It has been far too long since I have posted something here, and for that I apologize. I have just recently finished up all of my assignments for my junior year of Bible college and just moved back home from Chicago for the summer. It was a crazy year full of ups and downs, and I have spent the last few days reflecting on my experience. After doing so I decided that I would share five things that I have learned from my reflection. I hope that these five things will resonate with every Christian. Whether you have never been to college, are currently in college, or have graduated a long time ago, this list is for you.
1) Invest in People/Community.
My time at school this year was great, it really was. However, I often felt as if I was so wrapped up in my life, my problems, and my needs that I would neglect investing and pouring in other people. The few times that I met with some guys I was close with just to share our passions, struggles, and really whatever, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It felt like a spark that reignited me, and I remembered why I was at school and the passion that drove me there in the first place.
In those moments I wasn’t just building into myself but I was building into others, and for some reason that gave me far more energy and excitement than simply worrying about myself ever could. I can see why the author of Hebrews warns people to not miss out on community, but rather encourage one another toward love and good works (Hebrews 10:24–25). It really is important!
2) Don’t Neglect Prayer.
Whenever someone asks me how they can pray for me I usually tell them to pray that I would pray more. I don’t believe any Christian really feels that they pray as often or as fervently as they should, but this last semester was really rough as far as prayer goes, and I could see it’s effects. I felt spiritually dry. I didn’t have the zeal I would. Prayer felt burdensome. The list goes on and on.
The few times that I did pray, I felt as if a cool breeze had hit me and I could finally just relax. But for some reason I would still neglect my time of prayer to make time for other things that were far less important. I would often place the things in my life that felt urgent higher up on my priority list than what was important. Prayer found itself being passed over for time at the library or a nap after a long day of classes and work. My busyness should not have cut down my prayer time, but rather made it increase. Instead of giving over my anxiety to God in exchange for His peace (Phil. 4:6–7) I would just horde more anxiety for myself. I neglected the gift of prayer when I needed it desperately. I hope that isn’t a mistake that I will repeat next year.
3) Don’t Fight Sin by Removal, Fight by Replacement.
I have some pesky sin in my life that won’t seem to stay dead. We all do. As I dealt with some areas of my life I was hoping to change this last year, I would often attempt to battle the sin by just removing it from my life. This strategy was successful for a limited amount of time. After a couple of days, weeks, or months it was right back and I was in the same place as before. What was wrong with this picture? I was attempting to just remove the sin, not replace it with something greater.
Until my affections are upon Christ more than the sin my heart is looking to rest in, I will not remain victorious. To the degree that I am able to replace my affection for (insert sin here) with an affection for Jesus and His way of life is the degree to which I will be free. It’s not enough to attempt to take the mind off the things of the flesh, we have to also set it upon the things of the Spirit (Rom 8:5–7)). Don’t just remove, replace.
4) Take Time to Rest.
I’m not just talking about sleep (although sleep is definitely an important part). I mean taking time every week to just rest. It’s not healthy to live under stress all the time. After finishing what was perhaps the most stressful semester of school I’ve ever had, I have definitely seen the importance of taking a Sabbath rest from work. The more I try to just go, go, go without stopping, the more I seem to break down. If I were to simply take a little time to rest and recharge myself spiritually and physically before pressing on I would have better results and a much healthier lifestyle.
5) Don’t Strain at Gnats.
Finally, don’t strain at gnats. Jesus rebukes the pharisees for straining at gnats and gulping down camels (Matt. 23:24). They would overanalyze and get hung up on the smallest things, yet they wouldn’t give two thoughts to the larger more important matters. They would just gulp down things like “justice” and “mercy.”
I had a lot in common with the Pharisees this last year. It wasn’t unusual for me to get bogged down and completely consumed by things that were not that big of a deal while not giving any focus to some of the important disciplines to stay spiritually (and physically) healthy. If you take time to think through what you are spending your time and energy on, and then identify if it is a gnat or a camel promise it will make things a lot easier on you in the long run.
There are of course more than five things that I’ve learned during this last year at college, but this is a list of five things I believe we all need to hear sometimes. I hope and pray that I can take these five lessons to heart over the next year. Whether it’s investing in people/community, not neglecting prayer, fighting sin by replacement and not just removal, taking time to rest, or not straining at gnats I hope you can find something that speaks to you as well.
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