1 John 4:18
We are in the midst of the graduation season, when many young adults are
graduating from high school and college.
When I had been asked to give a sermon for a graduation service, or to just speak to young people about what is ahead of them and the decisions they are facing, I did a whole lot of pondering, praying and soul searching over what I was going to say.
How does someone three to four times the age of graduating students relate to them?
As a retired chief executive officer of a construction management company, I have more than twice the number of years in business management experiences and know-how than the graduates have been alive; surely we could talk about how to be both Godly and successful in our work ethic.
As an example, our successful work ethic should always be to put in more effort that we expect to receive, and to always put ourselves in the bosses’ or clients’ shoes, and think about what they expect from us; that way we can always give them what they want, and a little more.
What else would I have to say to a group of young people, or even one person, that would help them after graduation or even with their pre-graduation decisions?
What do we have in common?
They have parents, and we have a daughter, and our daughter has a family of her own.
Then it dawned on me. We have most things in common. There are really only a few differences, the biggest difference being in our ages.
The only problem is whether or not we are willing to listen and relate to one another.
I also realized that if most of the young people were asked to get up here in front of this group or any other group and give this sermon or a talk, they would most likely feel quite strange as well.
This is one of the things we have in common.
And it is not much different from what young people face in determining their future.
Do you know the reason why we feel uncomfortable about doing something before a crowd?
It's because of the fear of the unknown, and not wanting to make a mistake.
And that is something else we have in common, regardless of our age differences.
But we need not have any fear.
Because God is with us even if we don’t want to accept Him, so maybe it is more correct to say that God is willing to be with each of us, if we will accept Him.
Do you remember what John said about fear in 1 John 4:18?
He says that perfect love casts out fear.
And in this simple statement, he is telling us the reason we have so many problems in our own lives and in the world.
Fear is the opposite of love.
Perfect love comes from God and turns us into true peacemakers who work to free creation from its present corruption, including each and every little problem we face every day.
When we have perfect love, we naturally put God and everyone else’s feelings and desires ahead of our own, and it doesn’t matter if they are human beings or other animals.
So, as we move on in this discussion, think about making our decisions based on doing no harm and with perfect love.
Over fifty years ago, I had to make the same decisions that these young people are facing.
What do I do about a job?
What do I do about college?
What do I do about military service?
And what do I do about marriage and having children of my own?
At that time, I kept thinking that all of these things would be coming to me for my own decision. And upon that decision, my whole life could depend. And that's what most people are thinking about too.
As infants, we relied totally on others for our needs.
What an infant receives is totally dependent upon how perfect other people’s love really is, and we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to commit ourselves in every loving way necessary, including the changing of diapers.
As we began to grow up, we started to approach our needs somewhat differently; but we still are dependent to some degree upon other people’s love.
With many of these decisions, we said, "I can do it all by myself." But with most, we still relied on the help of others to accomplish our goals.
Was God one of those we called on to help us?
Or, were you like me, and never really thought about Him?
I wish I had established the personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ then, which I have now. It would have made things a whole lot easier.
As we are growing up we observe all that our parents and friends and teachers do, whether good or bad.
Each had a set of standards. We adopted some of those for ourselves, and others we rejected.
Our acceptance and rejection earlier in life was not based on any set of standards of our own, but on what we liked, or on what we saw others being successful in, or getting away with. Thus we began to establish our own set of standards.
But these standards are not necessarily good ones, the ones we should structure our lives upon.
As we got a little older, we observed others more carefully. If a person told you that you should do something, and they did it themselves with good results, you would more and more accept what they told you.
And counter to that, if they didn't live the life that they said you were to live, you considered them hypocrites and rejected what they said.
So we need to ask ourselves, will the decisions I’m making appear to others as being hypocritical or for good?
See, we all have this common problem as well; we are people watchers. And there isn't one of us that doesn't do something wrong at some time or another; and when we do, there is always someone else there to remind us of it.
Our problem is that we follow the standards of people, and not necessarily the best standards.
The best standards for living our lives are those set by God, for they are always correct.
And I know that some of you are rejecting what I am saying about God, for it isn’t the "thing to do"; but it is nevertheless true.
We also reject the things of God out of fear, because if we base our lives on God's Word, then we feel convicted when we do something against His will.
God tells us not to fear, for He is with us, and that we are to trust in Him and Him only; for He will never fail us.
Yet there are times in our lives when we feel like giving up. We wonder if it is all worth it. And when we feel this way, it's because we have not made God part of our decision-making process.
This happens because we let fear rule our lives, instead of God’s perfect love; and the result is not what we desired.
