First of all, I want you to ask yourself this question: Is Jesus worth pursuing?
If your answer is yes, then what does it look like to pursue Jesus? And what distracts or prevents you from pursuing Jesus? To help yourself answer these questions, I want you to write down all of the priorities you have right now while you are in college. Open up a note on your computer or phone and just do it. Here were some of my priorities as an example: School, running (I was on the cross country and track team at Oregon State), Young Life (I was a Young Life leader through college), building my resume, family, work, my relationship with Jesus, boyfriends, friends, roommates, teammates and church. I’m sure your list is full of them too. Maybe it’s your sorority, a club, an intramural sports team, parties, reputation, good grades, social media, the list goes on… and I’m sure it’s a long one.
But so much of pursuing Jesus, is about prioritizing Jesus.
So, your thinking, “well great… how the heck am I supposed to pursue Jesus when I have all those priorities!?” Let’s be honest, it’s really hard to prioritize Jesus. Especially in college. Like how the heck do we as women prioritize and pursue Jesus among all those things!? Pursuing Jesus is not about doing more things to add to your list of priorities, it’s about inviting Jesus into each of those things, and creating room in your life for him to change who you ARE, not just what you DO.
My college years were pivotal in growing my faith, strengthening my relationship with Christ and preparing me for life after college. I want to walk you through some practical ways, based on my own journey, that I think will help you cultivate intimacy with Christ, and become the woman He created you to be. I am super passionate about this because in college, I sucked at it. I was that girl that wanted to keep adding more things to the list of priorities. More, more, more. I thought my heart in it was pure because I was evangelizing, aka telling all these people about Jesus, and bringing them to church, and meeting new Young Life girls, and inviting girls in my classes to college Young Life…. Not that any of those things are bad!!
But the dangerous thing about evangelism is that it can cause your intimacy with Christ to suffer.
I learned this the hard way in college. I said yes to all the good things, and lost sight of the best thing! You know that verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? Well, I sorta over-glorified the, “I can do all things part…” I wanted to make sure I took every opportunity to share Jesus with people and do kingdom work. But I ran myself to the ground….to the point where I was physically sick, and I actually had to take a term off of college during my junior year because of it.
That’s when I finally was forced to listen to God. So, I want to share with you all a few ways that I think will help you pursue Jesus through your college years. Specifically, 8 ways. Now don’t be freaked out… you might be thinking 8 ways, Audrey? Really? I have enough things on my plate right now and you’re going to give me 8 MORE things to do? Well, sort of, but it’s more like 8 things to help you do all those other things you do, better. BUT as I list out these 8 things, I want you to know that they are not all things that I was living out as a freshman in college. It was a gradual process of realizing how essential each of these things were to pursuing Jesus.
1. SPEND TIME ALONE WITH JESUS
Proverbs 4:20 – “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.” What does spending alone time with Jesus look like? Now this might be different for you than it is for me, but for me, spending alone time with Jesus looks like; finding a quiet space to pray, tune into the Holy Spirit, and opening my Bible to read God’s word. You need to spend time alone with God reading His truth. The key to consistently spending time in God’s word, is creating a rhythm that will establish the habit of reading God’s word.
You have the power to create good habits and bad habits.
A couple years ago I read a book called, “the Power of Habit” The entire book is about why we do what we do. Basically, it argues that all of life is a series of habits. Good ones and bad ones. The book talks about how a habit is a cycle with three parts. You have a cue (the trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use). Then there is routine (the habit, which can be physical or emotional). And finally, there is a reward (or the reason you form the routine). The reward is what helps you determine if the routine is worth repeating. If you want to get rid of a bad habit, you have to find out how to implement a healthier routine to yield the same reward.
For example, it’s Friday (CUE). you make plans to go to that party with your friends (ROUTINE). And as a result, you have fun socializing and relaxing (REWARD). If the reward is socializing, and relaxing, and you want to change the habit of partying, come up with something to do that yields that same socialization and relaxation reward for you. Spend some time later analyzing your habits, it’s a powerful exercise. Okay, so all this to be said about habits, I would argue that the most important habit you can form in your life is spending time with the Lord every day. DON’T wait until after college to start doing this.
This is what my habit cycle looked like when I was in college:
Cue – my alarm clock
routine – grabbing my bible, journal, and a cup of coffee
Reward – joy, peace, clarity, direction, comfort, discernment, hope, wisdom, and strength
There is nothing more rewarding than spending time with Jesus. If you want to grow your relationship with Jesus, to know and love him more, you have to spend time with him. Just like with any relationship where you want to get to know someone better, you have to spend time with them. The way we get to know Jesus more is by reading his word.
If you are reading this article, it it’s probably because you want to see what pursuing Jesus is all about, or to figure out how to pursue him better! So, I want you to think about a time of day that works for you to spend time with Jesus daily. Okay, now get out your phones and schedule it in your calendar on your phone as an alert. Type in: “time alone with the Jesus,” and have it go off every day. Now each time that alert goes off, I would encourage you to put your phones on airplane mode so you are not distracted. It takes 30 days to form a habit. Keep this alert scheduled in your phone EVERY DAY for 30 days. I bet after that you won’t need the alert, because it will just become a habit!
