Note: These are my prepared remarks from the 15th annual graduation ceremony of the Helms School of Government at Liberty University, delivered during Liberty University’s 46th commencement on May 11, 2019.
On behalf of the faculty and staff of the Helms School of Government, it is my privilege to welcome you to our 15th annual graduation ceremony. We are honoring around 570 graduates in attendance today, not to mention the hundreds worldwide who were unable to be on campus with us. This is our largest graduation class to date, and God has blessed us with so many opportunities to prepare men and women for their calling in Christ.
This ceremony is for you, so I don’t plan to take up too much of your time. There are three things I ask of you as you prepare to embark on the next leg of your journey.
The first thing I ask of you is to celebrate, not just today, but in the days ahead. This is the culmination of a long and arduous quest, and you have much to be thankful for. Don’t forget to pause and celebrate the Lord’s goodness and lift up the loved ones in your life who helped you along the way. The Bible is rich with stories about milestones being celebrated for days on end with feasting and fellowship. God often commanded His people to stop and recognize significant events in their lives with great joy and celebration. Life moves at an ever-quickening pace these days, and there will be ample time for you to get back on the speedway. This is a great day, commemorating a great achievement on your part. Don’t minimize it, and don’t let it rush by you on the way to the next goal. Take time to rejoice.
The second thing I ask of you is to reflect. You’ve just put in several years of time, talent and treasure – lots of treasure! - to earn an academic credential. Spend time in quiet reflection, contemplating not just the knowledge you’ve gained, but how you’ve changed as a person. So much of our growth toward becoming who the Lord intended for us to be happens during the journey, and if we don’t pause to think about the lessons we were meant to learn, we will miss the opportunity to develop new strengths or shore up our weaknesses. How did the experiences, relationships, trials and triumphs affect you? Did they change you in a positive way and, if so, how are you going to incorporate those changes into your life going forward? What do you need to leave behind in order to realize your full potential? A time of reflection before going out into the world will put you in a better position to realize God’s calling in your life. Planning and preparation make you a better champion for Christ.
Finally, I would ask that you redeem your corner of the world, whatever it turns out to be. We speak often of being personally redeemed because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but redemption doesn’t end with us, with our acceptance of Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. The Lord’s Prayer declares, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” We’re not meant to keep redemption to ourselves until we get to heaven where we can truly enjoy it. Doing His will on earth as in heaven demands that we redeem the earth God has given us. Be vigilant, find out what troubles the Holy Spirit that lives within you, and then go in that direction to make it right. Ephesians 2:10 declares, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has already laid out your tasks for you, and designed you specifically to accomplish them. Go out and be the redeemer He made you to be.
Leave me leave you with one last thought. You’re going into a world that is much different than the one I and many of my contemporaries went into when we graduated. The world is a much more hostile place for believers, and while we may have invited some of that hostility on ourselves over the years, even if we had been as unblemished as newborn lambs, we would still be hated. Jesus promised it in John 15:18, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” We will be tempted to battle hate with hate, to lash out, to complain like we are victims – in short, to behave as if we are of the world. But we are not of this world. 1 Peter 2:9 calls us “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession.” Some translations of that verse call us “peculiar”, which in the context of the author’s time means “unique”, not weird – so don’t stare at your neighbor like that!
Jesus turned the world upside down – the first shall be last, the last shall be first, the poor will inherit the kingdom of heaven, the rich will be poor – so turn the world’s response to you upside down. Return hate with love, replace victimhood with victory, counter derangement with the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - and be so persistently peculiar that the world has to stop and say of you, as it did of Christ over 2,000 years ago – “What manner of person is this?”
Celebrate, reflect, and redeem the world with Christ-like character – that is my charge to you this day. May the Lord bless you and keep you.