Do You Want to Graduate?
by Cooper P Abrams III
INTRODUCTION:   It takes a lot of hard work to graduate! Just ask those who have and are here today to receive their diplomas. It takes work and study and more work and study and more work and study....and money too...I am sure you get the picture.
The title of the message is applicable to our graduates because this is only one step in their continued studies. It is the beginning of continuing their education and spiritual growth which will more them to the next level of God's will for their lives. Likewise, you and I too are in the Lord's school that leads to spiritual growth and maturity. The question for us all is "Do we want to Graduate?" and receive the blessing that God has purposed for us in this life. Whether Christian understand it or not we all are disciples or students of the Lord Jesus Christ. God's curriculum will be taught over the whole of our lives and our graduation will take place at the BEMA judgment. Some will graduate with honors that glorify our Savior...and others as 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 explains will barely pass and they will suffer great lost. Let each of us allow God to challenge us today and we answer honestly...yes.. we do want to graduate and bring honor to our Savior.
Graduating takes commitment which requires discipline. The word "discipline" in simple terms means "to train" and as stated in the dictionary "train in obedience or self-control by punishment or imposing rules." I think most of us would prefer to learn discipline by obeying the rules...rather than being punished...but I had a number of professors I thought their job was to punish students. By the way....I thank God for them for them all.
Being a graduate is like being a lump of clay that has become a useful vessel that has been formed by the hands literally of hundreds or thousands of people.
No one who learns who does not stay with the task. One third of my 1977 freshman class in college did not graduate. It takes discipline to graduate and that requires time and a great deal of effort...simply lots of hard work.
Some people have greater natural abilities than others. Some graduate with honors. When my wife Carolyn graduated from The College of Eastern Utah she wore a gold rope with her graduation gown indicating that she was graduating with the highest honors. I was really proud of her. She also was awarded as the college's most outstanding business student 1995-96 and the most outstanding reentry student. My pastor Roger Baker and I graduated at the same time. He graduated "Summa Cum Laude" which means with highest honor or praise. I however, graduated.....Lordly how come?
Not all graduate. Only those who continue to the end, those who commit themselves to the task finish and are able to reap the reward.
Part of graduating is learning the books, the lessons, the principles of one field or discipline, but it also teaches some much more and that is how to discipline one's self and how to relate to others. Without learning self discipline all the education in the world will be worthless.
In secular life one who relates to himself and to others is a useful and fruitful addition to society. The origin of this attribute, called discipline, comes for God who is the author of all good things.
All these principles relate equally to the Christian life. Christians are in the College of Learning and Living by God's word.
When you read the Gospels did you note that Jesus called the men who followed Him and He trained His disciples? He said in order to be His disciple on must take up his cross and follow Him. He said those that followed Him, must forsake all, even their father, mother, and home.
To be a fruitful and joyous Christian and to live an abundant life in Jesus Christ one must outwardly and inwardly discipline himself to following Christ.
Too often however, we find believers on the side lines doing very little to serve the Lord. ILLUS: As boy, my dad took me to Summer camp at Ft. Caswell, in near Wilmington, NC. Wilmington is on the NC coast and there are naval yards there. In the waterways the Navy had "moth balled" hundreds of ships. They were just there...sitting dead in the water, weathering in the coastal storms...but never going anywhere.
Many a believer is moth balled also because they have not committed themselves to the being the disciples....trainees of the Lord Jesus Christ. With God's word in hand we can Jesus can train us too, as well has the twelve disciples to follow Him and carry out His work.
In the beginning of Christ's ministry thousands followed Him, but in John 6:6 we see sad account that most "went back, and walked no more with Him." What a sad commentary, what a great opportunity was missed by these persons who thought other things more important that sitting at the Lord's feet and being taught by God Himself.
I. Clearly, God wants the best for us and tells us we need to exercise discipline in our lives.
In the Lord's school believers are our classmates and if we are to graduate we must learn to be disciplined in regard to other people. We cannot serve God without serving other people. Graduation services are called "commencements" and that is an appropriate name because graduation is not the end but the beginning of one's service to the Lord.
