A Recent College Graduate’s Guide to Making it Through College While Maintaining Their Faith

Introduction
                If you have recently graduated from University just like I have, you are very much aware of what goes on there in and out of the classroom. One thing that stays consistent is that it is normally the time that many students embark on a spiritual journey to find themselves, discover truth, liberate their minds, etc. There are many spiritual/religious groups that are found on University campus, but a trend that I have noticed is that, at least in the United States, that our generation is leaving the Christian church. For all the so called “tolerance” that is preached by most universities, I seem to notice a growing hostility toward the Christian faith, at least at my alma mater. Now don’t misunderstand me, there are still believers in the university, but the majority is not vocal, either through apathy to what is going on, fear of being ostracized by their peers for asserting their faith, or other reasons. In the departments that I studied in, Chemistry and Physics, there was outright hostility toward those who had any sort of faith in the supernatural at all. In the student lounge in the Physics building, at least once a semester there was a day where the topics of conversation seemed to revolve around how stupid and pathetic those persons are who had any faith in the supernatural. Now as a student of Physics and Chemistry I have a very narrow sample of the total students in the university, but reading the various social media pages related to the university, as well as people around my age, I get the same sentiment from a large amount of the students posting there as from my fellow science students.
                So in not-so-few words, I have stated that if you have any kind of faith at all, specifically a Christian faith, you will become a minority in the university if you were not one already. I came from a small town in Texas with at least a dozen churches of various denominations within and around the town so I am in the category from going from a vast majority to a minority. It was definitely a shock for me to have my first discussion with someone who was openly hostile to the idea of a supernatural God. His arguments shook me so much that I almost gave up my faith and joined him in this growing atheist movement. I became very depressed for a while, but I decided to act and analyze my faith to see if any of the arguments that I had heard held up under any sort of professional scrutiny. I started with one of the greatest speakers that I have heard on the topic of science, faith, and where they converge, Prof. John Lennox of Oxford. I also read the likes of C.S. Lewis and William Lane Craig, and combined with my own readings of the Bible under a new light, not only did I rebuild my faith; I am much stronger in it that when I was before I had my first serious discussion with an atheist. What I hope to do with this book is that I can relay what I have learned in my own words and hopefully warn and equip anyone who is going into a university setting of what they are walking into.  
The Internal Struggle
When you graduate high school, you will probably be moving away from home for the first time to attend whatever college you have been accepted to and decided to attend. You will be away from your parents, family, friends, and the people who could tattle on your wild parties to your parents. You start believing that you can handle whatever comes your way by yourself or you let your priorities get mixed up in your head of what’s important, studying for the next mid-term or going out and partying for example. Your worst enemy sometimes, from worldly priorities to spiritual ones, is yourself. The easiest way to get off-track in your walk with God is by giving in to your ego and your worldly wants. 
The temptation of becoming a wild child after leaving home is definitely great. One of my best friends from high school went this route and she got pregnant in her second semester of college and dropped out of school. Since having her child she has gone back to school at a community college, but has not come back to church due to the harassment she gets for having a child outside of marriage. Since most of this harassment comes from people who claim to be Christians, I can’t exactly blame her for being hostile to the church. If you do find yourself moving away from home for the first time, you will almost certainly have the thought that you can take care of everything yourself now that you are an adult and Mom and Dad aren’t around to tell you what to do.
Even with myself living at home, I became a ghost, coming and going at my pleasure. After I graduated high school, I was pretty much free to do as I please, and I fell into the prodigal son mentality as well. I was promoted to head sacker at the grocery store I was at; as well as being trained in just about every job in the store except for the meat market and management. Most of the responsibilities I inherited from the people who had been there before me and left the store for various reasons. I admit, I went power mad and let my anger do most of my talking. If the store wasn’t being run in the way that I thought it should be run, I let my opinion be heard as loudly as possible. I started fights with my co-workers, let the younger employees do my job while I slacked off when possible, and the list goes on. I was almost fired on multiple occasions, but only the grace of God and my boss’ forgiveness kept me employed. I was finally convicted by the Holy Spirit of what I was doing and I repented and attempted to mend my relationships with my co-workers who were still at the store.
I could go on and on with the many mistakes that have been made by myself and people I know who have let Satan lie to them about who they are and what is important in life, but hopefully I have made my point clear, it is all too easy to buy into the lie that you are better than everyone else and you know better than those who love you.
So if it is so easy to get off track in your walks with God, why even try? If this is the question that you are asking after reading this section; I want you to pick up your Bibles and go read some verses for me. Starting with Peter 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and stead-fast. ” In James 1:2-18, this passage starts with “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Flip back to the Old Testament and read the book of Job as well. The first two verses are pretty common on the subject of trials and temptations, but why the book of Job? If one reads the entire book of Job, you will see the story of a man who is tested to the point that his wife and three closest friends turned on him, yet Job retained his faith in God. I am choosing my words carefully here to aim at those that use their life situation to justify their behavior or their outright denial of God. God allowed Satan to completely ruin Job’s life to the point that his wife told him to curse God and die! Yet Job believed that God would answer his pleas for assistance and He provided twice as much as Job had before He allowed Satan to destroy Job’s life, including providing more children for Job after his first children were lost to the disaster Satan brought upon them.
As for the first two verses, there is a certain subtlety to them as well as the obvious message. With the passage from 1 Peter, a male lion doesn’t actually participate in the hunt, but is a visually appealing creature. Unfortunately, there are people who do not appreciate the danger of this big cat and will get too close to try and pet it or get a picture and not realize that they are about to become lunch before it is too late. The lion is the lifestyle that is calling you away from your walk with God. These pitfalls are “roaring” at us from every media outlet we see and even some of your family and friends. If I am allowed the reference, the lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll leads to many destructive behaviors and before you know it, you are serving a jail sentence for something you did on the spur of the moment because it felt good. From the passage in James, you might be above the partying lifestyle, but you will be tested in other aspects of your life and faith. Pray to God that he would help to make your weaknesses into strengths and that you would not falter when you are tested, but instead that you would look to Heaven for help from Him who knew you from before you were conceived in your mother’s womb.
