Faith Academy Graduation Message – 1990 by Doug Nichols

         Several years ago, Joe dela Pena of “Guidelines” spoke at our church and told a story of three men who dressed up in costumes to go to a masquerade party. One was dressed as Superman, one as a cowboy and the other in a red suit as the devil. 

         On the way to the party, it began to rain very hard and the wind blew like a typhoon. The three men ran for shelter. The one dressed in the devil costume ran towards the back of a church building where a meeting was being held.  As he sought shelter from the rain, a heavy gust of wind blew him against the rear door of the church.  The door collapsed and the man fell on to the platform where the pastor was speaking.  The pastor looked fearfully at the man dressed like the devil and let out a yell as he ran down the aisle and out the front door. The others in the auditorium also screamed and ran out, all except one old lady who could not walk.  The man in the scary red suit picked himself up from the floor and began to walk down the aisle to leave.  As he came to the lady she said, “Ole Mr. Devil, please do not hurt me. I have been in this church for over forty years, but you know I’ve been on your side the whole time!”

          I tell this fictional story ladies and gentlemen and graduating seniors to simply ask if you are on the right side which is God’s side.  The only way to be on God’s side is through the Lord Jesus Christ who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man can go to heaven but by Me.”

         Recently,  Miss Ann Young (a much loved Faith Academy kindergarten teacher) gave a short talk to the Faith Academy students entitled “Stones of Remembrance and Footprints”.  At the close of her excellent talk, Miss Young quoted Mr. Robert Fulghum from his book “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten”.  Last year this book sold nearly one million copies.  It is not a book I would read twice and some of my friends find it boring; however Mr. Fulghum very interestingly lists about 20 major things that he learned in kindergarten which he feels a person needs to know to be truly successful in life. Some of the things Miss Young shared with the students from the book were as follows:

1. Share everything.

2. Play fair.

3. Don’t hit people.

4. Clean up your own mess.

5. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

6. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody.

7. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

8. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some, draw and paint and sing, and play and work some everyday.

9. When you go out into the world, watch out for the traffic, hold hands and  stick together.

I.       One of the things mentioned on the list is, “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.”  As we are made in the image of God, we are to eat correctly and stay away from things that will harm us.

         In underdeveloped countries, millions are dying because they do not have adequate food and medical care.  In developed countries, thousands are also dying and are sick because of over-indulgence or partaking of things that are not good for their bodies.  A few years ago, thinking people and Christians finally discovered that smoking tobacco is extremely harmful.  The world is now discovering that even a small amount of alcohol has damaging effects health-wise for many, yet many Christians are saying it is okay to socialize a little by “sipping” a little.  Timothy did not drink wine, but as he evidently was sick with stomach problems, the apostle Paul advised him to drink a little wine as medicine.  It may not be wise, therefore, to use this same verse to justify our indulgence. 

         As we remember that warm cookies and cold milk are good for us, let us remember that there are still millions in the world today that are going to bed without the satisfying feeling of a full stomach. Many will lie on a dirt floor tonight, not only with an empty stomach, but with a diseased pain-filled life, fever stricken body, as well as a sin sick heart that may be wondering, “Is there a God?” and “If there is a God, does He care for me?” Ladies and gentlemen and seniors, you and I can make a difference in the lives of thousands of these needy people.

          In the list I read a few moments ago, Robert Fulghum said that we need “to share everything” and “to play fair.” But how can we play fair if we do not obey Jesus who said, “Go into all the world and preach (to share) the gospel to everyone.” Over three billion have yet to hear of Jesus Christ. There are up to 75,000 street children here in this city we love, Manila. They have nothing and there is nothing! No warm cookies, no cold milk no safe shelter, no food, no parents, no love, no care, no gospel! There are over 300,000 child prostitutes in Thailand. There are thousands of boys and girls living on the streets of Bogota, Colombia.  All of these need the warm cookies and cold milk of the gospel.

II.      As we continue to look at this list from “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, we can see how close to reality this really is.  For instance, one of the most important things that all of us should have learned in kindergarten (or the fifth grade, middle school or high school) is to clean up our own mess.

         Some of us make bigger messes than others. But all of us have been guilty of not only messing around on occasion, but many times creating one big mess of our lives and the lives of others.

