Dear Graduates: Don't Waste Your Life – Follow God Fully!
Along life’s journey, we sometimes find ourselves at crossroads from which we may turn in a number of different directions. The teen years are one of those crossroads perhaps the most major crossroads of all. Are you going to go on to further education? Or are you going to join the workforce? Are you going to enter the medical field or the history field? Are you going to apprentice? Each of these questions is one part of a larger question: “How will you spend the rest of your life?”
Recently, I asked this very question to a fifty-year-old man who sat next to me on an airplane. He had just retired. Do you know what he answered? “I plan to spend it golfing in Florida.” When I quizzed him more closely, he had to admit that that really wasn’t a very exciting or useful life.
Dear graduates, I beg of you just one thing: whatever you do, don’t waste your life. Most young people today waste their life. I don’t want any of you to do the same. You are so full of potential. The possibilities ahead of you are almost endless. But be careful: most of those possibilities involve wasting your life. We live in a broken world, surrounded by people who are doing nothing more than wasting their life. Imagine the glory God would receive if all of you graduates gathered here tonight did not fall into that mold. Imagine the glorious future you could have if every single one of you refused to follow the crowd, but determined to live the one type of life that isn’t wasted: a life of following God fully.
The Spies: Majority and Minority Reports
Remember the twelve spies that went on a scouting mission into Canaan? You recall what happened. The spies came back and they all agreed on two things: the land was amazing, but it was filled with giant warriors. Ten of the spies therefore brought back a majority report that counseled the people to forget about trying to enter the land that God had promised them. There was no way they were going to be able to defeat the giants who lived there. But two of the spies disagreed. They offered a minority report that counseled the people to get ready to enter the land. Yes, there were giants there, but God had promised them this land and He would defeat the giants, no matter how strong they were. One of those spies was Caleb. This is what the Bible says about Caleb in Numbers 14:24:
But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land where into he went; and his seed shall possess it.
Caleb was a man who followed God fully – not halfheartedly. This is what God demands of you: that you follow Him fully. The other and admittedly easier option is to waste your life. Many around you are choosing that option. Don’t do it. Don’t follow the crowd. Don’t waste your life. Live for God fully.
So what does following God fully mean? What does that sort of life look like? Does it mean that all the guys are supposed to become ministers and all the girls are supposed to become minister’s wives? Is that what it means? Are ministers the only ones who follow God fully? Absolutely not! There are nurses who follow God fully. There are mechanics who follow God fully. There are lawyers who follow God fully. There are farmers who follow God fully. I’m not talking about an occupation. I’m talking about a way of life.
Needed: The New Birth and the Holy Spirit
To follow God fully, you obviously first need to be born again. You need the Holy Spirit – that same Spirit Caleb had, for “there was another spirit within him.” Caleb possessed the Holy Spirit of faith rather than the human spirit of unbelief. You need the grace of the Holy Spirit to repent of your sins and believe the gospel, to hate sin and worldliness and to love the Savior, to lose your own righteousness and find all righteousness in Jesus Christ. You need to realize that only when you are saved by grace can you truly live out of gratitude to God’s glory, which is the purpose for which God put you here on this earth.
As long as you’re not saved and don’t resolve by God’s grace to live to His glory, you are missing the very purpose of your existence. You can’t begin to follow God without conversion, much less follow Him fully.
If you don’t live for God’s glory, your life will be a failure. You can have the best job in the world, a great spouse and great kids, be good-looking and popular and smart, but if you don’t live for God, your life will be wasted. You will only end in hell. You must be born again.
Being born again is the beginning of a new life, a grand adventure with God. So, what does it mean then for a true Christian to follow God fully? Very briefly, it means four things.
Follow God Consistently
First, it means to follow God consistently. There are many who follow God in fits and starts. Their lives include periods of zeal and holiness, but also periods of laziness and sinfulness. They are not consistent in their walk with God. Their spiritual life and their spiritual efforts are like a roller coaster: up and down, up and down. This month they’re on fire, the next month they’re as cold as ice. Those who follow God fully follow Him consistently – not just on Sundays, but every day. Not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard. That’s what Caleb did. He refused to yield to murmuring rebels who surrounded him for forty years in the wilderness. He was determined to follow God consistently, even if it meant rejection by his peers. My young friends, if you don’t want to waste your life, you must, like Caleb, seek grace to follow God consistently (Mark 10:26, 27; Acts 5:31; 11:18; Luke 11:1-15).
Follow God Sincerely
Second, following God fully also means following Him sincerely. It means following Him with all your heart because He is holy and beautiful and lovable. This means that we must be willing to sacrifice all for Him, to suffer through anything for Him. That’s what Caleb did. When the Israelites picked up stones to stone Caleb to death because he said that Israel should go into the land of Canaan, Caleb didn’t flinch or compromise. He was determined to follow God sincerely, even if it would mean his life. If our following God is sincere, nothing will be able to keep us from Him. Seek grace to follow God, like Caleb, with your entire being, from the depths of your heart.
