“God has a plan and a purpose for each of you."
That was the central message Wednesday evening of Jacob Oakes, choir instructor, as he presented the baccalaureate address to the class of 2014 at Neosho High School.
Oakes opened by telling the seniors that they hold a special place in his heart, as he watched many of them grow up, getting to know a few of them when they were in kindergarten. The 2002 NHS graduate said he first worked for the school district as a bus driver, and some of the seniors were on his route. Oakes said he began substitute teaching sixth grade math, and some in the class of 2014 were in the class he took over for a teacher with medical problems.
“The good thing about that job was that it’s what made me realize that this is what I want to do,” he said.
Oakes said the district offered a position and let him get his teaching certificate.
“And here we are today. The very first day I walked into seventh grade, and your faces are the ones that greeted me in my classroom,” he said. “I have watched you grow from little seventh graders…into responsible young women and responsible young men that I would be proud to say, of all the faces I see in the room, ‘I was your teacher’ because you’re going to do great things in your future, each and every one of you.”
After a finding a student who could recite John 3:16, Oakes reiterated its main point to the class of seniors that God loves them so much that He sent His only son to die for their sins.
“He loves you more than you could ever imagine,” then Oakes said that the way we respond to that love is spelled out in Romans 12:1, which says that we worship Him.
He said that involves so much more than singing.
“God wants you to give your life back to Him.”
He provided Romans 12:2 as the first of many Scriptures to back up his statement that God has a plan and a purpose for each of them.
Oakes challenged the students to take their everyday life and place it before God as an offering.
“Fix your attention on God,” he said. “You’ll be changed from the inside out, readily recognize what He wants from you and then quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you and brings wealth of maturity in you.”
Quoting Jeremiah 29:12-13, Oakes told the class of 2014 that God not only has plans for them, but He also has their back. And from Psalms 37:4 he said God will give them the desires of their heart: “Commit your way with the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do it.”
Oakes said the students’ desires and plans for their futures are not an accident.
“It’s my personal belief that God put it there, and He wants to cultivate that in you and make you and help you become the best that you can possibly be. You just have to seek Him so you have a plan and a purpose.”
Oakes let the class in on a secret that when he was in the same position 13 years ago.
“I was scared to death.” He said his future was uncertain, and Oakes told the seniors to take comfort in his next words of Scripture that would tell them that, “Jesus is everything you need.”
“God wants us to be refreshed, He wants us to be restored, He wants to guide you down the right path for His glory,” he said. “When dark times come He says you don’t have to be afraid because God is with you, and goodness and love will follow you for your entire life if you choose to commit your way to Him. When you are nervous, just pray about it.”
Oakes said he saved Philippians 4:13 for the last because it is his favorite: “I can do this through Christ, who gives me strength.”
He said it doesn’t matter what obstacles are in the way, what life has brought to that point, where they have been or what they have done, and then had the seniors recite with him, “I can do this.”
Oakes closed by telling the Neosho High School class of 2014 that Jesus is everything they need for their future.
“He wants to guide you,” he said. “He wants to lead you.”
The NHS Class of 2014 will receive their diplomas when commencement exercises begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Bob Anderson Stadium, weather permitting.