In college, it is easy to go through the motions and forget why we follow Jesus, but our walks with God do not have to dry out or become fake. We can constantly experience the love of Christ even during the busy days of college. In this series, Christian in College, guest bloggers will answer questions about faith and college. I’m very excited for you to read blogger Plylicia D. Masonheimer’s post answering, “How can we maintain an authentic relationship with Jesus in college?”
How can we maintain an authentic relationship with Jesus in college? -Plylicia D. Masonheimer
I recently finished a novel called Lookaway, a secular fiction book about a Southern high society family. The first chapter focuses on the daughter, Jerrilyn, during her transition to college at UNC Chapel-Hill. Jerrilyn, discouraged by her mother from joining a sorority, wants to have the full ‘college experience’ and is quickly sucked into an expensive sorority nicknamed ‘The Skanks’. In an effort to be accepted, she adopts a cocaine habit, accompanies her sorority mates to frat parties, and at the conclusion of the chapter has been date raped by a drunk guy in one of the frat houses.
I attended and now work for one of the largest Christian colleges in the nation: Liberty University. I was blessedly spared from experiences like that of Jerrilyn, but as I work with college students on our campus I have found it can be just as difficult to stay close to Christ on a Christian campus as it is on a secular one.
Where a college student on a secular campus may face persecution, a college student on a Christian campus may battle apathy. On a secular campus, Christian faith will set you apart. On a Christian campus, it’s easy to coast and blend in. But before I talk about how to ‘keep the faith’, we need to address why we keep it in the first place.
As Christians, it can be easy to go through the motions of faith: attend church, listen to sermons, do our devotions, wear a purity ring. We may get distracted by what we are ‘supposed’ to do, throwing around Christian phrases like ‘guard your heart’ and ‘be prepared to give an answer’ without truly addressing the theological questions behind these missions. The truth is, if we don’t know in our hearts why we believe in Christ, our Christian actions are superficial gloss.
Love of God is the motivator to all holy behavior. We don’t ‘do the Christian thing’ because it’s what our parents or our church told us to do; we obey God’s standards because we love God and desire a holy relationship with Him! His grace is the reason we live and breathe, and His grace should be the reason we are pro-life, saving sex for marriage, upholding traditional marriage, or whatever else we say we believe.
How do we maintain this loving relationship while in college, secular and Christian alike?
1) Establish a routine.
College is a busy time. Balancing work, study, social life and sometimes sports is already demanding. We have to be intentional about our time with God or it simply will not happen! It is easy to think the busyness of college is ‘just for a season’ and after the season passes, we will make time for God. As a college grad now working full time I can assure you: it just gets busier!
Make a habit of your time with God. Schedule it into your planner alongside your class schedule and study groups. Whether it is morning, evening, or over lunch, make the Lord a priority. He will give you the strength to withstand persecution. He will give you the devotion to defend against apathy. And He will enable you to make an impact on your campus and generation.
2) Pray for opportunities.
Even Christian campuses have students who don’t know Christ. Some of these students were sent to campus by parents who wouldn’t pay for any other school. We simply do not know what influence we can have on each person we encounter! Pray for opportunities to share your faith. The most living faith is the one actively shared and testified to those around you.
I have found as I pray for opportunities, the Lord gives me the words in the moments He provides. Don’t worry about what to say to your atheist classmate: pray for him, ask for the opportunity to speak into his life, and God will give both the time and words to say.
3) Live expectantly.
As you pray about life in general – relationships, jobs, class load, family, witness – make your prayer requests specific. Write them down. Then wait with expectancy for God to work! Watch for His answers and record them with a date so you can see how faithful God has been over the semester.
We often pray to God without expecting an answer. A prayer of faith is powerful; God delights to answer His children! Continue to lift up your requests to God and keep track of how He moves in your life. It will boost your faith as you see how active He truly is in the little details.
4) Give credit to God for every blessing.
In the same way we look for God’s answers in our life, grateful living will change our perspective on everything. I remember walking through the rain, book bag straining my shoulder, sandals soaked by the incessant pouring of ‘Drenchburg’, VA. I started listing to myself all the good God had provided me, thanking Him for the things I had or the things I had been saved from suffering.
The world calls it the ‘power of positive thinking’, but this isn’t just about happy thoughts. It is replacing the negative, depressing, discouraging thoughts with affirmations of God’s love toward us, promises of his grace, and acknowledgement of His current mercies. By concentrating on God’s active involvement in our lives, we are empowered to continue in our walk of faith – the kind of faith that influences those around us with the presence and love of our wonderful God!
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