While COVID-19 prevented an in-person spring graduation ceremony at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), it did not stop faculty, staff and students from celebrating 288 seminary and college graduates virtually on May 15.
Preaching from Hebrews 12:1-3, SEBTS President Danny Akin challenged graduates to run the Christian race with endurance.
“We did not want to pass this opportunity to congratulate you on the work that you’ve done and to recognize you and this marvelous accomplishment,” Akin said.
In Hebrews 11, the writer recounted heroes of the faith who trusted God throughout their lives and finished their races with excellence. In the first verse of chapter 12, the believer must beware of “the sin that so easily ensnares us.” Akin said he believes the phrase references the sin of unbelief, which causes a person to think Jesus plus something else will bring ultimate fulfillment.
“Once you add anything to the Lord, you now live in the world of unbelief,” Akin said. “No, as you run this race, my prayer is that you will always discover and always find that Jesus is always sufficient for everything you need. Keep your faith in Him.”
Running with endurance does not just mean starting well, but also finishing the Christian race well. In Hebrews 12:2-3, the writer reminds believers to have their focus narrowly fixed on Jesus and nothing else. Akin told graduates that when life and ministry challenge them, Hebrews 12:3 is an encouragement.
“Wherever you go, whatever you do, keep looking to Jesus,” Akin said. “And I can promise you this: He’s the one who got you in the race; He is the one who will keep you in the race, and He is the one who will get you to the finish line.”
The online celebration service included a congratulatory message from the college, graduate and doctoral deans at SEBTS.
Scott Pace, dean of The College at Southeastern, encouraged graduates to work with excellence as they minister to others.
“Be faithful with your gifts,” Pace said. “Be faithful with the gospel. Go make a difference for Christ in the Church, among the nations or in whatever aspect of society God has called you to serve.”
Keith Whitfield, dean of graduate studies, reminded graduate students of their calling to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.
“We’ve not invested in you merely to give you a piece of paper,” Whitfield said. “You [came to Southeastern] because you believe God has placed a calling upon your life. We can’t wait to see where God uses you and how He uses you in the years to come.”
Chuck Lawless, dean of doctoral studies, exhorted advanced degree students to use their higher education to further Great Commission work around the world.
“I challenge you to use your degrees not to set yourself apart from others,” he said, “but rather to serve the local church and the nations.”
To conclude the virtual celebration, hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty appeared via video to lead those watching in the seminary hymn, “For the Cause,” which they wrote and produced in 2016.
SEBTS invited all Spring 2020 graduates to walk at the Fall 2020 commencement ceremony on Dec. 11 at 10 a.m. EST.
View the full celebration service below.