What an accomplishment! It’s been a long, hard journey, but as you flip that tassel from one side of your cap to the other, you realize that you’ve really accomplished something in life and nobody can take it away from you.

However, it will soon begin to sink in that graduation is not a starting place, but a resting place. Your journey’s just begun, and there will be many more mountains to climb up ahead. Your success in life may be determined by the very next step you take, the day after graduation.

The word graduation comes from the same root as the word gradual. It’s not so much an accomplishment, but part of a process, which is often painfully slow. First grade was a whole year long; so was second grade, and third, fourth, fifth and sixth. On through high school and college, it’s the same: one grade at a time, one course at a time, one degree at a time. When you graduate, you don’t put grades behind you; they’re just given different names. If you go into military service, ranks come slowly and have to be earned by hard effort. In the work world, we call grades promotions, but it’s the same story, step-by-step, little-by-little, graduation by graduation.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to have this attitude in our spiritual lives, as well as in everything else we do:

I have not yet reached my goal, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14, paraphrased)

“Straining forward,” “pressing on,” “the prize of the high call.” You should settle for no less than this as you take the next steps beyond your graduation. Someone has said, “If you’re not climbing up, you’re probably sliding down.” Keep moving forward and upward.

Now all of this is for you young folk, full of vim and vigor, with unlimited open doors ahead of you. We older dudes are kind of sliding down the other side of the mountain range.

No, says the Apostle Paul. God has designed you so that, miraculously, you never stop graduating. In his second letter to the Corinthian Church, he makes this startling claim:

Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Just a few paragraphs earlier, he uses a different metaphor:

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Those of us whose outer nature may be wasting away, due to aging, or sickness, or just the weakness of the flesh, can still be constantly graduating, from grade to grade, from step to step, from one degree of glory to another.

It’s a miracle! Congratulations, graduates!

— Pastor George Van Alstine