         Most of our problems come from sin…our sin which is rebellion against God and His Word. The Scripture says, “All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

 Come short of what God has purposed in our lives;

Come short of that which is good, pure, purposeful and clean;

Come short of that which is righteous and holy;

Come short of that which makes us feel truly joyful;

Come short of bringing glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.

         Not only is sin a problem, but we don’t admit it.  It is difficult to clean up your own mess if you can’t even admit you made it.  It is always easier as a fifth grader to blame someone in kindergarten.  It is so much easier as a middle-schooler to blame somebody in the third grade.  And as a big shot senior, it is more comfortable to blame our teacher, our parents, the principal, coach, the bus driver, your dorm mate, or your house parents.  It is also easy to blame the heat, the brownouts, the traffic, the school rules, the lack of freedom to express yourself, or in some cases, even blame having too much freedom.

          No one succeeds in life, however, without learning to admit their own sin… to clean up their own mess.  Clean it up by admitting it and putting it away.  One of the most prominent sins these days in the lives of many Christians is the sin of being unthankful – the lack of thankfulness for God’s purpose and plan for our individual lives.  The Bible says, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup: you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely a have a delightful inheritance.” – Psalm 16:5-6.  This means that the Lord God, whose ways are perfect, has given you just the right parents and perfect environment for you to be raised in.  God has made your lot secure in “pleasant places”. In other words, He is in control of your life.  It was God’s will for you to be raised by your parents as they serve in the mission they are in, and that you attended and graduated (or barely graduated) from Faith Academy.

          You may doubt it, but this is what the Bible teaches. You seniors (in fact all of us) are living today in a world which is in one big mess and we had nothing to do with it. This mess has been caused by sin. The sin of Adam; the sin of David; the sin of Jehoshaphat; the sin of the Caesars of Rome; the sin of Mussolini and Hitler; the sin of slave owners; of cigarette and wine sellers; the sin of the drug peddlers; the sin of the oppressors of the poor, underprivileged children, women and nations.

          It is easy to sit back and say it is not our responsibility; that we have other things to do.   As a graduating senior, it is so easy to say, “I have a career to carve out, a degree to obtain, a husband or wife to catch, children to sire, and money to make”. While making the money, producing the children, seeking the careers, and building our popularity, the world continues to sink in its dirty, filthy, rotten, smelly, putrid mire.

          Anne O’Hare McCormick visited Hitler, Mussolini end Roosevelt and asked all three the question, “How did you get where you are?” Mussolini puffed out his chest as he often did and replied, “I came!” Hitler got a faraway look in his face and said, “I was sent.” When she asked Roosevelt how he got to be president, he simply laughed and said, “Well, somebody had to do it!”

          What about it seniors?  Will you say the mess of the world is not your responsibility or will you do something about it?  Will you roll up your sleeves, take off your shoes and step out into the sinful mire of mankind (in spite of its smell and stench) and help clean it up with the gospel and Christ like loving care?

         What about it Sara, will you use your teaching ability to reach children for Christ? What about it Andy, your gift is sharing the gospel with others. Are you going to do it or let your gift die?

          How about you Robby, you are a leader, will you lead others for God’s glory?

         And you Lisa and Cathy… you can sing, will you sing for the Savior? Joshua, will you live up to your name?  And Caleb, will you possess mountains and territories for God?

          Jodi and Lee Ann, there are still many tribes to reach with the gospel.

          Virginia, Jon, Wes, Andy, Robert, Kimberly, Mark and Heath, the Bible still waits to be translated into hundreds of languages.

         Anna Marie, Jonathan, Sandra and Duncan, there are over 3 million children in slavery in Thailand who have yet to hear of the freedom through salvation in Christ.

         Doug, Paul and Cheryl, there are millions still waiting to hear the Good News by radio.

         Brian and Jeremy, you are very good in drama, as are Andrea and Steve. Will you use your ability to be applauded and get a puffed up head or to reach people’s hearts?

         Greg, Tammy, Robyn, James, Eric, Matt, believe it or not, there are over 44 million children in Latin America who have been abandoned and who live on the streets with no hope unless someone such as you go to them for Christ’s sake.

         What about the rest of you seniors who I have not mentioned by name. Will you seek to have your name in bright lights or will you humble yourself and go into the mess of mankind to reach the masses for God’s glory that thousands will inherit eternal glory?

