Despite the snowy weather, warm congratulations were offered to the 57 students who graduated in Cairn University’s fall commencement ceremony on Saturday, December 17, 2016. Students completed studies in traditional undergraduate, dual-level, Degree Completion, and graduate programs.
After a rendition of “O for a Heart to Praise my God” by Dr. David Shockey, Cairn President Dr. Todd J. Williams invited Provost and Sr. Vice President Dr. Brian Toews to deliver his challenge to the graduate.
Drawing from the book of Ecclesiastes, Dr. Toews reflected on the wisdom of someone with biblical and cosmopolitan perspective—the preacher in Ecclesiastes. “So then what does the preacher have to say to you, graduates of this Fall 2016 class?” Dr. Toews asked. “God wants you to live a life of joy in every possible way, to relish God’s gifts to you.”
In Ecclesiastes 9:7–10, the preacher exhorts us to “live it up,” transforming the curses of Genesis 3 into a blessed life outside the Garden. God gives us gifts as outward signs of God’s grace, and the preacher speaks specifically about four areas of our lives:
Eating and Drinking
The first is eating and drinking. The preacher recommends we eat and drink in happiness and in good cheer. God wants us to rejoice and joy His good gifts. He wants us to be grateful for these gifts and for us to relish them. Dr. Toews states, “The joy and happiness come from God Himself.”
Next, the preacher talks about clothing. In Genesis, we see Adam and Eve’s attempt to hide their nakedness after disobeying God and eating from the tree. Clothing serves as a reminder that only God can cover our sin. The preacher also mentions oil, and oil would equate to their version of perfume and cologne. “It is a gift of God that we feel good in our clothes,” Dr. Toews states. “Just like eating and drinking and rejoicing in that, [fine clothing] is a visible sign of God’s grace… being thankful for how He clothes us, just like He clothes the fields. It is a source of joy from our gracious God.”
Joy in Marriage
While marriage can be challenging, the preacher says that marriage is “like an oasis of joy.” Dr. Toews explains that marriage is a gift for this time alone. The Apostle Paul also tells us in 1 Timothy 4 that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude, for it is sanctified by means of the Word of God and prayer.”
Work with All Your Might
The preacher tells us work is a gift from the Lord, and, even though it is filled with toil, there is great grace. Dr. Toews reminds us that we are to do our work heartily for God, not for men. Just as marriage is a gift for the present time, he explains, our vocations will not exist in the world to come. However, Dr. Toews assures us that our work matters: “The contribution that you will make in the church. society. and world, though be it limited and temporary, will resound into eternity… It is God’s will that you make a difference through your service to Christ.”
Dr. Toews clarifies that living a life of joy does not mean living by the mantra “carpe diem” or “YOLO” (You Only Live Once). These phrases are devoid of the fear of God, individualistic, selfish, and indulgent in one’s desires for pleasure and fun. Living a life of joy means seizing the gifts of God in the fear of the Lord, in the joy of the Lord, and for the glory of the Lord.