The External Struggle
As I brought up when I began, there is a definite external component to your faith in the form of the great commission. As I am an American citizen, I enjoy the Constitutional right of freedom of religion, where I have the ability to freely share my faith with those who would hear me without fear of government oppression. Although recently there are those who would gladly use their respective governments in their countries to silence and eliminate religious people entirely.. Thankfully, as the situation stands, within the United States there is only a social stigma against Christians in certain regions of the country, and these regions are spreading. 
If you are blessed to be in the United States at this moment, rejoice that the Lord has put you in a place of relative spiritual freedom. If you were in the Middle East and you decided to start pronouncing your faith, the best you could hope for is for people to treat you like refuse. At worst, especially if you are a convert from Islam, you would be killed. There are countries around the world that treat Christians like second-rate citizens just because of their faith, assuming of course they are allowed to even pronounce their faith without being thrown in jail and/or executed. If somehow what I write here does make it outside of the United States to these types of areas, and you are a believer in Christ as our Lord and Savior, my heart goes out to you and I pray every day for your endurance and safety as you carry out His great commission.
No matter where you are, you will face opposition if you attempt to follow the great commission and make disciples of men. You will be mocked, discouraged, and ostracized by some of those whom you speak to. Please remember this when you are turned away, if one person has his/her beliefs very polarized in one direction or another, no amount of clever rhetoric you say will convince that person to come over to your side. Accepting the Gospel of Christ is a personal decision of the heart that person must made for themselves. Enter God as the Holy Spirit, he will work on that person’s heart and bring him/her to a state where he/she will be receptive to the gospel. Now I am not saying that you should just watch and wait for these people, you need to be showing these people the love of Christ through your words and actions.
My advice for those of you who haven’t already been doing so in their walks with God and their ministry to those around them, find some extra-Biblical reading that will help you get your point across and hopefully help to make some points in scripture clear to you. I will come back to getting your point across but right now I am going to focus on my comment on making scripture clear. If you come across a piece of scripture that you do not immediately understand, the worst thing you could do is try to make up your own meaning for it. Please pray over this part of God’s word that you do not understand and look up what others have said about it. The answer may not come immediately, but God will provide wisdom and understanding if that is truly what you seek from His word.
I have noticed an interesting shift take place in the discussion between believers and non-believers when it comes to quoting scripture. When believers quote scripture as an answer to a question, non-believers tend to immediately shut down and scoff at the person quoting scripture as if they just made an unfunny joke. The answer I have got for this reaction is that the non-believer doesn’t even believe in God, so why should they recognize what the Bible has to say? Extra-Biblical sources will hopefully help to get your point across without “forcing” your religion down a person’s throat. Now I did mention that no amount of argumentation will convince a person one way or another, but your discourse with them will hopefully get them thinking about the issue, which gives God a foothold to start bringing that person around. I do have some personal favorites by Christian writers who are very easy to read, but please don’t go off of just my reading list. Some people like certain writers and speakers for a reason, those persons can deliver answers to questions that resonate well with certain seekers but not so well with others. If you want a good all-around book that most people can agree upon as an essential extra-Biblical read, I would recommend Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. While it is an older book, C.S. Lewis and his contemporaries had the foresight to see what was happening and wrote their various books to try and help future Christians who are struggling to maintain their faith in this world that is becoming more and more secular and less and less about God.
Further Thoughts
While I believe I have given a general sweep of what I encountered during my college experience, I am just one man, so I cannot possibly know every good and bad experience you can possibly have in college. I do have a few safety nets that you can use so that maybe they can be a catch-all for most experiences that you have during your college career.
Stay in the Word! Your walk with God is founded on his Word, which He gave to us so that we may begin to know Him in this life. His Word has the answer to everything to which we may have questions, even if we can’t find them on the first try. Pray over your problems and stay in the Word and God will answer you in His perfect time. I mention that it is in His time because too many American Christians believe that praying to God is like ordering at McDonald’s. If He takes more than 5 minutes to answer, God obviously abandoned you and left you to figure out your own solution to your problem. Go and read in the Old Testament the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. Abraham prayed to God so that he may have a son for him to carry on his name. God answered Abraham’s prayer when he was 100 years old and his wife Rebecca was over 90 years old. There are many other stories in the Bible where people had to wait on God, but He always came through for His people. Just remember, if God is asking you to wait on an answer, you are in good company!
Stay in contact with your family, especially those older that you (e.g. parents)! Believe it or not, your older family members have most likely lived through the situations you are now facing in one way or another. If you need help, they are definitely a good place to start for advice and help. I would hope that your parents love you enough to try to help you with any issue that you have, not just your tuition bill each semester. Maybe you have an older brother/sister that has some advice or encouragement for you if you aren’t on good terms with your parents.
Find a good group of Christian friends at your college! I cannot stress this enough. You are not meant to go through your walk with God alone. He puts people in your path to help you, teach you, and for you to teach. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. Christians need to be forming a support group for one another not just to meet once a week and hang out, but to really challenge one another and to equip one another for the spiritual war that we are all fighting. Normally you can find a Christian group within your University, but the local churches will almost always have college groups in college towns.
Now this has definitely been one of my longest blog articles to date, and I want to thank you for reading this far. If you are heading into college this fall, I want you to know that I am praying for you that you may remain strong in your faith. If you are continuing in your college career, maybe this is new for you and it is helpful. I hope that you have a good rest of your day and a blessed week.

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