The year was 1949 and two young evangelists were about to launch a new crusade, this time in Los Angeles, CA. Neither could have imagined the revolutionary impact this crusade was to have on their faith and the church.
Charles Templeton, who had alternated preaching with his best friend, Billy Graham, was in the throes of a major, personal crisis. Some time before he had read an article in Life Magazine featuring a mother in drought-stricken Africa. She was carrying a dead baby in her arms. Lee Strobel, in his book, The Case for Faith (p. 14), writes, “‘Is it possible to believe,’ Templeton asked, ‘that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?'”
That point of view obviously influenced Templeton’s faith in the Bible and he made no secret of his feelings. As Graham recounts in his autobiography, Just As I Am, Templeton challenged him. “Billy,” he said, “you’re fifty years out of date. People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple” (p. 138).
Billy Graham, who had enormous respect for his friend, could not dismiss Templeton’s argument out of hand. “If I was not exactly doubtful,” he recalls, “I was certainly disturbed.” Things finally came to a head for him during a quiet walk in the San Bernardino mountains. “Dropping to my knees there in the woods, I opened the Bible at random on a tree stump in front of me” and prayed, ‘Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word — by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word'” (Ibid, p. 139).
Little did Billy Graham realize what a profound influence that simple prayer was to have on his personal life. Charles Templeton was soon to withdraw from the ministry, move to Canada, and become a writer and commentator.
For Billy Graham, however, the Los Angeles crusade launched his ministry. Thousands, some would say millions, of people would be influenced to discover a new relationship with the God Templeton had rejected. Amazingly, it all came down to a matter of personal choice.
Living by faith is no “cake walk.” It demands that we accept, yes, by faith, the truth that God has chosen to reveal. The evidence is there for anyone who is willing to study the record and judge it for what it says. In the last analysis, however, it is an act of faith. There is no other way.
The choice to believe is most generally a personal issue rather than an intellectual one. God, and the revelation He has given, demands that we accept His Lordship over our lives. That is a tough call for most people. We don’t want to live under God’s control.
It is a matter we each must settle in our own lives. The choice we make will inevitably impact the life we live and, whether we accept it or not, our eternal destiny. But do not fear; God is no man’s debtor. He never takes more than He gives in return. It is, indeed, a privilege to serve the Living God!