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Finally, you are graduating from SBC! You must be filled with excitement, great joy, and gratitude to see the fruit of all your labours. You have meticulously studied countless biblical texts, rigorously deliberated on many theological topics, and diligently practised a range of ministry skills. And now, you have finally completed all the requirements of your programme!

Finally or Henceforth?

“Finally” is repeated by the apostle Paul in many of his letters. It comes from the Greek word to loipon, which is often translated as “finally,” but also has the connotation of “hereafter,” “henceforth,” and “from now on.” So, the word refers not to the end but the beginning of a new chapter in our Christian walk!

For Paul, “finally” expresses a spirit of joy, and also marks a new journey made possible through an indefatigable strength in the Lord and a godly character.

A Spirit of Joy

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Cor 13:11 NIV)

Graduation is a joyful moment not only for you, the graduating student, but also for your many supporters who love, care, teach, mentor, and provide for you. You are to them like the Philippian Christians were to Paul — “you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown” (Phil 4:1 NIV). Many of your supporters are filled with the spirit of joy to see that, finally, you will begin to serve, lead, teach, and evangelize as a pastor, missionary, teacher, worship minister, or counsellor.

Joy is the key to effective ministry in the church and mission field. Pastors and leaders who have served the Lord faithfully for decades testify that you cannot have a long-term and effective ministry without a spirit of joy. Certainly, to be effective in any ministry, you need to invest much time and energy. You need patience and perseverance to bring your work to fruition. Yet, no great work can be accomplished without a spirit of joy in what we do.

How then may we cultivate a spirit of joy in ministry? You need to be filled by the love and peace of our God. God is love; God is our peace. Thus, the spirit of joy is the fruit of our faith in this God who brings together all things for the benefit of those who love him. With this love and peace in mind, you and your co-workers seek to cultivate a like-minded fellowship. Soon enough, you will discover that each co-worker is unique and different from the other, yet all are called to serve as one team. I pray that sooner rather than later, you will find joy in your ministry as you serve alongside your co-workers with words and deeds of love and peace.

An Indefatigable Strength in the Lord

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Eph 6:10 NIV)

Finally, you will begin to serve in the church or mission field to which God has called you. To be realistic, you are about to face massive demands by the people you will serve and the tasks you will undertake. If you go through all the details of your job scope, you will soon be overwhelmed and cry out to the Lord, “This is humanly impossible!”

However, you are not utterly unprepared for all the challenges ahead. Indeed, you have received adequate training and education to serve under any circumstances. You are the soldier of Christ that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6, with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, taking up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

All this shows that you are already equipped with the full armour of God, ever ready to engage in battle for our God, not by your own might but by our Lord’s. But beware of jumping into every battle you encounter in ministry, because not all are worth the fight. May you always pick battles that result in “the edification of the church and the urgent evangelization of the unreached.”

A Godly Character

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil 4:8 NIV)

Finally, you are ready to serve by leading and lead by serving in the place to which God has called you. Please do everything out of faithfulness and a godly character. When it comes to God’s ministry, the achievement of good performances and results ought not to be at the cost of values, character, and faithfulness. God weighs what is in our heart, and not our appearance.

In a time when character is constantly undervalued and ignored, I urge all SBC graduands, SBCians, and our co-workers: henceforth, let the godliness of your character determine the quality of your work!

Once again, congratulations to our graduands—SBCians, co-workers in the kingdom, and soldiers of Christ!