A tough word of love – A Baccalaureate Message

 

20140512-080418.jpgThis is my sermon from Baccalaureate yesterday.  It was very difficult to stand before a bunch of high school seniors and their families and say these things.  This makes it a long blog today, but I don’t think you’ll be bored if you give it a chance.  I only post it because you or someone you know may need to hear this.  Here it is:

Normally, I read a Scripture, preach a sermon and then end with the moral of the story. Or tie it all up nice and pretty with a bow at the end.

Not this afternoon – the Scripture in your bulletin from Isaiah is perfect, So we have that Scripture and now I want to tell you how this talk is going to end so you are not wondering where I’m going with this, but you will be able to listen with the point in mind.

Here’s where we’re going – I’d love it if I could give you advice over the next few minutes that you would hear and heed – so that you could avoid all life’s pitfalls and mistakes that all your teachers and staff here have made, that all your parents have made, that I have made, that the Apostle Paul who wrote Philippians made, that basically everyone has made. We all have different mistakes that we hope you don’t make, but you will – of course not every one of you will make them all, but all will make some. So here it is: I want you to know that no matter how bad you mess things up it’s never too late and there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow. That’s where we’re going, but it’s not going to be easy getting there.

Some of you may one day text and drive and cause a very bad accident, maybe even kill someone. It’s not like people haven’t told you not to, but you will have to learn the hard way. Some of you will find yourselves addicted to drugs or alcohol, if you’re not already. Some of you will get a DUI – and a second offense DUI and maybe go to jail for it. Remember where we’re going – it’s never too late and there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow. Some of you will be addicted to the gambling machines or the casinos – like out at Rocky Gap. You may even lose your house because of so much gambling debt like one person I know back where I came from. Some of you will have unplanned pregnancies, maybe even have an abortion. Some of you will get married and have an affair on your spouse. Some of you will hit your wife, others of you will have an abusive husband. Remember where we’re going – it’s never too late and there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow.

I go down to the Union Rescue Mission quite a bit. Our church goes twice a month to feed people there – as a matter of fact we’re going tomorrow – be there at 11:00 if you want to help us. None of the people who are living on the streets coming to the mission for a meal or staying at the homeless shelter at the mission ever thought when they graduated from high school that they’d be living on the streets. I’ll go down there tomorrow and get there at 11 a.m. and walk around in front of the mission and people will be drunk on these little plastic bottles of vodka they sell in the liquor store on the corner. You can see the bottles strewn along the railroad tracks. Do you think any of them ever dreamed of being a homeless person on the streets? No. Many of them sat in a graduation ceremony, not unlike the one you’re going to sit in a week from today. And they had hopes and dreams.  And they made some unfortunate mistakes that led them to where they are now – begging for money to buy a bottle of vodka. Remember where we’re going – it’s never too late and there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow.

As I was preparing this for today, I looked up a lot of quotes about life, about fulfillment, contentment, and people’s views on life.

“By the age of twenty, you know you’re not going to be a rock star. By twenty-five, you know you’re not going to be a dentist or any kind of professional. And by thirty, darkness starts moving in- you wonder if you’re ever going to be fulfilled, let alone wealthy and successful. By thirty-five, you know, basically, what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, and you become resigned to your fate…
― Douglas Coupland, Player One: What Is to Become of Us

And at this point, some of you are wondering, “Who in the world asked this guy to come and speak to us?” Some of the responsible adults are probably thinking the same thing. “We got the wrong guy to talk to the kids.”

All of what I told you is true. All of you are going to make mistakes. We all have and we all do. And some of you are going to make some very, very bad choices that are going to result in some very, very bad consequences.

   But I want you to know that what it says in Isaiah is true:

…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.

it’s never too late and there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus.

The sad fact of it is that sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we are willing to turn to Him.

While there may be a few of you who don’t make any serious mistakes and just live a blessed life, the rest of you need to remember it’s never too late and there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus.

So for most of you, it’s not a matter of if you make mistakes, but when. And when you do, don’t think it’s the end of the world. Often it the people who have the most forgiven who end up being the best servants for Jesus.

I was 38 years old with a ton of mistakes in my portfolio when I finally turned to Him. I was 45 before I became a pastor, which was 7 years ago.

The Apostle Paul from the Bible had endorsed the murder of Christians and was on his way to arrest a bunch of them when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was probably about 50 and saw his mistakes forgiven by Jesus and Paul ended up writing 13 books in the New Testament between the age of 50 and when he died.

We have a friend who is about 30 years old. She was a drug addict, stealing from her grandmother to get drug money. Jesus got ahold of her and she became a missionary. We visited her in Haiti one year ago this month and she’s been a missionary there for three years. it’s never too late and there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus.

You see, I serve a God of second chances. And third chances. I serve a God who forgives. I serve a God who redeems and restores.

So when you make mistakes – And if and when you hit rock bottom – remember these words – It’s never too late to ask God for forgiveness and to see Him put your life back on the right track.

The Union Rescue Mission has a saying outside painted on their building.  It says, “If you do not have a friend in the world, you can find one here.”  That’s basically the summary of the message of the Bible regarding Jesus.  In high school some people have a lot of friends, some people don’t have many.  Life isn’t much different.  And when you’ve made mistakes and life gets tough, sometimes people you thought were your friends will abandon you.  As you go through life, I plead with you to remember this time together and what the pastor said:  No matter how bad things get for some of you down the road, there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus.  If you can’t find a friend in the world, you can find one in Him.

…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.

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One Response to A tough word of love – A Baccalaureate Message

  1. Dennis Mickey says:

    Great message Pastor Knowlton. Thank you for serving our youth and our community. We are blessed to have you and your family here.

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