Each year, I preach a sermon to our graduates on the night we honor them. I usually do it a little differently, though, in that I don’t make a “commencement speech disguised as a sermon” like many do. Instead, I find a text and preach a sermon that brings out relevant points for our graduates.
However, there are some messages I would like to share in general. Some of these are things I have learned since graduation that I wish I had known (or just followed), or things that I did follow and am so thankful that I did.
1. You must define your priorities and spend some time every day on your top three. If you must, write them down. Whatever you have as your #1 priority should get some of your time each day. For me, that is my relationship with God. If I ever go a day without developing that relationship, I have failed to live up to the top priority in my life. Once you define your top three, figure out how you will make time for each every single day.
2. You must develop a work ethic that is strong. That does not mean you are to become a workaholic. What it means is that you need to be one who can be counted on to get the job done in balance with the rest of your life. In our society, we are surrounded by laziness and apathy. Don’t let that pull you down. Strive for great.
3. You must avoid sin. I don’t care that it’s cool to smoke pot in college. I don’t care that everyone gets a little tipsy on Friday night to help calm their nerves. I don’t care that your roommate has a girlfriend who stops by all the time and you don’t. Sin is sin, and we are called to be holy people no matter where we might be. Avoid sin at all costs.
4. You must stay connected with Christ’s Church. Far too many college students go away and spend their first year church-hopping, including quite a few “hops” to the Box Springs congregation (get it?). Ask for help before you go in finding a congregation that is (1) Bible-based, (2) hard-working, and (3) allows college students to help in programs of work. Nearly every university has one nearby. By the way, if you are going to school in Nashville, Lebanon Road does this!!!! (Shameless, I know.) You will be thankful that you found that home congregation away from your home congregation.
5. You must learn to handle money. Too many college students waste money and graduate with nothing while they are looking for a job. Learn to budget. Learn to give. Learn to save a little for the future. Learn to spend, but to spend wisely. The earlier you start practicing how to handle money, the earlier you will have it down to a lifestyle.
6. You must learn to manage time. I am a stickler for time management now, but only because I came to the realization one day of how much time I was really wasting. Be realistic with what you can accomplish in a day, and budget your time accordingly. Look at long-term projects and make sure they are part of the flow of your day.
7. Learn to say “no.” Not just to sinful things, but to too much work and other things. College is wonderfully full of opportunities to do good things, fun things, and exciting things. You know what you can handle, but you also know you are in college to (1) shine the light of Christ there, and (2) to get an education. Anything else is extra and needs to be evaluated as such. “No” is an appropriate answer at times.
8. You must be open with your faith. If you can be open with your faith in college, you can be open with your faith anywhere. Do not back down from a belligerent professor. Be respectful, but faithful. Speak the truth in love.
9. Smile. I am amazed at how many Christians have forgotten the joy of living for Christ! Just a smile on a college campus or out in the workforce is so rare. You are alive and God is on His throne! Smile about it!!!
10. You must learn that you are not alone. When you struggle, it’s okay. Find help and get back up. When you are sorrowful, it’s okay. Seek someone to pray with you and take it to God. When temptation is everywhere, others are fighting those temptations, too. God is always with you, for sure, and many brothers and sisters in Christ have you on their minds and hearts in their prayers, too. You are not alone.