Living and speaking for Jesus

Tag: work

Settling in

You’ve got to the end of freshers’ week – but now what? Here’s some advice for Christian students I’ve gleaned from various people over the years (with particular thanks to Dave Bish and Jim Walford).

Join a church

No one can make it alone as a Christian, and living as a student is no exception. You’ll probably be challenged about what you believe, whether in lectures or down the pub. There will be pressure to conform to a sinful culture; many Christians flirt with temptation rather than fleeing, and regret it later. You need people to support you and challenge you because they love and care for you. As a Christian you’re already part of God’s worldwide church, so make it a priority to join a local church community. Church will help you grow as a Christian, so find somewhere where as God’s Word is taught people grow to love Jesus more, love each other more and love the lost more.

Join the CU

Christian Unions are mission teams made up of students from different local churches, united around the gospel in order to better reach students with the good news of Jesus. In short, they exist to make Christ known on campus. Join your CU to get involved in student mission; to be better equipped to reach your friends with the gospel; and to be encouraged as you work as a team to bring others to know Jesus. Find out more on the UCCF website.

Join other societies/do other things!

God’s made a good world, with so many great things in it. Don’t do what I did in my first year and do so many Christian things you don’t have time to play football/sing in a choir/join the wine circle/get involved in student politics/act in a play/go to the pub with coursemates. Not only is it wrong to think such things are “less spiritual” (all of life is for God’s glory!), if you throw yourself into loads of Christian meetings to the exclusion of all else, you’ll find opportunities for mission few and far between. This is my biggest regret about my first year at university. Do something to get outside of the Christian bubble, even if it’s simply spending time with your flatmates!

Work hard, rest well

It may not feel like it sometimes, but you’re at university to study for a degree. This is a good thing to do! Your attitude to your work is a great witness to others, but more importantly God asks us to work as if working for him. My experience is that you actually enjoy your work more the more effort you put in; this is possibly my second biggest regret of my first year, as I didn’t get much out of it academically.

You also need rest, which may seem impossible during freshers’ week, but getting into good habits early on really does help. The temptation is to stay up late like everyone else, because you feel like you’ll miss out on making friendships, especially early on. God knows what you need though, and one of those things is sleep; you will not lose all your friends if you go to bed before them! (You may well find they’re waiting for someone else to suggest going to bed…) Naps are also useful, if you have been up late; caffeine less so.

Learn to love

Your flatmates might “borrow” your food, or not do the washing up, or wake you up after a late night out. Your lecturers might not be very good, or overly harsh, and can sometimes be ridiculed or hated by others. You might meet people in the CU with whom you disagree: on theology, on style of meeting, on whether Jesus would have joined the Conservative or Labour Party, on all sorts of things you hold dear. God hasn’t put you with these people and in these situations to annoy you: he’s given you an opportunity to learn to love people. This is important with non-Christians, but possibly even more so with Christians. If members of the CU don’t love each other, that’s not a good witness. If they do love each other, learning to put aside secondary issues because they agree on the core truths of the gospel, it’s a far better witness. Francis Schaeffer said:

Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father. (Francis Shaeffer, in Graham Beynon, God’s New Community (IVP), p92.)

Remember grace

You may have great intentions, but as a sinful human being you’re going to mess up. Don’t forget the gospel. Jesus died for you, and his perfect righteousness is enough to cover even the most spectacular failings. I was far from perfect at university, and needed daily reminders of God’s grace to me. (Also related: joining a church!) Living in close proximity with others, it’s reasonably sure they’ll get to see your sins and struggles – so take the opportunity to tell them of Jesus, who accepts sinners like you and them.

Summary

University is a great opportunity for so many things, but above all to grow to know and love Jesus more, and so love other people more, through living and speaking for him in your academic work, your time with friends, your CU involvement and in your church family. My prayer is that you’ll do just that!

Work and creation (part 2)

God made us to work too

There are two main verses where God gives people his instructions for what to do in the world he has made:

“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)

I’ve taken four phrases from these verses that give an overview of what humanity are called to do. All of these overlap to some extent, and they share the same theme: as those made in God’s image, we are called to work too.

Work

The Hebrew word used here is used later on in the Bible to describe what the priests did in the tabernacle, and later the temple (e.g. Numbers 3:7-8). The priests worked on behalf of the people of God – and in a similar way, humanity is to work on behalf of God. We are his stewards; or to put it another way, we “mediate” his rule to creation. God created the world, and we are to continue to work at it, develop it, find its full potential. We are to be creative, just as he is. This means everything from agriculture to architecture, from manufacturing to music. (Conveniently alliterative, but also all found in Genesis 4!)

Take care

We’re to preserve and protect creation – not destroying what is good, but making something better. We’re to pass things on to the next generation. Here we get hints of teaching, history, parenting. All good forms of work for God’s people to be involved with.

Fill the earth

The Garden of Eden was only the start. Genesis tells us that four rivers flowed out of Eden, watering the earth (Genesis 2:10-14), and God’s people are to do the same – spreading out from the garden to bless the rest of creation. This means having children (“Be fruitful and increase in number”), building cities, developing communities. It means exploration and discovery. It involves geographers, and sociologists, and people to build boats and bridges.

