Congrats! Whether you’ve made it through high school, college, or grad school, it’s a big deal, an accomplishment worthy of celebration. I am so proud of you. Way to go!
It’s easy to get caught up in platitudes at a time like this. To move from graduation party to graduation party saying things like:
You did it!
This is a beginning, not an end.
Do what you love, love what you do.
Dare to dream.
Remember, the future belongs to you.
Those sentiments certainly are warm and fuzzy, and they look great written in frosting across a graduation cake. But they’re missing a key ingredient: God’s truth. So before you turn your tassel, do you mind if I step up to the mic with a graduation speech of my own? I know I’m not the valedictorian; I wasn’t voted into this position by your teachers and classmates, but man, am I crazy about your generation. I have high hopes for each of you, not because “today is the first day of the rest of your life,” but because God has high hopes for you. He desires to use each of you to tell a story about who He is to a world who desperately needs to hear it.
So without further ado, here is my “speech” for the graduating class of 2017.
Since it seems all good graduation speeches start with a quote, here’s one you may not have heard before:
And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD (2 Chron. 26:21).
Not what you were expecting? My apologies.
It’s just that I see so many Uzziahs as I look out at this crowd. God blessed Uzziah’s socks clean off. He appointed him to lead at the young age of sixteen (2 Chron. 26:3). He gave him talent, and resources, and popularity. Like you, Uzziah had everything going for him.
I love the description of Uzziah we find in verse 15: “And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped.”
Everything Uzziah had was a gift, given to him by a good and gracious God. Everything you have, graduate, from your brains to your opportunities to your scholarships is a gift given to you by a good and gracious God. You have been marvelously helped.
Don’t forget it. Ask the Lord to sear this truth into your mind. The opportunities that lay before you now weren’t earned, not really. They are gifts of grace showered upon you by a God who loves you and wants good things for you. After all:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).
Uzziah got so caught up in his own success that he forgot who was on the throne. Perhaps for just a moment he bought into the lie that his life, his future, his talents and abilities were all about him.
“But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction” (2 Chron. 26:16). (Read the rest of the story in verses 16–21.)
There are lessons to be learned from the life of King Uzziah. Let’s not snatch our diplomas and race past God’s truth.
Uzziah was young.
He had seemingly endless opportunities.
His future looked bright.
And he threw it all away when he shifted his focus away from God and toward himself. At the end, his legacy was marred, his opportunities wasted, and he found himself isolated. His desire to stand out from the pack was realized, but without God’s blessing it was painful not triumphant.
Your life should not be driven by what you love, but who you love.
Yes, I do think your accomplishments are worth celebrating and I think your future is worth dreaming about, but this moment is not about you. Your life should not be driven by what you love, but who you love. Your rudder should be God’s will, His truth. He will never ever steer you wrong. The greatest good you can accomplish is not individual success, but to use your life to declare the grace and goodness of God.
Will you make decisions about next steps based on what you want or what He wants?
Will you seek His will for the next decision, the next year, the next decade of your life?
Will you seize this opportunity to point others toward who He is or grab the spotlight for yourself?
Will you seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33) or like Uzziah, will you seek to build your own kingdom with you on the throne?
Mind if we revisit those warm fuzzy sentiments for a moment with an added dose of God’s truth?
You did it! Because you have been marvelously helped.
This is a beginning, not an end. All things begin and end with Him.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13).
Do what you love, love what you do. It’s not about what you love, but who you love.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).
Dare to dream. Dare to trust. God has bigger plans for you than you could ever imagine.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
Remember, the future belongs to you. Remember the future belongs to Jesus.
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17).
Dare to trust. God has bigger plans for you than you could ever imagine.
Graduates, I am watching you from the very edge of my seat. I can’t wait to see how you hold high the banner of truth among your generation and use every gift, talent, opportunity, and dream to bend the spotlight toward the God who carved you in His image.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Use it to declare His glory, for you have been marvelously helped.