Links Daily Devotional

True Greatness, Part 11

“He must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, ESV)

Our small group of six, sometimes seven, met on Wednesday evenings.

Tonight was different.

Gary Player had asked Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to join him in a letter of invitation to Billy Graham to speak to our group at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Atlanta. And a second letter invited all competitors in the Atlanta Classic to come hear the beloved preacher.

The year was 1968.

Our smaller ballroom opened opposite the main ballroom. Getting there wasn’t easy. The hallway was packed. Even Player, Palmer and Nicklaus had to wiggle through the crowd. It wasn’t that our group was so large, though it was the largest gathering we’d ever had. Rather, the hall was stuffed because the singer-comedian Dean Martin was entertaining the pro-am audience in the ballroom.

But all the pros were turning into our room to hear Billy Graham.

Player felt that Billy Graham was one of the greatest people he had ever met, and many were responding to his invitation to join us. One hundred fifty-six tour pros were to tee off the Classic the next morning. Most of them were getting seated at tables along with wives and caddies. My brother Babe, Kermit Zarley, Joel Goldstrand, Paul Bondeson, Dave Ragan were all smiles. These were the other five pros who were at those first meetings when we started the Tour Fellowship in 1965.

Billy’s message that night was a comparison between the fundamentals of golf—the grip, takeaway, downswing, through the ball and follow-through—and the fundamentals of faith in Jesus Christ.

It was a great night with one of the greatest men of the past century and some of the greatest players of the day.

However, I had another experience later that was even more exciting: playing 18 holes with Billy. What impressed me more than anything about that round was his humility. I think he shot about 90, but he talked with me in a way that is difficult to describe. He was gentle, almost childlike. He was keen to hear what God was doing on the Tour. I felt like I was the only person on earth. Every time we spoke I felt elevated. I had thanked him several times for speaking to our pros. But he seemed to let my words pass right by him saying, “I am the one who is privileged to be with you.”

He also came back on Tour three other times. Morris Hatalsky and Larry Nelson both speak of Billy Graham’s influence upon them in getting started in their journeys with Jesus.

Billy was a powerful communicator, but an even greater trait was his humility. No doubt, this is one of the reasons he has been in the Gallup Most Admired List’s top ten more times than any other person since the poll began, including Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and President Reagan.

I share this story with you because I saw something in Billy Graham that was also in John the Baptist. Jesus said there was “no one born of woman greater than John.” What was it about that made him so great?

Why did he feel “unworthy to untie” Jesus’ sandal? We get a clue to these questions in John’s words, “He must increase but I must decrease.” I said that when Billy spoke to me, I felt elevated. Anyone who ever heard Billy Graham speak knows he elevated Jesus. And in the process he elevated those next to him.

The road to greatness, as I’ve written on several occasions this year, leads downward. If we “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, in due time, he will lift us up” (1 Peter 5:6). It begins with a choice to elevate Jesus, and others. Not ourselves. It requires commitment to live in a way that Jesus Christ increases in every department of our lives as we decrease.

What one way can I decrease and Jesus increase in my life today?

Jim Hiskey

November 26, 2012

Copyright 2012 Links Players International

The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at