Lessons Learned from Graduation

    This weekend, I had the honor to be counted among the 19,432 graduates for the 43rd commencement ceremonies at Liberty University. I cannot even begin to express the excitement and love that I felt at the university. The journey to graduation was tough. The drive to Lynchburg even proved difficult as we will soon discuss. However, my education did not end at graduation. In fact, during graduation weekend, I learned four valuable lessons that I hope to take with me for the duration of my days on planet earth. These lessons play off of the adopted biblical verse for Liberty University which is “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).[1] The context of the verse implies that God removes the veil from our eyes so that we can “see and reflect the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT).[2] Thus, what does God’s liberty mean to us?

Lesson #1:      With God’s liberty, there is power to do the impossible.

Ronald Hawkins noted that the first graduating class of 1974 had 46 graduates. This year’s graduating class had 19,432 graduates. With God, there is power to do what may seem to be impossible. Our commencement speaker was Rashad Jennings who is the running back for the New York Giants. Jennings noted that he should not be playing football by normal standards. Jennings said that he was told that he was too short, in high school had a 0.6 GPA, weighed 275 pounds and had asthma. However, as Jennings noted, “With God, you can dream crazy big.”[3]

With God all things are possible. No mountain is too high and no valley is too wide for God. God can help you do the impossible. This is the very thing that the angel told Mary before she became the mother of our Lord. Mary had learned that her relative Elizabeth would be with child. Elizabeth was too old by most people’s standards. However, the angel told Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Lesson #2:      With God’s liberty, there is love to reach the impoverished.

            My wife and I have been dealing with great strains as of late. Due to personal reasons, I cannot relay the reasons behind these problems. Both of us have been stressed for so long that it was a radiant breath of fresh air to experience numerous people who congratulated us and wished us the very best. My wife was stunned at how loving and kind the professors were. She said, “I always thought that professors were somewhat distant from the students. But, the professors here really care about their students!” At the School of Divinity, the professors laid their hands upon the graduating class praying over them. Again, our minds were blown!

My wife and I have been impoverished here lately due to the stress and strains of life. To experience the overwhelming love and kindness that we received this week from the students, families, and staff at Liberty University was refreshing. We met a man who was good friends with the late Dr. Jerry Falwell. He told us about their friendship and about the passion that Dr. Falwell had for the Lord and the compassion that he had for people. The gentleman invited us to attend his church (Thomas Road Baptist Church) some weekend when I wasn’t preaching. He gave all of us hugs and said, “I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say, ‘I’ll see you later.’”

I learned this weekend that the love of God radiating through His children is a refreshing drink to the dehydrated soul. It is a nourishing meal to the malnourished heart. Perhaps this is why Jesus commanded us that the mark of true discipleship is love. Jesus noted that the believer is commanded to “love one another, even as I have loved you…By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Ed Hindson noted in the School of Divinity graduation that knowledge is important. However, some people will not care how smart a person is. The Spirit of God must open their hearts before they can receive the truth of Christ. The believer is to show grace and mercy to all people. Hindson’s statements really resonated with me. I have failed to show love the way I should from time to time. Perhaps some of this has stemmed from personal attacks that I have received in my ministry. Yet Christ was attacked and prayed for the forgiveness of His offenders. Love is a cherished gift from God. May we all make it a priority to focus on loving others the way Christ commanded us.

Lesson #3:      With God’s liberty, there is humility to counter one’s importance.

Going back to Dr. Hindson’s powerful message, I was reminded that despite our achievements, we must always remain humble. As noted previously, Hindson reminded us that some people will not care about how smart we are until they experience the grace of God within us. Hindson is absolutely right. Knowledge and wisdom are important. In fact, they are critical. Yet, if knowledge and wisdom are shrouded with a haughty spirit, then they are for nothing. Peter reminds us that we are to “humble [ourselves] under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:6-7, NLT).

Lesson #4:      With God’s liberty, there is strength to endure the interruptions.

“Interruptions” is probably a bad word to use for this lesson, but I wanted to stay true to the “I” theme. While my family and I were driving up to Lynchburg, we received a call that my grandpa was not doing well. My mother and father needed to go back home. We were all riding together. My wonderful wife took it upon herself to drop my son and I off at the hotel and drive my parents back home. Altogether, my wife drove for 6 hours the Friday before graduation. She told me afterwards, “You know, God gave me strength to make the journey.” God will give us strength to endure many of the obstacles of life. My grandpa improved, although he still has many health issues plaguing him.

Many have noted that when they have faced troubles and trials, God always shows up to provide them strength to endure. God also provides us means of rest if we will take it. It is up to us to make sure we give ourselves the rest that God provides. Jesus invites to “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT).

Conclusion

            Some will undoubtedly read this and say, “Well, you are just pumping up your alma mater.” That is not the purpose of this article. Rather, I have sought to show the importance that comes taking God seriously in both word and deed. When we devote ourselves to the Lord, we can find power, love, humility, and strength. Will you devote yourself to Christ? My challenge for all the graduates of 2016, not only at Liberty but everywhere, is to devote yourselves unto Christ Jesus. Receive His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. Then, go spread those attributes to each person you meet. With God, we can have an impact upon the world!

© May 16, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[2] Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

[3] Rashad Jennings, Commencement 2016, Liberty University (May 14, 2016).

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