A Memorial Day Message from Billy Graham

In May 1953, the Hour of Decision television program featured the following message from Billy Graham. The timeless Gospel message is still relevant on this Memorial Day, 66 years later.

 

It was my privilege to spend last Christmas with our troops in Korea. I shall never forget one day being taken through the United Nations Cemetery near Pusan. I saw row upon row of crosses. Beneath every cross was a man who had paid the supreme sacrifice to give us the freedoms and the liberties that we now enjoy in this wonderful America of ours. I took off my hat, and tears streamed down my cheeks and I prayed for those mothers and fathers back home who had lost their son in Korea.

I shall never forget going to hospital ships. I think it was on the hospital ships that my heart was torn even more and on this particular occasion, I went to the Jutlandia, the Danish hospital ship outside of Inchon. I remember that three young Marines had just been wounded that morning, all three of them critically.

I was taken in to the room where one Marine was lying. They were giving him blood plasma, and I thanked God for all those who had given blood back here in America, filling the blood banks that have saved so many lives in Korea. And I remember that I held his hand. He was barely conscious. I prayed with him. I talked with him.

He was a big, strong, tough fella. The dirt from the front lines was still on his face. The grime was still on his hands. Fifteen minutes after I’d prayed with that young fella, he’d gone out into eternity. And I thought to myself, That young man had given everything he had that we might have everything that we have in America.

I talked that day to scores of fellas who had had their spines shot out, their eyes shot out. They had no hands and no legs. They had paid a terrible price for the war in Korea.

I’ll never forget Christmas Eve. I think it was one of the most beautiful Christmas Eves I’ve ever spent, in one way, and yet one of the most tragic I’ve ever spent in another.

I went to a MASH hospital at sunset behind the front lines in the Ninth Corps, and I remember that there was one young fella whose spine had been shattered that morning on patrol duty, and there he was, lying face down, his head in canvas. The doctor whispered to me that this young man would be paralyzed for life. I reached down, held his hand and I prayed for him.

He said, “Mr. Graham, I’d like to see your face. Would you mind getting down on the floor and looking up into my face that I might see yours?” I’ll never forget as I got down on the floor and looked up into the face of this lad who would never walk again. He gripped my hand, and he didn’t want to let go. It seemed as if he were holding onto something from home. Tears were streaming down his cheeks.

And I thought if I could take every American, every congressman and every senator into that hospital and show them the wounded and the suffering and the paralyzed, I believe that somehow we would have found a way to end this war a great deal sooner.

Ladies and gentlemen, all over the world, men are preparing for war, and we are being told that the next war is going to be the most horrible war that the world has ever known. We are being told by our leaders that we can destroy civilization. Whole cities will be destroyed.

You who live in New York—your city can be wiped out in a flash. Those of you in Los Angeles, Chicago, your great cities—we are living in luxury and ease back here in America when the whole world is beginning to foment with revolution and strife and unrest.

You say, “Is there any way out? Is there any way that we can preserve our way of life? Is there any way that we can end bloodshed and slaughter on battlefields that is so useless and never settles any permanent problems?”

Yes, there is a way. If we as American people are ready to pay the price, there is a way. And I warn you on this Memorial Day weekend that there is only one way. There is only one way out of our troubles and out of our difficulties. Jesus Christ gave us the prescription.

He said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV). When American people and the people of the world begin seeking the righteousness of God first and the Kingdom of God first, then we are going to see an end to strife and war and problems and suffering and all that I have just described. But not until then.

You say, “Well, where is it going to start?” Ladies and gentlemen, it has to start in your home. It has to start in your heart. We are individuals. We make up the mass that we call society. It has to start in somebody’s heart. Why not yours?

Seek first the Kingdom of God in your business, in your social life, in your family life, in every area of your personality and social relationships. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The Hindu says, “Seek first the caste.” The Japanese says, “Seek first the Emperor.” The American says, “Seek first money and pleasure.” The fascist says, “Seek first the state.” The Communist says, “Seek first a classless society.”

But Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God.”

We here in America are seeking first pleasure; we’re pleasure mad. We’re seeking first the almighty dollar; we’ll do anything for a dollar. We’ll do anything for a bit of pleasure. But Jesus said, “Put all those things down. Seek one thing only. Make it first: The Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

What did Jesus mean by that? God is saying that before we can get to Heaven, we are going to have to be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ bought for you that new suit of clothes called righteousness at the cross of Calvary. God says believe on Him, trust Him and thou shalt be save. And when you trust Christ, the Kingdom of God comes to dwell in your heart. If you get right with God vertically, the horizontal problems of the world are going to take care of themselves.

We’re never going to have world peace, we’re never going to solve the tremendous problems of our day, we’re never going to escape the crisis that we find ourselves in, until first we start seeking the Kingdom of God.

It can start in your heart, by you giving your heart and your life to Jesus Christ right now, and you can do it right there in your living room. Whoever you are, you can give your heart to Jesus Christ just this moment by simply surrendering and committing your life to Him.