When you browse through a university's welcoming brochure, or check out the websites for various institutes of higher learning, what do you typically see? Smiling, wholesome students and friendly, caring instructors, right?
University catalogs and brochures can be incredibly deceiving, much like those travel brochures that promise you a charming bed-and-breakfast inn by the beach, when they're really providing a hideous shack by a murky swamp. Like the deceiving travel brochures, what the university catalogs don't show you are the all-night cramming frenzies, the disorganized and disenchanted professors, and especially the constant spiritual challenges that await a Christian student at every corner of the campus.
While it's true that college life can be, and most often is, a terrific growth experience for many young adults, it is also quite often a devastating turning point for many vulnerable young Christians. Let's meet Caroline and take a look into a day in the life of a young Christian away at college. Let's examine some of the spiritual issues she faces daily, and let's consider some of the options she has when it comes to standing her ground and keeping her Christian beliefs and standards throughout her years of college.
A Day on Campus
A Chronicle of a Typical Christian's Day in the World of Academia
8:00 a.m. (Friday Morning Wake-up) Caroline realizes that she's overslept again, and she's going to be late to her biology class for at least the fifth time. She reminds herself that she's got to stop staying up so late hanging out with her roommates and get to bed at a decent hour.
8:30 a.m. (Biology Class) Caroline shamefully slips into the only remaining chair, which is at the front of the class, and Dr. Payton makes sure that she's aware of his annoyance at her tardiness. She's arrived just in time to hear her professor's lecture on the Theory of Evolution. Apparently, there's going to be an exam on the subject, so she really needs to pay close attention to the lecture.
10:00 a.m. (English Class) This is an easy and enjoyable class for Caroline, because the instructor, Dr. Schmidt, is such a talented teacher, and he genuinely seems to care about his students. Today, while the class is enjoying a break and Dr. Schmidt is socializing with the students, he begins to talk a little about his partner. It's at this point that Caroline realizes that this teacher, whom she really respects, is, in fact, living a homosexual lifestyle. She knows what the Bible says about this issue, but everyone seems to be so accepting of it, and this instructor is such a great person. She just doesn't know what to think.
12:00 p.m. (Lunch) It's been a fun year, and Caroline's enjoyed meeting a great group of friends. Although they don't have the same religious beliefs as Caroline, they get along wonderfully and spend a lot of time together. Today at lunch, her friend Rebecca jokingly tells the others about her romantic experiences with a guy she's been pretty intimate with lately. The conversation lasts a while, as the others chime in with their own humorous experiences in dating and intimate relationships. Caroline, meanwhile, smiles and laughs with them, even though she realizes deep inside that these sexual relationships they're all joking about are sinful in God's eyes. Not wanting to correct, separate herself from, or sound like she's preaching to the others, she keeps her silence and acts as if she doesn't mind the topic at all. Later on during lunch, Caroline's friends invite her to go on a canoeing trip on Saturday morning. Instead of telling them about her Sabbath commitment, she tells them that she's got some work to do this weekend, and she's sorry that she can't go with them.
1:30 p.m. (Calculus Class) Since calculus isn't Caroline's favorite subject, she's been unable to finish the take-home exam that the professor gave her to work on. It's due today, and Caroline feels that since she really needs a couple of extra days, she'd better go ahead and skip this class. She decides to leave a message on Dr. King's answering machine to let him know that she's come down with a really terrible flu and that she won't be able to drop the exam off at his office until Monday morning.
3:30 p.m. (Philosophy Class) Required readings lead Caroline to wonder if Absolute Truth is even a possibility.
What we've just read is not far from reality. Although it may seem that Caroline is facing an awful lot of temptations and confusions in one day, she is really dealing with things that we all deal with on a daily basis, especially in the campus setting. Along with the newfound independence that many college students are granted comes much freedom. But, as we all know, freedom opens up many doors to temptations that may be very difficult to resist.
Quite often there are temptations to become lazy or irresponsible, to lie or deceive others in order to protect ourselves, to hide our values and beliefs in God from others, or even to question the validity of our beliefs in God and His church. Eventually, these temptations are so intertwined in our daily lives that they become almost invisible and unnoticeable to us. What's frightening is that we may unknowingly fall to these temptations in the most subtle, subliminal ways, placing our salvation in jeopardy.
As we look into Caroline's day at school, we see someone who is experiencing various tests of her faith. How Caroline sees these challenges and how she ultimately decides to handle or confront them will determine the quality and status of her faith at the end of her four years of college life.
