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Kathie Lee Gifford: How Billy Graham Led Me to Christ
Courtesy of NBC

For most of my childhood, my family honored God in a general sense but didn’t know him personally. We were culturally Jewish on my father’s side and culturally Christian on my mother’s side. But our faith—and indeed everything about our lives—began to change one night when I was 12.

I came home to see my mother and sister in our living room, sobbing in front of the television. A couple years prior, President Kennedy had been assassinated, so I walked in thinking, What cataclysmic event has happened this time? But I discovered that my mother and sister had been watching one of Billy Graham’s televised crusades. That night they both came to Christ.

A few months later, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released its first movie in theaters, The Restless Ones. It is about a girl at the cusp of making big decisions in her life. She asks herself whether she’ll follow the way of faith or the way of the world. I went to see it at a small theater in our town, Annapolis, Maryland. As I watched, I heard a voice speak to me directly. Although it wasn’t audible, I sensed God saying deep in my spirit, “Kathie, I love you. If you’ll trust me, I’ll make something beautiful out of your life.”

At the end of the movie, someone in the theater stood up and announced, “Whoever would like to make this step of faith, come forward.” I couldn’t get out of my seat fast enough. My brother didn’t want me walking into the crowd on my own and said, “You’re not going anywhere.” I spurted back, “Oh yeah? Stop me.” He came with me to make sure I was safe. Standing at the front of the theater, I asked Jesus into my heart.

At that age, all I wanted was to become an actress and a singer. The Lord met me in a movie theater, in the very world I dreamed of being a part of. From that point on, God was with me at every twist and turn, every decision. The Holy Spirit would say, “Go that way. Go down that road,” or, “No, Kathie, don’t take that part. No, that will not glorify the Lord.” God kept me on his path and eventually led me to Hollywood.

The story of my life is not the story of my faithfulness to God but of his faithfulness to me.

When I first got there, I met for Bible study with about a dozen fellow Christians who felt called to serve God through arts and entertainment. We were chastised far more by Christians than by anybody else back then. They’d ask, “How can you say you’re a Christian and be in Hollywood?” I’d always respond, “How could I be in Hollywood and not be a Christian?” How could I put up with the work and rejection without the security of God’s faithfulness?

But even in the entertainment industry, I never felt pressured to downplay or hide my faith.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle, make mistakes, or break God’s heart on occasion. But the story of my life—and I dare say any Christian’s life—is not the story of my faithfulness to God but of his faithfulness to me.

During the 1990s, while I was co-hosting Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, I faced a wave of vicious attacks in the tabloids. I was accused of exploiting sweatshop labor in the factories that made my clothing line, then sold at Wal-Mart. The following year the news of my husband’s infidelity broke. Frank and I both stopped watching TV and reading the papers. We focused on the Word of God. I chose to read what God said about us, not what the world said. We weren’t new to the business; by that time, we knew how the Enemy worked. It became our Hebrews 12:2 moment, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, who endured the shame of the cross on our behalf.

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Kathie Lee Gifford: How Billy Graham Led Me to Christ