The Gettysburg Address only lasted a little over two minutes. I won’t claim to be as efficient with my words as Abraham Lincoln, but if you’ll promise to listen closely, then I’ll promise not to keep you too long. All those in favor, please signify that with a hearty, “Amen!”
Congratulations to each of you in the Senior Class of 2018 of Grace Christian Academy. I’ll confess to being somewhat partial toward one of the graduates, but that’s part of being a grandparent.
I’d like to give those who are graduating a few simple rules that will almost guarantee you a happy, healthy, and prosperous life. But the truth is, that’s not how it works.
What I will share with you, though, are some worthwhile principles that can help you along life’s journey. They aren’t new. You’ve heard them all before. But I hope to say them in a way that will help you remember them long after leaving here with your diplomas.
The first principle is “Do your best.” I heard a story a long time ago about an annual convention of a major dog food company. It was a well-known national brand, one that all of you are familiar with. There were several hundred salesmen gathered in the large banquet hall. The company president was rallying the troops as he enthusiastically shouted out a series of rhetorical questions.
“Who has the best production facilities of any dog food company in America?” he yelled. “We do!” the sales force shouted back.
“Who has the best distribution system of any dog food company in America? he asked. “We do!” they replied with vigor.
“And who has the best sales force of any dog food company in America?” he inquired. “We do!” they responded. The room was quickly filled with the thunderous sounds of spontaneous applause.
When the applause subsided, the company president spoke in a low and serious tone. “If we have the best production facilities, the best distribution system, and the best sales force of any dog food company in America, then why,” he asked, “are the sales of our dog food ranked way down in fourth place?” The room became uncomfortably quiet.
“Will someone please tell me,” he pleaded, “why aren’t we selling more dog food?”
A man in the back reluctantly stood up and gave a simple answer. He said, “Because the dogs won’t eat it.”
If your career path leads you to a company that makes dog food, then make the best dog food you can. Make it so good that the dogs will fight over the scraps. If you become a school teacher, then be that teacher who makes a difference. Be that teacher who inspires students to excel both academically and personally. If you become a surgeon, then keep your scalpel razor-sharp. And live in such a way that your hands are steady and your mind is clear.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 perhaps says it best. “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
Secondly, “Get up on the right side of the bed.” Two men were said to have been engaged in a rather unpleasant breakfast conversation. One of them had a reputation for being ornery. The nicer fellow asked him, “Do you always wake up grouchy?” to which the man replied, “No. Sometimes I let her sleep.”
Never underestimate the value of a positive attitude. We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to those circumstances. Rev. A.B. Hosea was the pastor many years ago at Harmony Baptist Church, the little country church of my youth. He began every morning by looking out his bedroom window while reciting Psalms 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Quoting that scripture didn’t guarantee Brother Hosea a wonderful day, but it helped him to approach each day with a wonderful attitude.
Finally, ”Brush your teeth and say your prayers.” That’s what Andy told Opie in Mayberry, and it’s still timely advice. I remember a bedtime scene where Andy asked his young son if he had brushed his teeth. Opie fibbed. He told his father that he had, then he offered for Andy to feel his wet toothbrush as proof.
Don’t ever be tempted to just run water over your toothbrush. That won’t help prevent cavities. Take good care of your body. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.
And nurture your faith. Every ship needs a rudder to give it direction. Faith is like the rudder of life. It keeps us on a course that’s worthwhile, a journey where we serve God by serving our fellow man.
II Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Our faith doesn’t grow by accident. It grows by our intentional efforts to become closer to God. If we excel at everything else we undertake but fail to nurture our faith, we’ve missed out on what’s most important.
I’ve given you four things to think about: do your best, get up on the right side of the bed, brush your teeth, and say your prayers. Following those principles won’t magically give you a storybook kind of life. It will, however, help you to write a better story for the life that you’ve been given.
Good night, and God bless you.