Though the race of life is difficult, nine-time Grammy Award-winner Kirk Franklin encouraged Liberty University students at Friday's Convocation to shed the weights of pride and bitterness and continue forward for the glory of God.
"I believe that there are kings and queens up in here that realize that God has called you for a greater race and that the goal cannot be for you but for the body (of Christ)," he said.
Franklin, a Gospel music artist, was invited as the main Convocation speaker Friday, which was his first visit to Liberty's campus. He returns to the Vines Center stage Friday night at 8 PM to perform a concert, hosted by Student Activities.
Friday's Convocation crowd was one of the largest to date, as close to 2,000 visitors for College for a Weekend (CFAW) joined more than 10,000 students in the Vines Center.
Before Franklin took the stage, David Nasser, senior vice president for Spiritual Development, spoke about Liberty's Global Focus Week, which ended Friday. He recognized a longtime champion of international service at Liberty, the late Roscoe Brewer, former chairman of Liberty's missions department. Inviting members of the Brewer family to the stage, Nasser showed them a framed portrait of Roscoe Brewer that will be displayed in the university's Center for Global Engagement to honor his legacy.
Franklin began his message by likening life to a relay race, which is much different than a sprint, he said, because the relay runners are dependent upon one another for their success.
When there is support, like a smooth passing of the baton in a relay, "it is a beautiful thing," he said. However, there are times when others impede our success because they "drop the baton."
"Some of you look good," Franklin said. "But we don't know what you've gone through. We don't know how hard some of you have had to run, how much pain you have gone through because somebody in your life, somebody at your church, some pastor, some youth leader, dropped the baton ... and you have had to run with a lot of pain."
But there is encouragement, he told the downtrodden in the room, because "God has given you the opportunity to make up for that loss."
God serves as our coach in the race, Franklin said, telling students to listen for His voice and obey His instructions, even when they are not easy.
"How many times have we missed deeper opportunities to be closer to God because it was not convenient, because it was embarrassing, because it was not comfortable?" he said, explaining that they are "meant to take you deeper, to feel even more deeply connected" to God.
Franklin said that just like a choreographer for a music video, God has orchestrated our steps for a grand design.
"Nobody can take your place. Nobody can move you out of the way. Nobody can destroy what God has for you because it is your shoot and they are your steps and they were lit before you got here."
To be successful, Franklin said that we must recognize the stumbling blocks—like pride or bitterness—that can cripple us, and remove them. Franklin called those who needed to do this to kneel before the stage. Hundreds responded, as the rest of the crowed raised their hands and prayed.
In a press conference after Convocation, Franklin expressed how humbling it was to share his heart with the students.
"This is my first time at Liberty and it is nothing like I expected," he said. "I was impressed and blown away to see how many students go here, because in the world I live in you see the decline of (Christianity). To see Liberty look as progressive as any other institution, you know it really does your heart well; it makes you feel like there's some hope, and that it's not all shifted with the times."
In a culture that can be disheartening, he said he found Liberty's atmosphere to be very encouraging.
"It's like my wife always says when I get frustrated by the decline, 'Baby, there's a remnant, a crew of people that still have not bowed.' And I saw it today. It makes me very proud."
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