As Rebelutionaries we all are familiar with the challenge to “Do Hard Things” and “Rebel against Low Expectations” not because we believe in youth empowerment, but because we believe God would have us be strong and effective ambassadors of His word and the Gospel. This takes effort on our parts, and it takes a conscience effort to glorify God in whatever we do. Colossians 3:17, a verse well known to Christians, says,
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”
Likewise, I Corinthians 10:31 says,
"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
This simple but powerful exhortation applies quite literally to our lives and to all our callings. One challenging calling for young people is to glorify God in and through our education.
Recently, while perusing firstthings.com, I came across an article by Stanley Hauerwas titled “Go With God: An open letter to young Christians on their way to college”. The article contains many wise truths and exhortations, but the following portion in particular caught my eye and prompted this post.
“The Christian fact is very straightforward: To be a student is a calling. Your parents are setting up accounts to pay the bills, or you are scraping together your own resources and taking out loans, or a scholarship is making college possible. Whatever the practical source, the end result is the same. You are privileged to enter a time—four years!—during which your main job is to listen to lectures, attend seminars, go to labs, and read books.
It is an extraordinary gift. In a world of deep injustice and violence, a people exists that thinks some can be given time to study. We need you to take seriously the calling that is yours by virtue of going to college. You may well be thinking, “What is he thinking? I’m just beginning my freshman year. I’m not being called to be a student. None of my peers thinks he or she is called to be a student. They’re going to college because it prepares you for life. I’m going to college so I can get a better job and have a better life than I’d have if I didn’t go to college. It’s not a calling.”
But you are a Christian. This means you cannot go to college just to get a better job. These days, people talk about college as an investment because they think of education as a bank account: You deposit the knowledge and expertise you’ve earned, and when it comes time to get a job, you make a withdrawal, putting all that stuff on a résumé and making money off the investment of your four years. Christians need jobs just like anybody else, but the years you spend as an undergraduate are like everything else in your life. They’re not yours to do with as you please. They’re Christ’s.
Christ’s call on you as a student is a calling to meet the needs of the Church, both for its own life and the life of the world. The Resurrection of Jesus, Wilken suggests, is not only the central fact of Christian worship but also the ground of all Christian thinking “about God, about human beings, about the world and history.” Somebody needs to do that thinking—and that means you.
Don’t underestimate how much the Church needs your mind. Remember your Bible-study class? Christians read Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant as pointing to Christ. That seems obvious, but it’s not; or at least it wasn’t obvious to the Ethiopian eunuch to whom the Lord sent Philip to explain things. Christ is written everywhere, not only in the prophecies of the Old Testament but also in the pages of history and in the book of nature. The Church has been explaining, interpreting, and illuminating ever since it began. It takes an educated mind to do the Church’s work of thinking about and interpreting the world in light of Christ. Physics, sociology, French literary theory: All these and more—in fact, everything you study in college—is bathed in the light of Christ. It takes the eyes of faith to see that light, and it takes an educated mind to understand and articulate it."
The church does indeed need men and women of learning and education who excel in all aspects of their calling. The Bible is full of examples of people that excelled in their crafts and were used mightily of God because of that excellence.
Think of Joseph. Though treacherously sold into slavery by his brothers he purposed to excel in doing whatever task the Lord gave Him to do. Consequently, he was raised to the second highest position of the dominant empire of that time and through him God preserved His people.
Think of David. God used his skill with the harp to place him in a position of note with King Saul and there He ministered to the king.
Think of Daniel, and of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. Taken from their homeland in bondage, all served God faithfully and excelled in the ministry given to them and all made huge God honoring impacts that are remembered to this day.
The example of these Godly men brings this passage to mind:
29 Do you see a man who excels in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before unknown men. (Proverbs 22:29, New King James Version)
We won’t all be well known like Joseph, David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, but if we don't pursue excellence we can be certain none of us will attain it. Even if we know with certainty that we will not be famous and widely influential persons we are all still called to serve God with the same excellence so that we can be effective and faithful tools in the hand of the Master Builder.
Many thanks to Mr. Hauerwas for his exhortations and may we all pursue excellence in our education!