Sunday, May 27, 2007

Graduation Day


Today was a very special day for the Miano Family. Our middle daughter, Marissa, graduated from high school. I was blessed with the privilege of providing the commencement address, for the graduation ceremony. Here is the text of the address, which is titled, "Do You Trust Him?"
~~~~~
What an honor and privilege it is to celebrate with all of you the graduation of Cornerstone Christian School’s High School Class of 2007. Some of you parents are experiencing the wide range of emotions that come with seeing your first child graduate from high school. In fact, I received an e-mail from one of you regarding this very thing. Yet others of you, like Mahria and me, have been here before. But having the previous experience of seeing other children graduate does not quiet the fluttering heart, or stop the quivering lip, or straighten the upward curve of a proud smile, or dry the teary eye that such a special and momentous day brings. No, we the parents of the Class of 2007 are as proud of each of you as if you represented the first and the last of all graduating classes.

I do wonder at times, however, if you, the graduates, fully comprehend what your graduation represents. You are aware, aren’t you, that your graduation is so much more than a diploma earned so that you can go on to college, if you choose? Your graduation is not only a victory in your own scholastic career; it also serves as vindication—a vindication for your parents, for every time society and culture questioned their decision to educate you at home. You graduates are the tangible fruit of home education—the blessed by-product of a co-labor of love, devotion, perseverance, and faith between teacher/parent and student/child.

One of the rewarding aspects of homeschooling is that while you, the graduates, have earned your diplomas, you did not do the heavy lifting alone. Your parents helped you every step of the way. This is why your parents’ signatures appear on your diplomas.

Being members of a Christian homeschooling organization, we are here today to give ultimate recognition, honor, and glory to the King of kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ—knowing that what our families have accomplished, culminating in your graduation, was only possible with the help, grace, and mercy of the Lord. So it is in His name—the name which is above every name, the name of the One before whom every knee will one-day bow—it is in His name, Jesus Christ, that I congratulate you for your scholastic achievement.

However, I have been asked to do more than congratulate you, today. I have been asked to present you with a charge. Now having spent the last twenty years in law enforcement, the first thought that comes to mind when I think of the word “charge” is either misdemeanors or felonies. I realize the word “charge” has another, less ominous meaning—a meaning that is more apropos for this occasion.

I would like to begin this charge, this word of encouragement, this challenge with a question. You graduates have chosen Proverbs 3:5-6 as your graduation theme. The passage reads: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Here is my question. Do you trust Him? Do you trust God with all your heart?

Now, I do not pose this question with any assumptions regarding your individual, spiritual condition. I do not assume to know your hearts, or the heart of anyone here, today. I face a greater challenge everyday as I try to discern the condition of my own heart, knowing the weakness and sinfulness of my own flesh. However, Scripture commands all of us who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ to examine ourselves. II Corinthians 13:5 says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”

So, I ask you, the graduates, and all who are gathered here today, to examine yourselves by answering this all-important question. Do you trust God? Will you trust God?

The passage you graduates have chosen for your theme begins with a command. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” I would like you to take a moment to think about the people in your lives, in whom you have placed your trust. Is there anyone on your list, long or short, whom you do not know?

You may be thinking, “That’s a silly question. How can I or why would I trust someone I do not know?” And that’s the point. You cannot trust someone you do not know. Trust begins with relationship. Trust begins with moving from the realm of simply knowing about someone, to knowing the person in a relational way.

Many people know about God, but fewer people truly know Him. To know God is to know His Son Jesus Christ. And to know Jesus Christ means more than simply conceding to the truth of His existence. It means more than simply knowing about Him. Before one can answer the question, “Do I trust God,” he or she must first answer the question, “Do I know God.”

Trusting the Lord the way a loving child trusts a loving parent comes from the recognition that the Lord is completely trustworthy. This is why this proverb is written as a command. There is nothing the Lord must do to earn your trust. As God, He rightly demands and commands trust from His children.

Trusting God is not an occasional or half-hearted proposition. To trust the Lord means to trust Him with all your heart. This means you worship and serve only one God. This means that He is first in every aspect of your life. Trusting God is so much more than believing He will do things for you.

Trusting God means that Christ is sufficient for you and you find your sufficiency in Him. No other relationship, no personal ambition, no fleshly or worldly desire will take precedence over your relationship with Christ, if you truly trust Him. If you do not trust the Lord with all your heart, then it is right for you to ask yourself the question. “Do I even know Him?”

Such a command can, at times, seem very difficult to follow. After all, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Jesus’ words are true. “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (Mk. 10:27).

It might be helpful to consider why, at times, we fail to trust God. Well, He was kind enough to answer the question through the admonishment He gives in the second half of verse five. “And do not lean on your own understanding.” More often than not, our failure to trust the Lord can be traced to our reliance on our own fleshly and all-too-often selfish wisdom.

We lean most heavily on our own understanding when we rationalize and justify our sin. We say things in our hearts and minds such as, “God will understand if I do this or that. After all, He wants me to be happy.” Or, “God understands how hard I’ve worked and how important this is to me. Surely He won’t mind if He takes a back seat for a while.” Or, “The Bible may call what I’m doing sin; but God knows my heart.” Oh, how foolish we can be at times!

I find it interesting that when people quote Proverbs 3:5-6, they rarely, if ever, include verse seven. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” To lean on our own understanding is to be wise in our own eyes. To lean on our own understanding is to fear or revere man rather than God, the consequence for which is often running toward sin instead of fleeing from it.

