Delighted and Discerning: An Address to Graduates from Dr. Steve Grill
The following is one of our 2021 Graduation addresses given by the beloved professor of our online master’s of nonprofit management program, Dr. Steve Grill.
If I promise you that you won’t be graded, will you take one last pop quiz at Grace?
- In January of 2020 (16 months ago), how many of you had you ever heard of Covid-19?
- How many of you today have had parts of your lives significantly changed by Covid-19?
- Since Covid-19 has begun affecting your life, how many of you think that God has stopped loving you or showing you His Grace?
Thinking about those three questions led me to my topic for this address, and it can be summed up in a famous 19th Century saying, “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.” Specifically, I’d like to challenge all of you to display two attitudes towards the changes that are coming in your lives and two attitudes related to the wonderful “stability” of God’s love in our lives.
I’m confident that this topic is relevant for you today as you graduate from Grace because I know it would have been relevant for me exactly 50 Grace College commencement ceremonies ago when I was sitting exactly where you are sitting.
So, let’s begin by looking at the first half of our topic sentence, “The more things change.”
I know the vast amount of changes that have taken place in my world since I was sitting in your seat. So I’m confident your world is going to change as much, or more, than mine has. For example, when I sat through my Grace graduation ceremony, I had never seen a computer, and I barely knew they existed. The thought that I would ever access one was totally foreign to me. But eventually I came to possess my own personal computer. I soon learned about the growing capabilities it offered to me; it corrected my spelling, improved my grammar, and even did research for me! (Unfortunately, all of this occurred after I had completed my seven years of graduate work!)
Well, over the years more changes in computers occurred; they became more portable and their capabilities increased dramatically. They helped us email, text, access Facebook and they served as telephones, cameras & video recorders. These amazing changes occurred in my world after I graduated from Grace and amazing changes will occur in your world. And there are two attitudes I recommend you uphold as you face these changes.
- Be delighted by the changes.
Look at the dramatic potential of how these major changes can make your life easier and more enjoyable. Consider how they make you more effective in your future occupations and ministry. Be delighted as those changes come your way.
- But also have an attitude of discernment.
Please realize that change can bring unintended consequences. For example, I began my college teaching career at Grace in the Fall of 1971. I taught interpersonal communication classes where it was my job to help students understand how to formulate an idea, put that idea into words and then transmit those words to someone else in a way that would make them understand. And I must tell you, interpersonal communication is an amazing skill and an amazing thrill when it is done effectively. But it seems to this old communication professor, that the skill and thrill of such personal communication is being eroded as we glue our eyes on our miniature screens instead of looking our companions in the eye. I’m concerned that my grandchildren and your grandchildren will lose the skill and the thrill of face to face communication.
So, changes should cause you to be delighted but they should also cause you to be discerning!
Fortunately, the second half of our topic sentence, “the more things stay the same” is the most important reality in our lives. And Grace College has made us continually aware of the wonderful, unchanging stability of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our college theme verses say it eloquently (Ephesians 2: 8 & 9), “For by Grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God. Not of works lest anyone boast.”
Because our Heavenly Father loves us, He showed us grace and provided us the gift of His Son’s death to atone for our sins. We didn’t deserve that gift and we can’t earn that gift; but our only obligation is to have faith in Jesus and to accept the gift of eternal life through Him. In spite of all the changes that will come your way, that’s the important stability in your lives!
That was true for me 50 years ago when I graduated. It’s true for you today. And it will be true 50 years from now when hopefully your grandchildren are graduating from Grace College.
And what two attitudes do I recommend for you to have towards that wonderful stability? (Hint: look back at the first two!)
- Delight in Christ’s unchanging love for us on a daily basis.
Let’s be more excited each day about God’s grace to us than we are excited about what some computer can do for us.
- Have an attitude of discernment concerning your relationship with God through Jesus.
In the future, when any change comes along that hinders your relationship with God — reject it. And, in the future, when any change in our culture comes along that wants to cancel your ability to share the story of God’s grace — reject it. God will bless you for sharing his gospel in spite of what the world says.
In conclusion, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Your future will be filled with amazing changes. That’s certain. And I strongly recommend that your attitudes toward those changes include delight as well as discernment. At the same time, choose to be even more delighted with God’s never-changing love for you as well as His grace to you. And be particularly discerning if any future change attempts to cancel your ability to share to others the story of God’s grace.
At Grace, we want our graduates to leave delighted, yet discerning in all areas of their lives — in academics, in relationships, and most of all, in their faith.
Is this the kind of preparation that you want to receive?