This past week, America has suffered a terrorist attack and a major industrial accident which affected a whole town. Celebrities have died, and many of us regular people have died. Others have discovered deadly diseases, and suffered losses of family, and jobs, and homes. Natural disasters abound too, with major snow storms, avalanches, and floods.
Quietly, in the midst of it all, another icon has fallen. Many of you who are younger than I am may not know this man, George Beverly Shea. But there was a time when almost every one in the country had at least heard of him. You see, he was the singing voice of the Billy Graham Crusade.
True, he was not the only singing voice of the Crusade. I remember seeing films with Ms. Ethel Waters, for instance, singing solos. But Mr. Shea was the backbone, always there.
About ten years ago, there was a saying that was popular among young Christians. ”What Would Jesus Do?” That saying, believe it or not, originally came from a book by Charles Sheldon called In His Steps. It is a very powerful book and I encourage you to read it. One of the main characters in the book is a young lady who has two paths laid before her… to become an opera singer or to follow Christ, her only audience for her magnificent voice the congregation of her own church. As she learns to follow Christ, she learns to not bring attention to herself while singing, but lets the Lord use her voice. Simply.
When I listen to a recording of Mr. Shea, or watch a video of him singing at the Crusade, that is the attitude that comes forth. Pointing toward the Lord, nothing pointing toward himself. Yes, he won awards for his albums. Yes, he won a lifetime award from the Grammys. But his service was joyously dedicated to the Lord. He mastered the art of pointing to his Lord and remaining humble.
A few weeks ago on television, I saw part of a Bill and Gloria Gaither Homecoming set in the mountains of North Carolina at the Billy Graham Crusade headquarters. Mr. Shea and Mr. Cliff Barrows were special guests that night. It must have been filmed several years ago. The fullness of their faith and the joy of their lives shone through that night.
I do not dare think that I will reach the age of 104 in the service of my Lord as Mr. Shea did. Yet, I pray that I am shining for the Lord even half as much as he did when I am so near to going home.