In the mail I just received the announcement for my upcoming 40th High School class of 1977 reunion. Along with the invite they sent me, was a questionnaire. “What advice I’d give myself if I could go back to 1977” got me thinking about, what God’s spiritual advice is for ANY young person today who is transitioning from high school to the next stage in his or her life.
Find a Sound Congregation
Be like the Apostle Paul who immediately attached himself to a local congregation when he arrived in a new location (Acts 9:26; 11:26; 21:4). Yet remember, not all churches of Christ are the same. Just because the sign says “church of Christ” does not mean the group takes seriously submitting to the Lordship of Christ. Years ago, in the book of Revelation, when Jesus evaluated seven congregations, only two of them passed the test (Revelation chapters 2-3). You are in charge of your own spiritual wellbeing, so whether you stay in Beaverton or move elsewhere, wherever you reside, have your Bible open when the class is taught or the sermon is presented to that you can check everything you hear from the speaker, comparing it with the word of God (Acts 17:11). In addition, if the classes or sermons never seem to mention or deal with a number of the topics Jesus and the apostles emphasized, that would be a red flag. Elders and evangelists are to see to it that the whole counsel of God is being presented (Acts 20:27). Being aware of what you are not hearing (but all need to hear) is just as important as what you are hearing.
College is a busy time of life, yet so is every other season. Do not put homework, social events or athletics ahead of God (Matthew 6:33). You can pass your classes and still put God first. Years ago I knew a young couple. He was in Optometry School and she worked as an x-ray tech for the hospital and was also frequently on call at night with a second hospital. He also worked on the weekends for the local garbage company and in addition they managed a small set of apartments. Even with a full load of hard classes, they never missed a service. They sought the kingdom first, and God blessed their efforts.
- So when you show up, get immediately involved in the life of a local congregation. Your talent is needed!
- If you are a young man, get your name on the duty roster.
- Accept invites from people who want to have you over for lunch or dinner. If you have a pile of homework, then respectfully say, “I would love to come over for lunch; I do have some homework, so I’ll only be able to stay for an hour or so, or is there a quiet room I could use after lunch?”
- Develop the important skill of learning to work everything else around God and eternal considerations because this will serve you well for the rest of your life. Remember the illustration of the walnuts and the rice. If you have a jar and pack it first with rice (the small things) there will be no room for the walnuts. But if you put in the walnuts first (the important things of life) then all the rice will fit.
- If the congregation is small or filled with many older people, realize that it is your responsibility to bring energy and light where you’ve been planted, to give, as if on a missions trip, leaving your congregation brighter and more joy filled than you found it. When older members see a young person with a busy class schedule, still putting God first, that is a tremendous encouragement for everyone.
- Make a life and enjoy the journey. Avoid the attitude, “I am only going to be here for a couple of years so there is no need to build any significant relationships. I just want to get this all over with and move on with my life”.
The unique person is the person who does not use profanity, they don’t use chemicals recreationally, and they don’t sleep around (Matthew 5:13-16). Many young people who do such things are looking for refreshment and diversion from the stresses of life. Yet none of the above things offer any lasting peace or refreshment, they are broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13), loaded with addictive consequences. What does leave your soul refreshed and strengthened is time with God in His word (Psalm 19:7 “restoring the soul”), time with God in pouring out your burdens and praises in prayer (Philippians 4:6) and enjoying time with other Christians (Hebrews 10:24). When you choose a method of relaxation or stress relief, choose a method that leaves you not just feeling better but actually being physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually better.
I am told that cheating is very common in college. Resist the temptation to opt for the easy path. Too many young people and adults justify cheating by arguing that their professors are giving them too much homework, or that their class load is too demanding, or that their cheating is justified because the college is ripping them off with high prices on books and tuition. The truth is, “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9; 2 Corinthians 1:12).
Treat your professors with respect (Romans 13:7), yet no matter how charismatic or entertaining they may be, resist idolizing any human or following them blindly. Realize what their area of expertise is and what it is not. Know the difference between knowledge and wisdom. For the professors that seem to have time for you, engage them in conversation, find out things about them, ask them about their lives. Remember, the most interesting thing on the planet is the people because they are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26).
Do not be shocked when you encounter a subject that you cannot immediately understand or get your head around. Do not panic when you get, for the first time, a bad grade on a paper. Ask for help. Most people struggle, especially with subjects such as physics or chemistry. Most people do not understand the concepts the first time around. Many professors are more than willing to help. In addition, realize the importance of building relationships with other students and tapping into their knowledge and expertise. Find a good study group of other students who really do want to study and succeed.
At any college you will be surrounded by other young people who are searching for meaning and who are trying to find out who they are and what life is all about. Invite those searching to services or to small bible studies. Ask questions like, “What’s your biggest challenge and your biggest blessing right now?” or “So, what do you think your life mission might be?” or if they confide a problem to you, ask if they’d like you to add them to your prayer list. As you encounter other young people from different cultures and religions, ask them questions and read up on what they believe. Seek to understand the world views that surround you so you can be a better light to the souls around you. Sadly some young people grow spiritually weaker when in college. Be different. Be unique. Stand firm. Stand strong. Be like the few who use this time to grow spiritually and graduate more prepared, not just to make more money, but for family life.
Flee Fornication: 1 Corinthians 6:18
Flee sexual temptation because fornication can condemn your soul (Hebrews 13:4), lead to various diseases or pregnancy. When sexual intimacy enters any dating relationship, it changes everything. You no longer communicate as you once did. Certain important issues are avoided. And there is the real danger that you will either end up dating someone far longer than you ever should have, or you will marry someone that you would have never married if fornication had been avoided. Sexual intimacy prior to marriage binds you emotionally to a person, even a person that everyone else can see is not the right person for you.
Be Wise In Your Relationships
You will obviously encounter people who are not what they appear to be (Matthew 7:15). Among both genders there are dangerous people (Ecclesiastes 7:26 “whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are chains”).
- There are young men who can turn on the charm but are chameleons.
- If a young man or lady is not kind to anyone else, do not believe the lie that you are someone immune, and that they will forever be kind to you. If they are rude to others or mistreat others, they will do the same to you. If they cheat on others, they will cheat on you.
- Avoid people who seek to isolate you from your Christian friends and family.
- Avoid people who are always running you down and finding fault with you, though they have many faults themselves.
- Remember your parents. Call them. Continue to build your relationship with them.
- Love God more than anyone else. In this you will never lead anyone on. You will never use anyone and then discard them. And you will not manipulate people. And you will never break the heart of your Heavenly Father or parents.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017