'Be strong in the Spirit,' Patterson tells grads

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- There are three characteristics of Jesus that each of the fall graduates of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary should carry with them, Paige Patterson, the seminary's president, said during his commencement message. The first of those characteristics, he said, is to be strong in the spirit.

"We live in a day of great strengths," Patterson said as he shared his message from Luke 2:40 during the ceremony in MacGorman Chapel. The ceremony saw 167 graduates receive degrees for undergraduate, master's and doctoral studies.

"There are military strengths that seem to increase day by day," he said Dec. 13. "We have strength in economy, or at least on some days we do. We have strength in intellectual prowess. But in fact we have greater weakness in the world today than we have ever known.

"We live in a world of continual, ongoing, unmedicated weakness. And my first admonition to you today, young people, is that you follow in the path of Jesus by being strong in the spirit. And in that strength of spirit, you witness to a weakened generation that is struggling with their hands out of the water, reaching for whatever help can come to them in the time of their near demise."

The second characteristic, he shared, is be filled with wisdom. Patterson said wisdom stems from spending time reading God's Word.

"Don't be so busy that you don't have that time with the Lord," he said, "because it is in that time that you spend with God that wisdom is brought back to your mind that you've read in the Word of God. And it is applied to every life situation, first your own and then to that of those who so desperately need to hear."

Patterson said Scripture's third declaration of Jesus was, "the grace of God was upon him."

"You cannot succeed on your own," he said. "Many graduates going out from institutions all over this country during these days are out there to be better bankers and better lawyers and better physicians, and much of what they do can be done on the basis of their studies that they have accomplished.

"The studies that you have accomplished will doubtless be of assistance to you … but let it be known to you that your task transcends the physical realm. Your task, unlike all of theirs, is a task that reaches into the heart of a man -- to that part of a man that cannot be helped by anything physical. If there is help to be garnered from you … then it must be because the grace of God is upon you."

Tim Stobaugh, who came to the College at Southwestern in 2006 after spending more than 20 years as a cattle and dairy farmer, says his education helped broaden his horizon. He was one of 17 graduates from the college.

"My daughter, wife and son were my cheerleaders," he said. "I didn't want to walk across the stage, because it seems like a pride thing, but my family would have torn my head off if I didn't."

Stobaugh said he had "tunnel vision" before attending Southwestern. "If it didn't have cattle or dairy farming, I didn't see it," he said. "But now I can. It's been a great ride."

The relationships Stobaugh built during his time at Southwestern will be missed the most, he said.

"Walking through Fort Worth Hall, there was an open door policy, so you could just go in and have a conversation with a professor," he said. "[And] at what other university campus can you just run into the president of the university and talk to him and his dog about anything?"

Patterson's final words to graduates came in the form of a prayer.

"I want to pray for them today that wisdom might accompany their every step," he said. "That they would be strong in the Spirit. And I pray, Lord, that they may always be known to all the public as men and women upon whom the grace of God is residing."

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Alex Sibley is a news writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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