Today most of the students in my ministry are headed back to school. Man, how the summer flies by. Now the harsh reality of early alarm clocks and homework deadlines are crashing in. Here are four thoughts as we all re-adjust to the school routine. (this blog is equally for parents as it is for students.)
1.) Be Thankful! – I know what you are thinking…”he has got to be kidding”. Well no, I’m not. Here is why. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Maybe your schedule is not perfect, student. Perhaps the teachers aren’t doing exactly the method of instruction you would prefer, parents. Be thankful. We are incredibly blessed to live in a nation that, according to the UN, has a 99% literacy rate. We are blessed to have access to science labs and football fields and musical instruments and art supplies and computer technology. These are luxuries that most of the world does not enjoy. It is nothing but God’s grace to be born in a nation and live in a community with so much abundance, and we should not mistake these gifts for entitlements.
2.) Don’t complain or criticize. – In our culture of blame shifting and entitlement can be the norm, but Christians are called to a higher standard. Parents, help your student recognize that teachers and principles are authorities over them, people God had placed over them, and they helped us learn how to live under authority. Please, parents, I urge you not join in your child’s complaints about the science teacher being too hard or the history teacher being dumb. Instead, lead your child to obey God’s command to pray for those who are in authority over us, to desire their good. Our teachers, support staff, and administrators need and want our prayers, I assure you.
Paul writes, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15) Wow. Don’t miss the awesome truth here. When we can stop our complaining, we set ourselves apart from the rest of the world. We shine the light of Jesus in this dark world of need. Is that something worth compromising because you think a teacher gave an unfair grade? Probably not. Speaking of grades, though…
3.) Focus on character more than grades. – Students, you should do your very best on all your school work. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). And, “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Colossians 3:23-24). Yes, you can do algebra to the glory of God. How? By doing your best. Learning MLA formatting for your research paper may seem pointless, but learning to follow instructions down to the level of fine details is invaluable. The great truth of that verse in Colossians says that when we work for the Lord we are not working for a grade, but for the promised inheritance that is ours in Jesus!
Now parents, remember that your child doing his or her best does not necessarily mean that she will get an A. As you encourage your children to excel, encourage them along biblical principles. The Bible says nothing about GPAs and class rankings. The Bible does speak about working hard, but also serving others, building relationships, and learning to rest. Parents be cautious not to push your child so hard for making the grade or the starting line-up that it hurts the kid’s development as a disciple of Jesus. You want your child not only to learn a good work ethic, but you also want your child to learn when to put people ahead of tasks. It is your responsibility, parents, to help them navigate these waters.
4.) Open your mouth and talk about Jesus. St. Francis of Assisi has a brilliant quote that is often taken in the completely wrong way. He said, “Preach the gospel always, and when necessary use words.” causing some people to stop talking about Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had someone fall to their knees, repent of their sins, and trust in Jesus by looking at my lifestyle alone. Words are always, always, always necessary for people to come to know Jesus. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Students, share your faith in Jesus. Talk about what you are learning from Him. Tell people about your hope in Him; do it with a smile. Trust me, students, there will come a time in life when you will not have the opportunities for sharing the gospel that you have today. Eight hours a day, five days a week for nine months you get to walk through life with the same group of people. Don’t let that pass you by without creating friendships and sharing the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
Parents, pray with your kid every day for God to give you both an opportunity at some point to talk about what Jesus has done on the cross, how He has been raised from the dead, how He reigns now as King of the universe and King of your life. Tell them about your struggles to share the gospel at work, and listen to their struggles to do the same thing at school. Encourage one another in this great task. In doing so, you start developing a relationship beyond parent-child; you start relating as brothers and sisters in Christ.
I pray this is a great school year. I pray that teachers, support staff, and administrators are given wisdom, discernment, and passion from God to do what they’ve been called to do. And I pray that Christian students and parents — and all the rest of us for that matter — will take the light of the gospel, the hope of Christ, with us from every home, into every classroom, down every hallway, through every office, to the ends of the earth!