June is the month of graduations and celebrations.

Students celebrate the end of their high school years in beautiful dresses and smart, crisp suits. They look so proud on their grad walk, grinning from ear to ear.

Last week, I sat with my wife, applauding students at the University of Victoria, walking across the stage in the extraordinary Farquhar Auditorium.

Then there are those students who have completed their Degrees, MAs and even their PhDs. The cheers were relentless as parents, grandparents, and guardians shed tears of joy and relief, marking the end of years of hard work, a fantastic achievement of all the students of British Columbia.

The words of Nelson Mandela, a man that understood all about determination and the power of a vision, “there is no passion to be found in playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

God has given these young people the opportunity to change the world.

Let’s be cheerleaders to the young people around us, help them dream, not settle for less, and tell them they are capable of much more.

Whisper it in their ear when they’re near, shout it down the driveway as they leave.

I recently opened a funeral of a dear man Jacob who had been an orphan in Europe, snared by the havoc of the Second World War, and while just a toddler, he found himself on route to Canada.

His grandchildren lined up to share, declaring with beaming smiles of love, that his continuous words of encouragement impacted their lives. Always willing to cheer them on, every day was a graduation day and a celebration when you met Jacob.

Part of his long legacy was his support, praise, and belief in the future generation.

Jesus spoke these words in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Jesus points out that we can have life to the full, but it is so easy to let the negative voice steal our passion and joy. This passage is in the context that Jesus said he was the shepherd and the sheep know his voice.

When he speaks to his sheep, I believe he encourages, builds them up, and strengthens them. We all remember that teacher at a school or university who spoke words of encouragement that helped us achieve our goals.

My daughter, who graduated, had such a professor, they had only ever met online and when they met in person; a spontaneous hug took place.

Well done, graduates, and also to the teachers.

Romans 12:10 says, “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honouring each other.”

A verse that Jacob embodied, I am confident he has heard the ultimate, ‘well done’ in heaven.

Phil Collins is a pastor at Willow Park Church in Kelowna.