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The Choices after Graduation

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The Choices after Graduation

I wish I could simply offer you proverbial wisdom this evening that you could fit manageably inside a fortune cookie… The Great American critic Will Rogers had lots of proverbial advice. He told us, “Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.” Or “The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.” Or my favorite, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Unfortunately great wisdom doesn’t come neatly packaged like that.

I want you to think with me on the subject of graduation. High school students look at graduation as a completion of a long journey. Sometimes they might compare it to crossing the finish line of a race. They might even compare it to getting out of jail after having served a long agonizing sentence. It can also be a time when the cares of the last 12 years are finally over.

Actually, however, graduation is NOT the end. It is the beginning. It is not over when you graduate from high school. Life is just "getting on” and the worries of life are just beginning, and there are other graduations still to come.

When I graduated from high school I knew what I wanted to be and I knew that God would eventually lead me to it. I was so confident of that fact, that when I graduated from High School, I went straight into college and took on a course load that most would see as insane. I was a music major. At that stage of my life I wanted to work as a church musician. I loved music. I thought that I was destined to be the minister of music at some church when I got older. The trouble was that during the day I lived one life and at night I was living another. My dreams were being put on hold by my foolish desires. I put my friendships in front of all that was important in my life. I lived to party on the weekends, but was “Super-Christian” on Sunday and Wednesday Nights.

So what was I to do? I did what most good musicians did; I flunked out my first semester of college. I received a 0.2 on a 4.0 scale for almost all 17 and ½ credit hours of my classes. I was too busy going to the weekend party’s to notice how bad my grades had fallen. I was lying to everyone at the time, even myself.

After the pain and punishment that came down from my parents subsided, I decided to take a break from school to get my head screwed back on straight. A month later God gave me a wakeup call. He decided to turn my world upside down for a week to put me back on his path. I waited a year and chose to go back to school. This time I stuck with it for a while. I paced myself and was able to make the grades that I knew I was capable of, but I still felt that the field I had chosen was wrong.

I took another break from school after Amy and I were married so that she could continue with her schooling. I had my first real job then, and was doing alright. I still wondered what could have happened if I had finished college the first time and where I would be if I could have finished as a music major. I knew that my musical talents were being wasted on drafting, but it was also paying the bills, and maybe I could use my talents in drafting to help out someone someday.

The point however is that I chose my own path once again. I followed the path of least resistance. I have known my calling to church service since I was 15 years old. I ignored that calling when I was 18 because I wanted to pursue my own desires. I was foolish to think that I could be successful without God.

So what does this have to do with our graduates that we have come here to honor tonight. A few things:

First, follow your heart. Second, follow God.

God has put a great number of choices in front of us and he has a plan for each one, but he also has a plan for your life as long as you choose to follow him. If you have a question of what God is telling you, ask Him, but be prepared to listen. You may be surprised at the response.

God does have a plan for your life. Is that plan college? I don’t know. I know that most of your parents would like to see you go to college and get a good education, and besides, you don’t want to pass up an opportunity to have your college career paid for by Mom and Dad if they are still offering to pay for you. If you wait you most likely will have to pay for tuition yourself or not go at all. Is going to college following God’s plan? In my case yes it was and I failed to follow through with it. I started the race, and by my own choice I have failed to finish it.

We make a great number of choices in our lives, and at 18 years old we feel that we are ready to conquer the world. It is only when we look back upon our lives that we realizes how the choices we make at this stage of our lives impact our future.

I am now 30 years old, and I have been out of school now almost as long as I attended school, and there are those of you here that are in the same boat that I am right now and there are others here who’s boat sailed long ago, and I now see the wrong choices that I made in my youth, but I thank God for being the God of second chances.

I have been called once again to school and this time will be more difficult that any other in my life because this time I am being called to seminary. Because of my choices after graduation I will not come out of seminary with a Masters of Divinity as most of my peers will, but I will hopefully receive a Diploma of Divinity instead. This may not allow me to go to a great many places after I graduate, but I have decided that I will go where the Lord leads, and no matter where that may be, that I will give Him the glory the He deserves.

