Below is my valedictory speech I delivered last Friday at SEBC’s 2012 graduation. I was honored, humbled, and excited to be chosen to deliver this years speech. Despite being nervous Thursday when I gave a small speech concerning what it means to be bibilically grounded, I had no fear once I got up on stage. I know many people were praying for me before and during it. God bless you.
Southeastern Bible College Faculty and Staff, fellow students, family, friends, and graduating Scootzis/seniors, I’d like to extend a thanksgiving to the men and women you see upon this stage and also to the left of me. They are men and women who have been obedient to the Lord’s call upon their lives and have led us in our theological training these past four years. Thank you professors for loving us well, serving the Lord tirelessly, and leading us with all humility, boldness, and compassion. We have been honored to sit at your feet and learn from each of you. Now to the graduating class, I desire to leave you with an exhortation to remember. Scripture uses the language of remembering over 160 times within its two testaments: remember my covenant, remember the Exodus, remember the LORD, remember to keep my commandments, remember me when you come into your kingdom Lord, remember those in prison, and the list continues. I think Scripture uses this type of language to highlight the fact that we are a forgetful people. We tend to go about our lives and forget precious truths that could enrich, enlighten, and embolden our daily walks with our LORD. So tonight seniors, I am calling you to remember. Remember the mission and remember your role in that glorious mission.
Beloved, we are called to a mighty task of announcing and initiating God’s victory within his new world. N.T. Wright, the former bishop of Durham, rightly highlights our task as believers. He says:
“Our task as image-bearing, god-loving, Christ-shaped, spirit filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story, music, art, philosophy, education, poetry, politics and theology and even–heaven help us–biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge [to our current situation in life], leading the way…with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, “if not now, then when?” if we are grasped by this vision, we may also hear the question, “if not us, then who?” and if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?”
Remember your mission my friends to bring the announcement of God’s triumph over the forces of evil in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to the entire creation until he returns.
Remember that your efforts, though couched in the darkness of a fallen world with its pain and toil, are not in vain. Paul, after eloquently expounding upon the reality and joy of Jesus’ resurrection in First Corinthians 15, ends the chapter in verse 58 with a command to work steadfastly for the Lord knowing that your labor is not in vain. Again, the good bishop remarks:
“You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are – strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe the resurrection itself – accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of His creation; every minute spent teaching a special needs child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the Gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God. God’s recreation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world.”
Remember that what you do for the Lord is not in vain.
Lastly, remember your place as you work for the LORD. Jesus said in Luke 9:24 that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Brothers and sisters, I implore you not to build a kingdom for yourself. I beseech you not to spend your time and efforts making your ministry known and loved by the masses. I urge you not to lose your life for some social cause, political party, theological system, or other insignificant task or calling. I encourage you friends to place everything–your time, your money, your loves, in short your whole lives–into the task of making Jesus’ name and His fame known throughout the nations to the Glory of God. We can exhaust ourselves by seeking significance in what we do and how we are known, hoping that we will be remembered after we are gone. Or, we can lay our lives on God’s altar; squandering them in the world’s eyes, but entrusting our legacy to our Maker. Remember that it is always about Jesus Christ. Leave your legacy up to the Lord and work hard knowing what you do for Him is not in vain. As Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of the Moravian Brothers says, “Preach the gospel, die and be forgotten.” Beloved, preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten. Thank you.