Once again I was asked to deliver the commencement address at Rock County Christian School. Since last year my address went quite a bit over the allotted time, this year I decided to keep it short. However, in doing so, I felt like I cut out some things I wanted to say. So, here is the text containing my complete thoughts.
19 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:19-24
This weekend is all about memorials. A memorial is simply a physical representation of a person or event from the past which we wish to remember. On Monday we take time out of our lives to thank the Lord for the great liberty our land enjoys and for the lives of those who died to secure it and hand it down to future generations. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We look back in the past at those people and events that will allow us to have a future. So this morning, I want to challenge you, the RCCS Class of 2012, simply not to forget. I challenge you to remember the memorials all around us which force our minds to recall past memories.
But the final memorial I want to talk about is something which you will receive in just a moment. As soon as I finally stop talking you will be handed a red, rectangular object which contains your high school diploma. You’ve made it. You’ve finally graduated. The long nightmare of high school is now over. But this diploma is more than a mere piece of paper, it is a memorial. It is a trophy of grace. It represents over 12 years of a lot hard work, effort and obstacles that had to be overcome. At times you wondered if it was worth it. At times you wondered if you could even make it. At times you wondered if you had the strength to endure till this day. Well, you did. You finally made it. Remember this day, because you will need it in the future.
You see, life is filled with challenges and obstacles. One of my pet peeves as a teacher is to hear the complaint, well, they never taught me this one I was in school… The truth is, that person is right, they probably did never learn that in school. But, that’s not the purpose of school. The purpose of education is not to teach you everything but to give you the tools to equip you to deal with anything. I don’t know what your life holds. I am not a prophet that can gaze into the feature and warn you of all the trouble you will face in life. Instead, as your teacher, I am simply a guy here to help, encourage and most of all, point you to a God who knows all things.
As a Christian school, our number one goal is to help you to see the importance of faith in Christ. Everything points back to Him. He is the author and finisher of our faith, the very one in whom we live and breathe and have our being. He is the author of history and the goal of your ultimate destination. Through Him the whole world holds together and in Him we find our strength. I cannot teach you everything, but I can point to the one who can.
Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is the only way in which we can please God. While this is one sense reassuring – we live by faith and not works, at the same time this concept is scary. Faith is not something that is seen. If I have to trust, it means there is uncertainty.
Back in the verses I just read, this memorial or monument of rocks was built shortly after the children of Israel had crossed over the Jordan River. That was a time of great uncertainty. Imagine standing at the banks of the Jordan with your fellow countrymen. You’ve just been told to take a step into the water and only then it would part and you would walk through on dry ground. That in and of itself would require great faith that is in no way normal or natural. But combine this with the fact that you’ve been wondering around the dessert for 40 years. This means that you’ve never even seen the land you are about to enter. It is the promised land – a land that you are told will be incredible, but is completely foreign to you. Add to this that during these past few years many in your family had probably died and worst of all the only leader you’ve ever known or trust, Moses has just died. And now this new guy Joshua is telling you to take a step of faith the likes of which you’ve never had to do before.
Can you relate to this feeling right now? Its exciting to finally graduate high school, but now you are taking your first steps into the real world. We’ve been telling you for years that education will help you. We’ve been telling you for years how tough college will be. We’ve been telling you for years that your work will pay off. But now, you’re going to have to take your first step. How will you handle it?
As you gaze across the uncertainty of the Jordan River, let me remind you of a sermon I heard many years ago. The title of that message was simply this, the God of the Red Sea is the God of the Jordan River. In other words, your step of faith is not in a vacuum. Your step of faith now comes just after the steps you’ve already taken in the past. Its odd that when you read through Joshua chapters 1-3 you don’t see much fear and worry when Joshua makes this announcement. Why? We’ve seen this before. Some of these people may have been old enough to remember passing through the Red Sea after having seen Moses pray to the Lord. Some of them for sure remember their parents telling them of this awesome miracle I am sure they never forgot. They remembered that the God who parted the waters of the Red Sea can part the waters of the Jordan River as well.
What hope can give you about your future in the midst of world facing war, strife, moral decay, division and great uncertainty. I can tell you that the God of the Red Sea is the God of the Jordan River. The same God who helped you through high school will help you through college. The same God that helped you through college will guide you through all of the great challenges you will face. Whether it will be the death of a parent, the loss of a job, the discovery of cancer, or any of the other untold sufferings that may await you – I can assure you that your God is faithful. As Christians we do not seek to avoid difficulty. We do not seek to avoid the pain. We do not seek to bypass the storms of life. Why? All of these trials serve to lead us to a greater reliance upon God. As we look around at our current political landscape. Many fear that the church and religious liberty is being threatened. Maybe, but that’s ok. Because the God who stood by the early martyrs of the faith who stood before the persecution of Rome is the same God that will stand by us as we face whatever our world throws our way. The God of the Red Sea is the God of the Jordan River.
So as you look at this diploma today, see it for what it really Is – a memorial of God’s grace. He has been good to you. He has helped you to overcome many difficulties and obstacles you alone could never conquer. Cling to Him. My prayer is that your faith will deepen and grow as you enter into your college years. But some of you will discover, as you face the challenges to come, that perhaps you have been running only on your own strength. You have not needed faith in God instead you have been using your own thus far. You are smart and gifted, but someday you will come to place where your strength will give out and your gifts will fail you. What will you do then? Know this is exactly what the Lord your God predicted when he declared in Isaiah 40:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Remember these words and turn to the Lord.
So, graduates of the Rock County Christian School Class of 2012, my final words of wisdom and challenge to you is simply this – remember this day and the Lord who brought you here.