Not everyone is called to the ministry as I, oh… but what a world we would live in if they were. Some are called to the military and I commend you if that is your choice. Our freedom to be here tonight to be able to meet in this church building is due to the many men and women that have sacrificially fought and died for this country and for the rights of its people. I know that ours is once again a time when being in the armed service is not a very enticing career choice. We are in the middle of a war that has no end in sight. I know a good number of men and women who in spite of the circumstances serve our country without any equivocation, or mental reservation. I pray for them, for their safety, and I thank God for them, that there are those who are willing to fight for those who cannot.

You may be called to college to get a higher education. You may already have a goal or a career choice in mind. You may want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a historian, a baseball player, a professional wrestler, a garbage man or rather a sanitation engineer, or maybe your goal is to stay home and run the family farm, remember, that no matter what we aspire to be in life to not exclude our heavenly father.

In 1 Corinthians Chapter 10 verse 31 Paul writes “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Do everything to the glory of God. This verse doesn't say do some things to the glory of God, does it? This verse doesn't say wash your car to the glory of God, but not your dog, does it? It doesn't say to work at your job to the glory of God, but get an education to the glory of man, does it? Every single thing we do should be done to the glory of God, and what we choose to do with the rest of our lives is in no part an exception to this. Don't forget God or neglect Him from any aspect of your life. Practice talking to God all the time. Forgetting to talk to God is like forgetting to breathe. It is a life or death situation. Without God we face physical death and spiritual death. It's not hard. You don't even have to talk out loud. Just pray throughout the day and give him the glory for all things.

The only right way to live, learn, serve, work, worship, sleep, eat, or drink is when we do it to His glory “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” We see His glory, we will treasure and savor it, and we will be changed by it, so that we will reflect it. As a result, everything we do will be to the glory of God! Luke 19:13 says, “Do business till I come.” The great business of our lives is to let us do everything, whether we eat or drink, learn, serve, or work to the glory of our great God, seeking to saturate all of our life with Him.

Ecclesiastes 10:12 basically states that “Wise words are gracious.” Giving the glory to God is wise. Isn't it wonderful to hear someone saying "Praise the Lord! He has provided for me!" We need to hear more of that kind of talk, but that will only begin when we consciously choose to give the glory to God and to follow Him.

What choices are you, the graduates of 2004, going to make for your lives? Will you start with God’s guidance? Have mom or dad already decided for you? Do you have goals already set for your life, or are you just looking forward to doing nothing for as long as you can. You need to have dreams, and I pray that throughout your time here at Mt. Zion Baptist, during Sunday school, Youth Meetings, Worship Services, and other events that you have gained enough wisdom in the Word of God that you can meet the challenge of allowing Christ to work in your life and to be your guiding light.

I know as an 18 year old that this is not a popular or easy challenge. But I challenge you to not be 30 years old looking back on your life wondering why you didn’t finish the race sooner. I challenge you to be able to proudly stand up for God as he has stood up for you by sending his son to die in your stead. For you who are in the same boat as I, remember that it is not too late to change. Our God, the supreme ruler of the universe IS the God of second chances and will give you the strength to follow His will in the footsteps of Christ Jesus, as long as you take the first step.

The world as we know it is an ever-changing environment, full of grief, sorrow, and pain. Leading a Christian life is never going to be easy, look at Job, but our faithfulness to Him, giving Him the Glory will determine our rewards in Heaven.

To the graduates of 2004, you will soon be walking the path that leads to the stage during the graduation ceremony at your school, the path that leads you to your diploma and those waiting to present it to you, and at last this race will be complete, and then the next race begins. I give to you the path of righteousness and invite you to walk with Christ to the One waiting to say to you “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

I invite you to experience the greatest graduation ceremony of them all, the graduation of death unto life, life-everlasting. As it is written in John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” You will cross over, graduate, from death to life if you believe and put your faith in Christ.

Perhaps you have already graduated from death unto life by accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, if so I applaud you and remind you to be faithful and to give God the Glory He deserves. If not, I challenge you now to have no regrets, to let God guide your life. To walk in the footsteps of Christ Jesus and to take him as your Savior and Lord.

Let us pray.

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