Steve Ellison: Advice For the Class Of 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017 - by Steve Ellison
Graduation is an ending, but it is also a new beginning.  One’s whole world is about to change.  Very little will remain the same.  Graduates will face new opportunities, new responsibilities, and new challenges.  Graduates will likely live in a different house if not in a new town, or even a new state.  Old friends will fade into the background and new friends will take their place.  In many cases, the safety net which kept graduates from crashing will no longer be in place.
  Graduates will have to construct their own safety nets.
Jesus gives some wonderful advice for graduates and all of us in Matthew 5:1-11.   In verse one, we see that some people followed Jesus up the mountain.  Leaving the crowd behind and following Jesus up the mountain is always a good thing to do.  Reducing the noise in your life will greatly benefit you. It will enable you to hear that which is truly helpful. Also, the perspective is different from up there.  One can see farther and more clearly.  It is easy to recognize those who have been up there with Jesus.  Their problems are the same as everyone else’s, but they are not affected in the same way.  They have a peace and serenity that others do not have because they follow the Master.
Jesus began to teach those who followed Him up the mountain. He outlined the path to success.  The new graduate needs to know how to arrive at success.  Jesus began His next nine sentences with the same exact word.  Most English translations of the Bible render it “blessed”.  The Amplified Bible defines it this way: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous — with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions.”  It seems to me that any of us would be pleased at the end of life to look back upon a life that fits this description.
These nine sentences which tell us how to become “blessed” list nine positive characteristics.  If these nine things are true in our lives, we will indeed be happy, prosperous, and joyful regardless of our circumstances.  First, we must recognize our dependence on God.  Without that none of the other characteristics have a chance of appearing in us.  We must learn to mourn over our sin, realizing that we are fools to demand justice because what we need is mercy.  We must have a humble, quiet strength in order to face the financial problems, marital difficulties, betrayal, sickness, etc. that will surely come our way.  If we hunger and thirst for righteousness we will be satisfied.  If we hunger and thirst for comfort, pleasure, fame, fortune, etc. we will be worse than dissatisfied.  If we are to receive mercy we will learn to be merciful.  We must learn to forgo revenge.  If we do not, there will be no mercy for us.  If we only try to manicure the outside of us without purifying the inside of us, we will not see God.  Having an impure heart causes us to be swamped with so many problems that we cannot see anything but the problems. Nearly every person we meet is nursing a wound of some kind.  If we learn to speak a word of peace, a word of comfort, a word of encouragement, we will be loved and respected because we will remind people of God. 
Last but not least, Jesus reminds us that in spite of being “blessed”, we will still have problems, but we will not face them alone.  Christ has promised He will never leave us or forsake us.  His presence with us and sweet gaze of approval will be enough.  We will be satisfied.  The class of 2017 can avoid much heartache by following the Master up the mountain.

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