Take Action to Protect Your Faith
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished. (Prov 22:3)
Looking into Caroline's day at school and even into our own days at college or in the working world shows that we need to take action in order to stand our ground as Christians bound for eternal life. If we don't take action, we will find ourselves falling farther and farther away from our faith and our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are three actions that we, as Christians, need to take:
- Read the Bible and other Christian literature on a daily basis
- Develop a healthy Christian lifestyle
- Publicly acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ
By carrying out these very important actions, the temptations that come our way each and every day will become less appealing to us. These temptations to doubt our faith, to lie or deceive others, or to hide our beliefs and our convictions in Christ will no longer cause us to stumble along this bumpy path in life. Instead, we will be able to face and overcome these temptations, while standing our ground as Christians capable of bringing souls to Christ and worthy of the calling we have received.
Immerse Yourself in Christian Literature and the Bible
Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul keeps them. The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. (Ps 119:129-130)
Looking back at Caroline's day, we see how easy it can be for a person to slip into a life where the main focus becomes mere survival in the academic and social world. Instead of keeping their salvation and Christian duty at the core of their lives, what happens is that college students may begin to see their studies and campus life as the central part of their existence. How can we keep this from happening to us? Well, one action we can take is to make Bible reading, along with the reading of many other kinds of Christian resources, a daily part of our lives. Without the teachings of the Bible, how will we be able to know where we stand as Christians? Where else will we find a mirror as clear and powerful as the Bible to help us view ourselves truthfully, to tell us whether we are indeed reflecting God's light or, in fact, the darkness of the earth? We need to remember to fill ourselves up with God's words, because they will constantly help us to decipher right from wrong and to deal with the many temptations to our faith that we encounter.
As we saw in the chronicle of Caroline's day, she's dealing with some classes that lead her to question her own faith, causing her to start doubting the truth she has been taught all her life. The same thing can happen to any of us if we aren't careful. When we read the Bible on a daily basis, the Holy Spirit will work to reveal God's truth to us, equipping us to handle the various questions we may be asked by others who want to know about our beliefs. Without a developed knowledge of the Bible and God's truth, how will we be able to stand our ground as Christians?
Also, it is vital that we continue to read the various Christian publications that are made available to us. The written testimonies and encouragements of our brothers and sisters in Christ are absolutely precious, as they provide us with so many spiritual insights and work to strengthen our faith in the power and love of God. Without the knowledge of these testimonies and experiences in our Lord Jesus Christ and the true gospel, we are left spiritually vulnerable and sometimes unable to handle the questions, criticisms, and doubts that other people direct at our beliefs. But through these amazing and moving testimonies of visions, healings, rescues, and personal transformations, we find our faith preserved, and we become equipped to handle almost anything that comes our way, especially when dealing with philosophical arguments or even arguments of science. These testimonies help to give us a cushion of faith to fall back on when questions can't be answered with mere science, philosophy, or earthly reasoning.
Develop a Healthy Christian Lifestyle
As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (2 Sam 22:31)
Who am I? What does God want me to do with my life? And, what will be my legacy when I leave this earth? All Christians must ask themselves these questions, and they should try to figure out the answers before they even set foot onto a college campus. Who are you? You are God's precious creation. You are the very soul that our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross to save. What does God want you to do with your life? In John 15:9-11, Jesus tells us,
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that your joy may be full.
And He also tells us in Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
These verses tell us that a Christian's duty in life is to strive to abide in God's love by keeping His commands and to strive to shine God's light to others, that He may be glorified and that others may be guided to our Father in heaven. If we follow these commands, we will have very touching and beautiful legacies—legacies of saved souls, forgiven sinners, and joyful lives. This is what we will leave behind on this earth when we pass on to the eternal life ahead.
To lead this kind of life, though, takes careful thought and dedication. We have to constantly consider our actions and our words, our hearts and our motives, and we must evaluate our surroundings. In order to keep yourself in Christ, you will have to decide for yourself, on a constant basis, whether your actions are Christ—like or if, in fact, they are worldly and leading you away from God.
Are you living a life in Christ, or are you beginning to engage in sinful actions that have the tendency to lead souls to drunkenness, sexual immorality, laziness, rude language, and lies? Is your heart filled with the love, happiness, contentment, and peace that Christians are easily recognized by, or is it filled with anger, jealousy, malice, bitterness, resentment, depression, fear, and worry? And what type of environment are you surrounding yourself with? Is it an environment of purity, peace, goodness, and Christian friendships, or is it an environment of godlessness, shifting values and morals, disorder, strife, and worldly friendships? These are the things you have to constantly monitor and evaluate in order to live your life as a Christian, saved and bound for your eternal home.
Looking back at Caroline's situation, we can see that she's beginning to lose her ground as a Christian. Her daily life is becoming overwhelmed by her carefree surroundings. She's living an undisciplined life—which is pretty evident by the fact that she's been oversleeping in the mornings because of her late nights out with her friends. And the fact that she wasn't able to finish her exam shows that she's not prioritizing the various aspects of her life correctly.
