This is graduation season. Thousands are graduating from high school. Some will be going to the next level of education and some into the full time work force. As they will soon discover, life is full of surprises and challenges that they have not anticipated. When we look back at our life in retrospect we all have some things that we would do different. As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.
I have been thinking, now that I am in my twilight years, if I could go back to my 18 year old self and give him some advice what would I tell him? Or what if I could speak to an audience of 18 year old high school graduates, what advice would I give them? Three things come to my mind as I anticipate this conversation.
Make sure of your salvation – If you ask the average religious person on the street, “If you died tonight are your sure that you would go to heaven?” They would probably say I am not sure, or I hope so, or no I am not sure. This is the most important aspect of life to settle. The scripture tells us in 1 John 5:13, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” Salvation that Jesus gives us is a “know so” salvation. When we trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for our sin, and put our trust in Him for our salvation, He gives us eternal life. (John 3:16)
Why is it important to settle our salvation? It gives us inner peace and assurance that heaven is our home. Also, at salvation we get Jesus is in us, changing and conforming us to His image. It gives us confidence that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We now have a “belongingness and an identity.” We are a child of God that is positionally “seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We are now on a spiritual journey, not trying to work our way to heaven, but moving toward spiritual maturity that allows us to be salt and light to the world.
Set your moral compass – There are many voices that are clamoring for your attention. If you don’t set your moral compass early on, then the many voices around you will determine your direction. There are two primary models of moral compasses, the moral compass of culture and the moral compass of the Bible. Your level of peace, contentment, satisfaction, happiness and inner joy is directly related to which moral compass you follow. If you follow the cultural model your moral compass will change as the culture changes. Your morality will reflect the movement and trends of the culture. You will have no moral absolutes because when the trends of culture change so will you.
But if your moral compass is based on a biblical model then your morality is driven by truth. You have a set of absolutes that guide your life. These absolutes are given by the wisdom of God. He gave us these moral principles based on His foreknowledge. He knows what happens to humans when they reject the moral absolutes of scripture.
Having moral absolutes takes a lot of pressure off trying to conform to cultural demands. Your moral compass will always guide you in the right direction. The moral compass also includes the indwelling life of Christ and the Holy Spirit to guide you in all your decisions.
Let go of your life – The most important command of Scripture is to “love the Lord God with all your heart, mind and soul.” In other words, live life in a state of full surrender and abandonment to the will of God. Happiness is always found when you are willing to surrender all your dreams and plans to the Lord. Does that mean that you don’t plan for your future and work toward success in your profession? No, it just means as you plan and dream ask the Lord to guide in the direction that pleases Him and fulfills His will for your life.
This is where having a correct moral compass comes into play. Instead of trying to keep up with the trends of culture, you are able to avoid the mental struggle of being like everyone else. You realize that God loves you and has made you unique to the whole world. He has a plan for your life that will suit your natural gifting and that will bring joy, happiness and inner peace to your heart. That can only happen if you are willing to let go of your life and trust God with your future.
There are things in life that happen that we can’t explain or change… that’s just life. But there are many things in life that we can prevent or change if we had the proper tools to make those decisions
When you are sure of your salvation it gives you the boldness to believe that God is always with you to navigate every challenge of life. When we set our moral compass it gives us confidence that we are not going to throw away our life on the whims of the culture. Because we have a compass, it always points in the right direction. When we practice letting go of our life, then we open ourselves to all sorts of possibilities to serve others and give God the glory in the process.
Now that you are older, what advice would you give your 18 year old self? It’s never too late to apply these principles to your life.