I have a PhD in Theology and teach at Bob Jones University. After my students finish a final exam for a university course, I often give ten points of “Brotherly advice.” This advice has been given to us through the years from trusted friends and counselors.
Several years ago, Jim Wiginton was taking his family to France for a year. The Sunday before they left, he gave several points of “Fatherly advice” to the College and Career Sunday School class at Mount Calvary Baptist Church.
Abigail and I were a dating couple in that class. We’ve borrowed several points of advice from Jim, added a few, and narrowed it down to 10. These are 10 pieces of counsel given to us that we like to give college students.
I know that we fail at these far more often than we succeed, and I can honestly say that #10 is the only point that I know I have done.
The older you get the more things will demand your time and attention. A doctor I highly respect once exhorted me to “live my life for an audience of One.” Don’t let houses, cars, jobs, or even family crowd out the position reserved for God alone.
I’ve heard Dr. Mark Minnick (my father-in-law) give this advice on more than one occasion. He also models it. I tend to do the opposite. My flesh wants to give myself the benefit of the doubt when I mess up but be tough on other people when they fall short. How much better off we’d be if we would hold ourselves to very high standards and push ourselves spiritually, academically, physically, etc., but be quick to give others the benefit of the doubt. 1 Corinthians 13 describes love that way.
When a dad’s five-year-old son accidentally puts a long scratch down the side of the newly painted and deeply cherished red sports car, that dad will quickly discover which he values more: his car (a piece of metal with wheels on it, no matter how nice a piece of metal it might be) or his God-given son who has an eternal soul. College students can quickly evaluate their priorities when a roommate accidentally sits on (and cracks) that brand new iPhone.
It is my great privilege on a regular basis to sit in an office with a young man who confesses a life-dominating sin and seeks help. The Puritans were right that we need to be killing our sin or it will be killing us. Shine the light of Scripture on the darkness of your hidden sin, don’t let it strangle you.
Long after you’ve forgotten your roommate’s name, you’ll still go to family reunions (hopefully). It is easy for college students to have far too high an opinion of their peers and far too low an opinion of their family. God has providentially placed you in your family (no matter how flawed that family may seem to you) for a specific purpose. Cherish your college friendships, but not at the expense of your family (especially your parents).
Bible reading should not be one item on a checklist of spiritual super-hero status. The Bible is not ultimately about facts, or events, or platitudes. It’s ultimately about a Person–Jesus Christ. The Old Testament points forward to Jesus, and the New Testament reveals Him in all His Deity and Humanity. Build a relationship with your Savior through your time in God’s Word and you will likely find that your devotional time is revolutionized, becoming delight rather than duty.
Turn off the TV and go to a park. In a world of increasing noise (not just audible noise, but constant media clutter bombarding us from every angle), it has become even more imperative to “Be still and know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10). Try talking to God on a hike, or laying flat on your back in a field looking up at a starry sky. The Heavens really do declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1). Scripture tells us we can learn from insects (Prov. 6:6), and Christ commands us to “Consider the lilies” (Matt. 6:28).
God has given you specific gifts that He desires for you to use in a local assembly of like-minded believers. Plug in and get involved.
If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time. It’s been often noted that goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Don’t let fear of failing to meet your goals keep you from setting goals.
Date and marry someone whose character you respect, whose goals you admire, and whose personality you enjoy. Often college students ask happily married couples, “How did you know he/she was the one?” The answer (that seems entirely unhelpful) often comes back, “You just know.”
After evaluating many dating couples who are now happily married, and many others who split up, Abigail and I think that “you just know” someone is right when you find a person: (a) whose character you respect, (b) whose goals you admire, and (c) whose personality you enjoy.
If you can’t respect a person’s character, it doesn’t matter how funny, athletic, or good-looking that person is, you shouldn’t be dating. Relationships are built on trust, and trust is all about character.
If you don’t admire the other’s goals (in other words have the same basic goals and philosophy about life), then you’ll find it increasingly difficult to get along. You’ll both be pulling ferociously at the rope, only to find you’re pulling in opposite directions. For instance, it likely is not wise to date someone who has vastly different theological viewpoints.
If you don’t enjoy being around a person, then it’s probably not God’s will for you to date him/her. Some college students have this deeply held fear that if they surrender to God, He will have them marry someone they find to be hideously ugly, or that they’ll never laugh together. They’ll be spiritual, but miserable. Nothing could be further from the truth. God delights in giving good gifts to His children. You should expect that the person God has for you to marry will be your best friend.