Another school year is upon you. The beginning of a brand new semester brings dozens of other new things trailing along behind it. For some, it means a new school or even a new state, new classmates, new teachers, new subjects, and new schedules. For everyone, even those going back to the same place and routine as before, it offers two other new things: new opportunities and new challenges.
Academic opportunities may be most on your mind, but there are also relational opportunities, spiritual opportunities, and most important, gospel opportunities.
Your school is a mission field. I can say that confidently because every single place a follower of Christ goes is a mission field. It doesn’t matter whether your school is filled with professing Christians or professing atheists, whether you live in the Bible Belt or in an area where Christians are few and far between, your school is filled with opportunities because it’s filled with people. The question for you is: Will you take the opportunities?
Every single place a follower of Christ goes is a mission field
Will you use this school year for a greater purpose than getting an education, passing your tests, and hopefully gaining a good grade? As a follower of Jesus, you’re a commissioned one. You’re commissioned by your Master, Jesus Christ, for a distinct and set-apart purpose. That purpose is threefold: live a holy life, bring glory to God, and make disciples.
I’ll warn you, though—living out this purpose is not easy, especially in a secular environment. If, by God’s grace, you take on this purpose, be prepared that it will bring new challenges. There will be new, unbiblical ideas to grapple with. There will be situations where you’ll have to count the cost over speaking up and sharing truth. There will be relationships you may lose. There will be tests to your faith and to your commitment. It’s easy to coast. It’s hard to actually live like a Christian in a secular age.
There’s much I could say to try to prepare you, but as I was praying about what you needed to hear, a few passages of Scripture came to mind. Let’s dive in.
Purpose #1: Be Holy—“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).1
We’re always running toward something. Either we’re running straight into “youthful lusts” and living just like everyone else, or we have to run away from them. There is no passive middle ground. You can’t hang out with one foot tracing the edge of secular culture and the other planted on God’s terrain. If you want to use this school year for God and his glory, you have to be committed to running from sin and running toward Christ.
There is no passive middle ground. You can’t hang out with one foot tracing the edge of secular culture and the other planted on God’s terrain
If you make the choice to run from sin, that means you have to run toward something: Jesus. Righteousness, faith, love, and peace. These are attributes we consciously pursue and ask Jesus to produce within us. And do you notice the last line? “With those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Your running companions matter. In order to run the race toward Jesus and not give up, you need to run with those going in the same direction.
Practically, this can look like:
- Evaluating your friendships. Who are your running companions? If they’re not running toward Christ, they won’t help you run toward him either. Invest in godly relationships, especially with those who are older and have run the race toward Christ longer than you.
- Joining a Christ-focused, Bible-centered church. If you’re moving to a new area for school, make finding a church your number one priority.
- Evaluating the direction of your life. Are you running toward Christ or running with sin? Tolerating compromise and immorality isn’t an option. You have to flee from anything that pulls you from God.
After all, how can you be a light to others if your life looks just like theirs?
Purpose #2: Glorify God—“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (Philippians 2:14-16).
The world is growing more “crooked and perverse” by the day. Writing to the Philippian church, Paul connected “shining as lights” in such a world to “doing everything without complaining and disputing,” “becoming blameless and harmless,” and “holding fast the word of life.” In other words, living a radically obedient and counter culturally different life in full view of everyone.
The way you live is a representation of the gospel in the eyes of others. If you proclaim to be a Christian and your life holds no observable difference, you’re making a faulty statement about Christ’s character and the nature of the gospel. On the other hand, if others can see you live differently because of Jesus, you’re revealing to them that Jesus is holy and the life and heart-changing power of the gospel is true.
As the world grows more crooked, we’re called to live by the straight line of God’s Word and let it straighten out the kinks within our own daily lives. And guess what? Straight lines stand out. In your school environment, you will be surrounded by countless “crooked lines”—ideas that contradict the truth of Scripture, students and teachers and programs proclaiming opinions that diametrically oppose what you know to be true. The pressure will be on. Will you bend under the weight?
