Trinity College

What’s God got to do with College?

TCD Christian Union have asked me to come in and speak on the subject ‘What’s God got to do with College?” which I am looking forward to. I will be sharing from Proverbs 8 about how we need wisdom from God to make the most of college so that we don’t look back with regret at our college years. Ultimately we’ll see how that wisdom comes through knowing Christ (Colossians 2:3).

Last year I wrote a blog post entitled 5 ways to ensure you flourish as a Christian student. In this blog post I thought I’d list five things God has got to do with college, in answer to the question I have been posed.

(1) God is the source of knowledge

Of course if you believe there is no God you find this preposterous, but then you have to ask the question – what is the point of learning at all? If there is no God; if there is no higher meaning or power in the universe, what is the point of this world and why should we try and understand it better? John Gray, Professor of the History of European Thought at the London School of Economics puts it this way in his book Straw Dogs:

If you believe that humans are animals, there can be no such thing as the history of humanity, only the lives of particular humans. If we speak of the history of the species at all, it is only to signify the unknowable sum of these lives. As with other animals, some lives are happy, some are wretched. None has meaning that lies beyond itself. Looking for meaning in history is like looking for patterns in clouds. Nietzche knew this, but he could not accept it. He was trapped in the chalk circle of Christian hopes.

Now apart from Gray’s fatal error of claiming to know something about the meaning of history, making his argument circular and self-defeating (his epistemology is incoherent), he shows where the logical view of atheism ends up, with a meaningless world. Without God and the Christian hope, there is no point to life and therefore there is no point to learning.

However the Christian has a different view! History and life has meaning because God gives it meaning; therefore one of our great joys, and one act of worship, is to go and learn and discover and explore and examine as much as we can about God’s world. So God wants us to learn because as we learn we come to know more of who he is and what he wants for this world. Kepler put it well when he said:

Science is thinking God’s thoughts after him.

So as you come to college as a student, God wants you to love him with your mind and discover and learn all you can, to his glory and for the good of mankind. Make the most of learning while you have time put aside to do so.

(2) God is the source of relationships

College is a time where you can meet all kinds of people from all walks of life – that’s one of the reasons college can be so special and unique. And God wants us to form relationships with others in order to learn from and find joy in one another. In Genesis 1-2 the only thing that is “not good” about a perfect paradise is that Adam was alone. God had to make a companion for him. Loneliness and isolation are against God’s design for us. And this makes sense when we remember we are made in the image of a triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and to reflect him we too must live our lives in communities and within circles of family and friends.

So as you come to college as a student, God wants you to get to know people, love people, learn from people and find immense joy in the friendships you have. Make the most of making great friends; some of which will last for the rest of your life.

(3) God is the source of joy

One of the famous lines (which may be apocryphal) that has come down to us from history about God wanting to bring us joy is from Eric Liddel in Chariots of Fire. He knows he is called to be a missionary in China, but he is also the best sprinter in the world and wants to race in the Olympics first. And when he is discussing this with his Sister he says:

God made me for a purpose, for China… but God also made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure.

College is an opportunity to try lots of things out, whether sport or music or debating or crafts or business/social enterprise projects; not to mention the great parties that happen. And God loves it when we find things that we are passionate about and good at, and give ourselves wholeheartedly to them and find that we are ‘lost in them’, so to speak, and can feel his joy and pleasure as we give him our best. Of course idolatry and pride lurk very close in our hearts when we are good at something, but that should not stop us finding great joy in the gifts, opportunities and experiences God gives us.

So as you come to college as a student, God wants you to find great joy in your relationships, joy in him and joy in his gifts. Go for it!

(4) God is the source of growth

College provides an opportunity to grow, not just in knowledge but in your character and emotions. It can be a time to leave the childish ways behind and transition into adulthood. Unfortunately many people see it as a time to prolong their teenage years and fail to take on responsibility and make decisions about their life, but as this TED talk says, 30 is not the new 20, so it’s worth not wasting your college years away.

God wants each of us to grow and to learn to take responsibility for our lives, and make good decisions which help us along the path of righteousness. The book of Proverbs is very clear at telling us that each day we’re choosing wisdom or folly, the way of God or the way of the world, and we mustn’t think that the small decisions we make today towards sin won’t have a larger effect on our character and destiny. We reap what we sow. As the famous adage goes:

Sow a thought, reap an action

Sow an action, reap a habit

Sow a habit, reap a character

Sow a character, reap a destiny

So at college God wants you to grow in wisdom, maturity, emotional intelligence, stability and godliness. And if you will allow him, he’ll use college to form you, mould you, transform you and grow you. You are going to grow, the only question is will you grow in righteousness or worldliness, wisdom or folly? May college be a time when God forms in you a character that means you reap a great destiny.

(5) God is the source of mission

College is a contested place. There’s lots of God’s image and God’s beauty to be seen and found, but there is also a lot of darkness, sin and idolatry that needs to be challenged. When God saw that the world had gone wrong and drifted from his purposes he engaged with it to bring hope, joy and freedom to people who were despairing, dissatisfied and enslaved. First he sent his light through Abraham; then through multiple prophets, kings and priests. And finally he came himself, in Jesus, born as a baby into the darkness to start a kingdom that would never end. And he commissioned us to go with the message of Jesus, his death and resurrection, so that others might encounter the hope, joy and freedom he brings and inherit eternal life through believing in him.

So as you come to college as a student, remember it is contested ground. Your heart and your life will be under attack, you’ll face temptations to pride, various forms of sin and the worship of idols (typically success and popularity). Don’t be naive about the spiritual battle, but be armed to be God’s ambassador, representing the King and bringing his kingdom to bear in the lives of those around you. Put on the full armour of God and rely on his Holy Spirit to empower you.

I hope you can see, God has everything to do with college, so bring him into everything you do!

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