I will say that I am very intimidated by the fact that Dr. Beatty is here. The last time I was asked to speak at Emmanuel in front of him, it did not go so well. So I hope today, I can do a better job. I also think we should say thank you one more time to Mom and Dad, Me maw and Papa, and all of the people in the room that have helped you get to this point. I pray that the people who supported you along the way will witness much fruit in the years to come for making the choice to place you and their trust in this institution. Just think parents, four years ago you dropped off your child with a mini-refrigerator. Today you will leave this place with an educated, motivated graduate who can buy their own refrigerator, Amen?
And for our graduates, I congratulate you today. I know you’re excited, and you want this to hurry up so I promise I’ll be brief. What I’ve found when I talk to Emmanuel College graduates is that we have one common denominator. From Golden Grads to recent grads, our bond is the relationships we’ve built on these 150 acres. Like most of you during my time here, I formed incredible relationships. I too, as Dr. White said, not only took home a diploma but found the most incredible woman to be my wife. And believe me when I tell you, I too strolled Jackson and Drumm, many days looking. I stared at Mary Ann and the back of her head for three months in History class before I could get up enough nerve to talk to her, and praise the lord we’ve been talking ever since.
However, my relationship with Emmanuel did not start out so well. My first semester, I told myself a lie. I told myself that Emmanuel needed me more than I needed her. My actions followed it. If I made it to class, I was late. If I made it to Chapel, I was bored. If I formed a relationship, I was distant. And if I had the chance to leave Franklin Springs, I was gone. One day, I received a note on my dorm room door saying “See Me-Dean of Students.” I was told by most of the guys at Wellons that when you see this guy at the end of a semester, you don’t come back. So with proper caution, I went to see him. My confrontation with Mr. Henson became a powerful talk that was gentle and simple. He and I walked to the middle of the quad and once he reached the center of the quad, he looked around like it was the first time he’d ever been there. He gazed at the trees, looked at the buildings and the grass then he looked at me. And he said, “Do you see these paths?” and I said “Yes sir, I see the paths.” He said “Do you notice that all of these paths lead to a place?” I said “Yes sir, I see that.” He said, “If you follow one path leading to the dorms you’ll find shelter, another path pointing to the cafeteria you’ll find food.” Pointing to the Aaron Building “Another path, you’ll find knowledge” and finally looking at the path facing Taylor Chapel he said “You’ll find direction.”
“Phillip,” he whispered “If you will follow the right path to the right place, at the right time, your time at Emmanuel will be successful.”
It’s been almost two decades since I was given those profound words. What I’ve seen is that by pulling me aside and investing a few moments to speak wisdom into my life he was actually giving me three powerful components to achieving true success in life. Taking the right path, finding the right place and being there at the right time.
Unfortunately, when you leave the college quad for the career quad, the paths are not so clearly marked. The path you take is determined by the priority you make. The generation you belong to is the most educated in American history. 63% of your generation have a college degree. But of those 63% (parents don’t listen to this) half are unemployed, stuck at ground zero. So since your college degree comes with no promises, no guarantees of anything, what can you count on?
You can count on this promise from Jesus. If you will put Him first in your life, He said at the Sermon on the Mount, He will make sure that you have everything that you need. He added this, all these things will be added. Not some, not a little bit, not a portion. He said if you put Him first, if you make Him a priority, all of the things that you’re worried about, you’re consumed with, all those things will be added.
Today, your degree will define the last four years of your life, but your priorities will define the rest of your life.
Where is the right place? When we think about a place we’d like to end up often we think of a place being in a large exciting city, maybe working for a certain well known company, or landing a great job that pays really well or even being published as a recognized expert in our field but today I ask you to shift your thinking from focusing on a destination to focusing on an actual journey to that destination. What I’ve come to see is that the most important part of my journey is people. God doesn’t call you to serve a location, he calls you to serve the people in the location. He doesn’t call you to serve a company but he’s going to call you to serve the people in a company. God doesn’t call you to serve a church, but he calls you to serve the people in a church. For our future physicians, God doesn’t call you to serve a hospital he calls you to serve the people in a hospital. For those going on a mission field, he doesn’t call you to countries he calls you to serve the people in the countries. In other words, getting to the right destination means learning how to value, honor and serve the people around you.
One of my most favorite places on earth is the Himalayan mountain range. For thousands of years a Sherpa tribe of people has inhabited the high altitudes of the Himalayan mountain range surrounding the beautiful Mount Everest. The Sherpas have learned the art of survival on Everest and have become indispensable tour guides and navigators to many climbers of Everest. Because they live there, they’ve seen climbers come and go. But they remain there doing what they can to help each climber reach the peak. No Everest climber in his right mind would mistreat these people, because their knowledge can make a difference between life and death. If you’ll think about life as being a huge mountain in front of you and along the sides of that huge mountain there are small villages with people like the Sherpas living in the crevices and flat places between the base of the mountain and its peak, consider that your ability to climb that mountain is determined by how well you treat each group of people in the villages along the way. They’re not just people you deal with on the journey, those people are the journey. There’s a practical principle in Scripture we see over and over again. God will give you faith when you honor, encourage and serve the people that He has placed in your life. It’s actually a fixed flaw in God’s economy. We reap what we sow, always no exceptions. Proverbs 11:25 says “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” For the last four years you’ve been refreshed by a wonderful staff and faculty, now it’s your time to go and refresh.
