2010 Graduation Address--Paul C. Nolting

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Christian plus Ambition equals Great Commission

June 6, 2010

Paul C. Nolting

I give my personal congratulations to you, Senior Class of 2010, and welcome to parents, teachers, friends, family, and supporters of Immanuel Lutheran School.

I’d first like to express my thanks to the graduating class for picking me to be the gradua…

Oh wait, I missed a word…for picking me fifth to be the graduation speaker. Thanks guys. It’s such an honor...to be picked fifth. Totally unrelated here, I recently saw the results of a poll taken of the favorite class in Immanuel Lutheran High School. I have the results right here, and your class came in fifth. That’s out of four. The Junior class placed twice. Polling population: me.

Five years ago I was sitting in the very same spot you are currently, anticipating receiving my own diploma. And now five years later I attended another graduation ceremony where I received my Bachelor’s Degree for Computer Engineering from MSU. [wait for applause]

At my recent graduation ceremony, there were multiple speakers selected from the faculty, students, and a keynote speaker. My favorite line from the night was a female graduate who ended her speech saying, “Shoot for the moon, because the worst you can do is end up in the stars!” Being technically and logically minded, I had a few problems with that statement: the force required to launch yourself to the moon would kill you; space isn’t a very good living environment; and if you do miss the moon, you have a ways to go before you’ll reach any stars. But the literal interpretation of this statement isn’t what’s important; it’s the meaning behind this metaphorical hyperbole. She was just trying to say that if you go out in the world and tighten your boot straps, you will find a great job and make a ton of money, get your iPhone, big screen TV, get your dream car with gps, heated seats, DVD player, and cleans itself. It’s the same message that every one of those speakers made that day: be ambitious, you’ll get whatever you want.

Seniors, you may remember last fall when I gave my first chapel address, I asked you a question. I asked, “Why Immanuel?” Why go to Immanuel for school? The message that I wanted you to remember is that at Immanuel you are prepared for more than just this life. In the same way, I don’t want to just tell you that if you’re super ambitious, you can get whatever tickles your fancy. I want to tell you a message that has deeper meaning than temporary, in this life, enjoyment--a message that gives meaning to your existence.

Now, at this point, if you’re expecting me to renounce ambition, you are mistaken. Many get the idea that Christianity is anti-ambitious. Passages are quoted that speak of the poor going first and the rich going last. These passages aren’t saying if you’re ambitious and successful that you’re sinning, but those passages comfort those in need and curb those who treasure wealth over their God. Not just am I going to say that ambition is not anti-Christian, but I’m saying that you need to be ambitious to be Christian. I don’t like agreeing with the “shoot to the moon” girl, but I want to encourage you to go out into the world and be ambitious, but let’s change two things; let’s change what we are going to be ambitious for, and the motivation behind our ambition.

So, for what are we to be ambitious? I’m going to share a passage with you that tells us the mission in our lives. It doesn’t matter how glorious your life may or may not seem, God has given us all the same charge. Christ spoke these words to His disciples shortly before He rose into Heaven.

Matthew 28:18-20 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

This passage is part of what is called the Great Commission. The Great Commission is the reason why Immanuel exists. It is the reason your parents have brought you to church. It is the reason I am here today. It is the simple command to spread the Gospel and strengthen faiths! The Great Commission is the greatest ambition of every Christian!

The Great Commission is not just telling people that don’t know or have forsaken the Scriptures about Christ, it is encouraging and strengthening others and your own faith. No matter your calling or current life status, whether God leads you to be prosperous in the eyes of the world or not, or if He gives you a family, or if you’re single, if you go to college, or you’re sick of school, if you’re funny or kind of lame, or even if you’re nerdy—I know a few of us can relate to that—you can be ambitious to fulfill God’s calling.

Now that you have graduated High School, whether you plan to go to college, or join the military, or go straight into the work force, God has a plan to use you for His work.

For this reason, I was very pleased with the passage that you selected.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

This passage is a challenge. It’s God’s challenge to us to put every bit of trust that we have in Him, and He will provide to us a path. A path to what? In this case, a path to our greatest ambition: the salvation of souls. And this isn’t some random path that God is just going to give an opportunity here or there to witness to someone you just run into as you do your thing; every decision you make for the rest of your life is part of and for the purpose of God’s plan to put you where He needs you. So be ambitious! Put yourself in the position that you will be able to best serve your Lord, because the benefit of serving your Lord is eternal, not temporary.

As we consider living ambitious lives, no matter what assets or skills you decide are the strengths you want to pursue, you can never forget your motivation. For up to the last 13 years, Immanuel has been teaching you this simple motivation. It isn’t so that you can get that iPhone or sweet car or even that you can live a happy life, it is the motivation driven out of love and thanks for the greatest gift that we have all received by the innocent blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, full redemption of our sins and a home prepared for us in Heaven.

Later in the service, the seniors are going to be singing us a song, “You Are My All in All.” In it they will confess that there is no greater influence in their life than the Lamb of God.

Remember Christ’s influence as you go out to conquer the world. Remember the reason behind the things that you do and the decisions you make. Don’t lose sight of that simple message that you learned here at Immanuel. Because without it, your ambitions will gain nothing, and with it, your ambitions can be realized producing gains more precious than anything on this earth.

Senior Class of 2010, I wish you God’s blessing as you take a leap of faith into your next stage of life. I pray that you all will put your trust in God to give you the strength to shoot for the moon, whatever that might mean for you. This is the time God has given you to go out into the world and use your gifts to do His work. So be ambitious, but to God alone be the glory. Amen.