Theology 101

The Calling to Pursue Your Educational Goals

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Last year, in a moment when I was able to get away from my desk and take a break from answering emails and putting out fires, I recalled what I was doing at this time ten and forty years ago. I was pursuing higher education.

In the winter of 2013, I was in my second semester of graduate school. The previous fall, I had started a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies with Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. I completed it in the spring of 2015. In 1983, I was a student at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon working on a Master of Arts in Christian Education. I was not able to complete that degree.

I’m wondering how many others were like me, who had a dream to earn a college or graduate degree but did not complete what they started due to family responsibilities. I know that college is not for everyone. However, there may be readers who wanted to attend college, but never got the chance. Let me provide a word of encouragement to those who are in school, those who have felt led to pursue it but have not yet done so, and those who may not have considered the value of higher education.

But first, let me discuss the link between your vocational calling and your educational goals.

Don’t Give Up on Your Calling

I believe God leads followers of Jesus into the fields of work where they have been gifted from birth and developed through childhood and beyond with aptitudes, abilities, and experiences that equip them to be able to meet the full spectrum of human needs. Mattson and Miller, in their book, Finding a Job You Can Love, remind us, “The contents of your personal history are not random or accidental. Your unique personality, character, and talents have done much to shape the important events in your life.”

In many career fields, higher education is a requirement. For example, if a Christian young man or woman feels led to be a doctor, lawyer, counselor, engineer, social worker, or minister, then they are also called to be a full-time student for a number of years in order to earn the credentials to do that job. However, there are a vast number of folks who have had that kind of calling on their lives but have lacked the means in their families to even get to college. What advice can I give to them?

There are no easy answers, but this situation is no different than someone trying to get their foot in the door to employment or seeking a mate. A Christian simply has to recognize that these challenges are all opportunities to trust God. Living independently as an adult is always going to be a spiritual adventure. While chasing after the dreams that God implants in your soul, keep seeking him and do everything you can do to achieve that goal, even if it takes decades to see it through.

I know that God may direct and redirect you in unexpected ways along your career path. I encourage you to continuously listen to your regenerated heart, and take those paths that God is leading you on. David says in Psalm 25:12, “Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.” David provides a similar promise to believers in Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

If You Are in School Now

Those who are in school may be restless, experience the effects of limited daylight, or have financial stress after the holidays, etc. If so, I encourage you to press on and study hard as unto the Lord.

If God has graciously provided for you to attend school to earn a degree in a field you have prayerfully felt led to pursue, then it should be clear that God has great plans for you, just like he does for all of his children. You need to stay on track despite the challenges that you may be facing. He is with you.

If You Have Not Had the Chance to Go

For those who have wanted to go to school for a while and have been waiting for the right timing to go, perhaps it is time for you to step out in faith. If you are thinking about applying for a college or graduate program, your deadline to apply for the spring semester is rapidly approaching. Get on it.

I know that going through the financial aid process is daunting. It was for my three children a number of years ago. However, I was motivated to find everything that my daughter and sons were eligible for, including scholarships, grants, and loans. I would pay them ten or twenty dollars to apply for scholarships to make it worth their while. If they received a thousand dollar award, it was a win for all concerned.

Making all of these efforts were based on the knowledge that God had great plans for our children. I knew they needed to go to school; it was just a question of where. God did provide for each of them.

The Value of Higher Education

Maybe you have just not given higher education much thought. It may not have been a priority in your family. Obviously, this is not an issue where God commands all of us to pursue a college degree. However, there may be some things worth considering as to the value of such a pursuit.

As was mentioned before, college or graduate school can open up doors to professional careers. Even if not needed, pursuing higher education is never a waste of time, even if you do not use it vocationally.

When I retired from active duty, I still had the desire to get a seminary degree, even though I no longer felt called to vocational ministry. I am extremely grateful I had a second chance to go to school and finish what I had started. It made me a better student of the Bible. More importantly, it opened up opportunities for me to contribute numerous articles as a freelance writer for the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work, and The Gospel Coalition.

If you have not thought seriously about going to school or picking up where you left off in quite a while because you were forced to give up your dream, I strongly encourage you to prayerfully consider this year what the Lord is calling you to do, and take positive steps in faith to move in that direction. Even if you are in mid-life, as I was, it will be a blessing to expand your mind. It will inspire your kids.

Editor’s note: This article was republished from the author’s blog with permission.

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