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Roberts encourages graduates to be ‘equipped for the journey’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Before Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on their expedition of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, they faced a difficult question, “What do we bring with us on this trip?”

Since the expedition would take them far from their supply sources, Lewis and Clark took a large quantity of supplies, focusing especially on the essentials. During the expedition, they ran out of many useful items but they never ran out of the most critical items. They were equipped for the journey.

“Are you equipped for the journey? Do you have enough of the essentials?” R. Philip Roberts asked the 2001 graduating class at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary May 19. “Are you willing to sacrifice and to do without some of the ‘pleasure-giving items’ in order to have all that you need for the future and to finish well, the ministry God has called you to?”

The remarks came as Roberts, Midwestern’s new president, gave the commencement address during the seminary’s 41st graduation service, held at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Liberty, Mo.

Drawing from Malachi 2:5-7, Roberts pointed out some of the essentials every minister of the gospel needs to complete the journey.

The first and most important essential, he said, is a deep abiding reverence for God. Malachi 2:5 says, “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear me; so he feared me and was reverent before my name.” The minister’s priority is a relationship with God, Roberts said, noting it is more important than evangelism, preaching, counseling or any task the minister does.

“If we truly respect, revere and honor God in our hearts it’s going to be evident in our sense of priorities. All else will flow from this including moral living and appropriate emphasis on evangelism and mission,” Roberts said. “Making our relationship a priority, it absolutely has to come first.”

Another essential for the journey is a trust and reliance on the truth of God’s Word. Malachi 2:6-7 reads, “The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity. ‘For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.'”

“You’ll never have to worry about content for your ministry if you stick to the truth of God’s Word,” Roberts said. “It alone is what brings power to one’s ministry. It alone is the sword of the Spirit to convict hearts and to draw them to faith in the Lord Jesus.”

Ministers of the gospel also must have a desire to live out the truth of God’s Word in their daily lives, Roberts said.

“I will tell you this, the greatest challenge for any minister will not be in the pulpit. It will be in the parsonage and in the pew with the people,” he counseled. “It is not in the telling of the Truth, it’s in the living of it. There is absolutely no shortcut to righteousness and holiness.”

Roberts also noted that the minister must have a faith that God will bring fruit from ministry.

“We should rightly expect God’s Word to be blessed and honored,” Roberts said. “When it is shared, preached and taught, it has the innate power in and of itself to produce exactly what the Lord wants for us. Fruit will come if we are faithful to do the work of the Lord.” He pointed out the visible results will vary from minister to minister just as fruit varied among the prophets and the disciples in the Bible.

Roberts left three final questions for the 64 members of Midwestern’s 2001 graduating class to ponder: “Have I walked with God? In walking with him have I obeyed him in each aspect of my ministry? May I expect to hear one day, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant’?”

During the commencement, Roberts presented Alan Tomlinson, assistant professor of New Testament and Greek, with the Professor of the Year award.

Ten academic awards also were presented: Broadman & Holman Seminarian Award to David Cobb for the highest grad point average in the graduating class; Baker Book House Award in Theology to Darian Lockett; J.J. Owens Hebrew Award to Kevin Williford; Southern Baptist Religious Education Association Award to Catherine Geary; G. Hugh Wamble Award in Church History to Mark Books; Wornall Road Baptist Church Award to Dale Tripp; LifeWay Preaching Award to Jim Albright; Wanda J. Keatley Award to Zach Meese; Lora Lee Kieser Church Music Award to Stephen Shrimplin; and Doctor of Ministry Award to Evan Todd Fisher. At a chapel earlier in the Spring semester, James “Bobby” Albers, Jr. was presented with the LifeWay Pastoral Leadership Award.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: PHIL ROBERTS.