Students today want their lives to make a difference. They want to know that their studies, their jobs (present and future), and grand plans for tomorrow won’t be in vain.
The desire to make a difference is inherent to how God created us. It applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. As Christians, what makes our sense of purpose different is that it is grounded in our love for Jesus and founded in our call to live out our gifts to serve the common good, to be good stewards, and love our neighbor.
Higher education plays a role in that calling. Indeed, for students, their education is their calling in this season of their lives. To make the most of this calling, it’s important students connect their studies to God’s grand story in Scripture.
God’s Grand Story
God’s grand story is known in theological circles at the four-chapter gospel. It’s important for everyone in the church to understand this full story and the implications of truncating it.
This larger story of the Bible, or the meta-narrative of Scripture, is one with four chapters: Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration. Creation is the way things were. The Fall is the way things are. Redemption is the way things could be, and Restoration is the way things will be upon Christ’s return.
Despite the greatness of the biblical narrative, in the past two centuries, the church in the Western world has looked at the Bible from a different and more limited perspective. It’s a two-chapter gospel which focuses on personal sin and the need for salvation.
Truncating the meta-narrative of the Scripture in this way has distorted how we as Christians view our lives. We have forgotten or ignored the significance of our journey on this earth and our role in bringing about God’s kingdom. After all, if we don’t think about why we are here (Creation) and where we will end up (Restoration), we miss the importance of our work in the world. We don’t know where we’ve started or where we’re going.
If we bypass the chapter of Creation, we miss the importance of who we are. If we ignore this, then the two-chapter gospel is a story of Christians waiting for their bus ticket to heaven. We are sinners, we need salvation and now we just wait until we get to heaven. This implies that where someone goes to school doesn’t matter, what they study and read doesn’t matter, and the job they later accept doesn’t matter. But our presence on this earth is much more than getting the bus ticket to heaven and then waiting for the bus. Our presence is about God’s redemptive mission in this world.
How God’s Grand Story Can Inspire and Challenge Students
The implication of the four-chapter gospel is that our work in this life has eternal significance. This should both inspire and challenge us – especially students. If you’re a student, your journey through higher education is part of what God has called you to. Your decision to pursue higher education is neither random nor inconsequential. Through excellent academics, you both obey God and worship him. Being a student, gaining wisdom, and deepening your knowledge and understanding is your job right now. Your academic experience will equip you for exactly what God is calling you to next. Many think that you have to work in full time ministry to serve God through your work. But that’s not true. Understanding the grand story of Scripture opens our minds and hearts to the vast array of ways that we can serve the Lord through our work.
Understanding the full story of the Bible helps you see that nothing you do as a student falls outside the blanket of God’s sovereignty. Each class you take, each book you read, and each study group you attend matters. Whether you are reading Shakespeare, learning calculus, or studying journalism, if you are doing it prayerfully in obedience to Christ, then it has lasting impact.
The classes you take, the skills you build, the knowledge you acquire, and the beauty you appreciate are shaping you into the person that God wants you to be. God has called you to majors ranging from animation to criminal justice to mathematics. Your job is to pursue that knowledge and those skills with excellence.
By answering the call to fulfill our roles in God’s redemptive drama, we find meaning in even the most mundane activities. Along with meaning, we find peace and satisfaction which transcend our greatest expectations.
There is great power in this. It means that you can change the world through your work as a student. It means you can worship the Lord and change the world if you are doing what God has called you to do.
When you honor God, serve the common good, and further the kingdom of God through your work as a student, you enable flourishing. You make a difference.