Congratulations, you guys. You’ve done it. 12 years. Maybe 13. Maybe 17, I don’t know how many years you’ve been at this, but you’re finally finished. You’ve learned how to write your name, written hundreds of spelling tests, memorized your times tables, won participation ribbons, recited poetry, lost your homework, overslept, spent all your money on coffee, broke a couple bones in sports, stayed up all night working on a portfolio, used your calculator more than your phone, read too much Shakespeare, never handed in your work experience forms, wrote a few diplomas, and voila. You’re here. Assuming you live an average-length life, you’ll have spent about a sixth of your life in school. In the next few months, you’re going to be working, travelling, going to college, university, apprenticeships, living on your own, paying taxes, and learning how to be an adult. And just a couple weeks ago, you were still asking to go to the bathroom. It’s going to be quite a transition.
Over the past few years I’ve gotten to know a lot of you really well. We’ve had some crazy shared experiences both in and out of school. We’ve made lots of memories, and had lots of fun, and now it’s all come to an end. Right now, I have the opportunity to challenge you all before you head your separate ways.
You guys have chosen “On Wings Like Eagles” to be your class theme. That’s a cool theme, and I hope it’s not just your High School theme. I want to challenge you to apply it to your lives, starting now. The truth is, you need it as your life theme now, more than you ever needed it in high school. I’ll tell you why.
Your theme comes from Isaiah 40:31 which says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” I can understand why you would want to choose that verse to go with your throughout life. It’s full of promises. It’s encouraging. It’s cheerful. It sounds like… easy life. It sounds awesome! Running and never getting weary? Walking and never getting tired? What a deal! In reality, this verse is a bargain that’s often ignored. People focus on the things they get to ‘receive’ from God. They focus on what’s in it for them. Lots of times, people don’t notice the requirement for those gifts. They don’t notice that the verse is actually addressed to a certain group of people. It’s addressed specifically to “Those who hope in the Lord.”
It’s a phrase that is tossed around ALL the time. In church, at school, in chapel, at prayer meetings, at conferences- it’s everywhere. “Put your hope in God.” “Trust in the Lord.” “Put your faith in Christ.” It rolls off the tongue as naturally as saying ‘Amen’ at the end of a prayer. It’s become a total cliché. We say it so fast, that we don’t even realize what it means. But the truth is, it’s only become a cliché in words. Not in practice.
People say they have hope in God. Then a family member dies, and they abandon Him. Their hope wasn’t in God, it was in that person. People say they hope in God, and then they lose their job, and give up on their faith. Their hope wasn’t in God, it was in their money. People say they hope in God. Then they get injured, and can never play their sport again, and stop believing in God. Their hope wasn’t in God, it was in their talents. When we say “My hope is in God,” what we mean is, “God hasn’t yet interfered with my plans, so I’ll give him credit.” Where is your hope, really?
You and I have been living in somewhat of a nursery for more than a decade. We get fed, paid for, educated, supervised, entertained, exercised, and taken care of. We are in need of nothing. And from now on, you’ll probably have more than enough to eat. You’ll have a good job, lots of friends, transportation and spare change whenever you need it. You’ll have plenty of clothes and shoes, and still find the time to go shopping. You’ll meet someone amazing, you’ll get married, and you’ll always be healthy and safe.
But your house might catch fire. Your company might go bankrupt. You might be robbed. You might get sick. You may lose someone you love. You might have to call on people for money and food. You might have to live in a dangerous neighborhood. You might have to find multiple jobs. You might work someplace you hate. You might have troubles in your marriage. You might lose something you treasure. You might have a hard life. I know that’s not something you want to hear right now, which is fair enough.
But here’s something you have to know, if you take your faith seriously. We were not made to live an easy life. We were made to live a Christ-like life. A life like JESUS. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but by today’s standards, Jesus did not live an awesome life. He was poor. He lived with scum. He was always serving others. He lived a lowly life. He was dirty, hardworking, and hated. He did nothing but good, and was rewarded with evil. But you look at the things he did. Healing people, performing miracles, raising people from the dead, bringing love to the earth… it’s like He carried out the FULL POTENTIAL of your theme: On Wings Like Eagles. He lived that. In every moment of every day. He put His hope in His Father, who then gave Him the strength and power to do wondrous things, and change the world. He truly did soar on wings like eagles.
