Big decisions and the big transitions that usually follow those decisions can be both exciting and frightening. As you try to decide where to go to college, you probably realize this choice is one of the biggest of the big, so you want to get it right. Right?
Your choice of college will determine many of the threads woven into the tapestry of your life over the next few years. Those threads might include your career, your lasting friendships and maybe your spouse. In short, the college years will have a profound impact on who you'll be spiritually, intellectually, and socially. This is a really important decision!
But believe it or not, there's a bigger choice you have to make than where you go to school. And it's this: Are you going to stay on track in your relationship with Christ, maturing to the next level in your walk with him, or will you allow yourself to wander off the path he has for you?
The New Testament book of Hebrews is all about staying on track in your relationship with Christ. In Hebrews 13:20-21 the author writes, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever."
Notice that in this passage Jesus is called "the great Shepherd," and it's through him that God equips us to do his will. In the ancient world sheep were not fenced in as they are today. Rather, they were completely dependant on a shepherd to protect them, care for their injuries, and lead them to food, water, and safe areas to rest. Further more, they weren't very smart. Their tendency to wander away from the flock often meant they became snack food for area wildlife.
During the college years, most students either stay close to the Shepherd or they wander away from the flock—they either mature or bomb out spiritually. Even if you're sincere in your commitment to Christ right now, it's no guarantee that you'll keep heading in the right direction. So what can you do?
There are several things, such as choosing a spiritually mature set of friends, finding a faculty mentor who is a strong believer, having daily time in the Word and prayer, and getting connected quickly to a good church. Each of these plays a vital role in the most important commitment of all—staying close to Jesus.
Remember Jesus is our Shepherd. The author of Hebrews calls us to stay close to him, the one who can keep us growing in the right direction (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-25). If we focus on staying close to Jesus, keeping a clear view of who he is and to what he calls us (Hebrews 3:1; 12:1-3), he will guide us in making the right choices in life—like choosing a college where we can thrive, and, most importantly, continuing to follow him once we get there.
Dr. Guthrie teaches biblical studies at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.