This reckless attitude may be a result of the fact that Caroline has surrounded herself with too many non-Christian friends and has spent too little time alone in spiritual evaluation and reflection. This chaos happens to all of us at various times in our lives, and it's something we must learn to overcome and prevent. It's not okay to lie to our professors to cover up for our irresponsible actions, and it's not okay to become reckless individuals, staying out late and forgetting the behavioral and spiritual standards we have as Christians. When we see such things beginning to happen to us, we must resolve to make major changes in our lives.
It may seem difficult, but we must make the determination to work on establishing for ourselves a healthy Christian lifestyle. But how do we create this kind of life for ourselves, especially when we are so busy with school, work, church, family, and friends? How do we find the time?
Would you believe me if I told you that there is one very selfish act you are allowed and encouraged to make a regular part of your life, and that this act has God's stamp of approval? You'd probably wonder, "When was God ever selfish?" Well, whenever our Lord Jesus Christ went off to be alone to pray, He did it to build up His own strength—He did it for His own good, ultimately benefiting all of mankind. He knew the importance of separating from this world, and He knew that this was the only way He could keep His life's mission straight.
Do this one thing for yourself: set aside time for yourself on a daily basis. Clear away all of the noise and clamor around you, and just spend time with yourself and God. Isaiah 30:15 tells us, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Use this time to pray, to meditate, to read Christian literature, to explore all kinds of edifying classical or contemporary Christian hymns, or to write in your journal. It's amazing how powerful these activities are when it comes to keeping your faith and actions in check. Remember to do this one selfish thing for yourself, and set aside time for your own spiritual evaluation and growth.
Publicly Acknowledge Your Lord Jesus Christ
Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. (Mt 10:32)
After reading the account of Caroline's day, do you get the feeling that Caroline's friends don't even know that she's a Christian? If they did, would they talk so casually about their intimate relationships around her? Would they even bother to invite her on their canoeing trip, knowing that she keeps the Sabbath? Probably not. The fact is that Caroline is most likely a quiet Christian and keeps her faith to herself. This practice can lead to several problems.
First, by not letting her friends know about her beliefs and convictions, Caroline is keeping the door of temptation open for herself. Not knowing that she is a Christian who keeps the Sabbath, Caroline's friends will continue to invite her on weekend outings that involve neglecting the Sabbath. And their invitations will remain a great source of temptation for her. It's extremely possible that Caroline will succumb to their constant requests and slowly begin to break her Sabbath commitment. Also, because her friends don't know about her religious beliefs, they will continue to discuss their intimate relationships with her, which may slowly and unnoticeably entice Caroline into following in their sexually immoral footsteps.
Second, by not letting her friends know about her beliefs and convictions concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, Caroline is missing out on great opportunities to lead souls to Christ. She is letting these good friends of hers miss out on God's salvation and blessings, simply because of her need to fit in. In fact, she is neglecting her duty as a Christian, which is to shine God's light to others.
The last problem concerns what Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:32: "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven." How sad it would be for Caroline to be turned away from the eternal rest that our Heavenly Father has promised us, because she chose to keep quiet about His incredible sacrifice for mankind. When I was younger, I never really understood how a person could simply deny Jesus before men. But now I think I can understand how easy it is to deny our Lord Jesus Christ without even realizing that we're doing such an awful thing.
When you are among a group of friends at lunch, do you quickly gather your hands, nod your head, and blink your eyes, considering this brief action a thanksgiving prayer for the food you're about to receive? Or do you solemnly fold your hands, bow your head, close your eyes, and meaningfully offer a prayer of thanksgiving to our Lord? What about situations when your friends are discussing their religious beliefs or arguments? Do you offer your personal testimonies and your beliefs, or do you quietly keep your faith to yourself, hoping to avoid their criticism and ridicule? Believe it or not, this is a denial of our faith and our Lord Jesus Christ, and for many of us it happens all the time. The apostle Paul encourages us in 2 Timothy 1:6-9:
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.
Realizing God's calling, let's make the determination to publicly acknowledge the love, power, faithfulness, and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ to the many people who surround us on a daily basis.
Standing Fast in the Faith
The apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13:
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
And in 1 Corinthians 16:13, Paul urges us, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong."
In our daily lives on campus, we must always remember to carry out the three critical actions of reading the Bible and other Christian resources daily, working to build healthy Christian lifestyles for ourselves, and making the determination to publicly confess our beliefs and our Lord Jesus Christ to others. By doing so, we will steadily build a powerful and enormous fortress that will work to guard our spirits and help us stand our ground as Christians bound for our eternal home with our Heavenly Father.
As you walk the campus of your university and gather with your college friends and study groups, may you always remember to stand your ground as a Christian, and may you shine your light to others, that they will see Christ through you.
"On Campus" seeks to support and inspire an active faith among our youth through candid discussion and exploration of the many challenges facing Christians on campus. Please send comments on this article or questions about student life to firstname.lastname@example.org.