It is the evening of your graduation exercise? I see you line up with your classmates to await the first chords of “Pomp and Circumstance”. Your hand feels cold and damp. You are frightened by the eyes that will be upon you.
Graduation is commencement. You are declared ready for new beginnings. Time for you to contemplate. Parents and teachers concernedly inquire about your future. A peculiar and separate role is committed to each of you.
Has your training in a Christian school or perhaps a Protestant Reformed Christian school been a blessing to you? Has it brought you a little closer to the goal of thoroughly furnishing you unto all good works? You must now prove that education is essentially action. Learning is an active not a passive process. You have become educated when your head and your heart begin to work. Are you reluctant to go further or are you eager for the fray?
You have reached a time when many choices are to be made with respect to education, vocation, avocation, church affiliation, friendships, perhaps marriage, and you must choose your Master (God or Mammon). We hear so often that life is short but a bad choice can make time infinitely long. The direction of your way will depend upon whether the knowledge you received in your soul has its beginning in the fear of the Lord.
Do you plan to enroll in higher schools of learning? If you work faithfully it is well worth the time and effort. A Spanish proverb says, “The pleasures of the senses pass quickly; those of the heart become sorrow; but those of our mind are with us even to the end of our journey.” Seek Christian teachers. “The instruction of fools is folly.”
Remember that knowledge is of real use only when we serve God the better because of it. Acquire enough learning to make you humble. What an utter failure so many have become when their education has made them conceited! Christian education makes you see God in all things— acknowledges God, the Creator as the greatest poet, artist, sculptor, author, doctor, preacher, musician, teacher. Christian knowledge leads you to see more clearly the destructive nature of sin in all phases of life and you flee to Christ. Therefore an educated braggart is a contradiction.
Does your way lead to industry? Be industrious but don’t set your heart on the fruits of your industry. Take care not to be enslaved by that root of all evil. “Money is a good servant but a bad master.’’ Invest your surplus funds properly but remember the only lasting securities are the treasures of heaven. We leave this world without purse or scrip.
Some of you will labor with your hands. God has much respect for a God-fearing laborer. That is why He says a laboring man is worthy of his hire and that the sleep of a laboring man is sweet. There is dignity in tilling the soil, out in the fields with God. Seek ideals in your task that it may not be drudgery. A carpenter or a decorator can be a great man and his finished product a work of art.
We hope some of you may seek the teaching profession. In this kingdom work and particularly in our Protestant Reformed schools it may be said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” I wish I had the gift to describe to you the joys, the satisfaction, and the blessings derived from this great work. Even Webster was impressed by the loftiness and seriousness of a teacher’s calling when he wrote: “If we work upon marble, it will perish; if on brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds, and imbue them with principles, with the just fear of God and love of our fellow men, we engrave on the tablets something that will brighten to all eternity.”
The calling of a minister or of a missionary might be impelling to you. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
Some of you boys may be called upon to fight for your country. We hope you will be heroic. Not that we are looking for medals, but that you return unspotted by the world. Heroism is the brilliant triumph of the soul over sin and the flesh. This is only possible if you are fortified by the Truth in Jesus Christ.
As time advances some of your present friends and classmates drift away from you and new friendships will be made. Seek Christian friends and be a good friend to them—in their joys as well as in their sorrows. When you have found truly good friends, keep your friendships in constant repair. Assuage an injury you have made with an apology. Don’t cherish friends that coax you away from our churches. We are heirs of a wonderful rich truth even though other churches may offer you more outwardly.
In your expectations and plans there will be many frustrations. Accept them bravely and prayerfully. Remember that God is not dead, and without Him not a hair of man’s head falls. Be content with the portion assigned to you. Read much from God’s Word in solitude, affliction or stress. The more we trust God the less danger of ulcers or neurosis.
Neither were our nervous systems made to endure too much feverish hurrying day after day. There must be time for healthy leisure—time to stare at the stars, to listen to birds and little children. Cultivate your love for art and music. I’m inclined to agree with
“The man that hath no music in himself,
And is not moved by concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.”
Seek companionship with good books. They are a great aid in focusing your thoughts away from self—a happy, healthful relaxation.
You are all parts of God’s infinite plan which is wholly wise and good. As covenant children you are heirs of salvation. However, since God made you rational beings, not puppets, God accomplishes your sanctification in the way of your striving. You must ever strive to enter in at the strait gate. Because the Right Man is on your side your striving will be winning. Your tomb will not be a blind alley but a thoroughfare to heavenly mansions.