William Franklin (Billy) Graham. Son of a Dairy Farmer.
Man of God. Seeds of Life.
This past week, the world learned of the HomeGoing of the much beloved Reverend Billy Graham. His impact on humanity is much lauded, yet he, the man, remained humble, with all credit to his Heavenly Father for any of his success.
The impactful evangelist has proclaimed for several decades that faith and the Grace of God would lead him, and anyone who accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, to a Heavenly home. He himself explained it this way:
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
Graham, oft-described as the most influential religious leader of the 20th century, illustrated that while devout and fiercely true to his own faith, he could treat people of all religions with respect and kindness and sow seeds of peace and hope.
The Reverend Graham began life as the son of dairy farmer near Charlotte, NC. And from the minute one steps on the grounds, The Billy Graham Library, only a few miles from the original Graham Brothers Farm, honors those agrarian roots.
An engaging display with animatronic cows immediately captures the attention of any visitor. The ‘boss cow’ tells us that a young Billy Graham perfected his oratory skills by preaching to the cows while they were in the milk barn! From that point on the Library is a walk through modern history, with exhibits devoted to how “America’s Pastor” was witness and influencer on world events of the 20th Century.
Favorite verses and parables, such as Phillipians 2:3, are on display throughout the Library on walls, and in exhibits.
The Parable of the Sower – Luke 8, NIV
The Parable of the Sower, one of the most often quoted of the Parables of Jesus Christ, inspired a breathtaking bronze statue which is the centerpiece of the main exhibit hall at the Library. As the Library was being completed, Franklin Graham believed this parable illustrated his father’s ministry better than any other. The design was brought to life by sculptor Tom White.
The Parable itself was considered so important to the Christian faith, it is found in three different Gospels: Matthew 13: 1-23, Mark 4: 1-20, and Luke’s version, found in the NIV Bible, Chapter 8: verses 1-15 (also shared below:),
“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:
5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.
8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.
12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
How will WE live the Parable of the Sower?
It is up to us to determine the seeds we will sow as our legacies, and it is up to us to help cultivate fertile soil which will receive those seeds. James 2: 14-17 is summed up with the last verse, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Therefore, these thoughts to contemplate:
If your own life, or your farm, or even your business or means of earning income is the place seeds are to grow, will it be a dirt path, rocky ground, thorns, or the good soil?
It takes both wonderful seeds and productive, fertile soil for a bountiful crop to grow – a healthy crop which nurtures mankind.
Will this year’s seeds be seeds of hope, or seeds which lead to destruction? In times of trouble, will your seeds be ones that still grow the Kingdom of Christ, and let your faith shine through?
Will this year’s seeds be seeds that lift others up, help others through hard times, or seeds that beat others down?
If they are good seeds, will they fall on fertile soil, or on unproductive dirt along the path, among thorns, or on rocky ground?
And if the word of God isn’t the foundation of actions by your conduct, or your farm, are you building a long-lasting foundation or one that will crumble?
Will your farm, and your life, be a farm which hears the Word, understands it, and practices its teachings by example?
Will your farm, and your life, be an example that sows the milk of human kindness, and places your faith in an everlasting God, even in times of trials?
In this springtime of 2018, many seeds will be planted. In this world of agriculture, there are many uncertainties, and in fact, much fear about “whose farm will be next to get heart breaking news?” The agriculture consensus is that many farming operations may not make it through the year, and there is a dark undercurrent of ‘who will survive?’
However, the Bible is the Book of Hope, and tells us in John 24 that even when something dies, a seed remains whose destiny is to grow and create new hope, new fruit, new beginnings, and new life:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
We in agriculture on farms of all sizes are going to have to dig deep in our faith, and in our actions, if we are to survive the rough waters ahead.
Billy Graham, the son of a humble dairy farmer, went on to be one of the Greatest Faith Leaders in recent centuries, with some even comparing him to the Apostle Paul. In order to become that incredulous leader, he had to leave his dairy farm beginnings, and he had to trust and follow the call of God to do that. The Bible, in Joshua 1:9, tells us we too, can ‘be strong and courageous,’ and do that, even in the darkest of times.
Billy Graham’s faith roots began growth on a dairy farm. However, his seeds flourished only when they reached out to a faith-starved world. May we see the Word he spoke of, and may we Hear the Word he proclaimed!
My prayers are that the world of agriculture, and indeed, the entire world, finds fortitude, hope, grace, and comfort in a Boundless Faith taught by Billy Graham. Son of a Dairy Farmer. A Giant Man of God, who sowed Seeds for an Everlasting Life.
Postscript: The author of this blog, a former dairy farmer, was blessed beyond measure to experience a profound visit to the Billy Graham Library a few summers ago. She was accompanied by a wonderful friend, the wife of a current dairy farmer. A visit to the Billy Graham Library is highly recommended to anyone who loves history, is of an agricultural background, or who is on their own faith journey. Billy Graham was Christian, but his life’s message can be a bridge to all in search of deeper meaning of any faith.