The Apostle Paul knew about times like these. And, while he was being persecuted and in prison, he wrote to those on the outside with these words from Philippians 4:6-7.
6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The key is to be thankful to God for all that we have, whether great or
small, and we will have the peace and love that will drive all fear away.
In order for this to come to pass, we must be willing to submit ourselves totally to the will of God, just as Paul did.
Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us these same things Himself in Matthew 6:25-34. Note verse 25:
25. "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?
Then the Lord goes on and gives several examples of this from His created world that we can observe every day. Then He picks up these words again in verse 31.
31. "Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we
drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'
32. "For all these things the Gentiles [or nonbelievers] eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34. "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
If we seek God with all our heart, soul, and might – that means when we are
willing to submit to Him – we will find Him.
Then in thankfulness, we can tell Him all the things that concern us, things that we could never tell another human being; and I know He will hear us and answer us.
Our answers do not always come instantly, but the peace and comfort that surpasses all understanding will come upon you to let you know that He heard you.
We must learn to wait patiently upon God. His timing is always perfect; ours is not. This is to live by faith.
This is where I live. I live by faith in my Lord Jesus Christ, and I cannot urge you enough to do the same.
He died to free me from the burden of my sins, and He is faithful to forgive me when I bring them before Him with a repentant heart and resolve not to do them again.
He rose from the dead to prove that all that God said from the beginning of time was true, and He sits at the right hand of the power of God to intercede for me personally, and for every one of you also, if you want Him to do so.
The Lord God was the senior partner in our business; He is the pilot of our airplane, even though I’m the one with the license; thus, just like the writer of Psalm 37, I can say with confidence:
1. Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2. For they will wither quickly like the grass,
And fade like the green herb.
Don't worry about the evil in this world, for it will only last for a
season; but those things done in righteousness will last forever.
And do not seek after the apparent successes of those evildoers, for you will fade with them.
In our two local prisons I came to know many young men who fell into this trap. But –
3. Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4. Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5. Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6. And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your judgment as the noonday.
The evil that we do in our lives we hide away in dark places or behind
closed doors with the shades drawn.
Why do you think that factory farms and slaughter houses don’t want the public seeing what they are doing?
That which we do in righteousness can come forth immediately into the light and be seen by all without embarrassment. God will show us what He desires us to do.
7. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.
9. For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.
10. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place, and he will not be there.
11. But the humble will inherit the land,
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
Yes, I trust in the Lord for everything in my life, and I pray that you will
do so also. Man will fail you; yes, even our loved ones, but God will never
And we don't just need God as a partner in our businesses, either. We need Him in everything we do.
If He is not part of our decision process in deciding whether or not to go to college, or to get a job, then there is reason to fear. But if you seek the Lord, then you will be filled with the love of the Lord and have the assurance that He will be with you through it all.
The same holds true for our marriages. Unless Jesus Christ is the center of our marriage, and this means with both partners, we have cause for fear.
The love of Jesus Christ will let us see through the irritations and annoyances that come upon all marriages. Christ will also keep us faithful to one another and build that love beyond anything you can imagine.
Our society is success oriented. In our desire to be successful we do many crazy things, and cause horrible pain, suffering and death to millions of our fellow human beings and billions of animals every year.
We try many schemes. We read many of the books that are written on the subject, but usually we forget to read the greatest success manual ever written: the Holy Bible.
And even in the Bible there are stories about evil people, as well as the stumbling of believers; but we aren’t to follow their misdeeds either; instead we are to learn from them.
There isn't anything that will affect your life that the Bible doesn't address, and everything it tells you to do, in love, will be successful. God and His Word never fail.
The fact of just owning a Bible won't help you unless you read it, and read it daily.
It will most assuredly help you, if you give it a chance.
I'm what the world calls successful, but I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It has never stood in the way of any business relationship worth having, and in fact has cemented many good relationships.
And I do everything in my power to live the life I preach, so that people like you will come to know that there is a living and loving God in the land, who loves and cares for you also.
Sure I make mistakes, just like you do, and I take them before the Lord; and He is faithful to forgive me and help me not to fall into the same trap again.
You don't need drugs or alcohol to give you a high. The Holy Spirit will bring you into relationships and successes that far exceed anything you can imagine; and as long as you continue to commune with Him, there are no downers, either.
If you truly desire to succeed in all that you set out to do, then begin with the greatest success you will ever have.
Right now, right here, commit your life to Jesus Christ. Tell Him you want Him to make you over into the person He wants you to be.
You will never regret that decision. I never have; and I never knew what true joy and success was until I began my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
He loves you very much and desires to do the same for you.
Don't reject so great a gift.
God bless you all.