Subdue

The last word sounds more negative than it should, like its neighbour “rule over”. The original word seems to have the idea of ruling over and taming the earth so that it benefits people. It started out with farming, but more generally it’s seen in bringing order out of chaos – taking the world and transforming it into Eden.

So if work is God’s good gift to us, why is it so frustrating? Next time we’ll look at the effects of the Fall on God’s call for us to work, and our experience of it.

(For further reading, try Maximum Life by Julian Hardyman, whose book contains a far more in depth look at this very topic.)

Work and creation (part 1)

Last week we ran a seminar on work for our fourth year students. As there was too much to cover in the time we had, and as the content might be useful for others, I hope to post a series of entries on the topic over the coming weeks. We thought about what the doctrines of Creation, Fall and Redemption have to say about work, so we’ll begin with Creation.

God worked to create a good, physical world

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 1:31-2:2)

Work is something that God does. The Bible describes his creating the universe as “work”. And he doesn’t just set the world spinning, then sit back and relax. He continually upholds everything. Colossians 1:17 tells us that “all things hold together” in Jesus. Jesus says in John 5:17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too am working.”

God is a worker. And he works to create a world that is both physical and good. Too often Christians forget the innate goodness of the physicality of this world. We can start to think that it’s only the spiritual that matters. But the Bible reminds us that when God made this world, he said it was good. Life isn’t meant to be like one long prayer meeting; God made a good, physical world for us to enjoy and live in.

Continued on Wednesday…

What to do as a Christian fresher

Across the country, new students are settling into life in halls and houses. Based on the advice of many people over the years, here’s my advice for Christian students.

Join a church

No one can make it alone as a Christian, and living as a student is no exception. You’ll probably be challenged about what you believe, whether in lectures or down the pub. There will be pressure to conform to a sinful culture; many Christians flirt with temptation rather than fleeing, and regret it later. You need people to support you and challenge you because they love and care for you. As a Christian you’re already part of God’s worldwide church, so make it a priority to join a local church community. Church will help you grow as a Christian, so find somewhere where as God’s Word is taught people grow to love Jesus more, love each other more and love the lost more.

Join the CU

Christian Unions are mission teams made up of students from different local churches, united around the gospel in order to better reach students with the good news of Jesus. In short, they exist to make Christ known on campus. Join your CU to get involved in student mission; to be better equipped to reach your friends with the gospel; and to be encouraged as you work as a team to bring others to know Jesus. Find out more on the UCCF website.

Join other societies/do other things!

God’s made a good world, with so many great things in it. Don’t do what I did in my first year and do so many Christian things you don’t have time to play football/sing in a choir/join the wine circle/get involved in student politics/act in a play/go to the pub with coursemates. Not only is it wrong to think such things are “less spiritual” (all of life is for God’s glory!), if you throw yourself into loads of Christian meetings to the exclusion of all else, you’ll find opportunities for mission few and far between. This is my biggest regret about my first year at university. Do something to get outside of the Christian bubble, even if it’s simply spending time with your flatmates!

Work hard, rest well

It may not feel like it sometimes, but you’re at university to study for a degree. This is a good thing to do! Your attitude to your work is a great witness to others, but more importantly God asks us to work as if working for him. My experience is that you actually enjoy your work more the more effort you put in; this is possibly my second biggest regret of my first year, as I didn’t get much out of it academically.

You also need rest, which may seem impossible during freshers’ week, but getting into good habits early on really does help. The temptation is to stay up late like everyone else, because you feel like you’ll miss out on making friendships, especially early on. God knows what you need though, and one of those things is sleep; you will not lose all your friends if you go to bed before them! (You may well find they’re waiting for someone else to suggest going to bed…) Naps are also useful, if you have been up late; caffeine less so.

Learn to love

Your flatmates might “borrow” your food, or not do the washing up, or wake you up after a late night out. Your lecturers might not be very good, or overly harsh, and can sometimes be ridiculed or hated by others. You might meet people in the CU with whom you disagree: on theology, on style of meeting, on whether Jesus would have joined the Conservative or Labour Party, on all sorts of things you hold dear. God hasn’t put you with these people and in these situations to annoy you: he’s given you an opportunity to learn to love people. This is important with non-Christians, but possibly even more so with Christians. If members of the CU don’t love each other, that’s not a good witness. If they do love each other, learning to put aside secondary issues because they agree on the core truths of the gospel, it’s a far better witness. Francis Schaeffer said:

Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father. (Francis Shaeffer, in Graham Beynon, God’s New Community (IVP), p92.)

Remember grace

You may have great intentions, but as a sinful human being you’re going to mess up. Don’t forget the gospel. Jesus died for you, and his perfect righteousness is enough to cover even the most spectacular failings. I was far from perfect at university, and needed daily reminders of God’s grace to me. (Also related: joining a church!) Living in close proximity with others, it’s reasonably sure they’ll get to see your sins and struggles – so take the opportunity to tell them of Jesus, who accepts sinners like you and them.

Summary

University is a great opportunity for so many things, but above all to grow to know and love Jesus more, and so love other people more, through living and speaking for him in your academic work, your time with friends, your CU involvement and in your church family. My prayer is that you’ll do just that!

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