Some of you graduates have already entered the intellectual and spiritual minefield of secular humanism—a minefield that is also known as college, university, or seat of higher learning. In some of these institutions, some of which apply god-like status to the fallible intellect of man, you will be challenged on a daily basis to lean on your own understanding, or the understanding of the majority opinion, or the understanding of secular progressive professors. Don’t do it! Some of what you will hear will sound as inviting as the serpent’s offer to Eve in the garden. Do not lean on your own understanding. Instead, trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do you trust Him? Will your trust Him?

Trusting God means that we acknowledge Him in everything we do—in all our ways. Those with whom I am blessed to provide discipleship, I challenge them to consider the following when making decisions or when evaluating their own behavior. Would you think, say, or do this if Jesus were standing next to you?

This is not as simple as considering the too-often-trivialized adage, “What would Jesus do?” Those of us who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior should only ask that question rhetorically. We should already know the answer.

What would Jesus do? He would do what is right, obey the Word of God, and glorify His Father in heaven. Instead of asking ourselves what Jesus would do, we should ask, “What does Jesus think about what I am doing, saying, or thinking?”

A likely temptation that may come from doing such close self-evaluation is to weigh the cost of doing what is right as being too heavy. In other words, we might be tempted to choose not to acknowledge the Lord in a particular area because the cost might be more than we are willing to pay—whether it is a relationship, a job, a grade, or even how we chose to spend our leisure time. Let us not forget what Jesus said. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matt. 16:24-26)?

Trusting God means that we acknowledge Him in everything we think, say, and do. It means we are of one mind with the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father . . . Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality” (Col. 3:17, 23-25).

Do you trust God enough to do this? Do you trust Him? Will you trust Him?

Trusting the Lord to the point that you seek to bring Him honor and glory in everything you think, say, and do brings with it the fruit of a wonderful promise. The Lord “will make your paths straight.”

God is so very good and kind to those who truly know Him and put their trust in Him that He provides humble sinners with clear direction. King David, inspired by God Himself, knew this when he penned these words. “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies” (Ps. 25:8-10).

If you ever question if the path you are taking in life is the path the Lord has for you, simply look for two very clear road markers—lovingkindness and truth. Are the paths you choose to walk—career paths, relationship paths, ministry paths, even paths concerning your choices of hobbies and entertainment—are these paths lined with these two important road markers? Examine yourselves and see.

Are you able to see the Lord’s lovingkindness in everything you do? Are the decisions you are making consistent with the truth of His Word? If not, it is not because the Lord has somehow strayed or changed His ways. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never changes. No, in such instances it will be you who has strayed from the straight path.

And let us not forget that Jesus told us that the straight path, paved with a trust in the Lord that can only come as a result of genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is not only straight, but it is also narrow. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Though life’s road may be strewn with potholes, and though a sinful world will hold signs in front of you enticing you to go another way, if you will but trust in the Lord with all your heart, without relying on your own wisdom, He promises to lead you and guide you down a road the destination of which is eternal life in the presence of the Lord, in heaven. Do you trust Him? Will you trust Him?

Before I close, I think it is important that I reiterate a point I made previously. My hope is that there is someone here who needs to hear this, today. One cannot begin to trust a God one does not truly know. Knowing God is the necessary starting point for trusting God.

Jesus made it very clear how a person comes to know Him. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). To truly know God one must come to the realization that they have broken His Law and sinned against Him. Such realization comes with the understanding that the just punishment for one’s sins against God is eternity in hell.

The person who knows God is one who, having come to the awful realization of their sinfulness, turns away from their pursuit of sin and, by faith, turns to the only one who can save them from God’s holy wrath. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, born of a virgin, the sinless Lamb of God, died a horrible death on the cross—the just for the unjust—taking upon Himself the punishment each of us deserve for our sins against God. Three days later He rose again, forever defeating death, and He is alive today. Those who, by faith, turn from their sins and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone, pass from death into life, are born again, and know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They no longer know about God. They know Him! And He knows them. And those who know Him and are known by Him, having received the free gift of eternal life, will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

My hope is that part of the tangible fruit of this day of commencement and celebration is that anyone who entered this place of worship, today, knowing about God, but not truly knowing God, would, by the power of the Holy Spirit, repent of their sin and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

And to you, the Class of 2007, my charge to you and my hope for you is this. Above your own plans and desires, trust the Lord. May your heart be enveloped and permeated by trust in the Lord. Acknowledge the sovereignty and lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of your life. Always defer to the Lord’s wisdom, given to you in His Word, before trusting in your own wisdom. Recognize the limitations of your wisdom and discernment, and how unlimited God’s wisdom and discernment is. Do this, trust Him in this way, and you will live a blessed life—one that brings honor and glory to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Congratulations Class of 2007 for successfully completing an important leg of the lifelong journey God has set before you. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as you begin the next leg of the journey.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You said: "My hope is that there is someone here who needs to hear this, today. One cannot begin to trust a God one does not truly know. Knowing God is the necessary starting point for trusting God."

I'm glad you put this message out to the public. I'm not one that was there, but I'm one that needed to hear this message. I wish I could say I trust God. Maybe someday I will be able to say that, but hearing it put the way you worded it made me realize how much I don't trust Him.

Tony Miano said...

Anonymous,

I'm praying for you, right now, that you come to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and trust Him with your whole heart. :-)