Graduation season has arrived. Caps and gowns have been ordered. Finals are looming. Senioritis is real. Before students know it, they are sitting in their graduation ceremony, listening to a guest speaker, and waiting to walk across the stage. High school graduates will receive a number of different messages, encouragements, and charges in these next few weeks. As a student pastor, I often ask myself: What do graduates need to hear the most? What charge can I give them that will have enduring value and point them to Christ?
Here is the charge I gave the most recent graduates from our student ministry. It is the same charge I would give every high school graduate of the Class of 2017.
The college experience will hold some of the most memorable moments of your life. In that time, you will likely move away from home, make the final call on tough decisions for the first time, determine your career, make plans for the future, develop lifelong friendships, and perhaps even find the love of your life.
It is a season full of opportunity. Opportunities for growth abound in the years to come. Opportunities…
- to grow in your education
- to grow in your friendships
- to grow in your desires and passions
- to grow in your skills and abilities
- to grow when your love for Christ and for others
- to grow in your love and commitment to the church
- to grow in your heart for the nations
- to grow up to be the man or woman that God desires you to be
While these opportunities, and many more, await you in the years to come, my challenge to you is to not waste these opportunities. Don’t waste your college years.
How can you avoid wasting your college years?
I could tell you to take your classes seriously, spend time in the library, watch what you eat, get some sleep, and call your mom every so often. I could tell you that college is about preparing for life, so don’t treat it as a vacation from life’s responsibilities. I could tell you to read your syllabus, work ahead, and leave time to edit your work before your turn it in. I could tell you to wash your clothes (and bed sheets) at least once a month or to make sure to wear flip flops in the community shower. All of these things are good life lessons and important for your success in college. However, I want to share something more foundational:
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take him his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:34-38
You won’t waste your college years if you commit to following Christ through them.
“Following” Christ is the all-encompassing, ongoing call to discipleship that pervades every part of our lives. Begin this next season of your life with an evaluation of your commitment to Christ and perhaps even renew your commitment to following Christ. What is at stake in the next season of your life is not just a degree, it is the condition of your soul, the direction and values of your life, the treasure of your hearts, and the purpose for which you live. All of these things can be defined and directed by the world around us or by the truth of God’s Word. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
But following Christ is paradoxical. The world says take as much for yourself as you can, find yourself, live and let live, chase your dreams, and make a name for yourself. Jesus simple states “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37)
Rather following your own dreams and creating your own path, He calls you to follow Him during college—allowing Him to shape your dreams and direct your path.
Rather than seeking wealth or status, He calls you to spend your life for His sake and the sake of the gospel.
Rather than escaping from responsibility, He calls you to work hard—not just at your education but at your spiritual growth.
Rather than finding your identity in social connections, He call you to find your identity in Him so that you can be freed up to love and serve others.
Rather than making your life about academics, He calls you to submit your academics to Him.
Rather than immersing yourself in sports, clubs, or initiatives, He calls you to first be immersed in Him and His Word each day.
Following Christ may be paradoxical, but it is worth it. What does it profit a student to move up the social ladder, excel in academics, or advance a career, but forfeit their soul. Christ calls you to follow Him down the often difficult but always satisfying path of discipleship during college. He invites you to lose yourself for his sake and in the process you will discover who He has made you to be and what He has gifted and called you to do.
Will you lose yourself for His sake? Will you commit yourself to follow Christ during your college years? Will you wager the short-term hope of finding yourself in this world for the long-term promise of finding yourself in Christ?
So how do you follow Christ faithfully in college? What will you need? There are many things that could be suggested, but these two things are foundational: God’s Word and God’s people. Give yourself to God’s Word and commit yourself to God’s people!
Give Yourself to God’s Word
You cannot follow Christ apart from being in His Word. While you will be entrusted with great knowledge and responsibility during your college years, nothing will sustain you in the present or prepare you for the future more than spending time in God’s Word. Find a time, get some accountability, and dig into God’s Word. Study it, talk about it, read it with others, memorize it, meditate on it, walk in obedience to it, and share it.
Commit Yourself to God’s People
You cannot follow Christ apart from God’s people, the church. Yes, you will be busy. Yes, Saturdays will often be full and Sundays will become treasured time to catch up on homework. Go to church anyway. Cut out the time each Sunday to be connected with God’s people. Don’t put it off because of homework or because you’re too tired. Make it a priority. I would even challenge you to go a step further: get into a small group with believers who can challenge you, hold you accountable, and speak truth into your life. Why would you spend four to five years preparing for life, but cut out what is most essential to the Christian life in the process? Being around God’s people will keep you grounded, accountable, encouraged, and well-fed. Treat church as a necessity, not as an extra-curricular activity.
You won’t waste your college years if you give yourself to God’s Word and commit yourself to God’s people!
It is ultimately your opportunity and your decision regarding what you will do it in the next season of your life. I charge you to not waste your college years, but live them, enjoy them, spend them as committed followers of Jesus Christ.
Pursue your education and career in submission to Jesus Christ. Give God your plans and desires and ask Him to direct your paths. Entrust your dreams to our sovereign God and ask Him to make them true in His way, in His time, and for His glory.
You won’t waste your college years or your life when you follow Christ and believe Him to be far surpassingly greater than anything or anyone else.