Dear Haley, (4 things every Christian entering college needs to know)

And open letter to one of my favorite girls starting college.

Dear Haley,

Transitions are always kind of interesting- you all of a sudden have to relearn things and make adjustments based on the new season you’re in. Sometimes that’s fun, sometimes it’s really hard, and all of the time it’s a good way to remember Who our teacher is. (Deut 8:2a, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you.”)

4 things you need to know before you start college.

1) Read Proverbs.

This has maybe been the best advice I’ve received. As I’m sure you’ve already begun to see, the older you get the more choices you have to make. And while you feel like deciding on which college to attend was a long process and a relief to have behind you- it’s more of a gate leading to more choices than a final destination. Who do I date? What should that look like? Am I even called to marriage? What should I do with my summers? Where should I intern? Where do I want to live after I graduate? Hopefully, you’ll be spared with a lot of rest time before getting faced with these- but they will come and you’ll have to make a choice, some with more time to think than others.

I heard a message where the speaker mentioned a lot of times college students like “signs” from God- give me a prophetic word or a dream or shape a cloud in the sky to spell out what You’re telling me! But while God can use those things, those aren’t really the ways the Bible tells us to make decisions. We see God’s love for divine wisdom throughout scripture. Why? Because it humbles us. (Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”) Also because He is wise, so it’s helping us reflect Him. (James 3:17) And, because it’s a character-builder. Yes, it would be easier if God wrote the answer in the sky, but what would that teach us about Him? (Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”)

ProverbsĀ 4:7 cracks me up: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” Even when you feel like the chapter doesn’t apply to you I just recommend so much- get the advice in your head. I can testify those verses will be brought to mind by the Spirit when life-changing choices demand quick responses- at least it’s happened to me.

2) Seek God through Scripture.

And I know you do, Haley. I just have to encourage you with how important that has been for me. We are creatures of habit- so obedience follows obedience. Which means the season God has currently brought you to is a building block for whatever is next. “Each season builds on the one before it.” – Joshua Harris. The best way to be obedient is Psalm 119:9-11, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word. With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”) The best way to recognize God’s voice is to see if it sounds the same as it has in the past, because (Malachi 3:6a, “For I the Lord do not change.”) and in times when you don’t hear God’s voice you can rest in reading God’s voice.

3) Give God Everything.

This sounds so obvious, but let me explain. A worship leader once said (actually tweeted), “God deserves both- our intellect and our emotions”, and I have seen in myself, as well as other Christians, struggle in that. Not because we want to hold back from God- but because we lean too far to one side or the other. For me, as probably with most girls, it’s been easier to love God with my emotions- to talk with Him as my bff and pour out my feelings in prayer, and see how scripture applies to me and makes my heart flutter. One way Satan saw to attack me in this was rocking what I believed about God. Because my “knowledge” of the Lord consisted of mainly personal experiences instead of solid doctrinal study, the devil simply had to make me “feel” like God wasn’t there anymore. And instead of rebuking those feelings with scripture, I spent almost a year trying to :conjure up a certain emotion as opposed to learning how to trust in God’s facts. (Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can understand it?”)

However, close friends of mine have also mentioned opposite problems. They will study the history of the Bible and of God that, while they learn so much and grow solid in what they believe, they feel like they have neglected the intimacy of knowing God on the personal level. God deserves both- but only through discernment received from Him will we know how to balance that.

4) Know Sin’s Place.

You, like it or not, are a human. And humans sin. (1 John 1:18) Godly men and women you know will sin. I can say a few seasons ago I was living in sin and by the grace of God have overcome. And learned quite a bit.

a. There is a difference between a temptation and a sin, but we blur the lines by calling everything a “struggle”. Forbid yourself from using that word. Satan is either calling to you and you’re resisting (temptation) or you’re submitting (sinning). Saying “struggle” makes it hard to discern what is actually going on and where you’re heart is. Being honest about your sin is the only way to start fighting it.

b. Just like there is a difference between temptations and sin, there’s a difference between committing a sin and living in sin. I don’t have scripture for this one, it’s simply been my observation and opinion, though if you look at Paul’s letters to the churches you’ll also probably see it. A sin is a one-time whoops, living in sin is a lifestyle- a repetitive sin. There is a difference between a friend who gives into pressure and gets drunk for the first time and repents and stops, and a friend who may hate the sin of getting drunk, yet not hate it enough to stop going out to parties and slipping up every other week or so.

In my experience, living in sin is more serious because it starts ceasing the fruit you bear. “Measure your progress by your experience of the love of God and its exercise before men.” -William Wilberforce. When friends sin, show them grace and forgiveness. When mature Christians start living in sin, show grace and forgiveness but also, pray about how to speak truth to them. (Galatians 6:1-2, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you to obe tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”)

c. Your heroes will have really screwed up. I have cried when discovering sins of different people I have respected. Been shocked and appalled. But this has served as two things 1) seeing the amazing, redemptive work of the Lord, and 2) making me appreciate Jesus that much more for being holy.

You may be called into ministry with someone who really screws up. And, I hope it doesn’t happen, but let’s both not be naive enough to believe that you might not be one who falls too. King David was strong in the Lord before his sin with Bathsheba- we’re foolish to think any of us are safe. (Another wise thought from Josh Harris.) But, whether it’s your hero, ministry partner, or you yourself, a comfort can be found in Paul’s words (Phil 3:13), truely forgetting the past that has been repented of, and focusing on the ministry ahead.

I have absolutely loved college and will be excited to hear how this first semester goes for you. Thank you for living as an example to me in speech, behavior, love, faith, and purity. (1 Tim 4:12, that’s you.) You are an encouragement to me and I love you Hals!

-A

 

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