2. SEEK REST:
Rest was one of those things I had to learn the hard way. Some of you might be thinking, rest? I don’t have time for that…I’ll sleep when I’m dead. And to that I would say, that was 100% me in college – until I got burnt out, stressed out, overwhelmed, and ran myself to the ground… Remember that verse I said before “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?” Well, there are a lot of verses like that in the Bible. Those were the verses that propelled much of my life in college, but, there are also a lot of verses in the Bible about REST.
Hebrews 4: 9-11 – “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”
Isaiah 30:15 – “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…”
Jesus was a pretty busy guy, yet he continually withdrew to quiet places to rest. And guess what, even GOD rested! Genesis 2:2 says, In 6 days he created the earth, and on the 7th day he rested from all of his work. Exodus 31:15 says, “For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, holy to the LORD.” God rested, and Jesus rested to set an example for us, so that we would rest. If we don’t learn how to rest well, we won’t be able to live life to our fullest potential.
So, what does it look like to rest well? When they talk about rest in the Bible, or taking a day of rest, they aren’t talking about sleeping in, or taking a day off. Although those things can be part of a day of rest, they aren’t the main point. A day of rest is a day to stop working, stop striving, stop wanting things, and stop checking off our to-do lists. We aren’t robots, we can’t work, do homework, run errands, reply to e-mails and scroll through social media 24/7. I would argue that rest is part of what makes us human. A day of rest means a day to praise God for what we have, for life itself, and to spend time with each other, our community, and the Lord undistracted by the demands of this world.
Mark 2;27 says, “Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Sabbath, which is a Biblical word for rest, was created for us!
I had a mentor in college that really hammered into me the importance of rest because she was/is extremely passionate about the importance silence and solitude. She used to organize what she called, ‘Silent retreats” once a term while I was in college. On these silent retreats, we would go away to the coast for the weekend with a small group of women, where we would literally be silent. Now I am a talker, so I knew this would be a challenge for me the first time I went, but after going once, I began to crave it every term. These retreats were vital to me in college. I made some major life decisions during these retreats, and the Lord always revealed more of himself and his plans for me during my time of silence and stillness.
I think God knew that our world would become addicted to busyness, and constantly distracted. I think he knew our hearts crave too much of a good thing, and become overburdened. So, I would encourage you all to try taking a day of rest, maybe once a month, or maybe once a term. Go away for the weekend or the day, turn off your phone, and spend some time with Jesus and people that you love. Or, maybe you even go on a silent retreat.
You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with. Be intentional about who you are spending time with. Now, I want to stress something in regard to community. The best kind of community is not just something that organically happens due to circumstances. Some of you might be thinking your community is your sports team, your roommates, your sorority, or maybe even your family. The kind of community I am talking about here is a Godly community. A community that helps you pursue Christ, prays for you, encourages you, shares hard truths with you, and calls you out when you are walking in disobedience to the scriptures.
Psalm 133:1 says “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
I think that a lot of people like the idea of community, but when it comes to truly fleshing it out, it’s hard. Being in community means you open up your life to the criticism of others who you trust. Jesus had a community. He had 12 disciples, but he also had an inner circle of three that best friends (Peter, James and John). My Young Life area director in college used to describe the ministry of young life this way: “You should know 72 kids by name, know 12 personally, and walk intimately with 3.” To this day, I practice this as a framework for community in my own life.
Write this down and answer it for yourself later: Who are your 72 (those girls on your sports team, in your class, or in your sorority), who are your 12 (those friends who are there for you in a heartbeat, who know you well, maybe your family) and who are your 3 (those girls you are especially vulnerable with, the ones who challenge you, pray WITH YOU, and call you out).
Your community has the power to shape you and influence your life. Community in college is a precious thing. It’s much harder to find and immerse yourself in, when you are out of college, so take advantage of it now, and it will follow you! One of my favorite verses on community is Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
I would also encourage you all to find a church community. There is a lot of instruction on what church is and should be in the Bible, and if you are struggling in finding a church, here are some verses that might help you: Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Timothy 5, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Titus 1:5-9, Ephesians 5:18-21, 1 Corinthians 14:26, 1 Timothy 2, Acts 2:42, Matthew 28:16-20, Matthew 18:20, Hebrews 13:17
Here are a few productive questions I would ask yourself before you commit to a church body:
· Are they opening the Bible every Sunday and teaching the scriptures?
· Is there opportunity to get connected with smaller groups within the church?
· Do you come and go to church unnoticed, or is there accountability from the body?
· Is it pushing you and growing you in your walk with the Lord?
