We close Connections for 2019 with Dr. Joe’s address at the fall commencement that took place Saturday, December 14, in Fresno’s Selland Arena. Have a Merry Christmas and blessed New Year and we’ll see you with a new Connections January 8, 2020, that launches a series on Fresno Pacific’s GEIST initiative: GROW Strategically, ENGAGE Collectively, INNOVATE Creatively, SERVE Courageously, TRANSFORM Purposefully.
You are about to receive your diplomas. You have dreamed about this day for years, and all who surround you have come to celebrate this event with you. You came to this point through much anxiety, but now that you have reach this station, you should check the lenses in which you see the world. Ask yourself: Is my tomorrow filled with fear or faith?
Fear naturally grabs hold of us, robs us of our sleep, alienates us from friends and family; causes us to strike out against others through words and deeds. Fear lies to us, it distorts our imagination, it creates depression and robs us of any peace and joy that momentarily visits us.
We learn to embrace it, but this force wants to rule our lives. It often becomes the lenses through which we see our future. If we are honest with ourselves, we do not like what we see in the mirror framed by fear. “But God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind.” The Scriptures also tell us that perfect love cast out all fear and that God is love.
We all talk about our goals for the future. We dream of what could be or sometimes what should be. We often pray about our dreams, asking God to assist us in accomplishing our goals. We look to the future often through the lenses of fear but hope faith will find its way into our journey. We expect our dreams fulfilled will give us satisfaction, build confidence and maybe create more faith and courage in our hearts.
There is nothing wrong in having hope for a prosperous future, but we need to be aware of the source of our dreams. As you look to the possibilities in your future, they will be governed by your fears or your faith. Maybe this next question will help you think about the possibilities: What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Think about it: Since you know that all things are possible with God: what do you really want God to do for you?
Or maybe the real question should be: What would you do for God if you could not fail? This shifts the focus from how you want God to serve you, to how you want to serve God?
During the beginning of Jesus’ ministry many people followed him to hear his words and experience miracles. Just imagine for a moment that you are in a crowd like this, waiting to hear some special truth or see the impossible from the hands of Jesus. You are about to embark on a new life and maybe he has something to say to release you from the doubts and fears that continuously plague you. So you listen carefully.
He stands before all of you knowing that only a few will catch and keep this truth. Only a few will really hear the word and grab hold of faith enough to receive a miracle, to meet some need or help with a resolve. His words are freedom for those who would hear, releasing us to dream. It matters not your background, or what your initial motives are for following him, it only matters how you receive the words you hear because faith comes by hearing his word.
Now listen closely and hear what Jesus says: “Do not lay-up treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).” The real truth is: Your treasure is the seed for your dreams.
Jesus goes on to say: “the eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness!” No one can serve two masters. Either they will be devoted to one or the other. You cannot serve both God and be enslaved to money. One leads to the bondage of fear, the other is the pathway to freedom and faith.
Jesus follows this statement by saying: “Do not be worried about your life, whether you have food or drink or clothing; isn’t life more than these.” God will always provide for those who put their trust in him, but fear tells you he will not.
So how does he end this challenge? He says: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all you need will be provided.” Seek God first and you will face a future of faith: doing things you cannot imagine; impacting lives with light and hope; and inspiring many you have yet to meet.
A.W. Tozer said it this way: “the man who has God as his treasure has all things in One. … for having the source of all things, he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight.” Make God your treasure and in him you will find all that you need for your future.
Let me conclude with a portion of my story. I had overcome many obstacles in completing a bachelor’s degree at a very challenging liberal arts college. I moved on to complete a masters’ degree, later married and became the father of two daughters. I had hope to do a doctorate immediately after the master’s but was discouraged by others in doing so.
As I worked in the field of justice, I realized that a doctorate would provide greater validation for the work I was doing. The longer I waited, the more fearful I became of applying to a program. My fear was of rejection, of not being able to measure up. So, I pushed the dream aside repeatedly. I later grabbed hold of the advice I am giving you today. I began to seek God for what he wanted to accomplish in my life. The lenses in which I viewed the future began to change. Seeking God first shifted my whole perspective. No longer did I view life as what I could accomplish, but I started thinking about what was possible with God. As you have heard us say, “Possible Happens Here at FPU.”
During this period of seeking God, I awakened early one morning before dawn. I went outside on the balcony of my bedroom just to be quiet before the Lord. The question came to mind: “Why are you afraid to dream? If the Spirit of God lives in you, then why are you afraid to dream?” I began to realize that the dream seed God had placed in my heart was being choked by the fear of rejection.
It was at this point I had to decide whether all this was only in my head or whether God was really speaking to me. I turned my face towards the sky and asked the question: What am I afraid of dreaming? It came clear to me that I feared rejection if I applied to a doctoral program. I decided that if this was God, I would apply to the top three programs in the country in my field. Acceptance in one would only be a miracle. I had changed my lenses to see through the eyes of faith. I was rejected by the number two and three programs, but was accepted into the number one program.
Face your future in faith. Seek God with all your heart and you will be surprised where it leads you. You see before you today, the president of Fresno Pacific University, who once only had faith enough to complete a bachelors’ program. But in seeking the Kingdom of God first he found the treasure of faith that extended his dreams far beyond what he could ask or imagine.
Today, you decide about your future; whether it will be governed by faith or fear. Faith will only come through a relationship with God. Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Interesting he says: “the life.” If you really want life, give your life to him and watch how your dreams will soar. He has dreams for you that you can yet imagine. Possible happens in you when you trust in God.
God bless you.