Monday, May 4, 2015

A Letter To Our Graduates

Graduation is coming up on Saturday. I know so well the anticipation our graduates are experiencing right now. What a joy, and what a milestone in their lives. Graduates, would you permit me to share just a few words with you? Okay. 

This is quite an amazing day for you. You've looked forward to this moment for quite some time. For some of you, you've been waiting and waiting and waiting. You thought this day would never come. I want to congratulate you. I know there is no way to measure the sweat and tears leading up to this day. But isn't it worth it? 

I hope you've realized that your studies have only begun. Perhaps you were like a young student who thought he was going to get it all in a 3 or 4 year program. Perhaps you thought you were going to know the Bible and theology backwards and forwards. If you didn't realize it before, I bet you've learned it now. The number one thing I learned 100 percent by graduation day was that I haven't learned it all. The learning has only begun. There is so much information out there. So much to learn, so little time. Did you know that there is something way more important, though? 

If you had two words to describe you at the end of your life, what two words would you choose? Smart, good-looking, friendly, kind, great, famous? I don't know, I'm just throwing out some examples. Really, what would your two words be? I'll never forget when I graduated. I will never forget my graduation from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The anticipation was killing me. The joy and the sadness all mixed into one. The power of the music and the beauty of the audience's voice projecting forward as we united together in song. It was all remarkable. I had made it. God had carried me through from beginning to end. I remember looking around as I sat in the pew of Binkley Chapel. Sitting on the same row as I, just across the aisle, I saw MamaB. She moved her lips, speaking but no sound. I read her lips. She said, "When the family stands, can I stand for you?" I said, "Yeah!" You know, no sound. She read my lips, too. Then she gave me a thumbs up. I kept looking back, and there was my lovely wife, my dad, my mom, my brother. We were too far away to read each other's lips. But I could read their eyes. They were saying, "I'm so proud of you." Man, it felt so good. As the graduates in my row stood, I was ready. I made my way down the aisle and paused beside one of our marshals. He gave me the green light to move up to the next marshal. Then I heard my name called. As I went up the stairs, my major advisor came out to meet me. He gave me this hug. Truth is, it felt like five minutes. No one in the crowd knew. No one in the crowd could read his lips, nor hear his voice. But, this is what he whispered in my ear: "Well done, good and faithful servant." For the rest of my life, I will never be able to think about Matthew 25:23 without thinking about that moment. Good and faithful. You know what? It felt so good to hear Dr. Black say those words to me. You know what I was thinking about the whole time we walked across the stage though? If it felt that good to hear Dr. Black say those words to me, how amazing it must be one day if only I can hear my Master, King Jesus, say the exact same thing. 

Let me ask you one more time. If you had two words to describe you at the end of your life, what two words would you choose? It's my prayer for you, graduate, that you will be resolved with unwavering commitment to be found faithful in all that the Lord has for you. It is so easy to measure our success by grades when in seminary. Do you know that you will by no means whatsoever receive an A, B, C, or D when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20)? Jesus doesn't do grades the way you've seen them done in seminary. He is concerned about two things--your radical obedience and your faithfulness. Set your heart to be found faithful. Will you exert the same amount of energy that you've exhibited in your program of study to know him and to know him more and more? All the learning in the world is nothing compared to growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior King Jesus (2 Pet. 3:18). The servant-leaders that are going to make the greatest impact on this world for the sake of the gospel are those, in my opinion, who are resolved not just to expect great things from God, but also to attempt great things for him. Believe me when I say this. You can live your life, or you can lose your life. But if you are intent on living for the Great Commission, even if you lose it, you will find it. And if you live in such a way, in radical obedience to the King who loves you and set you free from your sins, then you will not only find your life, but he will find you faithful. Go, graduates. Go into the world. Be faithful, and do great things in the name of our Lord. 

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