"THE MOMENT I HAVE BEEN WAITING
Written and preached by David P. Nolte
We frequently arrive at some pivotal moment in our lives when we say,
"This is it! This is the moment I have been waiting for!" Graduation is
such a moment. After what sometimes seemed an interminable round of classes,
assignments, lessons and tests, when you complete your senior year of high
school or college, you can say, "This is it! This is the moment I have
been waiting for!" Oh, by no means is graduation the terminus! Oh, no!
There is much more ahead, hopefully. Graduation marks a point to which
you have grown, and a point from which you must continue to grow. Even
if your school years ended long ago, there are lessons to be learned, instruction
to be received, and maturity to be attained. As we honor our graduates
today, and recognize the level to which they have attained, I want to tell
you about a young man named Ron Arney. Ron was from the Woodburn Christian
Church and was a student at the then Puget Sound College of the Bible in
Seattle, Washington. Ron was a participant in the Traveling College that
went to several different countries for learning opportunities. He truly
wanted to learn as much of God's word as possible. We can gain some valuable
insights as we consider this young man and as we look to Stephen and our
text. What should we realize?
Ron was a student preparing to serve Christ. He and his classmates, taking
a break from studies, were swimming in the surf off the north end of Luzon
Island in the Philippines when a shark attacked. Ron's leg was severed
below the knee. He was carried to shore by his friends. Emergency crews
applied artificial respiration. Frantic effort was put into saving the
young man's life. But Ron Arney died from loss of blood in spite of all
that was done to save him. Charles Selby, a missionary in the islands said,
"In my 26 years here I cannot recall anyone being injured or killed by
a shark." What a lot of questions that raised: "Why now?" "Why Ron?" "What
good can come of this?" When catastrophic events shake our world we can
still be students. We can still gain insight. Of what else, then, should
we be aware?
WE ARE ALL STUDENTS IN LIFE:
The religious leaders didn't consider themselves students; they had nothing
to learn; they were know-it-alls!
None of us has reached that place where we can say, as did an arrogant
school mate of mine, "At the rate I am learning, by the time I graduate
there will be nothing left for me to learn!" We are all students in life;
there is always something more to learn.
Some lessons pertain to this life, and others to eternity. Both have their
value and place in the scheme of learning.
Some temporal lessons, valuable none-the-less, we ought to learn include:
The work ethic. Proverbs
18:9 teaches us that "He also who is slack in his work Is brother
to him who destroys."
Wise use of our time. Ephesians
5:15, 16 reminds us, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not
as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days
To serve one another. Jesus taught "Whoever wishes to become great among
you shall be your servant;" Mark
To benefit from poor choices. Don't whine about your mistakes or keep repeating
them, learn from them.
To accept personal responsibility. If you mess up, it's not your parents'
fault, it's not society's fault, so assume accountability for your own
Some lessons with eternal ramifications, even more valuable, include:
To deal with temptation. We are all tempted in many ways, but if we succumb,
if we yield, if we indulge, we enter into sin which separates us from God.
To walk by faith so that one day we may receive that for which we have
To live godly and holy lives. Paul wrote saying, "for bodily discipline
is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since
it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." 1
To really worship God. Many desire a religion of excitement rather than
to be excited about their religion. They want worship that centers on their
needs and emotions rather than focusing on His Worthiness to be worshiped.
To live with one another in a kind and forgiving manner. We will have to
spend eternity with some people we don't care for much here. Better learn
to live in love and peace.
To love the Lord our God with all our being: heart and soul and mind and
strength. If you don't love Him in time, you won't love Him any more in
Sometimes lessons are slow learned because, like those who stoned Stephen,
we are stubborn, proud, lazy, complacent and we just don't care.
We'd all admit that the untimely death of a young ministry student forced
upon his loved ones lessons that were difficult to learn. But Ron had something
even better to teach. As he died he lifted his eyes to heaven and said,
"God, I love you. This is the moment I have been waiting for." He taught
more in those sentences than he might have in years of preaching. Then,
earth receded, heaven drew near, Ron was gone from here, and present there.
