said, "We have 'em in the foyer." He said, "We can't even use our gym, we've got so many boxes stacked up."
Franklin: So we went down there. We had about 11,000 boxes.
Jim: Oh, my.
Franklin: I thought if I had maybe, you know, 1,000 boxes this would be great; 11,000. And it just blew me away, couldn't believe it. And so, we took those boxes and I called the guy up in England and said, "We've got 11,000." Oh, he was thrilled and we took them to Bosnia that winter and gave 'em out to children. But there was nothing spiritual about it, it was just giving gifts out. We didn't even give 'em out in the name of Jesus. We were just giving gifts to kids.
Franklin: And it almost killed us financially. I mean, it cost us so much money, the freight, the transportation. And um … the next year he asked us if we would do it again. We said, okay. We did it the next year and again, financially it just about broke the bank. And this guy from England said, "We're not gonna do it anymore. It's just too expensive. We can't afford it." (Laughter) "If you want to continue doin' it, you go ahead."
Franklin: So, I got our guys together and I said, "Listen, if this is just about putting a smile on [a] kids' face, this is a waste of time. But if we can use this in such a way to try to tell that child about the true meaning of Christmas, that it's God that gave the first gift. It's God that gave His Son, that God provided salvation. If we'll just [be] willing to believe Him and trust in His Son, our hearts can be healed. And so, our team said, "Okay, let's do it. You're right. Let's make this an evangelistic effort." We haven't been in debt since.
Franklin: God has, every year has given us the money and we go to about, right around 120 countries. We have shoebox …
Jim: Over 100 million kids.
Franklin: A hundred million.
Jim: That's wonderful!
Franklin: But it's something God has done. It's not something that Franklin Graham has done. But here's what's really exciting. We have a 12-week discipleship program called The Greatest Journey. It teaches children. They have to memorize Bible verses. They have to know how to share these Bible verses and be a witness to their classmates.
This year we have 2 million children in a 12-week discipleship program and this is only our third year of doin' it. So, it's up to 2 million and we think in the next couple years, we'll be up to 5 million kids in a 12-week discipleship program. And what I'm tryin' to do is raise up another generation of evangelists, 'cause I think if a kid is 11, 12 or 13 and becomes a soul winner, they'll be a soul winner, Jim, the rest of their life.
Jim: Oh, most definitely. And you know what, John? Let's connect there at the website and introduce people to Operation Christmas Child and they can find more details how to get involved with that program right on our website.
John: Oh, it'd be a privilege to do that.
Jim: Franklin, right here at the end of the program, you know, through our research we know about 20, 25 percent of the listener audience to "Focus" doesn't know the Lord. That's what we've been told. So, you're speaking to people that maybe question their commitment to Christ. They may not have that commitment to Christ. Can I ask you to pray for them?
Jim: And to make that commitment, because it's bigger than the house you're gonna buy. It's bigger in terms of a decision than the spouse you'll marry. This is eternal life and death. And this is a decision you need to grapple with and come away with, hopefully saying, "Lord, I believe." Will you pray for them?
Franklin: Sure. Our heavenly Father, we know that You love us and that You send Your Son from heaven to this earth to take our sins and that He died and shed His blood for each and every one and that You raised Him to life. And Father, I pray for those that are listening, for those that are struggling, that aren't sure where to turn or where to go. Their life is so upside down they don't see any hope. Father, You love us. And You love everyone who's listening.
And Father, it's my prayer that everyone who is listening right now that doesn't know Your Son, Jesus Christ, that they would confess right now to You and say, "God, I'm a sinner. I'm sorry for my sins. Forgive me. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son, that He took my sins to the cross and He died in my place and that You raised Him to life. And I want to invite Him to come into my heart."
And Father, I pray that if anybody prays that prayer right now, that You'll hear that prayer and You'll forgive them their sins and heal their hearts and open their eyes so they can see and understand the beautiful plan that You have for their life and that You'll come into their heart and You'll use them and that they'll follow You along the way. And we pray this in Jesus' name, amen.
Jim: Amen. Franklin Graham, author of the book, Rebel With a Cause, son of, of course, of Billy Graham. It's been so good to have you with us, thank you.
Franklin: Thank you. Good to be with you.
