Baccalaureate speaker tells graduates to cling to the truth
Liberty University Board of Trustees member and alumnus David Rhodenhizer (’74) outlined five points of encouragement for the Class of 2018 during the university’s annual Baccalaureate service Friday night.
A Lynchburg, Va., native, Rhodenhizer gave his live to Christ at the nearby Thomas Road Baptist Church as a teenager. Soon after, he felt a calling to become a preacher and attended Liberty. Rhodenhizer is currently senior pastor at Calvary Road Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va. He celebrated 50 years in the ministry this month. Rhodenhizer currently serves on the executive committee of Liberty’s Board of Trustees.
Before Rhodenhizer spoke, Liberty President Jerry Falwell recognized a special guest in attendance — former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who will address graduates at Saturday morning’s Commencement. Carter received a standing ovation.
Falwell also highlighted students’ service work throughout the school year, including disaster relief trips with LU Send Now, building Liberty’s second Habitat for Humanity home, and sponsoring 1,000 Rwandan children through Compassion International.
“Our students don’t wait until they graduate to begin obeying Christ’s command to love their neighbor,” Falwell said. “They have been doing so already — both here in Lynchburg and around the world.”
He said Liberty’s mission is to not only train professionals for the workforce, but also to train students who want to use their careers to make a difference in the world around them.
“We believe that for a Christian, every righteous vocation can be a sacred calling from God,” Falwell said. “Every major and degree program can produce graduates who will be champions for Jesus Christ in the work which God has called them to do.”
Falwell said he counts Rhodenhizer and his wife, Linda, among the founders of the university due to their steadfast support.
“(Rhodenhizer) is one of my most trusted advisors,” Falwell said. “Loyalty and friendship is something every leader needs in his or her advisors, but it is a rare gift that only a few leaders can claim. I am blessed to have that gift, even as my father (Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell) did. David truly loves Liberty and its Christian mission. Without graduates like David, this university could have never become what it is today.”
In Rhodenhizer’s first charge to the graduates, he urged them to embrace the Bible as truth in their lives as they venture forward into a secular world.
“Culture may change, but truth never changes,” he said. “As you proceed from this place surrounded by godly people, you’re entering a mission field. It’s a mission field and culture that need your witness and strong testimony more than ever.”
In his second point, Rhodenhizer told students not to let anything hold them back from fulfilling God’s calling on their lives. He shared a personal story about how people doubted that he could become a preacher because of a speech impediment. But Rhodenhizer said as he trusted God, he was healed.
“Now I look back and see how it taught me dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “That’s the state right where God wants to keep us in, so don’t let any infirmities or handicaps limit yourself to be used by the Lord.”
He also encouraged graduates to not let themselves succumb to discouragement or define themselves by their failures.
“There will be events in your lives that will be discouraging,” he said. “But redefine those moments as lessons learned.”
Rhodenhizer said that also means not dismissing small beginnings.
“God wants to know that He can trust you in these early days,” he said.
In closing, Rhodenhizer urged attendees to never put their prayer life on the back burner and to finish well.
“Never forget that you are champions of Liberty University,” he said. “Never forget that.”
During the service, three individuals received honorary doctorates from Liberty. Danville Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney and Liberty Law alumnus Mark Hicks was presented with a Doctor of Laws for his work advocating for victims in a city with one of the highest crime rates in Virginia. Lynchburg businessman Danny Moon was presented with a Doctor of Business. Moon is the owner of C.S.E, a crane rigging and steel company that has worked on many notable construction projects on Liberty’s campus and at Thomas Road Baptist Church since the 1970s. Financial advisor Horance “Buck” Floyd received a Doctor of Business for his decades-long support of Liberty and its related ministries.