For those left behind, a tragedy; for Ron, eternal victory. He never finished
his college courses -- but with Paul could say, "I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in
store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous
Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all
who have longed for his appearing." 2
Timothy 4:7, 8. That's the greatest graduation we will ever
WE OUGHT TO LEARN EVEN THE
DIFFICULT LESSONS: 54:
The religious leaders found Stephen's lesson distasteful; his were difficult
words; they gnashed their teeth at him; they resisted what he tried to
Sometimes the courses are demanding, sometimes the assignments are painful,
sometimes the homework is distasteful. But that well known institution
of higher learning we call "The School Of Hard Knocks" matriculates us
all from time to time. We all sit under the professor we know as Hard Experience.
Here are a few of life's difficult lessons; they are taught, frequently,
in adversity, suffering, privation, and hardship:
We should have learned that life is not always easy. Jesus said, "These
things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world
you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John
We should have learned that even the innocent suffer. Consider Jesus Christ
the sinless Son of God of whom we read, "For since He Himself was tempted
in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who
are tempted." Hebrews
We should have learned that things don't always go as we purpose and plan.
"The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is
from the Lord." Proverbs
We should have learned that life is fragile and uncertain. "Yet you do
not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that
appears for a little while and then vanishes away." James
We should have learned to express our love while there is time, instead
of waiting to do so weeping beside a grave. When Absalom died, David was
deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. "And thus
he said as he walked, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would
I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" 2
Samuel 18:33. David lamented his son in death but scarcely expressed
love in life.
We should have learned that we have a choice in how we respond to life's
catastrophes. We can become bitter or better; we can become griping or
grateful. James says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter
various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." James
We should have learned that we can keep going long after we think we can't.
Paul's words prove true, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens
me." Philippians 4:13.
We should have learned that in the greatest sorrow there is peace; in the
deepest darkness there is a spark of light; in the utmost pain there is
healing; and in the midst of despair there is hope. Listen to what the
Bible says about that: "Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of
joy comes in the morning." Psalms
In college I took some courses we jokingly called, "Underwater Basket Weaving"
classes; we didn't consider them useful or pertinent. But we had to take
them to graduate. Some of those very classes I wish now I had given more
attention. In life, there are some lessons we'd just as soon skip. But
is it often those very lessons that are most valuable to us.
Unlike those who gnashed their teeth at Stephen and refused to learn, may
we be willing students. May we learn even the unpleasant lessons of life.
God says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should
go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or
as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and
bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you." Psalms
On December 9, 1973 Ron Arney's body was laid to rest. His body, not Ron
himself. His greatest graduation had come. It will come for each of us,
too. There's no escaping it. "It is appointed for men to die once and after
this comes judgment." Hebrews
9:27. It will be
a day of lamentation or celebration, of loss or gain, of hell or heaven.
Which will it be for you? For those who have made Jesus Christ Lord of
life, it will be a day of honor, rejoicing, celebration and joy. What you
do with Him now determines your destiny then. Jesus calls us to follow
and to learn of Him; to do so assures us of graduating with honors; that
will truly be the moment we have been waiting for!
IF WE ARE FAITHFUL, WE WILL GRADUATE WITH HONORS: 59:
Stephen didn't die; he went to Life eternal! For the believer in Jesus
Christ, "It is not death to die! The body falls asleep, the spirit flies
away to God who promises to keep!"
Listen to these promises:
Hear Paul's words: "And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control
in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an
imperishable. " 1 Corinthians
Hear James' words: "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once
he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord
has promised to those who love Him." James
Hear Peter's words: "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive
the unfading crown of glory." 1
And most importantly, hear Jesus' words: "Do not fear what you are about
to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison,
that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful
until death, and I will give you the crown of life." Revelation
And: "Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few
things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of
your master." Matthew
Faithfulness, not success is the demand; fidelity, not achievement is the
requirement; loyalty, not accomplishment is what He insists upon. Ron Arney
and Stephen both manifested and died by that faith.
There is no greater achievement than to live for Jesus Christ, there is
no greater joy than doing His will, there is no greater honor than hearing
Him say, "Well done!"
Gospel Log, Puget Sound Christian College, Edmonds, Washington.
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