SEAN MCDOWELL BLOG
An Open Letter to Graduates: Part 2Posted June 09, 2016 by Sean McDowell
In my last post I offered the biblical prophet Daniel as an example to graduates of how to stay strong in their faith during college. Even though Daniel was in a foreign culture, not unlike where college freshmen will soon find themselves, he stood strong because Daniel determined in his heart beforehand not to defile himself (Daniel 1:8). Daniel had his heart set on doing right before the pressure came and that made all the difference.
In this post I want to offer three practical ways you can purpose beforehand to do the right thing so you can thrive in college rather than crash. Following are three specific issues you will soon face as you move into university life.
First, have you determined in your heart how you will respond to peer pressure to drink alcohol? Most of you have already faced this to some degree, but the stakes change when no parents are there to check on you at night or wake you up in the morning.
1. Making Right Choices
In his book University of Destruction, former tennis star David Wheaton shares about how his world came crashing down his first few weeks at Stanford. The rampant sexuality, widespread drunkenness, and attacks by his professors on his faith were too much for him to handle. He said, “I would soon find out that an excellent upbringing coupled with academic and athletic success was no match for the maelstrom called college. The waters were baited, the sharks were circling…spiritual shipwreck loomed” (p. 10).
David’s experience is typical of many young people who go off to college—they simply have not realistically thought through how they will respond to peer pressure. And so when “all” their friends are doing it, they give in. David described how the moment his duffle bags hit the floor of his new dorm room his tennis teammates barged through the door with pitchers of beer in hand. How would you respond in that situation? The only way to stand strong in college is to commit to a higher standard, like Daniel. Have you purposed in your heart that you will not defile yourself with alcohol? Don’t fool yourself, because the pressure will be strong. But you can do it!
2. Standing for Truth
Second, have you determined to stand strong intellectually? More than half of college professors say they regard the Bible as fable and legend. Far more professors are liberal than conservative (72% vs. 15%). Your professors have a worldview and they will try to impress it upon you. I am amazed at how many students have their belief system rocked when a professor questions the Bible, Jesus, or the evidence for creation. One of the best things you can do is to go into the university with your eyes wide open for intellectual challenges. Expect them!
One of the great things about Christianity is that there are answers to tough questions. Let me say it again so it sinks in—there are answers to tough questions. There are brilliant Christian scholars providing thoughtful answers to the toughest questions your professors will raise. If you really want to find an answer you can find it. Many young people don’t want to do the work so they simply adopt the views of their professors and end up walking away from their faith.
Here are three quick words of advice: (1) Befriend Christian professors on campus. Get to know them and talk to them about tough questions that arise in class. (2) Find a solid Christian ministry, such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Navigators, or a good local church. There will be people there who can help you intellectually find answers to tough questions. (3) Do your research! Consider organizations such as Cross Examined, Stand to Reason, Reasonable Faith, Cold Case Christianity, or SeanMcDowell.org. Have you determined, like Daniel, to stay strong in your beliefs?
3. Being Healthy
Third, will you take care of your health in college? You will no longer have your parents cooking for you and making sure you eat your green beans! Very soon you will be sitting in a cafeteria with options to eat whatever you want. I remember some of my classmates drinking soda and eating Captain Crunch or Lucky Charms night after night for dinner.
Eating poorly, lack of exercise, and lack of sleep will catch up to you. Every spring many of my students graduate and get ready for college. But every year some of them are back home by December having already dropped out. Why? One consistent reason is they simply don’t take care of their health. Depression is rampant in the university. Forty-six percent of college students said they felt hopeless at least once in the past year. While there can be many reasons for this, one prime reason is that students simply do not know how to take care of their health. The only way to do this is to determine ahead of time, like Daniel, that you are going to exercise, get good sleep, and make wise choices with what you eat. Like Daniel, have you purposed this in your heart?
There are many more issues that can arise. If you really want to be like Daniel, then I would recommend two outstanding books to you: (1) University of Destruction by David Wheaton. (2) Thriving in College by Alex Chediak. Both will help you think through a host of issues you will soon face so you can succeed in college.
College can be an amazing period of life. But it can also be a period of loneliness, regret, and foolishness. What makes the difference? The answer is simpler than you might think—determining in your heart that you will not defile yourself, like Daniel. Have you?
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.