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Graduation: The End of the Beginning

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We’re well into May, and with it have come graduations galore! A time that so many have looked forward to for so long. A time filled with such hope and anticipation. A time where one season ends, and another begins. A time that, for many, is filled with as much anxiety as it is hope. For some, it’s questions about whether to go to college or begin a trade. For others, it’s where to go to college. For some, it’s who should I work for? Or, can I even find work?

No matter where you are, there is probably one question that sits under all of those other questions: what am I suppose to do with my life? For the third time in my life, I graduated earlier this month. And despite having gained a good deal more perspective, I still have the same basic question now as I did graduating high school and college. This question about what to do with your life can weigh heavy as one season of life literally reaches its end date, namely, graduation.

So many of us, however, make “self” the number one priority in answering that question. Above everything else, we are asking: what do I want to do? where do I want to go to school? who do I want to work for? And by asking questions, and making decisions that begin and end with me in mind, I have set myself up for the worst possible future: a wasted life!

Don’t Waste Your Life
You see, the reason that a wasted life begins and ends with me is because in reality, everything begins and ends with God. God is the only person worth living for in this life, despite how highly you may esteem your wants and your desires. God is, always has been, and always will be. He is the creator and sustainer of all things. Nothing that is, is apart from him. He is perfect in who he is, and all he does. God is the definition of good in every way. The only reason we have words to describe varying degrees of goodness (i.e., okay, not bad, decent, good, great, better, best) is because of sin’s presence in this world. Ultimately though, anything we see as good in this world – that truly is good – is good because God is the source of all goodness. God, being completely sovereign over all things as the King of all things, is always worthy of all affection, praise, efforts, attention, energy, devotion, love, adoration, and anything you could possibly give to a God who has no need of anything because he owns everything. In short, God is worthy of all glory.

Scripture reminds us of this singular fact in several different places:

… yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6)

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory… (Hebrews 2:10)

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

In light of all of this, to live your life without reference or proper orientation to God as God, is to miss the point of living, period.

Making it Count
So then, as you or I reflect on graduation, and ask hard questions about the next season of our lives, how can we begin thinking through what it will look like to make every life decision, big or small, in order to give God great glory? Well, we make our lives count for the glory of Christ. And that is not just a trite expression as if to say, “Do something significant with your life that will make God look great.” It is that. But sometimes we hear, “Make your life count,” and think we have to do something miraculous by our standards.

But what if what we meant by this expression was a bit more literal? Literally, make your life count for the glory of God through disciple-making. By God’s grace, make your upcoming decisions based on what will position you to best and most effectively make disciples who make disciples so that at the end of your life, your life could literally be counted by the number of disciples multiplied by God’s grace and your effort. I think my church is on to something here in their vision and mission statement when they say, “We exist to glorify God by making disciples of all nations.” To live for God’s glory in relation to your upcoming life decisions is to realize that the primary (not exclusive) way in which God’s people glorify Him in this age is through making disciples of all nations. So then ask the question, “How can I best do that?”

Happily Ever After?
Whether you are the generation who has been brought up on the ideology of the American dream or the generation of fairytales who has been told to find their “happily ever after” at all cost, the same question will arise: what about me? What about my desires? What about my hopes and dreams? What about my happily ever after?

Those are not bad questions in and of themselves. But in asking those questions, you must first take into consideration at least two truths. First, becoming a Christian, by definition, means that you must first lose your life for Christ’s sake in order that you may find it (Matt. 16:25). That is to say that becoming a Christian is you effectively renouncing any claim over your life to dictate how you will live it. The second truth flows from the first. It is only in giving up your life to the rule and reign of Christ as seen in his word and manifested in the gospel that one finds life. This is the logic of Scripture. Are you worried about your basic needs in following Christ’s path for your life instead of your own? Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and [then] all these things will be added to you.” Are you afraid you’ll never have joy in life by following Christ’s way? Psalm 37:4-5: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” It is in delighting in and seeking the Lord that God will grant the desires of your heart. Sometimes we don’t want the right things. But when we delight in him, he changes us so that we want what he wants. But not only that, we have the blessing of God in our life when our life is committed to and trusting in the Lord (Ps. 37:5).

God was so committed to our happiness that he came to us himself in the person of Jesus Christ, and in dying and rising in our place, he purchased for us new hearts that would finally choose the path of life and joy. You can have confidence as you approach these transitional periods in your life where you have to make serious decisions that God is both worthy of your devotion and trustworthy in your decisions.

 

Eric Parker (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is the Associate Pastor of Tapestry Church. He helps shape the culture of the church and provide oversight to all disciple making efforts in gospel-centered ways that are helping to build a multi-ethnic ministry in one of America’s most segregated cities.
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