Follow God Holistically
Third, following God fully means following God holistically. Caleb didn’t pick and choose which commands of God he felt like doing, but did whatever the Lord told him to do, no matter the cost. His obedience was not partial, halting obedience, but holistic, complete obedience.
The tendency of many who set out to follow God is to divide life into a number of different compartments. Work is one compartment, play is another, and religion is another. But those who follow God fully follow Him holistically. That is, they follow Him and all of His commandments in every single area of their lives. They want their choice of a life-partner, of an education and an occupation, and of the way they look at everything – whether politics or science to be God-directed, God-centered, God-glorifying. They don’t try to find loopholes or sneak inconsistencies into their lives so that they can enjoy a little sin here or there. No, they follow God fully in every area of their lives. Pray for grace to do that, just like Caleb did.
Follow God Exclusively
Lastly, those who follow God fully follow God exclusively. Since Caleb made God his preeminent pursuit, God can say of Caleb, “Caleb is my servant – that is, his whole life is freely surrendered and consecrated to Me and My will.” In your life, you will encounter all sorts of influences and influencers. Those who follow God fully follow only Him and others who are also following Him. They will follow none but their Master Jesus. They want Christ to be the center and purpose of all they think, say, and do. Like Paul, they strive to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. They want their entire life to be lived solus Christus – that is, to Christ and His glory alone. Pray for grace to be exclusive followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Caleb didn’t waste his life. When we are first introduced to him, the Bible tells us that he “followed God fully.” Then, after another forty years of wandering in the wilderness and after fierce battles with the Canaanites, Caleb, now an old man, is rewarded “because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel” (Josh. 14:14). After all those years and trials, difficulties and temptations, Caleb is described as one who wholly followed the Lord. He didn’t waste his life. He lived it to the fullest!
God’s Rich Promise Fulfilled
In the end, God fulfilled His own promise for Caleb: “him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.” God preserved Caleb’s life, gave Caleb the promised inheritance, and even had his children follow in his steps in the Promised Land. When all the people of Israel – millions of them – were too afraid to fight the giants of Anak, Caleb believed that God could grant them the victory (Eph. 2:8). And when he returned to that land forty years later, Joshua 15:14 tells us that it was Caleb who defeated the giants, the sons of Anak. Imagine that: when Caleb was in his eighties, he and his sons singlehandedly defeated the giants – those very giants that two million Israelites feared they couldn’t conquer! Where were those millions now who had chosen not to follow God fully? Their corpses were rotting in the wilderness. Any life other than a life lived fully and faithfully for Jesus is a waste.
Over the centuries, young men and women have lived incredible lives for Christ. Who were they? What was unique about them? In themselves, nothing. They were sinners like you and me. But by the grace of God, they became incredible trophies of God’s glory. That same grace is available to every single one of you (Luke 11:8-10), and Christ is recruiting followers today.
Graduates, you are at a crossroads in your life. What career will you pursue, what occupation will you enter? Before you answer any of those questions, you must answer this one: will you waste your life, or will you follow God fully? There’s a saying: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” In the coming months and years, you will be bombarded with messages from almost every angle: live for money, live for your career, live for the weekend, live for sex, live for cars, live for religion, live for rules, live for reputation. All of those messages just boil down to one pathetic message: waste your life. Will you live for those things and waste your life, or will you live for Christ and be amazed at the incredible things God can do for you and through you?
“You were right, Davey!”
You may have heard of David Livingstone (1813-1873), the great missionary and explorer who traveled all over Africa and was used for the conversion of thousands of people. When he was a young boy, he had a close friend at school. The two of them spent much time together and, during that time, Livingstone was saved, whereas the other boy was not. David tried his utmost to convince his friend to seek Christ and repent. He knew that the way to live life was to empty oneself and sacrifice all for Christ, but his friend was convinced that the best life would be found in the pursuit of money, pleasure, and leisure – large amounts of it.
When Livingstone eventually died, his body was brought back to England and he was given a state funeral at Westminster. Thousands of people lined the streets to pay homage to this great missionary and explorer. One of the onlookers was very impressed with the honor paid to Livingstone. Directly in front of him in the crowd stood another man in ragged clothes who, as the hearse passed in front of them, muttered under his breath: “You were right, Davey. You were right.” This intrigued the first man and, after the procession had passed, he asked him, “What did you mean by those words: ‘You were right, Davey?’” The ragged man replied:
You see, David and I went to school together and he tried to convince me to give up everything for Christ. I refused and was sure that I could live a far better life if only I pursued money. I spent my life in the business world and eventually lost everything. I have nothing: no money and no friends. I see now that Davey was right.
Dear graduates, will you not pray yourself, “Great God of heaven, as I prepare to cross over into the adult world, help me not to waste my life. Help me not to side with the majority report of this world, but let me stand firm for the minority report of Caleb and Joshua, trusting in Thy promises. Let me be a Caleb, a Livingstone, who follows Thee fully.”