Believers, children of God, are considered “God’s instruments to do His work and speak out for Him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:9 MSG). Today, the big questions we should ask ourselves: Are you speaking out for Him? Is your life telling others of a difference He has made by your example? Are you praising God with your words and deeds?
The word excellencies is translated from “ἀρετάς” which literally means “virtue.” The only other time it is used in the New Testament is in Philippians 4:8: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT). This same word is used in Isaiah 43:21, where we read: “the people I formed for Myself that they may proclaim my praise” (NIV). The New Living Translation states, “I have made Israel for Myself, and they will someday honor me before the whole world.” Eugene Peterson’s translation describes them as “people custom-made to praise me” (MSG).
If we are to “tell about the excellent qualities of God,” it is not simply by the words we speak, but by the actions we take in life (GW). We show forth praises by our profession of Truth and by a good example. Let us examine the words we speak. Let us examine the actions we take. Are we telling people about the “excellent qualities of God” or telling them something very different? Are we professing the Truth or spewing something else?
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9 [ESV]
There will always be some things that we are very good at and some things that are not very easy to undertake. We have weaknesses. Some of us are uncoordinated. Some of us do not do well speaking in front of crowds. Some of us are not good with math. We all have something we can consider as a weakness, something that isn’t our strong suit.
When Moses was commanded to go speak to Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he was not so eager to go right away. He made excuse after excuse, and one of those excuses related to his problem with speech. Eventually his brother Aaron is mentioned to assist and off Moses went after a bit of dragging of the feet.
But what do we read in Acts? Luke wrote that Moses “was powerful in speech and action.” He wasn’t so weak after all. Why? When we are weak, the strength of Christ is able to step in because of our humility to recognize we cannot do it alone. Moses was powerful in words and deeds because it was through God’s power that he spoke, and he followed through on those words. He acted. If it wasn’t for the action, the words wouldn’t have meant so much. If it wasn’t for God, he wouldn’t have been able to speak at all.
“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.” – Acts 7:22 [NIV]
Today was my graduation. When God first called me to return to school for ministry, I will admit I was hesitant. As time passed, I understood that He would see me graduate but I never considered that I would be given the title of Salutatorian and would have the opportunity to give the Benediction. As Ephesians says, God provides immeasurably more than we could ever imagine. God continues to amaze me.
Don’t underestimate God or limit what God can do in your life. Remember that He promises immeasurably more than we can imagine. I went from not considering returning to school, to applying and getting accepted, to considering if I could graduate, to considering what to write for the Benediction and what to wear for graduation. We don’t stay right where we are at–there is always change happening. We are either moving more toward God and what He has for us or we are moving in the opposite direction. Keep moving toward Him and be expectant of Him working in incredible ways in your life.
Here’s the Benediction I delivered at the Commencement Ceremony today. It is my prayer that you will make this prayer your own. You will also find a video clip containing the Benediction as well.
Commencement Ceremony Benediction
Let us pray.
Thank You Father for bringing us to this very moment,
which is not an ending but a new beginning.
Thank You for Your goodness, for Your promises,
for Your faithfulness, for Your Word.
You hold all things together.
Thank You for providing us all that we have needed to make it here today
May Your grace shine upon my fellow graduates.
May You protect those who have gathered here today to celebrate with us.
May You continue to make Your Presence be known among us.
May our hearts be open.
May our eyes be focused.
May our ears be listening to Your voice.
Lord, continue to use each one of us for Your Kingdom.
Where there is hatred, may we bring love.
Where there is darkness, may we bring light.
Where there is error, may we bring truth.
As You lead us forward on another journey
Remind us of what is good.
Help us to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with You Lord.
Now, may we move onward in peace.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
To Him be all the glory.
In Jesus’ name.
[Note: see St. Francis of Assisi, Colossians 3:17, Micah 6:8]