This was the Graduation Speech I gave at Union School International’s 12th graduation. May 27, 2016
Good morning. And for some of you this is a very good morning. The day of completion of High School, or elementary school, or kindergarten. It is an important milestone, and you should feel rightly proud of this accomplishment, and I hope that you look forward to the exciting things ahead for you. The theme today is walk forward with the Lord, or Walking with Jesus.
But I would ask you to think for a moment about this question. How far and how fast can you walk backwards? Almost 30 years ago, Anthony Thornton decided to see how far he could walk backwards in two days. The answer? 153 kilometers. Additionally, a little over 20 years ago, Ferdie Adoboe set the record for running backwards. He ran 100 meters in 13.6 seconds. That is pretty amazing.
But I have a record that makes their records look small.
I have been walking backwards for over 50 years. My whole life. And I am not alone, Each one of you has been walking backwards your whole life.
What do I mean?
We have no ability to see into the future. We can see the past— where we have been. And we can see the present– where we are… But we cannot see the future. It is as if we are walking backwards our whole lives, seeing the past and the present, but blind to the future.
And that is scary.
If each of us has to continue walking forward— into the future— a future that we cannot see— a mystery to us— what do we do? We can keep groping around hoping that where we go is the correct way and not a big mistake. Or we seek a guide, a guide to walk with us. What sort of guide would YOU seek? For me.
- I would seek a guide who can see the future.
- I would seek a guide who cares for me.
- I would seek a guide that knows what is best for me.
The theme for this graduation is Walking Forward with the Lord… or I might say, Walking with Jesus. And that is my recommendation to you. Walk with Jesus. But I am not simply saying walk with Jesus because it is the right thing to do— although it is the right thing to do. I am not simply saying walk with Jesus because it is the Christian thing to do— although it certainly is that as well. I would say walk with Jesus because:
- Jesus can see the future
- Jesus cares for you
- Jesus knows what is best for you.
I have friends and I have family. And they care for me… and that is nice. But they cannot see into the future… and they don’t always know what is best for me. So, in the end, I walk with Jesus.
But let me give you a few thoughts on what it means to walk with Jeus.
- Walking with Jesus will be unique. Each of you… each of us is created unique. We are unique physically… We are unique in personality, in our thoughts and feelings, in talents, in experiences, in relationships. God made us unique so that we each have a unique role. The path that Jesus will lead you on will be different from the one that I will be on. And that is as it should be. If you are walking with Jesus where he leads, there is no reason for envy. There is no reason for you to compare with other people trying to figure out if they are on a better path than you. Walking with Jesus is not always the safest place to be… there may be dangers, but walking with Jesus, living according to His will, is the best place to be.Some people think that following Jesus means that you are a pastor, or a missionary, or something like that. It can be… but following Jesus means going where He asks you to go and God needs many other people than just pastors or missionaries. In the Gospels, Jesus told several to physically follow him wherever he went… the 12 disciples. However, one day Jesus healed a man, and that man said that he wanted to follow Jesus physically wherever He went also. Jesus said, No… instead go back to your own people and tell them them all the great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion for you. His role was unique… but just as important as Peter, or John.
- Walking with Jesus will take you to unexpected places. When I was 10 years old, I knew what I would do with the rest of my life. I would be a mechanical engineer. How did I know that? My dad was a mechanical engineer. I wanted to be like my dad. I graduated from High School, and I went off to college majoring in Mechanical Engineering. And I graduated with my degree in mechanical engineering. But things were changing in my senior year of college. An opportunity came up to join the United States Navy… and be a Nuclear Power Officer. That sounded quite exciting, and I felt that this was where God was leading me, so I joined. I got to see the world. I visited Jamaica, Aruba, Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, a few other places along the way. I had the opportunity to navigate my ship through the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, and the Straits of Gibraltar. I sailed my ship in the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Caribbean Sea. Near the end of my time in the Navy I met my wife in Sunday School at our church. Shortly after I got out of the Navy, we got married, and started our family. I went back to school for more training, and then I did work as a mechanical engineer for several years. But after a few years I realized that although I was good at engineering, it was not my passion… God was changing my heart. I loved being involved with Christian ministry. So 12 years ago, I quit my job, we sold our house, and my wife and I and our three children moved here to the Philippines where we have been involved in churchplanting, medical missions, disaster response, pastoral care and counseling, writing books and teaching. Right now, my two main jobs are teaching in a seminary, and serving as an administrator for a counseling center 9000 miles away from where I was raised. I would NEVER have guessed that that was where Jesus would lead me. And I don’t know where Jesus will lead me in the next 5, 10, 20, 30 years. And you don’t know either. Expect to be surprised.
- Walking with God involves struggles. People don’t like struggles. But Psalm 23 says that sometimes God will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death…. yet we are told not to fear because God is with us, and through these struggles he will lead us to green pastures and still waters. I have had many struggles. The Navy was a big challenge for me. At certain times I thought I might give up. But I determined to endure and learn and grow through the struggles. You will have struggles as well. Some people think that when struggles come that they are out of the will of God. But God trains us through struggles. You have an exciting life ahead of you, but one also with many challenges and struggles.
- Walking with God also involves failure. Sometimes we fail because we do something wrong. Maybe we sin, break a promise, lie, or something like that. Years ago, I had a final exam at 8 in the morning at university— electrical circuits analysis. I was feeling lazy so I put off studying until the night before. But then I was feeling very tired, so I decided to go to bed and set my alarm for 4 in the morning to get up and study. For some reason the alarm did not wake me, and I got up too late to study and too late to get to the test on time. My car also refused to start, so I was even later, I got on the wrong bus making me later still and when I finally got to the University, I realized that I never been to the building where the test would be held so that slowed me down even more. I arrived at the final exam 1 hour late. By God’s grace I still passed the test, but I decided to learn from the experience. I would set two alarm clocks not one… the second alarm clock would be on the other side of the room so I had to get up to turn it off. I would study days in advance and not cram at the last minute. And I would always visit a test or interview point the day before to ensure I know how to find it.But sometimes we fail because we do something right. We fail because we have chosen to follow God in doing something too big for us, yet, to do. Some people feel led to start a business… be an entrepeneur. The average successful entrepeneur— new businessman— has had 4 failed businesses before a successful one. But the reason they had their success was because they learned through the failures. Don’t be afraid of failing. Following Jesus will mean taking some risks. God has big plans for you and the bigger the plans, the more failures you will have along the way. Jesus trained 12 disciples to carry on his work after him. When Jesus was arrested…captured… all 12 of his disciples failed— they ran away into the night. 1 of them never recovered. He killed himself rather than learn from his failure. How foolish. The other 11 returned later to Jesus having learned from their failure, and God used these 11 to change the world. One of my great heroes in missions is William Carey. 7 years of almost complete failure on the mission field prepared him for over 30 years of successful mission work after, leading him to be described as the Father of Modern Protestant Missions. Don’t be afraid of failures… learn from them and grow through them.
- Look for mentors. We may be walking with Jesus, but normally he guides us through other people. Over my life, I have had many mentors. These were/are people usually older than me, but not always, who encourage me, strengthen me, teach me, so I can grow. Some helped me grow in my spiritual life. Some helped me grow in my academic life. Others help me grow professionally or ministerially. I owe them a great debt.Some people surround themselves by friends who are foolish, who lead them in the wrong direction, who do not help them grow. That usually leads to disaster. When I first went to college, I was blessed to live in a unit with 7 other men who were good Christians, good friends, and good students who took their studies seriously. I learned so much from them that helped me become who I am today. Pick your mentors carefully, as well as your friends.
- Give generously of yourself. We don’t just take take take. As we receive, we give. If people are helping you grow… find others and help them as well. God blesses us so we can bless others.The goal of this school is to develop good, Christian Global Leaders. A good Christian global leader does not lead for his or her own benefit… to selfishly enjoy power or wealth. Rather, a good Christian global leader seeks to lead to strengthen, encourage, empower others for their benefit and for God’s glory.
My wife and I run a counseling center here in Baguio. It is called Bukal Life Care. The term “Bukal” is a Tagalog term for a spring… water flowing up from the ground. It reminds us of our theme verse. Isaiah 58:11
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And this verse is my prayer for you as well.
And the Lord will guide you continually. You will walk with God… with Jesus your whole life.
And will satisfy your desire in scorched places. God will sometimes lead you through difficult places in your life, but He will care for you and take care of what you need.
And make your bones strong. God will help you grow and be strong in life.
and you shall be like a watered garden, As you follow God, and you grow and become strong, God will give you success in doing what he has for you to do.
like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. You will be able to not only meet your own needs, but you will be able to help and be a blessing for those around you.
That is my prayer for you this day.