If I were asked to address a class of graduates, what would I say? What do graduates need to hear as they begin a new chapter in their lives?
I’ve narrowed my remarks to seven personal challenges. As I think back, I needed to hear these statements when I graduated from high school. What are the seven personal challenges?
- Guard the integrity of the future. As you make decisions, always remember, decisions have consequences. Paul made it clear in Galatians 6 that we’ll reap what we sow. In Gen. 25:29-34, “Esau sold his birthright for a pot of stew.” In terms we can comprehend, Esau sacrificed his future for the pleasure of the moment. I challenge you to guard your future, meaning never sacrifice your future for the pleasure of the moment. Ask God to help you live life regret-free!
- Understand the influence of relationships. Relationships have the potential to build us up or tear us down, draw us closer to Christ or pull us away from Him, or cause us to see life God’s way or the world’s way. 1 Corinthians 15 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible on the resurrection. In the heart of that chapter, Paul gave a Word that challenges us about relationships. Paul said, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). I appeal for you to choose your relationships carefully. It’ll protect you from many sleepless nights.
- Learn to listen to God. How to Listen to God, by Charles F. Stanley was my first Christian book. God used that book to train and position me to know how to listen to His voice. Graduates, you need to know how to listen to God. What does God say about relationships, finances, and careers? In order to listen to God, you need to know how to read the Word, pray, rely on the Holy Spirit, discern circumstances, and seek godly counsel. Listening to God positions you to live life with peace, wisdom, and direction (Pr. 3:5-6).
- Handle temptation God’s way. Temptation doesn’t play favorites. It affects people from all walks of life and levels of spiritual maturity. Jesus faced temptation. He used God’s Word to defeat the enemy. As you begin a new chapter in life, you need to anticipate the enemy’s attacks. Being tempted isn’t a sin. However, temptation isn’t something to flirt with or take lightly. You need to remember the enemy’s goal and strategy. Jesus said that the adversary comes to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10). You don’t have to be another one of his victims.
- Stay connected to a local church. It’s possible that the next chapter of your life means moving out of your parents’ house and into a place of your own. Your next move might be to another city and into a college dorm. Either way, your new independence brings with it many important decisions. What will you do on Sunday mornings? Popular opinion and specific research studies say that many young people graduate high school and leave the church. I pray that’s not your story. I challenge you to stay connected to a local church. You need the church, and the church needs you. In Heb. 10:25, the writer said, “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” May corporate worship, Bible study, and ministry involvement remain a priority for you!
- Make solid financial decisions. Jesus said a great deal about money and stewardship. As you move to a new phase of life, credit card companies already have you on their lists. I imagine you’ll receive many offers from such companies to secure a credit card with them. I appeal for you to seek God’s heart and wisdom about impulse purchases, financial debt, and biblical stewardship. You never want to limit your future and God’s plan for your life because of unwise financial decisions. I appeal for you to develop a financial plan that allows us to give, save, spend, and share.
- Pursue the correct pathway to happiness. The world wants you to believe that happiness is found in possessions, positions, popularity, or pleasure. However, Jesus spoke a radical message about the pathway to happiness. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus talked about happiness by turning the world’s thoughts upside down. I encourage you to take the time and study Jesus’ sermon and then pursue the correct pathway to happiness. You’ll discover that real happiness comes from loving God and loving other people.
During Sunday’s worship gathering, we’ll publicly honor our graduates and their families. Graduates, we love you and are proud of you! May the Lord open and close doors for you, according to His good, acceptable, and perfect will (Rom. 12:2)!
Seeking His Kingdom First,