3 Ways My Faith Has Changed Since College

Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

(Psalm 105:4-5 KJV)


Recently, I started my final year in college.

As the day I returned to campus approached, I found myself reflecting on my past three years as a student. I’m definitely a changed person. I’ve stepped into my skin, gotten acquainted with myself, and I’ve stepped out and explored areas outside my comfort zone.

Picture_20160825_005913446The changes I’ve been through have been essential, even though many were the result of difficult times–yet I’m grateful, because I’ve come out stronger as a follower of Christ.

Whether you’re starting college, finishing college, somewhere in between, or nowhere there at all, you should strive to grow in your faith. Here are three areas of my faith that have changed since I’ve become a college student:

1. My alone time became my quiet time.

Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart (Psalm 119:2).   

One thing about college that quickly became clear is that people are everywhere. This might sound obvious, but I really mean everywhere. My first lecture had 700 students (of course, class size depends on the size of your school). When I started college, I loved interacting with many people on a daily basis, but when I finally had time to myself, I just wanted to kick back and relax. When I became busier, down time became shorter, and I felt I had no time for God. I attended church, Bible studies, and prayer groups, but my personal time with God was virtually nonexistent. I’d go weeks without even talking to Him, until I realized how much I needed Him. When things became stressful and I needed direction, I turned to God, and He happily welcomed me back. Reopening dialogue with the Lord made me realize how much I had missed out all along.

An intimate relationship with God sets your life on the right path. Your perspective is directed, your attitude corrected. Spending time with God better equips you for the day ahead. Through prayer and Bible study, you hear God’s voice, His secrets, and He’s able to reveal His plan for your life. I missed out on several days of this, wishing I had direction in various scenarios–yet the One who had all the answers was right there!

Since then, I’ve learned to make God a priority throughout my day. If I’m walking to class, have a morning alone to myself, or have time between classes, I communicate with God and meditate on His Word, instead of being idle. It’s fine to relax and enjoy your favorite hobbies in your free time, but if these things take precedent over your relationship with God, you’re missing out on crucial moments with Him.

2. I learned to value community more.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Though I love my alone time, I love being around others as well. However, when I first started college, I didn’t realize how valuable and essential a Christian community was for my walk with the Lord. I grew up in church and accepted Christ at a young age, but I never had many Christian friends, because there weren’t many believers my age around me. I entered college ready to find them.

It took time, but when I built relationship with other believers who shared my values, I noticed how impactful these friendships were in my life. I have had the most challenging and encouraging conversations with other Christians. When I felt discouraged, it was amazing to know there were others who could pray for me–and I could do the same for them. I’ve grown as a leader in my Christian fellowship because of these relationships. God has given me a heart to know others and care for them.

I value all solid friendships–with believers and non-believers–but as a Christian in college (or anywhere, really), it’s vital to have people around you who share the same beliefs and can push you forward. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Those you spend time with will rub off on you, so if you want to grow in Christ, stay connected to those who want to do the same–whether it’s on campus, at church, or another Christian community.

If you’re having trouble finding these people, bring it up to the Lord, and be patient. When opportunities to build relationships emerge, be a friend, and be consistent. God will provide the company you need in your life.

3. God’s power became more evident to me.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust (Psalm 91:2).

In high school, I often noticed that after I prayed, I wouldn’t always have peace. I’d ask God to help me not to worry, yet I still found myself worrying. I didn’t realize at the time, but I had little faith when it came to prayer. I doubted whether whatever I prayed about would come to pass. Ultimately, I was doubting God. Even when He was answering prayers, I wasn’t able to see His blessings, because my perspective was wrong.

I also failed to realize that answered prayers didn’t have to manifest the way I wanted them to. Nevertheless, I only wanted my way–not God’s way.

However, in college, my mindset changed. I learned to surrender large and small requests to God. When I was a freshman, I had lunch with a dear friend who was a junior and a fellow believer. I told her about all the assignments I had coming up–particularly a paper due soon that I hadn’t started. She had a simple response to my workload: “Don’t worry. Trust God. Everything will get done.” It was a simple answer, yet it inspired me to change my entire mindset.

