Graduation Season

It’s one of the most bittersweet times of the year for a youth pastor. In one sense, you are excited for the students that you have spent the better part of their high school experience mentoring. On the other hand, there is a part of you that wants to hold on and say, “Hey, wait! I’m just getting to know you. I’ve loved sharing your life with you. Can’t you just stop growing up now. Don’t go!”

It’s graduation time again. And that means our ministry, like thousands of others across the country will be saying, “Good bye,” to our senior class. It’s going to be hard to let them go.

Last night we held our annual baccalaureate service. Here is what I shared with our students and parents.

When he was the President of the United States, George Bush, Sr. began the Thousand Points of Light Foundation. It was an organization whose purpose was to increase the level of volunteerism in America. President Bush believed that people getting involved in the service of others would have a positive effect on them, and the people they served, thus making America a stronger nation.

It was about that time that President Bush came to the university that I attended to deliver the commencement speech for the graduating class that preceeded mine. Like most students I was excited at the prospect of President Bush visiting our university. I’ll never forget a line that the President gave in his commencement address. He said, “Here at Liberty, you’ve shown how a 1000 points of light can become a galaxy of stars working to make a difference in your own backyard. And now, let America follow your lead.”

Jesus liked to talk about light too. And when He referred to light, He was talking about you! In His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Here at Wooddale, Pastor Anderson is fond of telling us, five or six times a year to, “make God look good.” You, class of 2006, are the Light of the World. You have a responsibility as such to make God look good. I like what President Bush said, but I like what Jesus said better. In fact, I’d like nothing more than this to be said about you. “Here at Wooddale you’ve shown how dozens of young men and women with the light of Christ shining through them can make a difference. You have shone brightly. You have been used by God to draw hundreds of people to His son. And now, let our church, and the world around us, follow your lead!”

So, as you leave, leave as men and women committed to changing your world, by being image bearers of Christ to the world around you.

While in high school, I’ve shared with you the nine values of world changers on multiple occasions. These are the values that those who are committed to be light in this world will embrace.

Value number one is the everything principle. It’s the idea that Christ is preeminent above all else. The wisest man to ever live said in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Solomon knew that nothing in life is as important as God. So, whether you leave here to study medicine, law, accounting, music, art, education, ministry, or serve in the armed forces, keep God number one. You do what you do because of Him and for Him.

Value number two is excellence. God is honored when we do our best. Many of you have talked about the “senior slide.” Some have even lamented that you senior slide began your sophomore year of high school. Don’t let your senior slide be the excuse that you give for not giving it your best. In Genesis 1:31 it says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. (Incidentally, God’s very good is better than our excellent). And there was morning and there was evening – the sixth day.”

Value number three is that we become people who are “each other focused.” That means that we care more about others than we do about ourselves. It is the antithises of the way that the world operates. In His Great Commandment, Jesus said, “Love your neihbor as yourself.” Jesus cares about how we love the world around us.

Value number four is endurance. There will be many a time that you feel like chucking it all and giving up. May we be like the Apostle Paul who wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Value number five is education. Many of you are moving on to institutions of higher education. And while that education is valuable, the principle of which I speak is the principle of being a lifelong learner. It is becoming one who is a student of the Word of God. When the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protege, Timothy, he wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). May we be students of the timeless truths of the Word of God.

Value number six is enterprise. That is, the ability to take risks. Sometimes God will call us to take incredible risks for Him. We need to be willing to do this even if the rest of the world scoffs. God is worth it. In Luke 17:6 Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Maybe the reason we don’t see God work sometimes is because we are afraid to trust Him.

Value number seven is exercise. And, I’m not just talking about physical exercise. While God cares about our physical bodies, He cares too about our spiritual body. He wants us to take care of the bodies that Christ has given to us, and to the Body, which Christ has given to us. That means we are to exercise our spiritual gifts — to use the gifts that God has given us to be a blessing to the overall body of Christ. I’ve told you all on multiple occasions that each one of you is special, with a unique gift from God to offer this church. As you go from here, do not leave Christ’s church. Use your gifts in a local church setting wherever you go. You are so valuable.

Value number eight is ethics. Nothing will ruin your opportunity to be a light to the world as quickly as compromise. The spiritual road we walk is littered with the corpses of so many who have said, “I’ll never compromise in my spiritual walk,” only to find themselves and their names totally destroyed because of a series of wrong choices. There will be so many opportunities for you to make those mistakes in college, the work force, or wherever life’s journey takes you. Don’t let your name be one that is forever marred because of compromise. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

Our final value is evangelism. Nothing rings so dear to the heart of God as evangelism. He is absolutely passionate about it. Since the time you’ve been in Wooddale Senior High, close to 150 of your friends have become Christians. There are very few people that Scripture calls wise, but Proverbs 11:30 says this, “The fruit of the righteouls is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.”

And now, Class of 2006, may you let your light so shine before men, that they might see your good deeds, and praise your Father in heaven.