         What about you missionaries? It seems as if many of us have opted for retirement just as the world. The world will never be reached without the continual sacrifice of the church and its “sent ones”.

         Since when did the saying, “I’ve done my part” become a part of a missionary’s vocabulary? You and I should never desire or plan to “die in a ripe old age” by a lake in our home country of Germany or Canada or New Zealand or Ireland. Remember it is cheaper to die in Indonesia and the Philippines.

         But you may say, “As I get older I cannot do as much as I did as a younger missionary”. The great missionary C. T. Studd of China, India and Africa told his home council that just because he was old and sick, he would not return to England.  He said, “I may not be able to work as hard and as fast as younger missionaries, but I’m sure better than an absentee!”

         Dr. Vogan, Mr. White, Fred Magbanua, Bishop George Castro, Dr. Von Carey, Mike Lacanilao, Barb Cummings, Donna Crites, Herb Epp, what about it?

         Will Chevalier, Col. Comacho, Oli Jacobsen, Jun Vencer, Dr. Ron Beech, Dave Young Dr. Eli Javica, Coach Hardeman, Dick Cadd, Roberto del Rosario, Rory DeGracia, K.C. Rider and other missionaries, pastors and Christians; the world is slipping away and it will not be reached with the gospel unless all of us sacrifice more, work more, give more, sweat more, bleed more, trust God more and die better! Our goal is to reach the whole world, “for God is not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance:”

III. Another thing listed in the book “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten” is to “Live a balanced life–learn some and think some, draw and paint and sing…and play and work everyday some.”

         Just as a lot of fruit dies on the vine, it doesn’t mean you, seniors, have to degenerate into nothing now that you have graduated!  You know how to play, so now balance your life with working hard.  Learn to study and think some. Begin to expand the horizon of your brain and life.  Learn to be all that you should be in Christ.

         Humility is something that you always need to add to your life, but as you put Christ first, excel for His glory. As the Apostle Paul said (1 Cor. 9:24), “Run in such a way that you may win.” Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent hard effort. Remember that only a mediocre person is always at his best. One man (John Gardner) once said, “Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them… they achieve it. They do not achieve it by doing what comes naturally and they don’t stumble into it by amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline.”

         When Michigan played Wisconsin in basketball early in the season in 1989, Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson stepped to the foul line for two shots late in the fourth quarter. His team trailed by one point, so Rumeal could regain the lead for Michigan. He missed both shots allowing Wisconsin to upset favored Michigan.

         Rumeal felt awful about costing his team the game, but his sorrow didn’t stop at the emotional level. He didn’t slam the ball down, spit on the referee, yell at his team or go out and get drunk. Instead, after each practice for the rest of the season, Rumeal shot one hundred extra foul shots. Rumeal was, therefore, ready when he stepped to the foul line to shoot two shots with three seconds left in overtime in the national championship game – swish went the first shot, and swish the second. Those shots won Michigan the national championship.

         Rumeal decided to connect a previous mistake by discipline and perseverance.

         A teenager had decided to quit school, he could not take it. His father was trying to convince him to stay with it. “Son”, the father said, “You just can’t quit. All the people you remember in history didn’t quit. Abe Lincoln, he didn’t quit; Thomas Edison didn’t quit; Neluu of India and Gandhi didn’t quit; Douglas MacArthur, he didn’t quit; Ninoy Aquino didn’t quit. And remember Elmer McDonald?”  Suddenly the teenage son interrupted, “Who is Elmer McDonald?”  The father replied, “See, you don’t remember him. He quit.”

IV.     Let me finish this short little 18-minute kindergarten talk (excuse me, I mean commencement speech) to mention briefly another of the author’s points. When you go out into the world, hold hands and stick together!

         Seniors, when you were born from above by the Spirit of God and by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, you became a member of the family of God. This is best expressed in daily Christ-like living and in regular fellowship with a local evangelical church. Never miss worshipping on Sunday and being a member and involved in a church!

         You need to remember that as Christians we are all soldiers in the same army, players on the same team, and members of the same family. If we are going to accomplish anything for God, we must move forward, hold hands and do it together!

         Graduating seniors of the class of 1990, you have achieved much. Now seek to achieve great things for God. We honor you tonight. Now purpose in your hearts to honor the Lord Jesus Christ!