I started seeing my assignments in this way–that as long as I put in the necessary effort, the work will get done. Not only that, but God was with me wherever I went–in and out of class, even if I had forgotten.

Over time, I saw God in every detail of my life as I continually pushed to have this mindset. All my successes and failures could and would be used for His plan for my life as I walked with Him. As I grew in my relationship with God, spent time with Him, and spoke about Him with others, I realized He was everywhere. I prayed and left things up to Him. Even if I didn’t know how to surrender, I asked Him to help me do so.

Through faith, I now pray and leave things up to God–and praise Him through it. When my prayers aren’t answered as I think they should be, they are answered nonetheless–only His solution is better–whether I realize it now or a year from now.

 

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Transitional periods in our lives can be fruitful experiences. I cannot express the gratitude I have for not just the good times but the hard ones that God has allowed over these past three years in college. We can use trials and triumphs to grow in our relationship with Christ–or let this relationship crumble. I’ve realized for myself that it’s up to us to make this choice. God will not force us to choose Him, but if we do choose Him, He will help us through it all. Please, make it easier and follow Him. There’s no better way to transition into a new season than with the God who brought you there. And if you didn’t get a great start, walking with Him will get you a strong finish.

For my final year of college, I’m excited to take the lessons I’ve learned with me, and I’m ready to learn new ones. I’m ready for the challenges, the blessings, knowing that I get to experience them with my heavenly Father by my side.


“…Look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Worship Wednesdays #8 | Dream for You

The profile // about the artist

Casting Crowns - Thrive
Thrive (2014)

Casting Crowns

  • Contemporary Christian rock band
  • From Daytona Beach, Florida

The pull // why i like it

Casting Crowns has been one of my favorite bands for years. I heard “Dream for You” a few months ago, and I love that this song is refreshing and uplifting. When we follow God, we allow the space for His amazing plan to manifest itself in our lives.

The message // what it means

The God we read in the Bible is the same God today. This song incorporates the narratives of many well-known Bible figures like David, Mary, and Joseph, and although they each had different stories, God pulled them through great difficulty, remaining true to His character. It’s easy for us to separate ourselves from those we read in the Word, but this is our portion as well. Just as God acted on behalf of those who honored Him in the past, He does the exact same today.

“I’m stronger than you think I am

I’ll take you farther than you think you can

You sing and call me Great I Am

So take your stand”

The call // best to listen when

You need encouragement. Every time I hear this song, it not only puts me in a good mood, but it reminds me that no matter what’s going on, God is and has always been in control.

Does Prayer “Work”?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:6-7)


Does prayer work?

Short Answer:

Yes.

Here’s the long answer:

What exactly do we mean when we ask the question: “Does prayer work?”

Most likely, it means, “If I pray to God, will He give what I want?”

If this is why we come to God in prayer, I’d like to encourage us to reevaluate our thinking.

Don’t get me wrong–in prayer, of course we can ask God for things. Philippians 4:6 says to let our requests be made known unto God. In short, God wants to fulfill our needs and desires. As our Heavenly Father, He loves us and wants to supply our needs, and He doesn’t want us to suffer.

I should say–BUT He doesn’t want us suffer.

This means that although we have our own desires, ultimately God knows what we need in our lives and what will harm us beyond human comprehension. The things that may harm us the most may be what we are asking for.

Understand that God’s answer to our requests may not be what we have in mind. The good news is that His answer is always better than what we have in store–even if we don’t see it yet.

It comes down to trusting God. Do you believe God is who He says He is? A loving Father, an all-knowing, all-powerful God? If so, rejoice and be glad, because anything He gives will be a gift that will allow you to be shaped into His image of love, wisdom, and strength. He gives GOOD gifts.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

So what happens when we pray?

