Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff


| September/October 1971



I will never forget the night we heard Billy Graham preach before a crowd of thirty thousand, gathered in Jet Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, several years ago. A storm was threatening, rains were beginning to blow, and Billy was mingling among a crowd seeking autographs, just prior to his sermon, while workmen overhead were already removing the organ and piano to keep them from getting wet. I chatted a few words with Mr. Graham, something about a book I was writing. He was very friendly, but I was certainly not famous enough for him to know on a 'first-name' basis.

After the instruments had been removed, Billy mounted the podium and began preaching the Word. His voice fought a constant battle with the flash of lightning and the roar of thunder, but he persisted to the end of the sermon quite true to his style, despite the antagonizing elements hurled about him.

Upon seeing our own pastor, the following day, I told of our great experience the evening before, how Billy Graham preached to thirty thousand during a thunderstorm, and the crowds stayed. The preacher said a few kind words, then left briefly with a sadness in his eyes.

The same day I told of the same experience to another young minister. And he replied, rather discouraged, 'Yes Billy can pack them in, but I can't'.

Then I realized my mistake. I had unintentionally hurt the feelings of two lesser servants of the Lord who had spent their whole lives in serving God and yet the image of a Billy Graham's success was anything but joy to them. 'He could pack 'em in' but they struggled for years and at best only a bare thirty filled the sanctuary.

My own Father and Mother were always holding up outstanding individuals in the fields of religion, music, politics, art and sports for 'us kids' to pattern our lives after. There was Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Paderewski and Fritz Kreisler, Teddy Roosevelt, Billy Sunday, Gypsy Smith, Norman Rockwellthe lineup of famous ones we were taught to admire seemed endless. And I always was grateful that our parents aimed our sights high in our boyhood world of idols.