By Blake Jenkins
How familiar are you with the Australian outback? Not the bloomin’ onion place, but the large tracks of land on the continent of Australia? It’s absolutely massive and there are a number of cattle ranchers that raise cows in this region. But with the land being so large, they run into some problems. Naturally, they want to keep their cows from wandering off. Typically, you’d build a fence, right? Makes sense. “We want to keep them in, so let’s build something to keep them from going out.” But that would be a huge undertaking for these ranchers since their lands are so vast. Aside from the cost and time to construct the fences, a large amount of time would be used in maintaining the fence. So, instead of building fences, the ranchers decided to just dig wells. They would find sources of water below the surface and then would bring that which sustains life up to the surface. And what did the ranchers find? There was no need for a fence because the cattle were motivated to stay within the range of water, the most important source of life. Their desire for life, sustaining and sweet life, was greater than their desire to venture out where they would surely die. It was a no-brainer for the bovine!
If you are about to graduate from high school and go off to college, the fences are about to come down. Rather than try and build some fences for you or maintain them while you are away at school, I want to encourage you to desire strongly a sustaining and sweet life. I want to encourage you to stay close to the well, to the living water. I want you to get a vision for God that is so large, and so beautiful, and so satisfying that when you see what this world has to offer, it’s a no-brainer because there is so much more joy found in Christ. So, in order to help you do that, here are some things you can actively do in the coming months as you prepare to go to school. Here is what you can do to remain close to and abide in Christ:
ABIDE IN THE WORD
The primary way that we know and continue in a relationship with Jesus is through the Word by his Holy Spirit. The two dance together in perfect synchronicity. If you want to chase hard after the Lord, then abide, or remain, in His Word. How do you do that? Here are just three handles for you to hold onto in the coming days—to buttress what you may already know to be true.
PICK A BIBLE (AND A TRANSLATION)
A student asked one of my seminary professors which translation was the best. Do you know what he said? “The one you will read.” Pick a translation and read through it. Not because it’s what you are supposed to do, but because you will find tremendous joy and nourishment from it. It’s just as if I were to tell you: “You need to eat everyday.” That’s not being legalistic. Eating is a necessity! And eating is often a point of joy and happiness in our day, right? Give your life to the study of the Bible for it points to the greatness of our God. Pick a Bible and pick a translation.
PICK A PLAN
If you don’t have a plan, it is highly unlikely that you will stick to it. It’s similar to when we work out. If we just go into the gym without a plan, we’re likely not to get any results. If you just open up to random passages everyday, you won’t see the beauty of the consistent story. There are a ton of plans out there. Pick a plan.
PICK A TIME
Pick a time where you want to build this into your daily rhythm. For some people, that is mornings, and for others, it is evenings or even at lunch. I prefer the mornings so that I can think on it throughout the day, but any time is a good time. When it becomes a part of your normal routine and a fixture in your schedule, it is easier to stay consistent. Pick a time.
ABIDE IN THE BODY
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12 ESV) So how do you abide in the body? Here are just a few ways to do this.
PICK A CHURCH
Go ahead and get rid of some false expectations. This church won’t be just like your home church and don't think that you'll "just know" the instant you walk in the door. Here are a few questions to ask as you are visiting churches in your college town. Are they true to Scripture, the Gospel, and Jesus? Can you connect with God and other Christians in a significant way there? Can you serve in some capacity? Before you get there, ask around about different churches and check out websites and social media feeds. Do your homework and find four or five that you think you could try out. During the first few weeks of school, visit a different church each week. You might go to the first one and think, “This is it! I’ve found my church.” Or you might get through all of them and decide you need to make another round—great, do it. But in the first 60 days, find a place to plug in and invest wholeheartedly. Pick a church.
PICK A GROUP
Hopefully the church that you land at has some form of small group life. Community will be absolutely key for you while you are in school. Don’t be content with just being a nameless face in the crowd of a worship service. Choose to know others and to be known yourself. Pick a group.
PICK A PLACE TO SERVE
When you get plugged in, find a place to use those passions and gifts. A lot of college students end up serving in youth groups. You know what it’s like to go through high school. You know the pressures and difficulities. How great would it be for a high school student to have someone close in age encouraging him or her in their walk with the Lord? Or maybe you will want to serve in another area of the church. Pick a place to serve.
PICK A TIME TO GO ON MISSION
You will never have more freedom or flexibility than you will when you are in college. Pick a time and use that time for sharing the Gospel among the nations. Your college years are a great time to share God’s love with others around the world. Pick a time to go on mission. By doing these things I’ve mentioned while in a relationship with Jesus, you will find that you don’t need fences to keep you in—you have living water that you don’t want to leave! You won’t forsake the Lord. You won’t chase after the runoff water of the world. You will be drinking deeply from the Living Water Himself. To sum it up, don’t fall prey to lesser desires. You will find your greatest satisfaction in the One who will completely satisfy. Throughout your college years and every year after, ditch the fences and stay close to the well.