God Is

Day 40

God is Sovereign
When I’m Surrounded

Read your Bible: Psalm 23:5–6

Spotlight Verse:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.Psalm 23:5

In Billy Graham’s autobiography Just As I Am there are so many great stories of our sovereign God working through the most disheartening events.

Graham writes about his first big campaign in England.
He received antagonistic press coverage from the very start. The newspapers decided to rip into Billy Graham, painting him as a lunatic.

They were led by a wildly popular, cynical columnist for a London newspaper whose pen name was Cassandra. He tricked Graham into getting his picture taken in a bar. Although Graham was just drinking apple juice, Cassandra printed the photograph and wrote a caption that made him look like a horrible, sleazy, money-grubbing evangelist lush.

The campaign had reserved an auditorium that would seat 12,000 people for a span of six weeks. After Cassandra’s column, one by one all the supporting churches dropped out. They called Graham’s office and essentially said, “We can’t be associated with this lunatic.”

Everything looked bleak. Nothing but embarrassment and financial ruin seemed ahead.

What happened next?

All the controversy kept away the wimpy Christians who didn’t want to be seen in the company of someone with a bad reputation and instead brought out all the cynics, all the hard-bitten, hard-hearted people. They were attracted to controversy, and wanted to see Billy Graham fail so they could make fun of him. The possibility of a train wreck will always attract spectators.

On the opening night, the first several rows were filled with press people who showed up at the last minute. The reporters came for a whole week waiting for him to do something flamboyant or crazy.

Then something funny happened. Some of these guys started finding their hearts softened instead.

There were stories like this: A couple of tough, jaded guys were sitting in the back row. One of them said, “I don’t want you to think I’m religious; I just showed up to make fun of this guy.” The other man said, “Me too.”

At the end of the meeting the first guy turned to the second and said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m going forward. I want to learn more about Jesus.” The other man said, “Me too. By the way, here’s your wallet. I’m a pickpocket.”

Members of the press started coming to Jesus — and giving Billy Graham unexpected positive publicity! Even though the church people were still staying away, others came to see what the newspapers were writing about. The meetings grew larger and larger.

At the end of six weeks they had to extend the campaign another six weeks.

At the end of three months they had to rent the 122,000-seat Wembley Stadium — the largest stadium in England — for their final night. Then demand grew so large, they decided to rent another soccer stadium that seated 65,000 people right next to it. A total of 187,000 people came out in one night to hear Billy Graham— the largest single religious gathering in the history of England!

After that last night, Winston Churchill phoned Billy Graham and said, “I need to talk to you.” Graham came to his house to find Churchill with the three evening newspapers spread out in front of him. He said, “If I and Marilyn Monroe went to Wembley Stadium, we together couldn’t fill that place. What’s going on?”

Billy Graham said, “I’m talking about hope. People need hope in war-torn Britain.”

Churchill replied, “I look at these newspapers, and I have no hope for the future.”

And Graham answered, “Let me tell you about the hope of Christ.”

Churchill let Graham go on; even after Churchill’s secretary came in and said, “Sir there’s another appointment waiting for you,” Churchill said, “Let ’em wait!”54

I don’t know what Churchill did with what he heard. But to me that whole story is an example of the sovereign God moving in powerful ways.

Billy Graham was slandered and maligned and painted unfairly. But God had a plan to use even that to reach people.

And God can do the exact same thing for you.

God is… the One Who brings good out of chaos.

Questions For Reflection

What situation in your life right now makes you feel surrounded by enemies, as Billy Graham was in today’s story? Pray that God will somehow, in His sovereignty, bring good even out of that — and trust that He will!

Write down a brief, encouraging memory of how God worked in and through a tough situation in your life: