I wish our world were such that we could speak in a light and breezy tone about the future to our graduates, but, of course, that’s not the kind of world in which we live.
The Psalmist reminds us that the Lord prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil. The last phrase of Psalm 23, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” is a statement of trust in the faithfulness of God. He preserves and protects His people.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
It’s a strange mixture of metaphors. Our Lord, knowing that Satan himself is called the serpent of old, is telling us to be as shrewd as serpents. Of course, we are also to be as harmless as doves.
Graduates, do not grow weary in doing good.
Paul wrote to encourage his protégé, Timothy. Not only did Timothy apparently have something of a retiring and shy personality, but he was also facing some adverse circumstances. Paul wrote to Timothy using language intended to encourage him.
The passage we read opens up with the exhortation, “Stir up again.” Paul used a word here that may also be used to describe a fire that’s about to go out:
“… kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7)
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity…”
The “spirit” referenced here is the Holy Spirit. “Timidity” is too polite a translation for Paul’s original word here; the term actually means cowardice. “God has not given us a spirit of cowardice.” We have not received a spirit of cowardice, but a spirit of love and power—the power of God—and sound mindedness, a disciplined way of thinking.
Timothy faced adversity. He was probably at Ephesus, and we know from 1 and 2 Timothy that Ephesus was experiencing both the advance of false teachers, and failure within the church itself.
We live in a world where violence, greed, selfishness, and hedonism abound. We are confronted each day with clashing convictions and lifestyles—people have differing ideas about God, faith, governance, family, marriage, and the value of life.
That’s the kind of world in which we live, and that was the kind of world in which Timothy had good reason to be fearful.
Paul told Timothy,
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:8)
This is not exactly the kind of word anyone wants to deliver on such a happy occasion as this, but it is a realistic word. In the midst of our celebration and joy there is also, above and beneath us, running straight through us, the wrestling that Paul refers to Ephesians 6:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Guard the treasure that has been entrusted to you.
Graduates, you’ve received a fabulous education here at HBU. You have received something that people all over this world would truly sacrifice a great deal for; in fact, many of you on the stage and in the audience already have.
Guard the treasure that has been entrusted to you. Live faithfully with what you have been given. Your education fits you for life in the world whatever your future may be—not only in terms of competencies and expertise, but also, we believe, in terms of morality and spirituality. You have been prepared to live as the kind of person that God has made you and called you to be.
The God who has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ will triumph. He’s not just the God of the western world, and He’s not just the God of Christians. The God who has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ is the God of all creation, and one day He will put things right. One day He will sort things out.
Live for Him now. It’s an investment in your future:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… (Matthew 6:19-20)
Paul lived these truths—and so should you.
Live in a way that is faithful to everything you know to be true and right. Only then can you experience what Paul knew to be true in his life.
Paul wrote to Timothy from prison, where he’d suffered terribly. He was beaten numerous times with rods, and he received 39 lashes on five separate occasions. He’d been in danger on the highways, in danger from violent men and robbers, and he was terribly anxious for his friends who were likewise in danger.
Paul encouraged Timothy with an echo of Psalm 9, where the Psalmist refers to the faithfulness of God towards all those who know and trust Him:
For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)
All you give in faithfulness in your life will not be forgotten. It will be held and kept in the hands of God. Guard the treasure that you’ve been given through Jesus Christ. May God bless you.
Related college blogs:
- 2 Things to Remember When You Encounter Trouble
- How should you be studying in your college classes?
- What a Christian school is [not]
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from Dr. Robert Sloan’s charge to the graduates of Houston Baptist University on May 16, 2015.