Student Life

Running the Race: Our Call to Spiritual Growth

As a new semester opens, we are surrounded by a vast array of distractions, ranging from looming exams to overdue assignments. It is easy to become caught up in the buzz of our academic lives. The shift from the summertime mindset of rest to the identity of “student,” is not inherently negative, but it can rapidly capture more of our attention than it should. This is not to say that being a student is idolatrous and that our studies do not glorify the Lord. However, we must be able to grow spiritually throughout the semester, dedicating ourselves to the Lord and striving for holiness amidst the chaos. This is running the race of faith.

Last Tuesday morning, I had the joy of attending “The Refill” in Chester’s Place, a space advertised to the Gordon community as a place for, “contemplative worship and prayer…to spend personal time with the Lord.” Believers were provided with an opportunity to start their morning studying Scripture. This time was made separate from the school day, dedicated wholly to the Lord, and helped participants center their hearts and minds on Him alone. Fellowship alongside other believers proved valuable and allowed for a peaceful start to the day. The beauty of this experience was in its separation from academic studies.

There is much value in this kind of practice, and for the Christian student, they are especially crucial. Chapel is a prized time for the student body and faculty to hear a message and worship in community. However, our spiritual growth does not begin and end at the chapel doors, nor is it measured by our attendance. Spiritual growth is not limited to sanctuary pews. It is not initiated by worship songs we deem as “exciting,” or by a message that moves us. Spiritual development is continual growth and change—something that cannot occur solely within three, forty-minute time-slots each week. Especially in a morning-chapel setting, we are tempted by the distractions of our previous class, or of how much homework we have. 

But all of these things are insignificant when considering the trajectory of our sanctification. When we are distracted, our minds are not fully attentive to the Lord, and we are unable to worship with our whole being. Our ability to grow in obedience is hindered. Spiritual growth is the process of becoming more like Christ as the believer flees from sin and yields entirely to the Creator (Romans 6). This growth progresses through an active study of Scripture, prayer, and worship. While awaiting the day when we stand in the throneroom of Heaven with the Lord, we must prepare our hearts. 

Dear believer, I urge you to take time outside of weekly chapel meetings and Sunday morning church services to dig into Scripture. Whether it is from 7-9 AM on Tuesday mornings at “The Refill,” or at 9 PM on a bench overlooking Coy Pond, it is important to pursue spiritual growth. The race of faith is one run with endurance—not irregular sprints, but a marathon—until we are unified with Christ on the last day (1 John 3:13, 1 John 2:28, 1 Corinthians 1:8). Hebrews 12:1-2 states: 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

Scripture encourages us with the perseverance to run and sparks hope that one day we will be declaring with the angels, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). The Christian college student should rest in this hope and take on the challenge, committing not only their studies, but also their personal time to spiritual growth. Only then are we able to pursue an understanding of the Lord’s character and live God-honoring lives. During our time at Gordon, it is essential to take responsibility for what we can control and trust the Lord to refine us as He will.

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Joseph Barbee

An insightful perspective indeed! It is all too easy to neglect our spiritual life in the cares and trials of the world, but by seeking the Lord, we lose sight of all that hinders. Thank you, Giovanna!