As the world grows more crooked, we’re called to live by the straight line of God’s Word and let it straighten out the kinks within our own daily lives
The stakes are growing exponentially. As John Stonestreet writes, “When I was growing up, Christians had to wrestle with whether or not our convictions could withstand the threat of ridicule.…[Now], increasingly, Christians are hated, fired, or otherwise harassed on account of their principles.” One student in Canada was suspended from school and then arrested earlier this year after protesting transgender people’s use of bathrooms and saying there are only two genders. Scenarios like this are bound to increase. How will you respond?
Will you remain faithfully committed to God’s design for male, female, and marriage? Will you graciously, but clearly, state what is true when everyone else is speaking what is false? Will you be unashamed of Jesus and his Word…even if it means being marginalized, harassed, and hated?
2 Timothy 3:12-17 promises this will happen: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them…All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
There are two truths and one challenge I want you to pull from these verses:
Truth #1: Don’t be surprised if you face opposition for Jesus. If you desire to live a godly life, suffering and opposition is promised.
Truth #2: Deception will only grow. The darker the world becomes, the more lies will continue to abound. Both the truth and the truth-upholders will be called crazy, oppressive, and bigoted. Under such pressure, you may begin to question your own beliefs. But don’t let the pressure cause you to doubt. You’re not crazy for believing God’s Word. In fact, it’s the best source of truth there is.
Challenge: Make God’s Word the thing you study most. Individuals are trained to recognize counterfeit money by handling the real thing. They touch it, smell it, and study it, until they’re familiar with every detail. Then, when they come across a fake, they can spot it right away. It’s the same way with ideas. It’s tempting to think we need to be well educated in every argument against Christianity so we’re able to recognize it, point it out, and defend the truth. While studying opposing arguments can be helpful, it’s more powerful to be deeply rooted in what is true. The more you know the Bible—study it, examine it, and let its truth go deep into your life—the more you’ll recognize false ideas and the better you’ll be able to articulate God’s truth.
While studying opposing arguments can be helpful, it’s more powerful to be deeply rooted in what is true
This school year, in the midst of new classes and exam deadlines and heaps of homework piling up on your desk, my biggest challenge to you is to make your Bible the thing you study the most. Don’t ignore your schoolwork, of course, but also don’t push aside the one thing your soul needs. A high school diploma or college degree may help you get a job and be successful in life. But a thorough knowledge of God’s Word, understood and applied, and a daily walk with Jesus, will give you life. The Word of God is what “equips you for every good work.”
It’s also what will help you give life to others.
Purpose #3: Make Disciples—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Too often, Christians live like they’re ashamed of Jesus. We tiptoe around the truth in our interactions, sometimes even subtly hiding the fact that we’re Christians, especially if we know doing so will result in pushback. But this is contrary to the nature of Christians. Lights produce light. Fruit trees produce fruit. Disciples should produce…disciples. Don’t be afraid to speak boldly about Christ. Instead, understand the power within the gospel, a power not of you, though you might be the vessel. It’s the power to save. If we know this power, how can we keep it to ourselves?
I challenge you to learn how to boldly proclaim Christ. Strike up conversations by asking good questions. A few favorites of mine are, “Do you have a faith?” “What do you believe about God?” “Have you ever read the Bible?” Use questions like these as a launching pad to dialogue about Jesus and share the gospel. (Check out chapter 14 in my book Stand Up, Stand Strong and Tactics by Greg Koukl for more conversation tips).
I challenge you to learn how to boldly proclaim Christ. Strike up conversations by asking good questions
As you enter this school year, look ahead and ask yourself: “Will I finish this year closer to God or farther from him? Will I influence my classmates for Jesus and point them to him or will I have been more greatly influenced by them? Will I have used these months to just get an education, or will I have used them to bring glory to God and fulfill the commission he’s given me?”
The answers to these questions begin with the daily decisions you make: to run hard after Jesus or drift with the world. To remain firmly rooted to God’s truth or make one small concession. To pick up your Bible or let it collect dust. To talk about Jesus or keep quiet. It’s the daily choices that paint the bigger picture.
Which choice will you make today?
Sara (Barratt) Starkey is the Editor-in-Chief of theRebelution.com and the author of Stand Up, Stand Strong: A Call to Bold Faith in a Confused Culture. She recently got married to her husband, Matthew, and together they make their home in Michigan. Connect with her on her website: SaraBarratt.com.