Jack Graham - Graduation Day
We're taking time to imagine what it will be like when we stand in His presence, and the Spirit of God in His word has shown us many wonderful things regarding our future with Him. So eternity begins now. Eternity begins today, looking forward to graduation day when we pass final exams and we are in the presence of the Lord forever. So I want you to take your Bibles and turn with me in that theme to 2 Timothy chapter 4, the second chapter, or the second book of Timothy, chapter 4. And I want to say that the way to live life is to pursue the ultimate prize. Did you know that your life hereafter in heaven is vitally connected to your life here and now? How you live today will determine how you will spend eternity.
Now, notice I didn't say, how you live today will determine whether or not you go to heaven. "We are saved by grace through faith", and we've come to Christ and His cross and we've made a decision to follow Christ. And therefore we know that we're on our way to heaven, not because of anything that we have done, but because of what Christ has done. But having said that, while forgiveness settles the issue of our destiny, our works, our deeds, our actions, our lives determine how we will spend eternity because Jesus along with the rest of the New Testament, in fact all of the word of God talks to us about rewards and wages that will be paid for those who have faithfully served Christ. And so our goal in life should be to so live and to so give ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ that we will hear the words, "Well done".
In 2 Timothy, chapter 4 beginning at verse six. He says: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing". Paul is looking forward to his future with Christ, knowing that he expects to hear the acclaim. When you stand before God will you be acclaimed or will you be ashamed? The Scripture says, "Little children abide in Him that when He will appear you may have confidence and not be ashamed at His appearing".
I want to be confident in that moment, standing before the Lord. The old apostle pictures himself as a spiritual athlete, ready to finally pursue the finish line and to claim his victory. The Apostle Paul must have loved the sports arena; he talked so much about sporting events. And he does that here, as he's considering his own life and his own graduation day! When he says, "I will depart and be with Christ"! And so he takes a clear and sober evaluation, a serious evaluation of his life. He's looking back and he said, "I have fought the good fight". Here he refers to a boxer in the arena and he portrays himself as someone who is landing every punch with every ounce and every inch of his being. Of course, in life it is a battle. We battle against tests and temptations in life, and against the principalities of the world of darkness. "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, the rulers of the dark places".
Paul well knew the arena and he was fighting for the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was a disciplined fighter and a dedicated fighter. In 1 Corinthians chapter 9 he says, "Therefore I run this, not with uncertainty thus I fight, not as one who beats the air (that is shadow boxing, just swinging blindly), but I discipline my body and I bring it into subjection or submission, less when I have preached to others I myself should be disqualified". Paul's greatest fear was that somehow in life that he would be on the sidelines spiritually in service for Christ. He ran just a little bit scared, knowing that it was possible to default and to be disqualified and that was his greatest fear. That somehow he would no longer be in the battle for the Lord Jesus Christ. And so he disciplined himself and devoted himself. And he did it! He had the scars to prove it.
Paul was testifying of his life one day and he said, "I have been in the deep, I have been stoned, I have been thrown overboard, I've been beaten with rods, I have been cast into prison". And he had on his body the scars to prove it. He said, "I bear on my body the stigmata, the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ"! How many of us can say I am fighting the good fight of faith? I am in the battle! Too may Christians today are interested in comfort and convenience. Too many people think they're doing God a favor just by showing up at church! But He has called us to win for Him!
Back in the Old Testament in the book of Numbers as the children of Israel were advancing into the Promised Land, the tribes of Ruben and Gad came to Moses and said, "Look, we found a place outside the Promised Land that we really like. It's convenient, there's room for our livestock. We don't want to cross over Jordan. We don't want to get over on the other side. We certainly don't want to get in those battles with those giants over there that we've heard about. So if it's okay, we'll just stay here on this side of Jordan and stay out of the battle". Said, "This happened before and you know what happened? It's became the world's longest funeral procession. For forty years they died out in the desert because they did not have the courage to conquer their Canaan that God had already given them".
So Moses preached them that sermon and he said okay, if you want to stay over here that's fine but "be sure your sin will find you out"! Now that verse will preach in a lot of different ways. "Be sure your sin will find you out". Because sin and the consequences of sin will track you down, but what is that sin that Moses said will track you down, find you out? It is the sin of watching while your brothers are warring for God! It is the sin of enjoying all the blessings of the promise without being in the battle for the Lord Jesus Christ. God said, "Be sure your sin will find you out". Paul said, "I have fought the good fight". Then he said, "I have run the race". From a fighter he turns into a runner. He says, "I have finished the course".
