On December 15, 2012, Dr. Williams addressed the graduates and those who gathered to celebrate with them at Cairn’s fall semester commencement. The following is adapted from his commencement address.
[dropcap3]I[/dropcap3]t is a tremendous personal privilege to speak on this occasion, our first commencement under the name, Cairn University. This class of graduates has been witness to many changes here at the University. I have greatly appreciated the maturity and grace they have demonstrated and the support and encouragement they have provided. I look around this gathering and think, “regardless of your program, your degree, or your role we are part of the Cairn community.” Whether you study here, teach here, or serve here, whether you are a member of the staff, the faculty, the administration, the Board; whether you are a volunteer, a supporter, or simply one who has committed a student to the charge of this school, you participate in something truly unique in the academy and I have never been more excited about the University than I am presently. Every day I come to work I am reminded that we are to bear witness and point the way. This is who we are and this is what we do. Walking a Different Path is more than a slogan here. It is a way of life. Your commitment to this institution is evidence of your commitment to the timeless biblical truth that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom; that God is the source of all truth; and that therefore all learning begins with and is held together by biblical learning.[blockquote align=”right”]
Walking a Different Path is more than a slogan here. It is a way of life.
I also identify with you personally because I graduated in the middle of the year, as well. It was a little different then. There was no formal ceremony at that time, but I clearly remember the day. It was the final chapel of the semester and Dr. Babb, our former President and now Chancellor, was speaking. He asked those who were graduating to stand and be recognized. We did. Our fellow students applauded. We beamed with pride. Then the two of us sat down.
Today the gathering is much more formal and the number is quite different. There are graduate school candidates, degree completion candidates, as well as undergrads. We come from more varied places, more varied backgrounds, study in more varied majors, and represent more varied generations. The gathering is different, but the charge is the same now as it has been for nearly 100 years. In fact, it is the same as it has been to all like you down through the ages. You have studied, and now you go forth to what God in His providence has prepared for you beyond these walls. Regardless of what is in store for you, regardless of your vocation, regardless of where you will find yourselves across this nation or around the world, you go forth under the sovereign care of God. And on your lips should be a sincere prayer beseeching God to give you strength equal to your task and that He would make you instruments fit for His grasp. You have not been, in fact none of us have been, trained for beds of ease. You have been educated to serve Christ, no matter what your professional major. You have been made ready to live your lives in sacrificial service, fortified by faith, preserved in grace, with eyes directed to the God upon whom your gaze is to be fixed forevermore.
You have been given a tremendous gift. You must now prove yourselves faithful stewards of that which has been entrusted to you. The Bible teaches us that to whom much is given, much is expected. You have been given a biblical education, knowledge of God, yourselves, and the world in which you live, the world which He has made, the world in which you will serve. And you have had impressed upon you and modeled for you the importance of godly living, lifelong learning, and excellence in all you do.
As you go forth from this place, you will enter into what is next, and it will be and should be different because you are different. This is a transformational education. It is centered on Christ and His Word. It is intentionally so and it changes us. So you go now into what is next with all you have learned and become. You don’t need to be taught; only reminded, that ours is a day of tremendous challenges and uncertainty. All around us social, economic, political, and spiritual challenges abound. Humanity experiences every day the effects of sin and the fall. Suffering, loss, poverty, oppression, sickness, and death are part of life in this world. And evil is very real, its presence felt too painfully. Life in this world is not easy. It is a battle, a fierce one, and it will take the whole of you. But you are needed. You have a place to take in it. You must be committed with every fiber of your being to serve Christ, to seek truth, and to stand firm.
The Christian’s calling is to serve Christ, and to do so well; to walk worthy of Him, wherever, whenever, and whatever the cost. This is not a calling limited to those in fields of exotic, glamorous, or dramatic service. This is the Christian life. We serve Christ. He is our King. We are His servants. We labor for His glory, for the furtherance of His kingdom. This is your calling, Christian, regardless of your vocation. Upon this you must be resolved. Because the battle into which you enter will seek to distract you from that singular purpose. It will bear down upon you in subtle ways via monotony of life and work and in not so subtle ways as you experience tragic or catastrophic circumstances. This is the way life works. Therefore, you must be resolved to serve Christ.
We live in a day and age where living with purpose and sacrificially is not necessarily a very popular idea.
[/blockquote]We live in a day and age where living with purpose and sacrificially is not necessarily a very popular idea. Disappointment, disillusionment, and discontentment plague the human condition. We live in a fallen world. But the follower of Christ must nevertheless take up his cross daily and declare with Joshua to all those around him, “Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” What a sad, pathetic sight it is to see the King’s subjects in rebellion and retreat, walking with no purpose and no passion, apathetic, disconnected, adrift. As faithful stewards, as loyal subjects, and as brave soldiers, resolve first to serve Christ. Do good work. In your homes, communities, churches, schools, organizations, places of business, agencies and practices, and studios. Serve Christ.
Also you must seek truth. To be a faithful steward of the gift you have been given (your education here) and engage in the battle for hearts and minds, you must be committed to seeking truth. At the very core of your study – no matter what program you were in – has been the greatest of all books, the very revelation of God. As you go forth from here, this cannot change. Do not allow this to have been a temporary commitment. As you serve Christ, who is the truth, the Word made flesh; you must be relentless in your pursuit of truth. You must be people of the Book. It is so easy to be distracted by the things of life, to think that other things are more important, but you must remain committed to being people of the Book.
