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319 Southwestern graduates urged never to give up ministry quest

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–With so many other more lucrative career options, some people might question why anyone would choose to go to seminary and prepare for ministry.

At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s spring commencement, President Kenneth S. Hemphill drew from Philippians 3 to give an answer to the 319 graduates and the 3,000-plus friends and family members gathered at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, May 19.

In the passage, Hemphill noted, the apostle Paul listed his earthly accomplishments and then said that “these things that once were of value to me, I count it as loss for the sake of Christ.”

“There may be some of you parents and grandparents who are here today … who were a bit surprised, maybe even disappointed, some years ago when a son or daughter came in … and they said, ‘Guess what, Mom, Dad, I’m going to seminary,'” Hemphill said.

He added that some parents must have looked at what they had already invested in their children’s education and at the average salary of pastors and missionaries and wondered why their children chose the ministry.

“The testimony stands almost the same as Paul, and that is all of these earthly accomplishments that any of us could achieve meant nothing in order that we might gain Christ,” Hemphill said.

“Once we discover Christ and we know him to be the center of our life and we understand that there are so many millions upon millions of people around the globe who have never known this great peace and this great joy, it becomes a quest, a powerful quest” to tell others, Hemphill stated.

The graduating students earned 371 diplomas, master’s degrees and doctorates from the seminary. The students represented 31 states from Hawaii to Rhode Island, one U.S. territory and 13 foreign countries.

In his commencement address, Hemphill pointed out three lessons from Philippians 3:12-14 for the graduates.

The first, he said, is to persevere, to “press on.”

Some graduates, Hemphill noted, think that earning a degree means that they have arrived, when in reality they have a lifetime of learning and growing ahead.

“I hope that you would make it a quest of your lifetime to continue to grow in Christ, to continue to grow in your knowledge and wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man,” he said.

He challenged the graduates to be like Paul and not settle for too little but to strive to the goal of knowing God’s fullness in order to exhibit God’s fullness.

The second lesson is to disregard the past, Hemphill said.

“I’m sure some of you sitting there this morning are wondering how in God’s grace you could ever be in this point in time,” he said. “You look at your past, you look at some of the failings of the past, you look at some of the false starts at your spiritual life, even while you’re here.”

Pursuing Christ, Hemphill continued, requires moving beyond the bitterness of past sins. The memory of a forgiven sin, he said, is not the work of the Holy Spirit because when God forgives sin, he remembers it no more.

“When you’re plagued by the memories of past failures you need to understand it’s the work of the adversary to keep you from moving on in the quest,” Hemphill said.

Not just negative memories can slow Christians down, he said.

“The recollection of past attainments can cause us to coast,” he warned.

The third lesson emphasized the importance of looking to the future.

Hemphill recounted a devotional time that he had with the Dallas Cowboys when he asked, “Will it matter that you’ve lived?”

He told the players they will be forgotten soon after they retire. “Is there an investment that you’re making in eternity?” Hemphill asked.

Turning the question to Southwestern’s graduates, Hemphill said, “Most of you will probably labor in great obscurity, but it doesn’t matter if earthly people give you a crown, but the question is when you stand before him, will he say, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’?”

“You’ve made a good beginning,” he told the students. “Run the race well.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CRUTCHLEY AT GRADUATION and SOUTHWESTERN GRADUATION.

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  • Matt Sanders