No matter where you go in this world, most all of us know of Billy Graham or have at least heard of his powerful life and ministry through the years. But many of us may have never heard the name Mordecai Ham, or Mordecai’s parents, Tobias and Ollie Ham. The stories of their lives are not necessarily so well known, yet they were incredibly instrumental in the exponential journey of millions of people hearing the gospel all around this world.
Here’s Mordecai Ham’s story, and what we can learn from a life of faithful service to God.
Who Was Mordecai Ham?
Mordecai Ham was a traveling evangelist from Kentucky who was called to ministry at the early age of 9. He was most known by the fact that he led Billy Graham to Christ at age 16 in a revival he preached in North Carolina. Tobias and Ollie Ham were Mordecai’s parents who raised him to know and honor the Lord. Mordecai had come from long generations of preachers, but we don’t really know or hear many of their names. Yet God knows their names, and the impact of their faithful, faith-filled lives. Their mark was evident through the generations. Look how many have come to know Christ through their determined efforts of raising up children to know Him and answer His call.
Life was hard on a farm way back then. I wonder if his mother Ollie ever thought her days didn’t matter. Taking care of kids and constant life demands on a little farm in Kentucky. I wonder if Tobias Ham ever wished he could preach to more people and bigger crowds. Yet they were faithful, in the small things, over a lifetime. They planted more than crops on that farm, they planted God’s word into the hearts of their children. And God raised up a warrior child in Mordecai who answered his call. And then God raised up another warrior in the young Billy Graham. And countless more warriors have been raised up since then.
How God Called Mordecai Ham to Ministry
They were poor, so poor that as Mordecai Ham grew up, he initially determined in his heart that he would not be a preacher. He went into business and to work as a salesman in his early years right out of school. But God used his grandfather’s death to renew the spiritual calling He had placed on Mordecai’s life. He left his job and began to preach. His years were filled with incredible stories of God working powerfully in his own life and in the lives of many who heard God’s truth through his messages. He said a lot of things people didn’t like. He was hated by many. He was not perfect. He was attacked and almost killed many times. But here’s the amazing thing – he didn’t quit. He kept going. He kept speaking. He was not silenced out of fear or defeat.
Mordecai Preached, Billy Graham Heard
One day, he was preaching a revival tent meeting in Charlotte, NC and said these words as he began, “There’s a great sinner in this place tonight.” The young Billy Graham and his friend Grady Wilson had taken refuge in the church choir so that they didn’t have to sit face to face with Evangelist Ham. Even though they were afraid of his wrath and fiery preaching, they were drawn to the revival where thousands of people were gathering every night. They’d heard stories of lives being changed. As a teen Billy’s life was all about baseball, he was far away from God, and admittedly had no interest in church. But that night, everything changed. God did a powerful work in his heart, and both Billy Graham and his friend Grady were saved.
The rest was history.
As we all know, Billy Graham went on to preach the gospel all around the world and God brought exponential growth through many, many people coming to know Christ. That growth continues even today. Through the recent death of Rev. Graham, many people are still hearing the gospel and believing His truth.
All because one man said yes to the call. And his parents said yes to the call of raising kids to know Christ. And so on, and so on…There is such great power when one person responds to the message of Christ and chooses to obey God’s purpose and calling in life.
What We Can Learn from Mordecai’s Faithfulness to His Calling
Sometimes we may wonder if what we do matters. Or if we’re really being effective in what God has called us to do. Or maybe we doubt the gifts and abilities He’s placed in our lives. We look around and wish we could somehow be more like the next one over. Because what they do seems to “matter more.”
The more years that pass by, the more I realize one thing. Life is short. Maybe you’ve discovered that too. And like many of you, I desire nothing else than to make every bit of time count. For God’s purposes. It may not always go like I think it should, but God is faithful. And His word says that He will give us favor and blessing to do all that He’s asked us to do. We may never see the full fruits in our lifetime. But it doesn’t mean it’s not making a difference. Because it’s His work and He reminds us that our toil is never in vain in the Lord. Not ever.