So, what IS this hope that can be ours? Well, for servants of the Most High God, if they live, it’s a win. If they die, it’s a win. If they’re rich, great. If they’re poor, great. If they’re healthy, fine. If they’re sick, fine. If they have a short life, awesome. If they have a long life, awesome. See, in God’s Kingdom, He places the purpose into every individual servant. And that hope that we crave is delivered when we decide to follow Christ. He places in us our worth, our purpose, and every Godly thing. As long as we live according to His plan, we have nothing to lose! This hope we have in Christ ensures that He is guiding and guarding us 24/7! Servants of Christ have nothing to fear. As slaves of God, we will someday receive an inheritance beyond anything imaginable. For those of us who put our hope in Christ, He will lift us up to soar on wings like eagles both in this life, and in the life to come. There is no room for fear, because we have God inside of us. Colossians 1:26-27 ~ “This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing His glory.” Christ in you, Christ in me, Christ in us… the hope of Glory.
Question: Do you feel like you’re soaring? Take a moment and think over the past ten months here at Prairie. If you had to describe it, would you say you were “Soaring on wings like eagles”? “Running without growing weary”? Not me. I’m exhausted. I’ve been overwhelmed. Stressed. Worried. Done. And we’ve talked about it many times, so I know I’m not the only one who has felt dead and motionless at different times this year. We’re not soaring, we’re drifting. Why? Because most of the time, our hope is not in God alone. It’s in our friendships, jobs, talents, grades, money, appearance, and other things. When one of those things goes askew, we grow weary. We feel lost. Depressed. We’ve ALL, to some extent, invested our hope in things that cannot guarantee a return. The world has done an excellent job of taking momentary, fleeting things, and making them seem more appealing than everlasting love, joy, and peace. But guys, it’s all counterfeit. The worldly, material things we desire now, are just cheap replicas of the perfection that comes from a relationship with the Master of the Universe! We have the opportunity to receive supernatural peace and joy, and we cheat ourselves out of it by running towards earthly things! We all settle for second best.
My challenge to you, grads, is this: Put your hope in God ALONE. Live in reality. With every decision that you make, big or small, take a reality-check. You’re only gonna be here for 80 more years or so, but then comes the next hundred billion years. For those of us whose hope is truly in the Lord, we’ll be spending eternity together in Paradise. As for this short life, make the most of it! And by that, I really don’t mean find the highest paying job, buy the perfect house, have the ideal family, or be popular. To be honest, those desirable things do not necessarily equal a life well lived. A life well lived is a life lived with God as the guide. He took Moses through the Red Sea. He helped David slay a giant. He tore the walls of Jericho down for Joshua. He gave Egypt to Joseph. He enabled Peter to walk on the water. He gave the disciples the power to heal and perform miracles. What do all of these have in common? These people said “Yes” to God’s call, because their hope was completely in Him. They put their own interests aside, and made Him Lord of their lives. They could have been comfortable and safe where they were, but instead, they said “Yes” to the crazy, and God proved to them that His plan was better.
Class of 2015, God has promised to lift you up on wings like eagles. He promised, and He cannot lie. But how is He going to have the chance if you’re too afraid to leave the comfort of your nest? How can you run and not grow weary if you don’t take a step?
The rest of your life is starting. You can either make it safe, cosy, secure, and meaningless, or you can follow God to the extremes. When you’re in trouble, turn to Him before you turn to your friends. When you have questions, go to the Bible before surfing the web. When you’re in need, ask Him before going shopping. He wants to lift you up and show you His perfect love and power. All you have to do is put your hope in Him.
I want to finish with a passage that sums up everything I’ve been trying to say. It’s easy to listen to these verses and hear the gifts and promises and encouragement in it, but its’ harder to hear the requirements. The truth is, it’s a two-way deal between you and God.
Psalm 18:25-30 ~
To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to those with integrity you show integrity.
To the pure, you show yourself pure,
but to the wicked you show yourself hostile.
You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud.
You light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God, I can scale any wall.
God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield to all who look to him for protection.
Thank you, and God bless you guys!