Jim: This is "Focus on the Family" and I'm Jim Daly here in the studio with John Fuller. What we just heard is part two of a conversation John and I recorded with Franklin Graham, during our visit to Asheville, North Carolina this past summer. And isn't it amazing, John, how the legacy of evangelism has been passed down from Billy Graham to his son, Franklin and now to all of the kids, the grandkids of Billy Graham. It's very clear how that family embraces the Gospel message.
And that's what it's all about, folks. That's why we're here all week long with these broadcasts and our websites and everything else we do. We want to be there at that point of need where someone can put the pieces together and feel touched by God through help and we want to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with each and every person who's listening, with you and your family, giving you that eternal hope for your life and in the here and now.
John: Yeah and we do that primarily by speaking to families and offering Bible-based advice and encouragement to married couples and parents, children and singles. And we believe it's a very effective way to reach in and touch a life for Christ.
Jim: The results are amazing, John and that's where God is working through Focus on the Family, through your gifts and your prayers and beyond anything we could've imagined. I mean, thousands, literally hundreds of thousands are being touched.
I heard a story just recently about a mom named Gail, who wrote to us during a really dark period in her family. She wasn't looking for any kind of help. She was just hurting emotionally and needed someone to hear her heart. A week later Gail was shocked to find a package at her door, filled with helpful resources, provided by you. And shortly after that we called to make sure everyone in her family was doing okay. And Gail said this: "Focus has been a light in a dark place for me many, many times. I've listened to the broadcast since the beginning and it's helped me."
I don't know about you, John, but that's a legacy I'm really proud of and really humbled by, because we have a huge responsibility for those hundreds of thousands of families who contact us each year, looking for help in their marriages, for their parenting and in their spiritual lives. And it is a wonderful thing to serve them in that way.
John: And indeed, Jim, you said this a number of times over the years, that it's a great privilege for us to be on the point to help these families. There's a great army of supporters behind us making that ministry possible.
Jim: Oh, absolutely, John and it's because of friends like you that we're able to respond when these families contact us. In so many ways, I wish I could pass that along when we get the hugs and the tears when we're out speaking, John or meeting people that have heard the broadcast. And they will break down and express how much it meant to them in their life. I wish I could bottle that up and give each of you that experience, to know how you have helped. And we're standing there, really the beneficiaries of what you have done to help these folks.
There are many, many more Gails out there and many more people who need to hear the Good News message of Jesus Christ. I want to invite you today to participate with us. Yes, we have to ask. It's uncomfortable to do that always, but we need your help financially to make it happen. We've gotta pay the bills and we've gotta be able to afford those resources to put in the hands of the folks that need 'em.
Especially in that area of counseling, where we have about 25 counselors, John, who are there day in and day out, answering many, many calls for help. Right now, I just talked to the head of our counseling department. We have over 300 people waiting for a counseling call coming back to them. If we were able to have 30 or 40 counselors, we would be able to get back to them even more quickly. So, if you can afford to help us now, I hope you'll participate in this direct touch of God into their hearts.
John: Well, call us right now at 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or you can donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio . And while you're at the website, be sure to find out more about Operation Christmas Child. It is a wonderful opportunity for your entire family. My children for years and years now, have packed boxes. We've collected them at our church and I highly recommend that program, Operation Christmas Child. We'll link over there from our website.
And if you can, please send Focus on the Family a gift of any amount today to further our work and then we'll donate a little stuffed lamb on your behalf to a needy child as part of the shoe box distribution. It'll be a way for you to reach out in this Christmas ministry project.
We'll also have some further details at the site about Franklin Graham's book, Rebel with a Cause, which captures his story.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back here on Monday. We'll talk about the spiritual life of your marriage. Jim is actually gonna bring his wife, Jean, into the study. It'll be a great conversation next time, as we once more, help your family thrive in Christ.
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Discover how the son of respected evangelist Billy Graham overcame his rebellious ways to claim his spiritual heritage.Buy Now
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The bond you develop with your daughter during real times of conversation and connection pays dividends.Read More
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Franklin GrahamView Bio
Franklink Graham is the president and CEO of two organizations: Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He is also an evangelist, a popular public speaker and the author of more than 10 books, including Living Beyond the Limits, Kids Praying for Kids and his autobiography, Rebel With a Cause. Franklin and his wife, Jane, have four grown children and five grandchildren.