Things I wish I was told before I left for college

Things I Wish I Was Told Before I Left For College

Around June every year my commute to work gets a little bit sweeter. This is because the high school that I live near goes into summer session and the early morning traffic jam it creates takes a break for a few months. Then September rolls around and the bumper to bumper traffic returns. However, one thing that doesn’t return is an entire class of students. So as the class of 2012 starts to pack their bags, here are a few words of advice…a few things things that I wish I was told before I left for college.

Be responsible

Your college education is important. However you need to make sure that you view your education (or anything else you have for that matter) with a biblical perspective. You have been given an opportunity to attend college. This does not make you better than others who do not have this opportunity. What it does mean is that you have been blessed with something which you now are to be a responsible steward of. The parable in Matthew 25:14-30 describes the relationship between a master and his servants and how each servant was entrusted with something of great value. A few things we can observe are:

  • The amount that each servant was given varied, but as we’ll soon see the responsibility was the same
  • The ownership of these things always belonged to the master, the servants were stewards or managers
  • The purpose behind the possession of these things was not self-serving, the servants were to invest them for the master’s gain
  • The result of being a faithful and responsible steward was rewarded, the 2 servants that invested and earned interest for the master received the exact same praise even though the amount of return was different

Don’t get caught up comparing what you’re doing after high school with someone else. Realize that whatever you’ve been entrusted with is not yours. Resist the temptation to be self-serving. Seek to understand how to invest yourself purposefully for God’s gain, and “…enter into the joy of your master (Matthew 25:23)“.

Stay focused

I was in college when YouTube started gaining momentum. As if there weren’t already enough distractions, suddenly dubbed versions of old GI Joe cartoons were all the craze. There are a lot of things that will distract you from pressing onward in the manner which Paul describes in Philippians 3. The need to stay focused and press on is reinforced when Paul describes the Christian life as a race in two of his other letters in the New Testament. He describes it as requiring self control in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, so that we could win the race. He also describes it as requiring endurance in Hebrews 12:1-2, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”.

You’d never try to run a marathon wearing jeans and carrying a suitcase in your hands. Take the race seriously and as you run, consider what might be slowing you down. Stay focused, and fix your eyes upon Jesus.

Look out for that pop quiz

I found myself cramming a lot during college. That usually did the trick when I knew a test was coming up. However when those pop quizzes reared their ugly head I was usually caught off guard because I had spent my time doing useless things. Boy did I wish I had been studying more regularly.

Likewise, life will take twists and turns when you least expect it. Classes will seem impossible. Your transcript may begin to look more like alphabet soup. Friendships and relationships will seem like more trouble than they’re worth. Unexpected circumstances will come your way. However despite these circumstances, remember that your citizenship is not in this world but in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Remember that Jesus came to die for you and I. Remember that He came to rescue us. And explode into doxology as you put all the pieces together. However the sad reality is these are the last things that come to mind. Make it a point in college to develop a healthy habit of studying the Word of God regularly. Then you’ll be ready for any pop quiz that comes your way because you have learned and remembered these things.

While sharing about his initial reaction to finding out his daughter had cancer, Pastor Britt Merrick recalled the strength and encouragement he found as the scriptures flooded his mind, specifically Psalm 61:2. He was ready for the pop quiz. He described it as “your mind goes to Jesus (skip ahead to  8:15, but the whole thing is worth watching)“. Invest time in setting a solid foundation that is built upon the Word of God. You never know when there will be a pop quiz.

Study hard

There are so many other things that can be said, such as the importance of plugging yourself into a local church, but we’ll end it with this last point (which is extremely similar to the previous point, but still worth repeating). I trust that if we can get this right, the other things will fall into place. Study hard.

It is easy to bury yourself in your books studying for school. As much as we’d like to say we always studied to learn, a lot of time was spent studying to simply pass a test. No, we’re not flip-flopping on our previous bit of advice. Be a responsible steward with the opportunity you have been given to further develop your God-given talents for God’s glory. However, do not de-prioritize studying the Word of God, which has eternal value. May we say with the psalmist, “Your word is a lamp to my feet. And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)”.

The Gospel

I went into college thinking I knew more than most about Christianity. I knew I didn’t know everything, but I saw myself as “mature”, “knowledgeable”, “rooted”.

Then God began a series of humbling events and trials, revealing my sin and my superficial understanding of the gospel.

I had heard the gospel so many times. I learned to recite it as a kid. I was taught to preach the gospel to myself daily. I knew the facts.

I knew that I am a sinner and deserve hell, but a part of me still thought, “I am better than most.” “My sin is not that bad.”

Slowly, God changed my prideful heart. Over and over again this year, God revealed to me my sin, showing me how easily my heart wanders and seeks self instead of Him. I often felt helpless against my sin, as I seemed to have no ability or power to control my thoughts or actions. I felt disgusted at myself and thought in fear about how God must feel towards my sin.

But in these times of despair and helplessness, the gospel became so much greater and so much more necessary. In these times, I could do nothing but desperately turn to the cross, reminding myself of Ephesians 2:1-7

” 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

The more I saw my own failures, the more victorious Christ’s death and resurrection became. The more I felt helpless in my ability to overcome sin, the more I thanked Christ for his sacrifice that freed me from the bondage of sin. The more hopeless my condition seemed, the more I rejoiced in the undeserved gift I received through Christ’s suffering.

I then realized that the things I am told to do at church like worship, service, prayer, reading my Bible, are all natural responses to the gift of the gospel. Knowing I have been saved from sin and can now have fellowship with the Creator God who loves me more than I can imagine, what could I do but praise this God and follow Him joyfully and obediently?

O, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my God and King
The triumphs of His grace!

