Eight Encouragements To College Students
Discipleship | by Pastor Adam Sinnett
College is a life-defining season. It was for me. I met Jesus and my wife at the UW and my life has not been the same since. So, maybe you're a student who is on your way into another school year and you’re wondering how to keep Jesus at the center of your studies. How might you navigate those crucial years so that you graduate as a Jesus-exalting, Bible-saturated, missions-minded, people-lover? If that’s your aim—and I hope it is—I offer the following eight encouragements to you as the school year begins:
#1 Put God first, in all things.
Regularly remind yourself that you are not first a student, but Jesus’ own. You belong to God. You will not always be a student, but you will always be His. So, pursue Him with vigor. Prioritize daily plundering of His Word for wonders and pouring out your heart in prayer. Prioritize embedding your life with His people (more on this below), even if they are not fellow students. Build your schedule around Him, rather than fitting Him into your schedule. Offer your studies to Him as an act of worship. Don’t push pause on Jesus. Seek Him first and everything else will fall into place (Matt. 6:33).
#2 Love others well.
Love others as you love yourself (Mk. 12:31). There is not a season of life that makes other-centeredness easy, but the college years are a unique challenge. After all, you’re preparing for your future vocation, you’re on the lookout for your future spouse, and there is a healthy concern for the trajectory of your life. While all those are natural, they can make us unduly focused on ourselves. So, be on the lookout for how you might be able to help, encourage, and build up others. Look for opportunities to serve.
#3 Love the Word.
Don’t neglect God’s Word, instead prioritize it. That’s not easy because there will be many other books vying for your attention, but the voice you need to hear most on a daily basis is God’s and that happens through His Word. Remember the Bible is not something you merely look at, but something you look through to true truth and real reality. This book, unlike any other, will be with you for your entire life. So, when you sit down to do your homework, along with your stack of class books, put your Bible on top and start there.
#4 Beware of worldliness.
Worldliness is an over-desire for the things of the world that is rooted in the subtle, but spiritually dangerous lie, that true life, satisfaction, and joy are found in the world and not in God (1 Jn. 2:15-17). This is a particularly strong lie in college. The world is before you. You’re young and on your own. Opportunities abound. A career is around the corner and financial independence along with it. These are all great gifts! However, they make terrible gods and often choke our spiritual life when left untended (Mk. 4:18-19). Enjoy the gifts of the world while remembering they come from the lavish Giver (James 1:17).
#5 Read the best books.
I know you’ll be reading a lot and the idea of reading more may be unattractive. But, not all reading is equal. Supplement your studies with life-giving reading. Find out who the best authors are and read them. Discover the time-tested classics. Read J.I. Packer’s Knowing God or Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, D. A. Carson’s Praying with Paul, and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Read Elisabeth Elliott’s Suffering is Never for Nothing, Rebekah McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity, or R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God. More recently, read Surviving Religion 101 by Michael Kruger written to students navigating secular campus life. Above all (my favorite) read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (especially part I, the story of Christian). Weave 15-minute reading sessions into your daily devotions or marathon homework sessions. Your heart will thank you.
#6 Find a solid local church and campus ministry.
If I could do college over again I would make one change. I would become intentionally involved in a specific local church. I did the college thing, floating around from church to church but making nowhere home. I didn’t understand the importance of the local church in my life or in God’s unfolding purposes. You need a church home where you can be a member, get involved, be fed the Scriptures, and be in relationship with others who are in different life stages. Just be sure that the church preaches the gospel, teaches the Bible, and keeps Jesus central. I also recommend finding a good campus ministry. This won’t replace the local church, but supplement it. If you do these two things, they will be a huge means of grace in your life, and you will be miles ahead in maturity by the time you graduate.
#7 Beware of unbelief disguised as plausible excuses.
There are legitimate reasons we won’t be able to make it to every church gathering or campus ministry event. But, there are also illegitimate reasons. Beware of putting Jesus—and your soul—on the shelf, thinking, “I’ll come back to Jesus, the church, my faith, when ________.” (insert: “I have more time”, “this season dies down”, “this project gets done”, “this internship is over”, etc.) In 25 years of following Jesus, rarely have I seen people who say such things do so. In many ways, the convictions and priorities you set in your college years, will become the convictions and priorities of the rest of your life. So, beware of unbelief disguised as plausible excuses.
#8 Trust Him in all things.
You have one life to live. There is a sense in college that you’re not quite living yet, after all, you haven’t graduated. But, when you do graduate, then you’ll be living. That’s not true. How you live your life today, and amidst your college years, is how you live your life. Trust Him with it. You will face many questions in college: “Will I get into that program? Will I meet my spouse? What will happen if it all goes wrong? If I prioritize Jesus, will he really come through?” Yes, he will—always—though often not as we would anticipate. Take Him at His Word, even when it doesn’t make sense in the moment. One day it will, and you will thank Him for it. Trust Him in all things.
Christ is all,