From a salutatorian’s speech: Don’t be a Christian squib kick

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This week I received the speech given by salutatorian Jake Watson of North Cobb Christian School in Kennesaw. Jake is a member – alongside his parents, Drew and Leah Watson, and brother, Nate – of Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Marietta. I was contacted about his speech by his grandmother, Martha Grissom, who I’d expect is a huge fan of Jake’s.  

In addressing the senior class, Jake wanted them to consider the weight of their decisions. While recent weeks have centered around the process of closing one door, don’t overlook the one about to open. Jake tied those two together: 

Jake Watson, salutatorian for North Cobb Christian School and a member of Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Kennesaw, delivers his speech May 18. MARTHA GRISSOM/Special

Jesus did say, after all, “He who has ears, let him hear.” So I hope everyone is listening. The main point I would like to offer for the senior class this morning is this: How are you living your life now for an eternal impact? 

I think Russell Crowe sums up this question in the movie “Gladiator,” through one of the most iconic quotes of all time: “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” He tells this to his army before they ride into battle, as an assurance but also as a warning.  

I urge everyone to take this statement to heart and to apply it to their lives, because it is our charge as Christians in this broken world to live our lives for Christ daily. We must live knowing what we do in this life has an eternal impact. 

On a white board in my home office I have something similar written: “Do the things today that, years from now, you’ll wish you had done.” Last August parents like myself had every intention of staying on top of their children’s grades and reading every email from their teachers. If you’re like me, the last whisps of that dedication probably evaporated around Labor Day.  

It’s difficult to remain dedicated in the day-to-day, but that’s where the battle is won and lost. Just as I want to get things off on the right foot for the school year in August, I get another jolt of that enthusiasm right after spring break when the end is in sight and I want my kids to do well on their finals. The real change, we all know, happens in those months in between.  

Jake reminded his fellow graduates and all those gathered how the challenge for us all is to live a victorious, Christ-honoring life every day. 

Shall we continue in our sin, as the devil wants us to, or die to sin daily so we can live in Christ? A few weeks ago in senior seminar, Dr. Hedges equated our sin to us personally nailing Jesus on the cross each and every time we sinned.  

I don’t know about others, but for me, that was a very sobering statement. It really put into perspective just how evil we are and how desperate we are for our Savior. How then can we die to sin so we can live in Christ? We must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily, as Jesus commands in Luke 9:23. We are instructed in Scripture to be a light in this dark world.   

I love how Matthew 5:16 sums this up, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” We must remember that everything we do should be done to honor and glorify our Father in heaven. 

Jake compared to the choice of living a Christian life to a squib kick in football. A [now former] member of the North Cobb Eagles football team, he explained the relation. 

“… [A] squib kick is a short, low kick that bounces on the ground and stops after around 20 or 30 yards. … Do we want our Christian walk to be a squib kick that goes only a short way and quickly dies off, or do we want our Christian walk to be a touchback, that goes above and beyond through the back of the end zone of life?  

My encouragement to this senior class is to live a life that reflects a touchback. As Mr. Shaffer loves to say, all of our joy should come from Christ. If we find our joy in Christ in every trial and every situation, our joy will be echoed in eternity. 

The graduate’s final challenge to his classmates centered around living each day in service of Jesus to the fullest. As has been attested, the biggest hill for young Christians often comes when they’re on their own at college. Their faith is their own, so to speak, without mom and dad making sure they get up for church or become involved in ministry. With a world becoming more intolerant of orthodox, evangelical Christianity by the day, Jake’s words weigh heavy for all of us.  

My final prayer for this senior class is that we would all be on fire for Jesus. It’s cliché, but Scripture actually addresses this. Everyone knows Revelation 3:15-16: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.   

While John is specifically writing to the church in Laodicea, I would argue that these words can be applied to Christians everywhere for all time. As Christians, our only option is to be hot, as in the roaring furnace faced by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I’ll always remember when Si Robertson won a donut-eating contest during an episode of “Duck Dynasty.” His famous words about donuts summed it all up, “Cold, I could eat 6. Hot, I could eat 48.”  

Clearly, hot is better. 

Seniors, it is my hope that we all live our lives on fire for Christ. We must always keep in mind that what we do in life echoes in eternity. My challenge to you is to live in such a way that when we face Judgment, Christ will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”   

So, how are you going to live your life to honor Christ? 

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