Baccalaureate service: Faith is key to future

by Sean Dunlap

History is filled with men and women who have gone against the odds, and Franklin County High School’s Class of 2023 graduates were challenged to stand tall in the face of all forms of adversity they might potentially encounter in their respective futures.

That simple, yet powerful message was shared by First Baptist Church of Roxie Pastor Lamar Briggs during baccalaureate services held in the FCHS Auditorium on Thursday, May 11.

“People battled the odds for the sake of being obedient to the call of God,” Briggs said in opening his remarks.

“They did not have particular insight into how those situations were going to turn out, but one thing was certain — they had an unshakable faith in what God was able to do through them.”

Briggs implored the seniors to follow the path God has set for them and remember that previous graduates of the local high school have done great things through the guidance of the Lord.

“Walking the halls of this school have been a space shuttle engineer, a nuclear plant engineer, a presidential intern, two Super Bowl champions, several doctors in various fields and a newly elected community college president,” he continued. “This is your shared background and this is who we are.”

A long-time educator and coach, Briggs said he, too, was proud to be a graduate of Franklin County High School and would soon be celebrating his 40th-year reunion.

“For those of us who graduated in the Class of 1983, we were an experiment because we were the first fully-integrated class from the first grade through 12th grade,” he continued. “There were concerns from the parents and community, but when we got into the classroom all we saw were kids getting their education. I’m proud to say that we grew up that way and it made us stronger as a people.”

Briggs’ message focused on the Biblical story of David vs. Goliath as recounted in I Samuel 17:31-37, and he asked students to be a game changer as David was for the nation of Israel in stepping out to do what God called him to do.

His first charge to seniors was to not allow people’s opinions interfere with what God wants them to achieve.

“Someone might tell you there’s never been a lady or black person in that position before, but the God we serve is more than able to make a way for you,” Briggs went on to say. “You are going to be challenged, but you know that you are capable of doing things through God. Never back up from it.”

He encouraged the graduate candidates — in citing Proverbs 18:21 — to remember the power of life is in their tongues thus they should speak the right things about themselves.

“The old saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is a lie,” he said. “You can talk yourself down, but don’t do that. Even if everyone else doesn’t believe in you ... you have to believe in you and what God can do through you.”

Briggs said people will fail and make mistakes along life’s path, but that’s part of the human experience and they will have to step up to move beyond those circumstances.

“In life, you can’t be faint of heart and must have a boldness down on the inside — based on who you are to God,” he added. “As we read in II Timothy, we should remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. If God didn’t give you a spirit of fear, then where does it come from?”

Briggs further suggested the concept of fear as an acronym — false evidence appearing real.

“Instead of accepting fear, God is allowing you to step out into the world to face the giants in life,” he said.

The pastor said he was thankful to live in a place like Franklin County where families and the community, as a whole, foster a love for learning, a passion for God and the desire to do what’s right where their children are concerned.

He also noted the Christ-centered life lessons learned here will serve the graduates well as they move forward in carving out their place in the world.

“This class has the potential to step out to do great things and your graduation means you have reached one of your first major hurdles,” Briggs said. “There will be other hurdles and you will cross them as well, but I challenge you to make a book of remembrance — so that God’s blessings can come to life and you will have a record of your victories along the way.”

With each life milestone, Briggs encouraged the students to cling that much tighter to God — especially in light of the giants that will seemingly come against them when they least expect it.

“That’s where your book of remembrance comes into play ... to remind you of where you’ve been, how the Father has been with you every step of the way and that He will always be with you no matter the situation,” he said. “Philippians 4:13 tells us we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengths me ... if you don’t remember anything else, remember that.”

Briggs additionally implored the seniors to do what is right in everything they attempt and not bow to popular opinion. He cited such notable historic figures as David, Queen Esther, Moses, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and President John F. Kennedy who faced ridicule and death for standing up for what they believed.

“Those same people went on to tear down barriers, and I want you to do the same,” he said. “I am counting on each of you to step up to the challenges of life and be the game changers we need to make this a better world for everyone.”