Paul's course began on the Damascus road when he came face to face with the risen Christ, this rabid Jewish Rabbi on His way to persecute, kill more Christians. He is confronted with the risen Christ. Blinded in the light of His glory! First question he asked? "Lord, who are you"? And every person needs to ask and answer that question: "Lord, who are you"? And he discovered the person of Christ, the one he'd been persecuting was the very one he needed most in his life. And he responded to Christ. And then he asked another question: "Lord, what will you have me to do"? And once you've settled the question of who is Jesus, then you need to settle the question of "Lord, what will you have me to do"? I'm often asked, "What is the simple advise that you would give to graduating students, young men and women on the brink of the rest of their lives"? And I always say the same thing: "Put Christ first in your life and spend the rest of your days following Him with all your heart"!
And that's what happened to the Apostle Paul. Jesus became the Lord of his life and so he was on the way. And every believer has been given a course, that's God's will, God's plan, God's purpose for your life and a lane to run in. Not competing with one another but rather to run the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12 says: "therefore also since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Let us lay aside every weight" (in other words, anything that would slow us down, keep up pursuing, that would keep us from pursuing expeditiously the will of God for our lives.) He said, "Laying aside the sin which so easily besets us"! (that is those sins that would stop us dead in our tracks and put us on the sideline.) He said, "looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God".
Paul discovered his passion, his purpose for life and he ran with all of his might. Get a game plan for your life. Get God's goals, God's mission for your life and pursue it daily. And it is a lifetime pursuit. Paul who I believe is the greatest Christian whoever lived would in Philippians say, "I haven't arrived yet. I haven't attained this yet but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind I press on to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ". Press on in the race that God has given you! And don't you ever quit! Don't you ever give up! I'm looking at some older adults here. You're maybe in those retirement years and you're thinking, "Well, it's time for me to step aside and let these young ones take over". No! There's no retirement in the Christian life and in service for the Lord!
If you're a Christian, an older veteran believer, you ought to be more full of the Spirit, more full of joy, more full of life! You ought to be setting the pace and setting the example and taking the message forward until the Lord takes you home! You ought to be at the forefront of witnessing and giving and serving! How we thank God for these young, adults here this morning and these young students, so bright and beautiful and I do believe this generation of students has the potential to be the next great generation in America if you'll live for Jesus. But I want to say to those who are older today, you ought to be the most dynamic, full of energy, full of God people in all the earth. Live for Jesus! I mean be like the Apostle Paul. He wasn't limping into heaven; he was leaping into heaven! He was excited about life and couldn't wait to live for Jesus! He was never going back, but always going forward.
And then he said, "I have guarded the Gospel". He said, "I have kept the faith". He's not talking about his personal faith, though he kept his personal faith and never walked away from his faith, but he's talking about "the faith once delivered under the saints". The faith to which we are to earnestly contend. That we are to guard the Gospel of Christ! The word of God is under attack in this generation! And we are to stand for truth and righteousness! What is needed in this generation are courageous people with conviction that know God, that know their Bibles and know that they're on their way in the life that Christ has planned them. The Gospel of God! I mean, you say that Jesus is "the way, the truth and the life and no man comes unto the Father", you've got a fight on your "except by Him", and you have a fight on your hands!
So are you going to melt under the pressure of this culture? Are you going to cave in and compromise your convictions? Or are you going to say with the Apostle Paul, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to the Jew first, and to everyone who believes". Guard the Gospel! And every generation, listen to me, every generation has the responsibility of making sure that we proclaim the Gospel, that we protect the Gospel, and that we pass the Gospel along to succeeding generations. If you have ever run in a relay race. When I was a kid the big goal of life was to get out to Farrington Field in west Fort Worth and to run in the Fort Worth relays. I never got in those relays! Like my coach, I told you before my coach always said, "Graham, you're fast". Said, "You're fast like a fire hydrant, all in the same place! Fast but all in the same place"!