Jesus! the name that charms our fears
That bids our sorrows cease
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears
‘Tis life and health and peace

He breaks the power of cancelled sin
He sets the prisoners free
His blood can make the foulest clean
His blood availed for me

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.

12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

– 1 Kings 19:11-13

Is this not a beautiful passage? I love this passage.

For those of you who are well versed in the Bible, you will know this passage, and you will know it is signifcant that God comes at the end in the form of a gentle whisper (NIV), or gentle blowing (NASB). But do you remember why this is significant? And just as importantly, do you listen for the gentle whisper of God’s voice in your daily life?

I want to start by focusing on the relationship between God and Elijah. In v. 11 God tells Elijah to go stand on a mountain and wait for Him. Elijah goes. Then in v. 13, Elijah approaches the mouth of the cave after hearing the gentle whisper. As he is about to meet with God, he pulls his cloak over him to shield his face.

Some questions come to mind when I ponder what I have just written. How does Elijah know that God is in the “gentle whisper”? Why does he pull his cloak over his face?

After some deliberation here is what I think:

1) Elijah trusts and obeys God. God tells him to go wait in a mountain so he goes and waits!

2) Elijah has respect and fear for God. The powerful wind is gone. The giant fire is gone. So there’s no need for Elijah to cover his face from ashes or dust or anything. He shields his face in God’s presence as an act of humility and reverence.

3) Elijah really knows God. The passage does not say, “an earthquake came and Elijah peeked out the cave to see if God had shown up yet.” It says simply, as if it were common knowledge, that the earthquake came but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. The sentence structure implies that Elijah can recognize the voice of God.

If all these qualities of Elijah are true, then it follows logically how Elijah knew instantly that God was in the gentle whisper. Like God’s own custom ring tone on Elijah’s cell. Ok sorry that was a stupid analogy. But I think Elijah still had to listen very closely and carefully for God. Even if he knew God would be in a gentle whisper, or a rustling leaf, or some ripple in a pond, he would still have had to pay attention in order to perceive it. Why?

First, there was a powerful wind that “tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD.” This sounds more like a violent tornado to me. Basically pieces of mountain are coming off and rocks are flying at you like bludgers. I would find this pretty distracting.

Next there was a tremendous earthquake. So the earth. Quaked. I have been in a few earthquakes in my short lifespan, and they are by no means silent. Even the smaller ones have a powerful rumbling that causes your hearing and mental prowess to be disturbed. A large earthquake was probably deafening, especially in a mountain cave where everything echoes.

Finally we have a fire. If you live in the Conejo Valley area or Malibu or somewhere there in Southern California, you will know all about mountain fires. The ash will spread over a ten mile radius and no one will breathe properly for the next few days. I am imagining this occuring on Elijah’s mountain. Perhaps his eyes teared up, perhaps he coughed a little.

Despite all these catastrophes, in the end Elijah is still sensitive to the sound of a tiny wind. But he doesn’t just hear God in the wind. And after hearing it, he boldly leaves the cave! He didn’t fear any more natural disasters that might come again. Elijah’s faith in God, his yearning to meet with God, was so great that he left all worries of impending doom behind.

APPLICATION!

Maybe some of this analysis was a little dramatic. But you get the idea. So how should we emulate Elijah?

1) Closeness – As mentioned before, being able to hear God’s will really takes a close relationship with Him. Otherwise, on a mountain all by ourselves, we would surely be blown away by powerful winds or become lost in a fire.

Starting a new chapter of my life in college can really make me feel like I am standing on a mountain alone with wind and noise all around me. If I relied on my own strength, I would surely fail! But fortunately, God is there, and God comes to us if we just look past all the noise and listen.

I really believe spending time in prayer and alone time with God brings us closer to Him. And the best way to know God is to read about Him through the Word. Plus knowing God will give you more trust in God. Elijah never questioned why God wanted him to go on a mountain. He knew God and trusted God’s perfect goodness.

2) Submission/Acceptance – Once we can hear God’s voice, it’s possible He is telling us to do something that we are afraid of or that is not our will. But really God’s will is the perfect will.

3) Action! – Don’t just hear His voice and go back to sleep. Elijah was both anxious and eager to meet with God. No natural disaster could have stood in his way. And there ain’t no mountain high enough to keep him from getting to God :) So when we hear God, let us joyfully meet Him where He leads us!

No Worries, God Has Got It Covered

Every week at the Friday night fellowship back at home in SB, there is a time to share blessings. People are able to give a shout out to God for how He has blessed them during the week. Since I’m not able to share with the SB folks in person, I figure I could post here and maybe someone will come across it. Otherwise, I hope that in reading this, you are encouraged by seeing how God actively participates in our lives. From things that we have absolutely no control over, or even the things we think we’ve got down.

One of the many things I thank God for is providing brothers and sisters up here at Cal Poly. For those of you reading who either go or have gone to CEFCSB, I think you would agree with me that the fellowship you experience there is crazy awesome. It’s definitely hard for me to explain. It’s one of the things that I knew before leaving, I would miss the most. I even thought to myself, there’s no way that I’m going to be able to find people like this at SLO. I decided that I would “settle for less” if I had to. And when I would return home, I’d realize how thankful I should be for these great friends. But how the Lord loves to prove us wrong. God definitely answered my prayer for finding brothers and sisters to fellowship with. Hanging out, I didn’t realize it at first, but it felt like I was with the people from home (not that I’m trying to replace you guys or anything haha). There is just a comfort in knowing that the people around you believe and worship the same God as you. I am so thankful for the friendships that I’ve made while at home and because of them, am able to look forward to how God will work in these new friendships here at SLO.

I really thank God for this experience so far. He has definitely blessed me with a smooth transition and I find myself enjoying it here.

“Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” Nehemiah 9:5-6

Praise God.