Our training has a goal and a purpose. It teaches us how we can serve those around us.
This is a matter of discipline. Have you ever thought of it that way? We must learn to apply and practice biblical principles in order to be successful as the Lord's disciples.
2. That love directed Paul to pray and care for each believer individually with agape love. That love is the love he received from Christ that he then gave to others.
3. He said he longed for them. Those we love we long for. Do you know that this term means..."To have an earnest, heartfelt desire, especially for something beyond reach." The Philippians were beyond's Paul's reach, but he deeply wanted to be with them. Why? When you love someone you want to be with them, you want the best for them. I think he too wanted to see them growing spiritually in the Lord so as to reap the blessings of God.
John related his longing to be with believers that were far way in 2 John 1:4 "I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father." In 3 John 1:4 he again states this...." I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
4. Paul said in Phil. 4:1 that he cared for their spiritual well being saying they were his, "my crown and joy." His crown refers to his honor. It is such a joy for a teacher to see their students graduate...learn and apply their lessons. The Lord is honored when His children serve Him.
We are in a battle....a battle for saving truth...and when the shots are fired in our direction...we need to stand our ground and refuse to retreat. We are not looking for a fight....but we will not run under fire.
2. Eudoias' (u-door-us) who name meant "prosperous journey" and the other woman was Syntyche (sin-ty-key) which means "pleasant acquaintance" were having a dispute. It seems they were misnamed. Believers should be a help to each other and help with a prosperous journey and be a pleasant acquaintance....but sometimes folks get side tracked.
3. Paul pleads for unity in Philippians 2:1-4. You know it takes discipline to co-operate with others and it takes tack.
4. How do you test your spirituality? The Bible says a good barometer is how you react when you do not get your way, or get recognized for what you do? If pride is a motivating factor in our lives...it will quickly raise its head. It will absolutely rob you of your joy and can destroy your life. The person who has graduated...and learned his lessons from God's word knows pride is to be confessed as sin and repent of.
2. Paul's yokefellow worked with him..that is what a yokefellow does. He shares in pulling the weight and burden. Some think it was Epaphroditus but we do not know. One thing we do know...Paul had confidence in this person's spirituality and ability to show love and bring reconciliation to those who were at odds. He asked the yokefellow help these folks in Paul's absence.
2. Rejoicing is a sure cure for depression, for pride, for hurt feelings, for feelings of being slighted and a host of other discouraging things. It is a hard lesson to learn...and it is hard to apply...but we most work at it.
3. You see school is not an end unto itself. Schooling is to prepare one for the challenges they will face in life. But if we stop learning....we will fail, because life is one continuous school and learning process. Even our failures are part of school. Did you ever fail a test...or get a bad grade because you didn't know the question? I tell my students that a test is a important as the lecture or the lesson. It either reinforces our training or teaches us lessons we did not completely learn.
2. God says pray....present your supplications to the Lord in prayer. Do it with thanksgiving. It will not be easy....but in time it will take away the hurt. Thank God for what He has given you...for salvation. Put daily problems in the right perspective...it is all under the blood of Christ. He too suffered greatly...but He was faithful.
Without the Lord there can be no real peace in our lives. There will always be disappointments and trouble of some kind...but if we pray, if we rejoice in the Lord and present our supplications in thanksgiving....we can have that peace.
The question this passage asked each of us....is do we want to graduate to an abundant life of peace and joy? God does not intend that His children live in the muck and mire of this world, but live to the highest standards. If the answer is yes...then we are to think right and do right...no matter what the consequences.
Obey, God first and last and always. Never let the world, or circumstances rob you of God's blessings. Live on the highest plain of God's morality.
We have a choice..... We can live with Christ and have Him direct us, strengthen and bless us.... or
We can live without Him....do things our own way...live a defeated life allowing life's problem's and difficulties destroy us.
The choice is ours.....But God's says....Live for Me and LIVE!