It’s that time of year when news organizations show clips of famous people giving speeches at graduation ceremonies. Some are funny. Some are practical. Some are full of platitudes. But, perhaps not surprisingly, most of the words won’t be remembered beyond the graduate’s walk across the stage.
That’s tragic because most college graduates could use some advice as they prepare to paddle their own boat across the ocean called life. Graduates who are professing Christians should be particularly concerned as they seek to discern the will of God about their future, and they should be wary of equating the secular principles of living the American Dream to the principles found in God’s Word, especially when it comes to what their future accomplishments should look like.
Here are four things I would tell a college graduate–or anyone for that matter–about measuring success in God’s Kingdom.
1. Your greatest asset isn’t your own abilities. While you may have been told all you need to do is work hard and keep on keeping on, don’t believe it. Your greatest asset is your utter dependence on God. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5.
2. While our sinful nature is bent toward making much of ourselves and looking out for our own interests, the gospel tells us to make much of Jesus and look out for His Kingdom. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.
3. There’s no blueprint, formula, or method out there which will enable you to gauge what God is doing in your life. It simply doesn’t exist. If it did, you wouldn’t rely on God when He takes you to places you wouldn’t ordinarily go and has you do things you aren’t equipped to handle. God is too delighted in seeing your faith grow to tell you what He’s up to. Most of what He’s doing can only be understood through a rearview mirror. “For we walk by faith, and not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7.
4. If God’s Word is any gauge of how God operates–and it most definitely is–then He uses the weak, the nobody, the frightened soul, the lowly, and the despised to be a blessing and give Him glory. If you’re willing to be a piece of clay in the potter’s hands, He’s willing to fashion you into a beautiful vessel for His Kingdom’s work. “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter.” Isaiah 64:8.
Later on in this Psalm, David writes, “He remembers we are but dust,” and he writes this in connection with the compassion of God. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14).
God created human beings out of a common substance, a substance of little worth, just a handful of dirt. Inside this dirt-formed vessel, He placed an image of Himself. When that happened, something of little value became something of infinite value—a living human being. Every human being born after Adam reflects this God-likeness.
Even though we bear His likeness, we are still just dirt, and He remembers this. He knows our frailties, our weaknesses, our dirt, and because of this, He has compassion on us. The Psalmist says, “He crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:4).
Even though we’re made of dirt, we have a regal bearing because, as God’s children, we wear the crown of His compassion and love. That’s why David begins and ends this Psalm with these words. “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” (Psalm 103:22).