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To

the Confirmation Class of 2012: Five years ago, today, I woke up in a cold sweat. My heart was racing, my hands were trembling, my feet were shaking. I was panicking. I was scared to death. I was getting married. A lot has changed in the past five years. My wife Heather and I have gone through a lot in those five years. We have gone from southern Wisconsin to northern Illinois to southern New Hampshire. I dropped out of seminary, Heather finished seminary. And we have welcomed a new member to our family, our daughter Addison. So today, for me, is a celebration of the past. Its also a celebration of the present. We are blessed to be living and working here and blessed to be a part of this church. We blessed by the love we continue to have for each other. Its as much a celebration of our present as it is our past. And its also a chance for us to look ahead to our future. Where do we want to be a year from now, five years from now, ten? What do we want our marriage to be like then? What do we want our family to be like then? Where do we want to live and where do we want to work? Confirmation is a lot like an anniversary. Its a chance for you to pause on the road of life and take a look around you. A chance for you to look back to see where you have come from. A chance for you to see what God is doing in your life in the present. And, a chance for you to look ahead to the future to see what kind of person you can be. This year you have spent some time looking at the past. Each of you has remembered the story of when you first came to faith in Christ. You remembered the people, the places, and the experiences that were vital to you coming to faith in Jesus Christ. For many of you, it was Camp Squanto where you first experienced the grace of God in your life. For many others of you, it was Mrs. Tibbitts or someone else in childrens ministry that helped you come to faith in Christ. I think we can all celebrate our past and be thankful for the wonderful people in our lives that helped us begin our relationship with Jesus. For the rest of, perhaps today, too, can be a chance to remember the past and to look and see how far God has brought us. Maybe many of you are being taken back to your Confirmation Sunday. Perhaps many of you are remembering where you were when you received Gods gift of grace in Christ Jesus. Perhaps today, for all of us here, can be a chance for us to remember Gods faithfulness to us in the past and to celebrate His goodness in our lives. Confirmation was also a chance for you to see what God is doing in your life in the here and now. You are coming into emotional and spiritual maturity. You are learning about God, His Word, and yourselves. You are becoming better friends with one another. You have forged new relationships with high school mentors, and at this time I would like to pause and thank Katie Boyden, John Cassidy, Jessi Dalrymple, Jeremy Furusho, and Erik Hallenbeck for their faithful service to our confirmands this year. They have not only helped you memorize their Building Blocks and Bible

verses, but they have taken a personal interest in each of your lives. These are relationships that can continue to grow as you become a part of our high school ministry next year. This year was also a chance for you to see how God can use you in this world through ministries of compassion, mercy, justice, and evangelism. You were assigned a project, the 5:16 Project, to show the love of God to our community. You were also a signed an Evangelism Journal project, and encouraged to share your faith with your friends. Because of this class, because of your faithfulness to Gods call on your life, a new motorcycle was purchased for a missionary in need of transportation, much needed work was done at New Life Home and a much needed paint job was done at New England Seafarers mission. Because of this class, there are more children in need of food, clothing, and schooling being sponsored, there are people living in nursing homes who have been encouraged, and there is a kids club in Manchester that has been given over $1100 worth of supplies. Because of this class, people in need of food have been given food, computers and school supplies have been donated to our Sudanese church, and kids who would not otherwise have a birthday party have celebrated their birthday. Because of this class, there is a new youth group at our Sudanese church plant. And because of this class, three young people have begun their relationship with Jesus Christ, and many more are closer to Jesus than they were at the beginning of the year. God has used you in mighty and powerful ways. There is much to celebrate! For the rest of us in the congregation today, perhaps now is a good time to evaluate your present. Are we growing in our faith? Are we learning more about God and His Word? Are we drawing nearer to Him? Are we seeing how God can use us to make a difference in this world? Who are we reaching out to? Who are we sharing the Gospel with? Perhaps seeing all that God has done in and through these young people here today can challenge all of us to let God work in and through us. But Confirmation is not just an opportunity to remember the past or celebrate the present. It is also an opportunity to look to the future. Many of you who were interviewed by me were asked a question: Where are you going to be five years from now? What kind of person are you going to be in five years? What do you want to accomplish in the next five years? Many of you said you want to go on a Missions trip or continue to serve where you worked for your 5:16 Project. Many of you said you want to go to a really good college. Many of you said you want to play a varsity sport. Many of you said want to read the whole Bible. All of you said you want to be closer to God. You wanted your faith to be stronger and you wanted to serve God more. Let me tell you now: that will not happen by accident. If you want to play a varsity sport, you need to practice hard. If you want to go to a good college, you need to study a lot. And if you want to grow closer to God and if you want to love him more, you must keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-3 says this: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You are running a race. You are running toward Jesus, running toward the goal of becoming more and more like him. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and you will hit the proverbial wall many times. There will be plenty of distractions, from things both good and bad for you. There will be plenty of opportunities for despair, for hopelessness, for sadness. You will be tempted to stop running. You will be tempted to stop trying to become that person that you want to be five years from now. But keep your eyes on Jesus. Jesus ran his race, and he finished it. He knows everything you will feel, every temptation you will have to overcome, every hardship you will have to endure. Fix your eyes on Jesus. In Him you will find hope. In him you will find the strength to overcome trial and tribulation. In Him, you will find the strength to become the person He wants you to be. If your goal is to be closer to God five years from now than you are today, you will need to run this race on purpose. You will need to set aside time for just you and Him. You will need to listen to the Holy Spirit when He is prompting you. You will need to trust Him through all of the obstacles that will be thrown in your path. You will need to make Him your priority. Over all other relationships, over all other goals, over all other activities, Jesus needs to be your priority. You are not going through this alone. Continue to be a part of Gods people. Continue to participate in youth group and in church. Seek out people who can influence you for Christ, and seek out people who you can influence for Christ. You can help each other become the person you want to be five years from now. So seize this opportunity. Celebrate Gods work in your past, celebrate what God is doing in you and through you now, and eagerly anticipate what God is going to do in your life in the coming years. Steve Hoffman Confirmation Sunday May 20, 2012