On a cloudy Saturday morning in downtown Fresno, California, Fresno Pacific University President Joseph Jones turned the eyes of over 400 graduates and several thousand loved ones toward the possibility of a bright future with one question: “Ask yourself: Is my tomorrow filled with fear or faith?”
Fear lies, distorts imagination and rob us of peace and joy. “But God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind,” Jones told the crowd in Selland Arena Dec. 14, 2019. “The Scriptures also tell us that perfect love cast out all fear and that God is love.”
Some 412 students were eligible for the ceremony, including 328 from bachelor’s degree completion programs, 45 who studied as traditional undergraduates and 37 earning master’s degrees. Two more master’s graduates came from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.
There is nothing wrong with hoping for a prosperous future, Jones said, but we need to ask if our dreams are governed by our fears or our faith. “What would you do for God if you could not fail?” Jones asked.
Many people followed Jesus, but he knew only a few would catch and keep this truth. “Only a few will really hear the word and grab hold of faith enough to receive a miracle, to meet some need or help with a resolve,” Jones said. “His words are freedom for those who would hear, releasing us to dream. It matters not your background, or what your initial motives are for following him, it only matters how you receive the words you hear because faith comes by hearing his word.”
Jesus said: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all you need will be provided.”
“Seek God first and you will face a future of faith: doing things you cannot imagine; impacting lives with light and hope; and inspiring many you have yet to meet,” Jones added.
Jones concluded with a story from his own life. Having overcome obstacles to complete a bachelor’s degree, later a masters’ degree in psychology, Jones married and became the father of two daughters. His hope of a doctorate was swallowed by the discouragement of others.
The longer he worked in his field of criminal justice, however, the more Jones saw how important a doctorate in that discipline would be, but the more he feared he would not be accepted into a university. “So, I pushed the dream aside repeatedly,” he said.
“I later grabbed hold of the advice I am giving you today. I began to seek God for what he wanted to accomplish in my life,” Jones said.
To test whether the desire for a doctorate was from God, Jones applied to the nation’s top three programs, thinking acceptance would only come from a miracle. “I was rejected by the number two and three programs, but was accepted into the number one program,” he said.
After earning his doctorate, Jones served in justice systems in New York, Oklahoma and Virginia. He then began more than 20 years in Christian higher education as dean of education and social sciences at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, provost at North Park University in Chicago and vice rector of a Christian university in Pakistan. His work in higher education includes building university/community partnerships with the aim to empower students, faculty and staff to “Engage the Cultures and Serve the Cities.”
“You see before you today, the president of Fresno Pacific University, who once only had faith enough to complete a bachelors’ program. But in seeking the kingdom of God first he found the treasure of faith that extended his dreams far beyond what he could ask or imagine,” Jones said.
The sun was shining by the time the two-hour ceremony ended at noon. Jones encouraged the graduates to decide that day whether their future would be governed by faith or fear—understanding that the light of faith comes only through relationship with God.
“If you really want life, give your life to him and watch how your dreams will soar,” Jones said. “He has dreams for you that you can yet imagine.”