Find. A. Mentor. I prayed for a mentor for years, before I was finally approached by two women in the same week who offered to mentor me. But this isn’t always how mentor relationships come about. Sometimes YOU have to be the one to go to an older woman that you respect, and ask if she would be willing to meet with you and share her wisdom and insight. More often than not, that woman will probably feel like God has given her an opportunity by you asking her. So, don’t be afraid to ask! Titus 2:3-5 says, “In regard to the older women, that they are to teach the younger women.” Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” And Proverbs 28:26 says, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”
5. ELIMINATE SIN:
Sin separates us from God.
YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO IMPLEMENT ANY OF THESE OTHER WAYS OF PURSING JESUS, IF YOU ARE WALKING IN SIN. Sin will make you feel further away from him, especially if you know you are in sin, but continue to walk in it. 1 Samuel 15:22 says “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” You could be serving in Sunday school, giving your money to the poor, and saving the world all day long, but if you are walking in sin, you are displeasing to the Lord.
A.W. Tozer: “To escape the error of salvation by works, we have fallen into the opposite error of salvation without obedience.”
Jesus said in John 8:34 “Jesus answered them, “truly I say to you anyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
James 4:17 “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
If you are walking in sin, Jesus calls us to repentance, which literally means turning from sin and choosing to walk in the fullness of Christ. Pursuing Jesus often requires us to give up good things, and to hard things, in order to experience the best things. When it comes to sin, you shouldn’t be asking where is the line and how close can I get to it? That is not coming from a heart yielded to Jesus. Pursuing Jesus means asking yourself where is the line, and how far can I get away from it?
6.LISTEN AND OBEY:
First of all, you can’t listen and obey if you aren’t spending time in God’s word, and listening to his spirit.
James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Hebrews 3:15 ”If you hear God’s voice today, do not be stubborn…”
Proverbs 10:17 “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.”
The Bible stresses obedience to itself through these verses. Through the Bible, God gives us instructions on how to live our lives. These instructions were not designed to make us feel confined, or to crash our party. They are designed to give us direction, wisdom, comfort, and hope, to draw us to the Lord, bring glory and honor to His name, and carry out the work he has for each of us to do!
God speaks to us through His word, AND through the Holy Spirt. The Holy Spirit presses certain things on our hearts. When you feel like God is silent in your life, it’s probably because he has already spoken, and he is still waiting for you to obey. Do you ever get those inclinations to go pray for that girl after class, to text that teammate going through a hard time, or to leave a surprise gift on your sorority sisters bed? I call those, “Holy Spirit nudges.” And I can’t tell you how often I ignore them, but God is waiting for me and you to take action!
Listening to God is a scary, and sometimes even embarrassing thing to do because God asks us to do radical things. Things that culture screams against, things that our friends think are weird, things that our flesh fights, and things that we feel unequipped to do. The longer you walk with the Lord the more you feel like He is just constantly asking you to change your ways or do things you are reluctant to do. But the good news is, it ALWAYS for our good. When we listen and obey, God promises to bless our path.
“We change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing” – Dale Partridge
7. FILL YOUR MIND AND HEART WITH TRUTH:
The lies of, “Not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, athletic enough..” will bombard your thoughts and mind in college. You are put in a situation where you cannot help but compare yourself to everyone around you. No doubt.
To fight the thief of joy that comparison is, find the lies and seek the truth.
Pick a few verses (truths you need to be reminded of) and write them on sticky notes. Then put them on your bedroom mirror, in your car, on your schoolbooks, or if you’re like me – write them on your hand. Truth sets you free. You will be amazed at how those truths kill the lies.
8.WRITE DOWN YOUR QUESTIONS AND PRAYERS:
I cannot tell you how many times I am praying in bed at night, and then I fall asleep… but when I write down my prayers I am able to have deep, and divine conversation with the Lord. Not only that, but when I look back on those prayers and see how God worked faithfully and powerfully through certain seasons of my life, my faith increases. I become more surrendered to the Lord as I experience evidence of His faithfulness in real and tangible ways. Buy a cute journal, open up your Bible, and write down your prayers, questions, thoughts, and dreams. Then watch how God reveals what He has for you.
I am a big fan of journaling – I have journals dating all the way back to when I was 8 years old, and prayed for a kitty and a boy to like me, to prayers for my future husband, to questions about what my purpose and calling is. Looking back through those journals, is now such blessing and testament to the Lord working in my life. So, buy a journal if you don’t’ already have one, and get to writing!
Have any of you ever watched a baby learn to walk? When they take two steps, we celebrate, right?We don’t say, “oh why didn’t you take 6 Steps!?!” That’s how Christ is with us. He rejoices over our two steps. I say that to remind you, these are not all things that I adopted day one as a freshman in college. So, don’t be overwhelmed. My hope is that you might be able to take something useful or helpful from my suggestions, and that it would help you grow closer to Jesus, Don’t expect yourself to score 100% on all of these ways now. We have a patient God. He delights in our two steps.
One more thing I want to add. Relationships are a two-way street. God has always been pursuing you, the question is, are you pursing him back?