The Most Important Question for Graduates – Trevor Nashleanas

It’s graduation season. Seniors everywhere are being asked the same predictable—often anxiety-inducing—questions.

What are your plans after graduation? What college or degree program will you be enrolling in? Where will you be working when you graduate? Where will you be living? What do you hope to do with your degree?

There’s nothing wrong with these questions. They’re important. But they’re not the most important question. In fact, the most important question is sadly one most graduating seniors aren’t asked.

Most Important Thing

In 1 Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy, a young man who has just stepped into his first pastorate at the thriving and well-known church in Ephesus. Throughout the letter, Paul warns against false teachers, emphasizes the supremacy of the gospel and its implications for the church, and establishes clear expectations for the offices of elder and deacon. Then, in chapter 4, he gets personal.

He shifts his attention to his expectations for Timothy as a person. Among other things, he exhorts Timothy to “train . . . for godliness” (v. 7), “set the believers an example” (v. 12), and “keep a close watch on [himself] and on the teaching” (v. 16).

Paul is not only concerned with what Timothy is doing; he’s concerned with who Timothy is becoming.

Paul is not only concerned with what Timothy is doing; he’s concerned with who Timothy is becoming.

It’s been said that you teach what you know, but you replicate what you are. Paul knows this, and he wants Timothy to know it too. He cares about the kind of person Timothy becomes because he knows that will ultimately influence what kind of people the Ephesians become.

Not Just for Pastors

Paul’s advice applies not just to pastors, but also to ordinary disciples. Paul tells the Galatian Christians he is “in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in [them]” (Gal. 4:19). He tells the Colossian Christians his aim is to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). He tells the Roman Christians that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him [so that they may] be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:28–29, NIV).

Paul’s primary concern for believers everywhere is who we become in Christ. For graduating seniors (and all Christians), this means the most important thing about you isn’t what you do for a living, where you live, or how much you accomplish in life.

The most important thing about you is who you are, and who you are becoming, in Christ.

The Question

So, graduating senior:

When you take that job, don’t just consider the salary and benefits package. Ask yourself, “What kind of person will I become if I choose this career path?”
When you choose a place to live, don’t just consider the neighborhood and the quality of its restaurants and parks. Ask yourself, “Is there a church here where I can be shaped in community to be more like Christ?”
When you form new friendships and build a new community, don’t just gravitate toward people who share your interests, politics, or demographics. Ask yourself, “What kind of person might I become by committing to this community?”
When you look for a potential spouse to date and then marry, don’t just look for chemistry and compatibility. Ask yourself, “Who will I be 10 years from now if I enter into this relationship?”
When faced with an ethical dilemma at work, a toxic boss, or other challenges that come with “adulting,” don’t just look for a way out. Ask yourself, “How will my response to this situation shape and change who I become?”

Decades from now, when you look back on your life, the thing you’re either going to regret or celebrate the most is who you became as a person. Don’t fool yourself into believing your formation will take care of itself. It won’t. The Spirit works in you to sanctify and mature you, but he does so through your willingness, obedience, and intentionality to be formed.

So, graduate, start asking yourself now, and never stop asking, “Who am I becoming?” It’s the one question no one else will ask you, but it’s the one question you can’t afford to leave unanswered.

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