May 15, 2021 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University’s virtual Commencement ceremony on Saturday was the grand finale to a week of in-person and online degree presentation ceremonies. Keynote speaker and former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time college football National Champion Tim Tebow encouraged Liberty’s graduates to view their future work as worship unto the Lord as they seek to be Champions for Christ in their respective fields.
Following an opening prayer by Flames Football Head Coach Hugh Freeze, Lieutenant Stephan Petett, 2nd. Lieutenant Explosive Ordnance Disposal, led the Pledge of Allegiance and the School of Music’s Sounds of Liberty worship team sang the National Anthem.
President Jerry Prevo then gave the opening address, welcoming all viewers and graduates.
“Congratulations to all of you receiving degrees and certificates today,” he said. “You have earned the honor of being here, you’ve attended countless lectures, you’ve written paper after paper, you’ve spent hours in the lab, studio, or library. Your years of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication have made this day a reality. And on behalf of the university, I commend you for staying the course and seeing this goal to the end.”
While congratulating the graduates, Prevo highlighted the outstanding accomplishments and resilience of the entire student body throughout this past year of the COVID-19 pandemic. He congratulated the university’s athletics teams for their stellar performance, which included a first-ever AP Top 25 ranking for Flames Football as well as several sports earning conference titles.
“Liberty students, faculty, and staff continue to distinguish both this university and themselves as the best of what Christian education can offer,” he said. “Today, Liberty University truly stands without peer as a world-class institution that prepares students like you to use the gifts that God has given you to wholeheartedly serve Him and lead your field with excellence and integrity,” he added.
Prevo was joined on stage by Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Scott Hicks and Online Provost Shawn Akers to present Tebow with an honorary Doctor of Humanities before the passionate Christ-follower gave his charge to the students.
“By every measure, he’s achieved what the world considers success,” Prevo said. “But Tim also loves the Lord. And if you ask him, he’ll probably tell you that true success isn’t found on the field, the stage, or even on TV. It’s found serving children and sharing God’s love by fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. It’s in helping every single person find their unique, special, and God-given worth.”
Tebow is the founder and chairman of the board of the Tim Tebow Foundation, which operates ministries that are dedicated to serving and celebrating people with special needs, caring for homeless and abandoned children, providing physical and spiritual care to children with profound medical needs, and fighting human trafficking.
Tebow was born in Makati, the Philippines, to missionary parents Bob and Pam Tebow. He played football for the University of Florida and became the first homeschooled athlete and college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. In the NFL, Tebow played for the Denver Broncos, the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, and the Philadelphia Eagles and recently retired from playing professional baseball with the New York Mets. Tebow is a New York Times bestselling author, international speaker, and ESPN sports broadcaster.
After a video showcasing career highlights of Tebow’s life on and off the athletic fields was shown on the screens, the talented athlete expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to address Liberty’s graduates.
“I’ve got to tell you, it’s an awesome honor to be here,” he said. “Thank you so much for having me. To all the leadership here at Liberty, thank you for having me.”
After acknowledging various accomplishments across Liberty’s academic programs, Tebow touched on his appreciation for Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell’s vision for the school.
“I love Dr. Falwell’s dream of having believers that are excellent at what they do. I believe that’s what we’re called to do,” Tebow said.
Tebow told the graduates to take what they have learned at Liberty and share the joy of Christ wherever they go, converting biblical knowledge into loving action. He said that while there are many who know the Bible, the world is in need of Christians who passionately live it out.
“I hope my life is one that deliberately chooses the interests of other people and I act on their behalf … I hope you bring (to your field) not just the knowledge of everything you’ve learned here but the actions.”
He said one of the ways to live out the Gospel is to serve those in need.
“When they’re hurting, you stay with them,” he said. “When they’re lost, you tell them about Jesus. When they can’t afford something, you pay for them. When they need help, you figure it out. You choose their best interest whether you like them or not, whether you know them or not. Whether you agree with everything they do or not.”
“I believe that so many of you who are sitting here tonight or are watching around the world, so many of you are going to be heroes of the faith,” he added. “You’re going to be teachers of the faith. You’re going to be bringers of the faith. You’re going to be carriers of the faith, and you’re going to have huge impacts on this world.”
Tebow said he loves the Hebrew word “avodah,” meaning work, worship, and service.
“Whatever you are about to go do — that job, that occupation, that internship, whatever it is — that’s also your place of worship,” he said. “Not just the church you go to on Sunday.”
Through their calling, purpose, and assignment, Tebow said that every Liberty graduate can and will have an impact if they do their work — their worship — unto the Lord. Although the storms of life can make it difficult to trust that the Lord is working, he reminded viewers that resting in the arms of Christ brings peace.
“We know that our peace is found in Jesus and a relationship with Him,” Tebow said. “And then when that adversity happens, what do we do? We take heart.”
“I’m so encouraged and so inspired by you and it’s an honor to be here,” he added.
Following Tebow’s address, the LU Praise worship team sang “I Will Not Be Shaken” by Tommy Walker before a tribute video to Dr. Falwell played, reminding viewers of his vison to Train Champions for Christ.
When Prevo was named the chairman of Liberty’s Board of Trustees 18 years ago, he said that he vividly remembers Falwell Sr. charging him with the responsibility to keep fulfilling the university’s vision if he should pass away.
“I’m not here to put my brand on this university. I’m here to keep the brand that Jerry Falwell Sr. laid out 50 years ago,” Prevo said after the video. “I gave him my word that I would do that. And that’s why I’m standing here today. This is God’s university. It always has been and it always will be.”
Prevo said that our world, in all its brokenness, needs Liberty and its graduates to bring the joyful and redemptive message of the Gospel.
“You’ll come across a lot of people whose lives are broken and when you do, I hope you’ll love them and help them because that is what a Champion for Christ does,” he said.
Prevo then shared the path to eternal life with Jesus Christ and charged the graduates to start with God and stay with God for their entire lives, in every undertaking.
In closing, LU Praise sang “Believe For It” by CeCe Winans before Jonathan Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church who was recently named Liberty’s campus pastor, ended the evening in prayer.