Last Saturday, GCS graduated and sent out 57 seniors to impact the world for Christ. The following is my graduation charge:
It’s my privilege to be the last voice you hear as you leave Grace, to give you your commencement charge.
It’s often said that “the best things come in small packages”. You are the smallest senior class we’ve had in the 14 years I have been at Grace, and looking at those behind you, you will carry that distinction for years to come. After graduating a class of over 90 last year, I have to confess I was a little concerned about what impact a class of 57 seniors would have on the rest of the student body. Your class had struggled, losing some students along the way. But, in the depths of that struggle, as He often does, God did an amazing work. He forged tight bonds and strong relationships among you. He allowed for healing and forgiveness, and love to overcome. As a result, you became a very strong senior class, one forged from adversity.
I’ve been watching the Henderson Cup results. For those of you in the audience who don’t know, every year TAPPS awards the Henderson Cup for the most points gained in winning state-wide competitions in fine arts, athletics and academics, its all-around state champions. This year we’ll be surpassed only by a school that was declassified from 5A two years ago, and won it last year, and has nearly twice as many kids in their senior class as you do. Through your senior leadership, you have led your school to be runners-up in the all-around state championship, a higher placement in that competition than this school has had in the past several years. In that sense, this small class has surpassed classes much larger than you. The best things come in small packages.
You are part of something smaller, and something greater than anything that has come before you. There are many who say that the Church, the Body of Christ in the U.S., is on the decline, that American Christianity is marginalized. And, that angers and saddens many, because they believe that “marginalized” means “weak” or “ineffective.” Kind of like a class that only has 57 seniors.
But, whether it’s a young David facing a great Goliath, or Gideon with his slimmed down band of warriors, or Jesus with only 11 men, the power of our faith has never been defined by the number standing with us. Whether in Jerusalem, or Rome, or Europe, or America, or Africa, or Korea, or China, a small group of men and women, equipped for righteousness, indwelled by the power of the Holy Spirit, always transforms worlds. And, that’s you and those who will be with you who love Jesus in your generation.
If you will choose the Lord, to follow Him faithfully and passionately, and be a faithful presence for His Name in those places where you work, live, and play in college and beyond, you will be Daniels and world changers, in big and small ways.
So, as I charge you now, I do so with the same things I’ve encouraged others who went before you to do, and some that are specific to you:
- Be courageous– Courage is like love; just as you love more by loving more, you get more courageous by doing courageous things. You have the same Holy Spirit encouraging you that encouraged Daniel, and those brave brothers and sisters in Iraq and China today. They’re not braver than you. When the time comes, when you seek courage from the Lord, He will give it to you.
- Live full of grace AND truth– I’ve told you this before, but John 1 says that Jesus came to earth, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Father “full of grace and truth.” Live out both. Be full of love. Love people, don’t discriminate against them, or hate them for not being like you. Embrace them, even when they think you’re weird and quirky, or bigots, and they can’t believe you actually believe the things you do. Because through your love and your friendship you’ll get their attention; whether you win them over or not is in the Lord’s hands. But, always love in TRUTH. Remember that God speaks to many things in life, and when God speaks, it’s truth. Truth isn’t found in how people live, even if they’re people you love and care for. It’s not found in what the prevailing culture says is true, because that changes and shifts like the wind. Be anchored to the truth of God’s Word, AND love with grace. You can do both. You’re supposed to.
- Find your people– you will become like those with whom you surround yourself. The Christian life is a team effort; you can’t be a lone ranger- you have to have a community. When you get to school, reach out and find your people: people who believe like you do, who will hold you accountable, people like those sitting around you right now. Your faith is not designed to merely survive college, it’s designed to empower you to embody greatness and grace and mercy and truth on college campuses across this nation, and in the world beyond it. That’s who you are. That is your legacy. Finding your people is the first important step in making that happen.
- Last week I attended a memorial service, and saw another member of the class of 2010 buried, the second one from that class. I’m coming up on 10 students I’ve buried in the time I’ve been here: nearly 10 sets of moms and dads I’ve cried and prayed with. It’s easy to think of your life as measured in half centuries, or at least decades. If you’re not passionately pursuing Jesus, it’s easy to say, “I’ll have fun now, and get serious about my faith at some point.” Everybody thinks that they have more time. Here’s the thing: statistically speaking, I will be burying one of you within the next decade. I say that, not to make you sad or depressed, but to beg you to realize the importance of living every day as if it’s your last on this earth. While it’s good to be prepared for college, it’s better to be prepared for eternity- all this that we’ve done with you at Grace has all been about preparing you for eternity. Live with eternity in mind. Life is too short a goal.
Right now, surrounded by perhaps this great cloud of witnesses, the largest gathering of people who truly love you you’ll ever see this side of Heaven, remember this: you will live life as worship- of someone or something. Live it as one who worships Jesus, and you will live it well.