This month we celebrate five high school seniors who will soon take a short walk across a big stage that will launch them into a world of increased challenge, opportunity and responsibility. They will graduate from high school. Eva Pauley, Eric Sommer and Ryan Swedberg will graduate from Trinity Christian and Campbell Schoenfield and Emily Twisselman will matriculate from Carmel. Congratulations graduates! To you we say, “Well done!”
So now, what’s next? All of these students have exciting aspirations for the fall. And guaranteed, there will be new challenges, too. Many are making their first big move away from home. There will be new academic and financial pressures, and the challenge of finding a whole new community of friends will be there as well. So, what gems of wisdom can we pass on to them? What pearls of insight have we gained from our experience that might be of value to them?
This week our youth ministry team will honor our graduates with an evening of counsel and encouragement. A recent graduate from Azusa Pacific University, Melanie Hong, will talk about “Being a Follower of Jesus in the Next Four Years.” The graduates will each be personally introduced by different staff members. Then Pastor Grant will offer wisdom on “Holding onto the Essentials,” and I’ll conclude with a few thoughts about, “Moving Forward with Christ.” We’ll finish up by gathering around and praying for God’s protection and blessing. And very soon, they will be on their way.
As I’ve thought about what I might pass along to them, I settled on four words that capture a big piece of our Christian experience. They are PRAISE, PURPOSE, PAIN, and PROMISES. This is the stuff of our lives.
The psalm writer reminds us, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praise to your name, O Most High.” Any day that we start with praising God for His goodness and faithfulness is off to a really good start. Couple that with a prayer for my eyes to be open to His beauty and presence in the thick of my day and I’m much less intimidated by the pressures and disappointments that will inevitably come my way. So, a great place to begin is to start with PRAISE.
Then, pursue God’s PURPOSE. One of the great opportunities of moving out on your own is the necessity of making important choices - decisions that set life direction. The Apostle Paul encouraged his friends with the truth that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” The post high school years of college and early jobs are a great time of discovering God designed strengths, abilities, personal gifts and passions. When coupled with a prayerful desire to honor Christ, a growing clarity about God’s purpose for my life emerges, and that is a powerful motivator and life director.
Even a strong sense of God’s purpose, though, won’t steer me clear of life’s PAIN. Disappointment and failure often come along with pursuing new adventures. I still remember the rude awakening in discovering that I couldn’t just sit in my freshman Western Civilization class, stay up studying the night before the mid-term and come through with a stellar performance. And then there were the more painful disappointments of breaking things off with a sweet Christian girlfriend, and later breaking a leg to close out my last year of collegiate soccer. The Bible says that trials test the real stuff of our faith. They produce endurance and strengthened dependence on God. But trials often are accompanied by pain.
Finally then, a word about God’s PROMISES. Opening up my Bible directs my attention to great promises that are rooted in God’s faithfulness. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” Jesus told His followers. And the Apostle Paul followed with, “For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God’s Word is rich with His promises. Our lives are God’s primary work, and He is committed to seeing us finish well.
Having the chance to share these brief thoughts with our high school seniors will be a genuine privilege. The tough part for us all will be living this well. But these are the threads that, when woven into our lives, will move us forward with Christ. If we weave them in well our seniors will have some great examples to follow.