May is Graduation Month

On college campuses across the country May is graduation month. After four years or more of college preparation, students are transitioning into jobs and careers for which they hope they have been prepared. InterVarsity has been at work in many of these students lives to see that they are spiritually prepared to live a life of witness for Jesus Christ.

Pete Hammond, a senior InterVarsity staff member and vice president-at-large, spoke at the Belhaven College graduation in Jackson, Mississippi, and offered some Bible-tested wisdom for the graduates.

Where will you be at this time next year? What will you be doing, with whom?

God will bring amazing and sometimes very difficult new things into your experience, and there’s much to learn from these new, sometimes awkward and very challenging, adventures. Let’s look at the biblical record of how God-followers struggled with new things in everyday life.

In family Life – Abram and Sarah, after decades of embarrassing childlessness and one questionably attempted solution, Sarah could only respond to the news of a late-in-life pregnancy with nervous laughter. (Gen. 18:1-15)

Assigned to whistle-blowing – Moses, privileged and at least bi-lingual, was asked to confront the oppression of his Hebrew people by challenging Egypt’s powerful leadership. Moses’ response? Uh, not me. I can’t talk. (Exodus 3:1-4:17)

In family life – Ruth, newly married across a big cultural divide, was shocked to become an early widow. Then she probably surprised her Moabite people and family by deciding to join her grieving mother-in-law by going to her Hebrew hometown to face inevitable poverty, and maybe even prostitution to survive. (Ruth 1-4)

In high level politics – Elijah, in the face of Jezebel’s powerful hostility as the most vicious ruler of the times, plunged into self-absorption, denied his assignment and hid himself. (I Kings 19:1-10)

In ethnic conflict – Esther, as a young beauty queen, learned of a scheme of politically initiated genocide against her Hebrew people, risked much more than losing the pageant—she risked losing her life by opposing the leader of this evil plot. (Esther 1-10)

In big business – Job, the leading agribusiness owner in the Middle East, lost his whole operation and all his children, only to be criticized for his faith by his frustrated wife and exhausted by the attempts of his friends to explain his dilemma. (Job 1-42)

In career change – Isaiah, invited by God to leave his job and become a national whistle blower, spiraled into fear and plead for release because he felt unworthy, unclean, and inadequate. (Isaiah 6:1-5)

In cross-cultural witness – Jonah, fled his new job assignment, then grudgingly performed it after God forced him, only to end up exhausted, depressed, and alone. (Jonah 1-4)

In family life – Joseph, amazed to find his fiancée Mary inexplicably pregnant, decided to protect and honor her, only to then find out he had to flee his country to protect his new born son from politically motivated execution. (Matt 1:18-2:15)

In finance – Judas, as treasurer of Jesus’ venture, gave in to an opportunity for greedy gain, accepted a blood money bribe, only to kill himself amid his overwhelming grief and shame. (Matt 26:14-16, 47-50, 27:3-10)

In friendship – Peter, in the face of losing his friend, mentor, and leader Jesus to false conviction and execution, gave into fear, and denied he ever knew him. (John 18:15-27)

In launching new franchises – Paul, faced on an enormous task, dismissed aspiring young mentee John Mark as inadequate, only to later plead for him to rejoin him. (Acts 13, 15:36-40, Col. 4:10, Philemon v.24)

In manufacturing – Priscilla, in the midst of co-leading the family mobile housing business, engaged a brilliant international evangelist, corrected his inadequate theology, and then protected his reputation by advocating for him in his next venture. (Acts 18:24-28)

So, like these saints of old, you are headed into some very new things as you graduate and experience marriage, friendships, jobs, personal financial successes and setbacks, new ethnic contexts, and difficult relationships. Finally, it’s your turn to move on, aspire to new things, lead, travel, dream, and experiment.

As you leave college, remember this, God loves you on your good days and also on your bad ones. He is with you as you encounter surprising new things. I suggest that you remember three guiding principles:

  • Learn from your spiritual ancestors in Scripture and your companions of faith.
  • Be honest about your gut reactions and face them before God.
  • Figure out what faith equips you to become and do.

Someday maybe your legacy will be an inspiration to the next generation. But most importantly, you will be true to yourself and faithful to God who has loaned you life and a new opportunity.

Listen to Proverbs 24:3-7.

“Use wisdom and understanding to establish your home;
let good sense fill the rooms with rare and beautiful treasures.

Wisdom brings strength,
and knowledge increases power.
Battles are won by listening to advice
and making a lot of plans.

Wisdom is too much for fools!”

Note that God made you with two ends: one to sit on and one to think with. Heads you win, tails you lose!

The Lord be with you.

“Pete Hammond” is a senior staff member and vice president-at-large with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA and leader of its Ministry In Daily Life Resource Group, formerly known as Marketplace. He is the creative developer of the Word In Life Study Bible now available as The Life Connecting Bible, and author of The Marketplace Annotated Bibliography and Re:Learning Family. Pete is a Presbyterian (USA) elder. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by Belhaven College. He and Shirley live in Madison, Wisconsin, and travel to Chicago to see their children and grandchildren at the drop of a hat.