For his Connections this month, Dr. Joe chose to use his remarks to the FPU community during the annual fall Convocation on October 7, 2020—Editor.
Welcome to a new year; for some of you a new community. A community of faith that celebrates the lordship of Jesus Christ; the wisdom he gives through the acquisition of knowledge and the faith that is strengthened as we model service to one another and the broader Central Valley community. We are here not just to educate, but to “engage the cultures and serve the cities” through education.
We all start this new year with its own challenges. In many ways there are common factors that impact us all, but we experience them individually in different ways. Some of us look to the future with a certain amount of optimism. Others are reluctant to trust anything anyone says. And there are those of us who cannot see beyond the troubles that our eyes and ears are plagued with daily.
Many of us are losing hope for the future. If we are not careful, we lose sight of what God has already done, what he has promised to do and what he is currently doing. We see but cannot see; we hear but do not hear; we read his word, but do not understand. These are warnings that were ever present among Jesus’ followers which spoke more to their heart condition, than to their heads.
We just completed our 75th year of service in the Central Valley. Last fall was a glorious time of celebration and remembrance. We were humbled by the achievements of our alumni, thankful for the service of our staff and faculty and welcomed back many of our donors and friends. We celebrated some of our best years and remembered some of those difficult times. Our hope and faith for a productive future was strengthened as we gathered on numerous occasions as a community.
In many ways we developed a “sacred ambition” through the guidance of our strategic map. These pathways would guide us to broaden the impact of the university by growing strategically to influence the lives of our students; committing ourselves to engage more collectively in this educational enterprise, while becoming uniquely innovative in our delivery of service; acting with courage, so that not only the lives of our students would be transformed, but that we as a community would be transformed through serving them.
Ambition is a strong desire to achieve something. Ambition can be an overwhelming force in itself. It can cause you to sacrifice your comfort and move beyond the practical to what others cannot envision and think the unthinkable. Ambition is like a knife—it carves our attitude and cuts through obstacles. It prevents our sleep and governs our dreams, but if we are not careful it lures us into a self-centered existence, whether for the individual or the organization.
I want to talk with you about a “sacred ambition.” Not an ambition born out of self-esteem or our need for other’s praise, but an ambition born of the God seed planted in each man and woman. Jesus tells us a parable about a farmer who sows seeds. You know the story: some seeds fell on barren soil, others in rocky places and some that fell in good places were traumatized by external forces, but he also spoke of seeds that fell on good ground and they brought forth fruit 30-, 60- and 100-fold. When his disciples asked the meaning, he told them the seed was the Word of God. This word sowed in the right heart would bring forth an abundance, enough to share with others.
Jesus also told them a parable about a hidden treasure. When the seeker found a treasure of great value hidden on a piece of land, he went and sold everything he had to purchase the land in order to obtain the treasure. In like manner he told a parable of a man who had an ambition to gain a great pearl, and when he found the right pearl he went and sold everything he had to gain the treasure. You see a common thread in these stories or parables of Jesus. There is something of great value that is to be sought, and he that seeks will find; he that knocks, the door will be opened. But we only seek and know if we are driven by the value of that which we seek. Our ambition or drive is subject to the view of the value we seek.
I offer a question for all of us as we journey through this next academic year: whether you are a student, faculty or staff—what is your treasure? What is so important to you that you will sacrifice yourself to gain that which is of great value. As a Christian community of educators, what is of greatest value in this community? It does not matter whether we are in person or virtual, our treasure, that which we value most, will frame our work and our relationships.
Just before the crucifixion, Jesus on his journey into Jerusalem looked down into the city grieving, because the people chosen to be light to the world in that city would miss his visitation. They saw but did not see; heard but refuse to listen; and missed the gift and treasure of God to the world. The treasure has not changed, but we are often blinded by the cares of this life, the crushing of our ambitions, goals and delights. We don’t see because we don’t seek, we just assume. What is our treasure?
Jesus comes to John in a vision that is recorded in the book of Revelations. Jesus speaks of the Church in Ephesus. He says: “I know your deeds, and that you cannot tolerate wickedness and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen. Whoever has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches” (Rev. 2:2-7).
Let me leave you with this word from 2 Chronicles 15. It says the Spirit of the Lord came upon the prophet Azariah for a word to King Asa of Judah and Benjamin. He says this: “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”
During these challenging days, let it be said of us individually and we as a community of educators, that our sacred ambition in the midst of great discouragement is to be where the Lord is, to seek him wholly and to do a work that will bring honor to the name of Jesus Christ. This is our gift, the treasure of our life. A life committed not to serving ourselves, but to serving God and others through the tremendous opportunities and possibilities at Fresno Pacific University in Christian higher education.
May the Lord create in each of us a sacred ambition to seek him wholly, to serve him fully and to love him deeply. His gift of life and loves is our greatest treasure.
To see and hear the entire ceremony, click “On Demand” at fpu.edu/live