I’ve heard a paraphrase on this very campus. What you make happen for others, God will make happen for you. I’ve learned that when I honor those who are in authority over me, when I respect those who are serving beside me, only then will I be qualified to lead those who are under me. Getting to the place you want to be in the future depends on how you’re treating people where you are now. Class, what villages have you passed through on your climb to this moment of graduation and how have you treated them? Your parents and your siblings, professors, employees and friends. If getting where you want to go is based on how you’ve treated people so far, how’s your future looking right now? God will take you to the right place, when you treat people the right way. In 1999, Walt Disney World introduced the Fast Pass. It’s a solution to avoiding waiting in long lines. Most of the Disney lines in 1999 could have waits up to 2 to 3 hours. The Fast Pass allows guests to avoid waiting in long lines, while those who didn’t get a Fast Pass are stuck in line all day. While that works at Disney World and other amusement parks, it doesn’t work in life. God doesn’t give out Fast Passes to His children. When you look at the great men and women in the Bible who accomplished great things, God required them to wait in line. Abraham and Sarah? They waited. Joseph? He waited a long time before he could rule Egypt. David knew he would be king, but he waited. The most important issue about time is trust. Patience and trust are much more valuable than regret. Timing is everything. If you don’t believe that, look at the prodigal son. He rushed his destiny and his dad’s decision. He wanted what he would get before it was time…too much too fast.
Jesus tells us he was in a far country. I’ve often wondered, where is a far country? I’ve been to many countries and there is not a visa for a far country. Because a far country is anyplace that is out of the will of God. And no one wants to be there, Amen?
Graduates, you can either wait on God, or wish you had. Don’t settle for anything because you are afraid of time. When you desire to obey God, time is on your side. I beg you this morning, don’t marry the wrong person. Don’t accept the wrong position. Don’t stay in the same spot because you are afraid of time. On God’s clock, waited time is never wasted time. As a young leader I can tell you that God’s timing is the greatest mystery. He will qualify you when on a resume you are not. He will promote you when you cannot promote yourself. He will equip you beyond your years and if you surrender your plan for His path, appointments with destiny are on His calendar. Make sure you are synced.
So I’ve reached a conclusion of my remarks and you’ve reached the conclusion of your college education. But none of this is really about a conclusion. Academic Institutions such as Emmanuel refer to graduation ceremonies as a Commencement. The word Commencement means a time when something begins. Today is not the end of anything, it is the beginning of everything.
I have an 8-year-old son and he’s asked all the time “Parke what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Right now, he wants to own a Dude Ranch in Oklahoma with Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA team but we’re working through that. You see we spend our childhood and adolescent years with thoughts and dreams of where we want to end up. Well you’re there now. The future is right now. You can start your way to the place where you’ve spent much of your life just thinking about. Remember this, choose the right path by always putting God first. Serve and honor people in the places where God assigned you. Trust God to give you the right opportunities at the right time. Those are the Lessons from the Quad.
Class if you’ll do something with me right now, and I’ll ask the audience to help me. If you’ll just close your eyes bow your head and audience if you’ll help me with an illustration if you’ll just snap (FINGERS) with me like this, if we can all do this together. Just keep that going. Graduates this is the sound of time. God is getting you ready for the situation and he’s getting the situation ready for you. On God’s clock, waiting time is never wasted time. Your time is now so open your eyes and go for it. Thank you.
I am grateful to Ashley Denny, the new director of Public Relations for Emmanuel College, for making it possible, and she sent me an attachment of Phillip Bowen's manuscript in a Microsoft Word document.
I have always held Phillip Bowen in high esteem since I met him many years ago. I am proud that he works with the Rev. Dr. Charles Stanley, who grew up in the Pentecostal Holiness Church. God has promoted Phillip to be the CEO of In Touch Ministries. Phillip preaches what he practices. What a gift he is to the Body of Christ. And we want to thank Mr. Henson for taking Phillip aside and walked with him to the center of the Quad on the campus of Emmanuel College. What a teachable moment when a man of great wisdom and knowledge imparted to Phillip a word that took like a vaccination.
I have learned as I have grown older that unless a young man or young woman asks me to be their mentor I am wasting my time. The young person not wanting to learn from me will build up a wall of resistance and will not be able to receive anything I would like to share with them. I greatly admire Mr. Henson for his courage and taking time with Phillip Bowen. May God add many more Hensons to that tribe of leaders.]