Through God, I’ve been shown and fully understand that prayer is a powerful weapon. It is (and should be) our #1 weapon, our first decision–not the last resort.

God has changed my heart and transformed my life through prayer. He restores, He heals, He listens, and He answers. I’ve experienced, seen, and felt these things all through communicating with Him. I like to think prayer is having a dialogue with God, and I still am left in awe of thinking about it this way–to be able to have a constant conversation with an all-knowing God is amazing, especially knowing how weak and limited I am as a human.

I want to invite and urge you to take prayer seriously. This is your answer. You will never go wrong in seeking God.

Just being able to pray to Him is a journey in itself–watch as He will transform your life and how you will learn to surrender and trust Him. Spend time with God.

You might be thinking:

“How can I improve my prayer life?”

Here’s a list of practical things that I do that has dramatically changed my prayer life:

 

Pray.

No more “I know I need to pray more.” No more “I would pray more if my morning wasn’t so busy.” Instead of thinking or saying these things, actually PRAY. It can be on your walk, in your office desk, in the lecture hall. You have free access to God anywhere and anytime. Unfortunately, today we idealize and idolize “busyness.” Who says you have to be busy 24/7? Society. Maybe parents. Peers. Coworkers. Yourself. But the Bible reminds us about the importance of being still (not restless).

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10 KJV)

(I actually wrote a post on stillness here).

Of course this doesn’t mean don’t do anything you have to do. We have busy schedules, and that’s okay. What’s not OK, is being “too busy” for God. If you feel like you’re at this place, reevaluate some things. Check your heart. What’s the purpose behind the things you “have” to do? Truth is, you’re just too busy with the wrong things.

Be intentional in prayer. Be active in prayer. Be diligent in prayer. Do you love God? Do you want to know what He has in store for you? Do you want to lay down your life for Him? Put Him first. No more excuses.

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15 KJV)

 

Keep a prayer journal.

This is actually something I have been meaning to do for a long time, and I finally did this week. It doesn’t have to be anything special–I’ve taken an ordinary notebook and started jotting down prayer requests–as well as how God has answered these prayers.

It’s been amazing to keep track of what and who has been on my heart to pray for–and even more amazing to see how God answers these requests. A prayer journal serves as encouragement for us to look back and see how God actually is working in our lives.

Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; (Psalm 105:5 KJV)

Also, it is so important for us to keep others in prayer. This is true love–for us to ask God to redeem others and to intervene on their behalf–so that they might have the full life that only He promises–and most importantly that they might have eternal life in heaven.

The Bible encourages us to love others as we would like to be loved. Think about how overwhelming it is when we know someone else has been praying for us. Remember to pray consistently for others–those you know and don’t know. Pray by their name, pray specifically about their situation. See how God works.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (1 Timothy 2:1 ESV)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16 ESV)

 

Incorporate Scripture in your prayer.

There is power in the Word of God. It is the source of truth, life and freedom–learn and study His Word to access these things.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

When we recite Scripture in prayer, we are affirming what God has already said. In Micah 3:6, God affirms that He is Lord and does not change. That means all the promises in the Word that He has said is YOUR portion!

Memorizing Scripture is a lifeline, especially when the enemy attacks you with doubt. Responding with the Word of God is encouraging to us and also will make the enemy flee from you. Why? Because God is powerful, and He has already conquered evil and death.

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.

(Psalm 18:30 NIV)

Not only do we affirm God’s promises by incorporating Scripture in prayer, but we affirm who He is. That is, that He is almighty and capable of answering our prayers and directing us in His perfect plan.

I like to think of studying the Word as a heart-check. Learning the Word allows us to submit to what God says–and knowing that God is good, we know that doing this is the right choice. But In order to find out who God is, we must go to the source that reveals who He is–the Bible.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

So, does prayer “work”?

Absolutely. Prayer works on hearts. Prayer works on lives. Prayer pleases God.

I urge you to pray. Cast your cares to God. Let Him heal you and show you wisdom. Praise and acknowledge who God is through prayer.