Jay Blogs – “To Whom Much is Given”

On Saturday night, we graduated the Class of 2024 from Grace Community School. As of the time of writing, this wonderful group of 78 seniors has earned a cumulative total of $7,716,604 in college and university scholarships, or an average of $98,930.82 per student. More importantly, however, they are equipped to go from here and teach Jesus to the world around them, where they work, study, live, and play.

As usual, I’ll be taking the summer off from blog-writing duties. I am so grateful for all of you, and especially those of you who encourage me that writing this blog has in any way helped or inspired you. I agree with Mark Batteson that writing like this is really just “praying with a keyboard,” and I always pray the Lord helps me get it right most of the time. Any errors are mine. I hope you have a fantastic summer, and we’ll see you in the fall.

I’m grateful for all of you.

It’s always bittersweet to see a class of seniors leave us, but you all have led our school well. I am so very grateful to your parents for allowing us to partner with them in preparing you for this moment, whether it’s been a few years or all 14 years, and I’m thankful for the hard work of all your teachers in discipling, molding, and forming you into the stellar young men and women you’ve become. Your “senior prank”—sneaking over to Mr. Witt’s house at 4:30 a.m. to have breakfast with him—was actually an act of love that made his whole year and really demonstrates one of the things I love so much about this class. You are, overall, a kind and loving group of people. I am very sorry to see you leave.

I attended my youngest daughter’s graduation at Baylor last Saturday, which for us was the end of a 9-year run at Baylor, all of my children having attended that university. As I sat in the Ferrell Center, I reflected on these commencement ceremonies we celebrate as a culture. I attended and participated in all my own commencement exercises: high school, college, law school, my masters program, and my PhD. Yet, nothing compares to high school graduation.

High school graduation is simply the most important for the largest number of us, for several reasons. First, the largest number of us actually graduate high school, although from there we may do many other things. Also, high school graduation is an established rite of passage in our culture from childhood to adulthood, as you are now, technically and legally, adults. As I was at Ellen’s graduation, I looked around, finding I didn’t know any of those people. As I look around this arena, I realize that I know almost all of you. Only high school graduation is a true community event.

These people around you, this cloud of witnesses, are invested in you and your family, encouraging conversations, prayers, and hard truths, and cheering, grieving, and celebrating together. This Jesus-filled community walks beside you and stands behind you as you prepare to leave childhood and enter young adulthood. These people are your people and, in a sense, always will be.

Every year, as our graduates leave Grace, I tell them that this school, their moms and dads, their churches, and this community have given them everything they need to be all God has in store for them at the next level of their lives in order to influence the world for Christ, making disciples where they work, live, and play.

But what are those things we have given them? Is there something special about this community—something that you have received there that perhaps you might not have received elsewhere—something or things that the Lord has given you for which you might be particularly grateful—gratitude that you came from this place, this community, these people?

There are, actually. You have special powers. Really, just gifts from the Holy Spirit that have been given to you here that are unique, or at least rare, to this school community.

First, you have the Word of God deeply implanted within you. My oldest daughter was in a Bible study in Dallas the other day with some friends who graduated from a very strong public school in Dallas, perhaps even the one from which I graduated, one where people would say, “Everyone is a Christian.” The Bible study was on the Book of Ruth, and her late 20-something-year-old friend leaned over to her and said, “I can’t wait to see how the Book of Ruth turns out.”

Do any of you not know how the Book of Ruth turns out? The answer to this question for most people is “I have no idea how the story ends,“ including many who identify as Christians. I think it would be difficult at this stage in your life for you to realize the depth of the gift that you have been given through this legacy of Scripture. But you will soon see. Not only do you have a remarkably deep understanding of the overall story of God‘s work among his people, but many of you have so much of that word committed to memory, written deep in your heart.

For those of you who currently have a true relationship with Jesus, this gift will encourage you, edify you, and strengthen you in your college years and throughout your life. For those of you who do not yet have that deep relationship, you will find that, when the Holy Spirit does ignite your heart, everything that you know and have learned will be right there, stored up like a treasure, waiting for you in full. Furthermore, given the fact that the Bible is the cornerstone work of literature in western civilization, your knowledge and understanding of it puts you at a significant advantage over your peers and others.

The second power you have is the ability to write well. One of the things that I have learned over the years is that the school does a better job than most other schools I have ever seen at teaching students to write. You will be surprised in college the first time one of your classmates asks you what a thesis statement is. For those of you who consider yourself to be average or mediocre writers, you will be shocked when your professor asks you to hang on to your paper and use it as an example for others in the future. You will suddenly realize what a gift you’ve been given.

As we know, the gift of writing isn’t just about writing. It involves being able to think critically and logically, organize ideas, articulate thoughts, and express oneself effectively. I have often said that if you want to be a great engineer, study engineering. If you want to lead a group of engineers, learn how to write. It is a magical power allowing you to influence others, and God has given it to you through this school.

Third, you have the power to speak in front of groups of people. We all know the statistics: other than dying, the nearly universal second-greatest fear of most is speaking in front of a group. But it is not so with you. Two weeks ago, we were in church watching GSM students, including some of you, give their testimony on Senior Sunday. We were impressed at how articulate they were, but what doesn’t surprise me is that they always get the current or
former Grace School kids to do the talking.

There is a reason for that. From the very beginning of elementary school, to Toastmasters, through middle school, to Teaching for Transformation, we’ve had you up in front of classrooms and groups, teaching you to speak and giving you lots of opportunities to do so. Even if you are an introvert and don’t particularly like it, you are adept at public speaking, or better than others. First Peter 3:15 tells us to “always be ready to give an account for the hope that is within you.“ Being ready to share that hope includes being able to speak articulately and well. Almost all of you can do that. Not everyone can.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you know that you are loved. A group of teachers, coaches, and parents have taught, surrounded, and loved you well. They have pounded into you that your identity is in Christ and that you are his beloved, in whom he is well pleased. That is and will always be your identity, regardless of how Satan and the world try to lie to you and shame you into believing otherwise.

The security and confidence of being known and loved first by Jesus, then by those around you, gives you confidence. It transforms you into a person who loves well and who even loves those who are not like you in ways you aren’t capable of loving on your own.

I often hear from alumni that their peers, even those from other Christian schools, know how to build relationships with other Christians but struggle to develop friendships with those who are not like them, maybe those who are hurting or struggling and don’t know Jesus. Our alumni have shared that this school, the way that they have been loved and known and taught how to love others who are different from them, has prepared them to not only find their own people in college but to build relationships with people who aren’t like them, which is the essence of making disciples.

All of these gifts and powers you have are not necessarily unique, but they are certainly rare in this day and age. But as Uncle Ben told Peter Parker in the first of the Spider-Man movies: “with great power comes great responsibility. ” Or, as Jesus said it better in Luke 12:48, “to whom much is given, much will be required.”

You will leave here, and you will be on mission. Paul shared with us in 1 Corinthians 11 the way it’s supposed to work: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” I pray you will continue to abide in Jesus, receiving from him daily, and that he will continually transform your lives, making you worthy of lives of imitation. We love you, and this will always be a home for
you.