You must make the study of the Scripture a way of life. To grow in the grace and knowledge of God, to be strengthened in your faith, you must make the Bible a priority. God’s truth must be central in your life. Study it, teach it, hold fast to it, and hold it forth for it is the Word of Life. You will find yourselves in and out of any number of circumstances. Some of you will be in business, some of you will be in social work, education, the arts, ministry, the armed forces, or public service. Some of you will go straight to graduate school; some will take up trades while others become scholars. You must take your place in the body of Christ. You must be a faithful steward of your biblical education. You must teach the Word to your children, friends, colleagues, even strangers. You must teach the Word and make the reading and studying of it central in your life.
There is another idea to seeking truth and I think it is equally important. As Christians and followers and servants of Christ, you must be committed to truth, you must love His Word, and be educated. Particularly, to be biblically minded, well-educated, and professionally competent means that you understand that all truth is God’s truth. Therefore you must be willing to seek it wherever it may be found.
One of the marks of an educated person is the desire to learn more of all that there is to explore. The Christian is to love God and I would assert to serve God with all of their heart, soul, and mind. As educated men and women of God, learning should not cease when there are no more assignments to complete or when there are no more professors looming over you and your calendar is not full of red due dates. It must become a way of life. You must cultivate the life of the mind. Let me encourage you to read widely and with fervor. Make it a way of life. Dialog with and correspond with individuals who will challenge you in your thinking, who will stimulate you in the formation of ideas and understanding of the world. To be a faithful steward of your education you must never let it end. You must seek wisdom and understanding with all that you have and demonstrate to God your love for all He has made by learning all you can of it. He has given you the gift of a mind.
There are those that will tell you truth is a myth. There are many who tear at the notion of truth as though its very existence somehow threatens their own. Information is valued while wisdom mocked. Comfort is more important than truth. You will be assaulted on every side, rest assured. Some will tell you that to survive, the people you serve must be placated, and that truth must be softened because it will not be tolerated. You will be told that to learn, to study, to read and to think when no one is requiring it of you is a waste of time; that those things impede success and acceptance rather than enhance it. Don’t believe it, not for one minute. Truth is more important than any measure of success we can design or devise. Resolve then: seek truth.
To serve Christ and to seek truth will not be easy. The current flows in the opposite direction. You don’t have to look around very far to see that. To serve Christ and to seek truth is to be pointed upstream. Therefore, you must resolve thirdly: to stand firm. If you resolve first to serve Christ, resolve second to seek truth, resolve third to stand firm. Be assured that God in His grace will sustain you. To serve Christ and seek truth means that it will cost you something. You may be misunderstood, ignored, mocked, ridiculed, or passed over. Or you may lose everything the world holds dear. Still, you are called to stand firm, to keep serving Christ and keep seeking after truth with everything that is in you.
What comfort can there be in this? What comfort can there be in a life of swimming against the current, fighting to keep our legs under us?
Don’t waiver. For as the Psalm says, God is our refuge and our strength. An ever-present help in time of need. What is the comfort in seeking truth and serving Christ? It is this: you will stand firm because God is gracious. He will give you all the strength you need to do exactly what He expects. He never commands us to do anything that He does not empower us to do. If you want to be a person of faith, you must rest in the truth that His grace will sustain you in time of need. His grace is sufficient. We can go forth into battle and we can prove ourselves as faithful stewards because we stand firm in our faith that He is sovereign; that the one with whom we have to do is greater than any circumstance that we encounter or any human failing we possess; that the purposes of God far outweigh the purposes of man; and that His purposes are never thwarted. With that behind you, you can serve Him. With that behind you, you can seek truth. With that behind you, you can stand firm.
To be a faithful steward of your education you must never let it end. You must seek wisdom and understanding with all that you have and demonstrate to God your love for all He has made by learning all you can of it. He has given you the gift of a mind.
Luther, with all the things that were going on around him, stood firm and resolute. He said, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Luther clung to the promises of Psalm 46 that God was our strength and our refuge. He is our fortress. This is something about which to be excited. Not overwhelmed. The challenges of this world and our day are great; uncertainty is a hard thing. But the opportunities and the potential to make a difference, to be salt and light, to care for those in need, defend those who cannot defend themselves, to shape the thinking of our times, to speak truth in love have never been greater. It is our rightful place to serve our king in this way. And if we truly serve Christ as our king, we recognize that our life is not our own. If we seek truth, we find that his truth abides forever. It is little wonder that Luther found inspiration in Psalm 46 and that his great hymn “A Mighty Fortress” rests upon its teaching. I’ll say this: as you commence, and you go forth from here, be resolved and do not let life deter you from your Christian calling. Be faithful stewards and brave soldiers. Serve Christ, seek truth, stand firm. No matter what the cost. Be of the same mind as Luther, “Be ready and willing – to let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill, His truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.”
[framed_box]Todd J. Williams, Ph.D., has been the President of Cairn University since January 2008. He served as faculty and an administrator from 1996 to 2001, and then returned as Provost in 2005. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.