In Ecclesiastes 7:8, Solomon says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”
Tonight, we celebrate the end of a thing. The end of roughly 13 years (K-12) of education, of learning, of study, of tests, of reading and homework, and all the rest. Tonight, marks in a significant way the end of childhood. To graduate from high school is in many ways to become an adult. And to become an adult means to receive new responsibilities and new freedoms. For the first time in your life, you a have a new freedom to choose what is next. You have the freedom to fail or to succeed, to squander what you have been given, or to turn a profit on it. These twin gifts of greater responsibility and greater freedom are what God likes to give to us at this stage of life.
So how then should a young man use this newfound freedom? How is a young man to know which path is the path to success, or even how to define success? It is a good and better thing to close a chapter, as we are doing tonight, but what wisdom is there for us as we begin to write a new one?
That is the question I’d like to answer briefly now from the Scriptures. I have three specific exhortations for you Aiden as you enter adulthood.
1. Leave Childish Things Behind
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthian 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
When we were boys, it was natural for us to choose the path of least resistance. To try to get the things we wanted with the least amount of effort. Laziness comes easily to fallen creatures, and therefore God lovingly gave us parents, and teachers, and coaches to beat that laziness out of us.
The mark then of a mature man (and a free man), is the ability to exercise self-control. Proverbs 16:32 says, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; And he that rules his own spirit is better than he that takes a city.”
To govern and discipline your own thoughts, words, and emotions is to make you greater than a man who conquers a city. The mature man knows that cities can and have been conquered by brute force, by clever ingenuity, and even by treachery, but to conquer oneself and rule over your own passions and desires is what makes a man truly free and truly great in the eyes of God. And it is only the eyes of God that the Christian really cares about.
You are entering a world that is hostile to Jesus Christ and His servants. And if you would be a faithful servant of God, then you must learn the spiritual discipline of genuinely not caring what the world thinks. As Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
When we were children, we lived to please ourselves, and sadly many American adults continue to live this way (as selfish children). But for those who want to leave childish things behind, as you should, God alone must be the person you desire to please. God alone must be the one whose good opinion you cannot live without. God alone must be the one you want to impress.
When you care more about what God thinks of you, than what the world thinks of you, you are starting make progress. You have left childish things behind and can now embrace the freedom and responsibility Your Heavenly Father wants to give you.
God loves you far more than your parents or family or future wife and children ever will. And God’s love will not let you be comfortable remaining as a child when you ought to be an adult. God wants you to be perfect as He is perfect, and so flee youthful lusts, and leave childish things behind.
My second exhortation is essential to helping you do this, and that is to…
2. Seek Out Wise Counselors
Solomon says in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” And then He says in Proverbs 15:22, “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.”
There are two principles here that all of us must take to heart.
The First is that: We don’t always know what is best for us. It is possible to be convinced that you are doing the right thing, going the right way, when in reality, it is the way of death. “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”
So what do you do then to prevent that kind of self-deception? The answer is in that second Proverb.
The Second principle is that: In the multitude of wise counselors there is safety.
All of us need wiser and more experienced mentors to help us avoid destruction. Just as a wise King needs a cabinet of advisors to help him rule well in his kingdom, so also every young man.
Right now your kingdom is very small, it consists of yourself and your time and your resources. But Jesus says that he who is faithful in the little, will be made ruler over much. And so practice now for when God puts you in charge, for when God gives you other people to care for, like a wife and children.
The years you are about to enter, from age 18-30, are the years in which you will probably make the biggest decisions of your life:
Where will you live?
What career will you pursue?
Will you go college, if so, where?
Who will you marry?
What church will you go to?
How serious will you be about following Jesus and obeying His Word?
These are the years in which the concrete that was poured in childhood fully sets and then you get to build a house on top of it. And so what kind of house are you going to build? What kind of house do you want to live in? Who are you going to be?
Solomon says that without wise counselors, plans go awry, kingdoms fall, houses are destroyed. And so search out and seek advice from godly men and godly women whose houses are in good order. Surround yourself with the counsel of Christians whose lives you want to imitate. If you do this, you will find safety, and you will find success.
Finally, my third exhortation is:
3. Commit Everything You Do to The Lord
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
If you want God to direct your paths, you must acknowledge him in everything. This means thanking Him for the challenge that is in front of you. This means walking by faith and doing whatever you set your hand to do with a whole heart, that is cheerful and glad.
If your attitude towards the Lord is an abundance of thanksgiving, God will make it very clear which way you are to go. If you seek out wise counsel, and run the numbers, and make your plans, and then commit those plans to the Lord, God promises to direct you, and He will make all your paths straight.
In the name of Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.