Graduation time is here, and I am sure there will be plenty of advice being thrown around. If I only had only one opportunity to speak words of encouragement to a graduate, what is it that I would want to say?
I am no expert. The only thing that even begins to qualify me is the experience of having four children who have passed this milestone. The message I have is not from me at all–it is all about the message that God wants us to hear from His Word–and it is a powerful one:
When my kids were approaching the time to make decisions about their future, I chose to remind them that it is more important that they follow the path that God has for them than to listen to any outside influence telling them what they should do. Often as parents we fall into the trap of thinking that we know our kids better than anyone else, so that must mean that we know what’s best for them.
If you’re an empty-nester like I am, then you understand when I say I can laugh at myself now, because I realize that there is no way that I could have known what God had planned for their future. Even when they are young, we start imagining what they will be like and what they will do when they are older. It’s so important that we encourage them to give their best–with the right motive. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17
If it’s true that our goals, our plans and our dreams should be closely related to our spiritual walk, then HOW do we do it? How could we possibly walk in a manner worthy of the gospel? We are sinners: we could never be worthy! How then, do we walk in a worthy way? I believe Paul gives us the answer in Chapter 2, verse 5:
“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus.”
Oh that’s all! Yikes! What seems like a tall order, is really rather simple when you read the rest of that verse. What was His attitude? Here it is, right in verse 7: “He emptied Himself” and verse 8, “He humbled himself” and was “obedient to the point of death.”
Is it really so complicated? Our lives take a drastic turn on our path to adulthood when we come to understand that life is not “all about me”. True humility recognizes how much we need God. We NEED a relationship with Him, we need to find out what He says in His Word, and we need to obey it.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a little attitude check. We are human and we do tend to get our focus on the wrong things sometimes.
Even when our actions appear to look like obedience, our attitude can be quite the opposite.
This little checklist can help steer us in the right direction:
What is my attitude–
- Toward God? Will I trust Him, even when it’s hard or He asks me to do hard things? Do I recognize Him as sovereign? Holy? “For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name.” (v. 9)
- Toward Others? Do I see others as God sees them? Am I treating them in a way that honors their Creator? “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (v. 3-4)
- About Myself? Am I depending on Him or am I trying to accomplish things in my own strength? Am I honest about where I am spiritually? “Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.” (v. 16)
These verses out of Philippians, Chapters 1 and 2 sure caused me to do a little soul-searching. They are a gentle reminder that our attitude is just as important as our actions. This life we’ve been given is not just about following rules and living by a moral standard. It’s about recognizing we have a Savior. He came to show us how to live and we have a responsibility to follow His example, remembering that He came to bring Salvation. That’s the message of the gospel–a message He wants the whole world to hear.
The bad news is, you can’t do this in your own strength.
The good news is, you don’t have to!
“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13