So I never made the relays. But I am told that the most important (and you know this is true) the most important moment in the relay race is the transfer zone when one runner leans in and hands the baton to the succeeding runner; and races are won or lost at that moment in the transfer zone. It is our responsibility in our own generation, my generation to make sure that we are handing the baton of truth to a succeeding generation! That we put it intact into their hands. And then Paul turns a corner, having looked back for just a moment, saying that I am fighting this fight and I'm keeping this faith and guarding this Gospel and I am running this race, he then realizes, it's this sobering realization that he is on his way out. And that's why he says, verse 6: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering".
One of the great verses that I memorized as a young man was Romans 12:1, "I am a living sacrifice". He said, "Present your bodies... a living sacrifice unto God". Paul was a living sacrifice and now he's about to be poured out completely as a libation, a living sacrifice unto the Lord. Poured out completely. Then he said, "and the time of my departure is come". Paul viewed his death as a departure. I heard about a funeral procession that was going up a hill and the casket fell out and began to roll down the hill. Down the hill, down the hill, across a parking lot, across city traffic, slammed through the doors of a drugstore, a pharmacy; went right through the pharmacy, slammed into the pharmacist's desk, and the casket wide open! The pharmacist looked in there and didn't know what to do or what to say. Said, "What can I do for you"? And the lady stuck her head up and said, "I don't know but somebody's got to stop this coffin". I am so sorry I told that story. And you liked that; I'm glad.
Well, let me tell you something. When Jesus died and rose again he stopped the coffin! Death is no more! And Paul knew that! Paul said the time of my departure is at hand. And departure here, the word the Holy Spirit chose to give us here is a tremendous word. For one, it is a word describing the release of a prisoner, set free from jail, from bondage to live a new life, free. And when we die in this departure we will be like prisoner's set free into the presence of God! No longer in bondage to the power of sin and death! It was also used by farmers to describe the unyoking of an oxen. At the end of the day when that beast of burden had done a full day's work in the sun they would unload the yoke from the oxen and let the beast of burden rest. When our time of departure comes we will lay down our battles and our burdens and we will rest the rest that our God gives us in His presence forever. We will be alive forevermore. It's also a soldier's word.
When an army would march off to battle, they would strike up their tents and then when the battle was done, the battle was won, they would take down their tents and march home in victory! Paul said when we're poured out it will be a departure. We will strike these earthly tents and march home to the refrains of victory in Jesus! It's also a sailor's word. When they would unmoor the ship, to pull up the anchor and set sail and move out an uncharted course to distant horizons. When we depart we'll let go of the anchors that hold us back and the limitations of our small little world and life and sail into the distance and the glorious possibilities of eternity with Christ. This word departure was also a philosophical word. Have you ever had a problem, a perplexity in your brain? You just couldn't get your brain around it. You couldn't figure it out. Maybe some great question that you can't answer, some great problem and you can't figure it out and then comes that moment when you know, it's the eureka moment.
That's why the philosophers use this word. It was a eureka, a discovery, the "ah ha" moment! When we get to heaven, when we depart, when we are known even as we are known, the "ah ha", the eureka moment, everything that didn't make sense will perfectly make sense! The knot in our brain will be unraveled and we will see everything so clearly in the pure light of His presence. Yes, the time of our departure, Paul said, is at hand. You may have many years to live but compared to eternity, it's just a brief while and then we'll be with Him.
William Borden was an aristocratic young man, a wealthy well known family, and after graduation he determined that God was calling him to the mission field. Everyone was against it. His father, his mother, parents, his family, his friends. They said things to young William like why would you do this? Why would you throw your life away? You have so much talent, so much ability. You can make money. You can change America! You can be a great man in this country! Why would you go to a mission field, for goodness sake? Not withstanding, William Borden said God has called me and I'm going. He got on a ship and set sail for his mission destination and on the ship, tragically, unexpectedly he died before he even arrived on the mission field. People back home were saying I told you so. He should have never gone; he should have never set foot on that ship! A wasted life, so young, now gone! When his things returned home, they found his diary, the journal that young William Borden was keeping.
And one of the final entries in that diary were these words, regarding his call and his commitment to Christ. He wrote, "No retreat, no reserve, no regrets". I want to live like that; don't you? Graduating seniors, I challenge you to live like that. Never retreating from your faith in Christ, never reserving in your commitment to Christ, never regretting a life wasted, but that you would live for the glory of Jesus every day! And that goes for all of us! No retreat, no reserve, no regrets! And therefore the crown of righteousness the Lord the righteous judge will give to all who long for His appearing, who love His appearing, who look forward to that day, graduation day, when we hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant".