Words For Graduates
June 5, 2016
On this Graduates Sunday we are honoring Anna Johns on her graduation from the University of North Carolina and Glen McNeill and Seth Winders on their graduations from Southern Lee High School. Anna, Glen, and Seth, in the four years that I have known you I have watched you, Anna, grow into fine young woman, and Glen and Seth I have watched each of you grow into fine young men. You each have accomplished many things, and I am sure you will accomplish many more things in your life. So today we not only honor you for what you have accomplished, but also for your dreams and hopes for the future as well.
As I was considering what I could say to you today that would be some words of encouragement and inspiration for you, I thought about the words that God gave to Joshua in Joshua 1:1-9. These words that God used to encourage and inspire Joshua are words that each of you can take into the future as you live your lives, just as they are words that each of us should strive to learn from.
Let me set the stage for the first chapter of Joshua. Moses had just passed from the scene. He had an illustrious ministry in leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and through 40 years of trials and blessings in the wilderness. But now Moses, the great leader, was dead, and Joshua, who had been mentored and groomed by Moses, was being called by God to take Moses’ place in the leadership of Israel. The first chapter of Joshua is God’s call to Joshua, the new leader, to “be strong and of a good courage”. I want to share some thoughts from God’s words to Joshua with Anna, Glen, and Seth and, actually, with all of us.
First, remember that the past is past. In Joshua 1:2 God says to Joshua; “Moses, my servant is dead. . .” Moses had died. A new leader was on the scene, and it was the responsibility of the Israelites to transfer their allegiances to Joshua. He was now in the driver’s seat.
Anna, Glen, and Seth, your college and high school days may have been fun, but they are over. Glen and Seth, the carefree days of living at home will end. Groundings from using the car and restrictions to your rooms for failure to make good grades are about to end, and while this may sound exciting, when you get to college you may find that being on your own brings a great deal of responsibility. You may even wish for the safety and security of home. If you don’t believe me, you might want to talk to Anna about the difference between living at home and being on your own in college. Just as Joshua may have wished that he still had Moses to follow, you may wish you still had the relatively care free life of your high school days. Anna, as you transition from college to the next thing life holds for you, you may long for your college days.
I am certain, however, that for each of you, God will be with you and will strengthen you if you put your faith in Him, just as God was with and strengthened Joshua. God’s words to Joshua are also God’s words to you: “Be strong, and be of great courage, for I am with you.”
The second thought I want to share with you is that the passage may be turbulent. God says to Joshua: “. . .arise, go over this Jordan. . .” At certain times of the year the Jordan was swollen out of it’s banks. The water was treacherous during those times. God does not always lead us to places that are convenient or comfortable. Sometimes He leads us through hard and tough times, but he always leads us.
Glen and Seth, college will not be easy. You will find endless lines to sign up for courses, which are already becoming overcrowded. It is not going to be pleasant standing in line in the college bookstore to buy books, which cost three times what you will ever get back from them. It won’t be pleasant moving into a cramped little dorm room and trying to get to know, and get along with, your roommate. You will miss your friends and family at home. The courses will not be easy. Trust me, you will have a lot of adjustments to make. Again, if you don’t believe me, I am sure that Anna can tell you about the adjustments to college life. And Anna, whatever life has in store for you now, there will be plenty of adjustments to make and plenty of “rivers to cross”.
So I say to each of you, “cross over this Jordan”! God has a wonderful plan for your life. There are blessings, open doors, and joyful occasions on the horizon. But the trip there may not be tranquil. Have faith in God and in all the challenges of life, and again remember that God’s words to Joshua are also God’s words to you: “Be strong, and be of great courage, for I am with you.”
Another thought I want to share with you is: The future is bright. God promised Joshua that “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, I have given to you.”
Anna, Glen and Seth, those promises are yours for the taking. God has a glorious plan for your life. Have faith in God, and claim His plan for you. God told Joshua “I will be with you” and “I will prosper you”. Since God has chosen a definite path for your life, you may rest assured He will provide for you. Why would a Sovereign God lead someone somewhere and then drop them? That’s not how God works. God blesses those who trust and follow Him. Anna, Glen and Seth, no matter what the future holds for you, God is with you, will not forsake you, and will bless you. Your future is bright.
The last thought I want to share with you is be strong. Anna, Glen, and Seth, be strong. God tells Joshua to be strong, and he tells you to be strong also. This does not mean to be strong in your own power or abilities, but be strong in trusting in the Lord and living in His ways.
Being strong means keeping a strong faith. God says to Joshua “. . observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from to the right or to the left”. Anna, Glen and Seth, there will be many obstacles in your life that will try to take your faith away from God. Don’t let that happen. You have been raised in the Church and the Christian faith. Stick with it. Stay focused on God. Keep a strong faith.
Being strong also means staying true to the goals and dreams God has put in you. There will be many detours in your path in life. You will be distracted from your goals and from following God’s ways. Stay focused on your goals and on God. Stay on God’s path for you! Stay on track. Turn not from it to the right or to the left.
So, Anna, Glen, and Seth, on this day when we honor you and celebrate your graduations with you and also celebrate what God will do with and through you in the future, I say to you, remember that the past is past, remember that the passage may be turbulent but remember that the future is bright, and remember to be strong. Be strong and of good courage, for God is with you.
Also always remember that God loves you and is always there for you, and each of us here at Edgewood love you, are praying for you, and are always here for you.
May God continue to bless each of you as each of you continue to be a blessing to others. Amen.