Franklin Graham to Liberty University's Class of 2023: 'I Pray This Class Will Stand for Truth'
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Franklin Graham told Liberty University's Class of 2023 during his commencement address Friday night that his prayer for them is that they "will stand for truth."
"What's the next chapter for your life?" Graham asked the graduates. "My prayer is that this class, the class of '23 will be known as the class that stood for truth in a world overflowing with wickedness, deception, and lies. I pray this class will stand for truth."
"I love our country, but it's in a downward spiral morally, spiritually, economically, politically. We're in a freefall. Why is that? Because we've turned our back on God and His truth. We are to be that beacon of light, that city on a hill, standing for the Word of God and His truth in a culture of confusion and lies. The Word of God is absolute truth. Truth is not what you say it is; truth is what God says it is," he explained.
Graham, 70, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization, spoke to more than 10,000 graduates along with an estimated crowd of more than 60,000 family members and friends during the largest commencement ceremony in Liberty history on the Christian college's campus in Lynchburg, Virginia.
He began by citing his personal connection to Liberty's founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, and his memories of Falwell pointing to the land on Liberty Mountain with the dream and intent to turn it into a school that would train generations of Champions for Christ.
"(Falwell) was a man who was deeply committed to God," Graham said. "He was obedient to what God called him to do, to build this university and pastor Thomas Road Baptist Church. He was a man of incredible vision. What you see here on this beautiful campus today is God's hand of blessing on the foundation Dr. Falwell laid some 52 years ago. God has honored his faithfulness."
The world-renowned evangelist told the Liberty graduates it took him four schools and six years before he received his undergraduate degree. He said while many students graduate with honors, his mother, Ruth Bell Graham, said he graduated with relief!
After the laughter died down, Graham told the class he didn't know what God was going to do with his life after graduation, he just made himself available to God, and he challenged the graduates of Liberty University to do the same.
The Samaritan's Purse CEO reminded the graduates throughout their lives to always keep their eyes on Jesus Christ.
"You want a compass to be true, you want it to be calibrated correctly," Graham said. "Not only your navigation depends on it, but your life depends on it. You can be off just one degree and entirely miss your destination. We've got to keep our course set on Jesus Christ and not allow Satan to distract us from God's plan and purpose for our lives. There's only one way to God, and that's through His Son, Jesus Christ. Keep your eyes on Him."
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The evangelist also challenged the graduates, reminding them that Christians are often told to "sit down and shut up" when it comes to sharing their beliefs, but they should stand firm.
"I want you to stand up, to shout out, to lift up your voice, to lift up the truth, and live for Jesus Christ," Graham said. "As you leave here today with this degree, use it for God's glory. But more importantly, hold up His banner of truth to a dying, skeptical, sin-sick world. Know Him, trust Him, live for Him, lift Him up, and I hope you'll go forth today as His Champions for Christ."
Before his address, the university presented Graham with an honorary Doctor of Divinity.
Graham delivered keynote addresses at the university's Commencement in 2001 and Baccalaureate in 1996, and his father, Billy Graham, was the keynote speaker at Liberty's Commencement in 1997.
In all, Liberty conferred more than 28,000 degrees over ceremonies held over three days. Over 80 percent (23,762) of the graduating class earned their degrees through Liberty University Online Programs, according to the university.
Friday night's celebration of the Class of 2023 ended with a fireworks spectacle in a first for a Liberty Commencement ceremony. The event also marked another milestone for the school – the university's 50th graduating class.
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