It was about five minutes before I went to bed each night that the Lord spoke to me the loudest. The shallow laughter from friends at the bar was no longer there to drown out the Spirit’s voice. When I was finally alone, I could recognize the sad reality that satisfaction would always elude me on this rebellious path. Like the prodigal son of Luke 15, I kept filling my “stomach with the pods that the swine ate” knowing all along that the servants of God fared much better than I. Each night ended with a whimper of a prayer, “I know, Lord…I know. I am created for more than this.”
Sound depressing? It was! Walking away from the Lord in college was one of the most miserable times of my life. The passing pleasure of sin was quickly replaced with guilt, regret, and shame––something the enemy never tells you when he’s selling you on sin. I can’t blame New York University for my spiritual decline. The scenario above would have been my story at any school because I just wasn’t prepared for the onslaught from the enemy. Since this is the season of life that I regret most, I’d like to share some simple advice that may help you avoid the same pitfalls.
Christian students usually graduate with one of the following three outcomes.  Their faith quits (they walk away from the Lord permanently).  Their faith quiets (they still profess to be Christians, but they keep that information private to avoid confrontation).  Their faith quickens (the challenges of college causes their roots to go deeper and stronger). Which of these outcomes are you heading towards? A strong faith sounds great, but it only comes through diligent preparation and wise choices. The following advice will prepare you for spiritual success as you venture into college. In fact, these are the exact four steps that I ended up taking to come back to the Lord halfway through college.
#1 Choose a Church Before You Arrive for Your First Day of School
Hebrews 10:25 tells us we should not be, “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” It is far too common for a new college student to church hop for a few weeks and then stop attending all together. With atheistic worldviews inundating your classes, you need to saturate yourself with solid preaching and a church community. As you schedule college visits, visit local churches during the same trip. Listen to podcasts online and do your research so that after you have chosen your college, you can quickly choose your church. Use the church locator on this website to find great Calvary Chapels near your new college. Getting plugged into Harvest Christian Fellowship in Manhattan during my sophomore year helped me stay the course.
#2 Choose Your Friends Strategically
When a freshman shows up at college it can be intimidating. The tendency is to quickly find friends to bond with during orientation. Most people automatically become close friends with their roommates, no matter their character. By all means, have a great relationship with your roommate, but choosing your friends should be your calculated decision—not just because the college put you together. Paul told the Corinthians 15:33 to, “not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” Researching the Christian clubs on your campus can lead to Godly friendships. Ministries like The Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, Intervarsity and others have been a crucial lifeline for millions of Christian college students. If it were not for the Navigators ministry at NYU, my last few years of college would have been very lonely.
#3 Choose an Accountability Partner From Your Home Church
Once college students leave home, they are only accountable to God. Their parents and pastors are not there, so there must be a healthy fear of God if they are to walk in obedience. It is helpful to enlist the help of another Christian as an accountability partner. Someone who will give you the “fear of man” by checking up on you until the “fear of God” is enough to motivate you. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Pray about inviting someone in your home church to call you each week to see how you are doing and to pray with you. The friend who helped pull me out of the pit in college ended up being the best man at my wedding.
#4 Choose to Make a Difference on Your Campus
During my senior year at NYU, there was a national record of seven suicides at our school. One in ten college students has made a plan to commit suicide. This reveals that the same people who are pressuring you to have a good time partying are actually hurting inside. Student debt and academic pressures overwhelm them. They recognize the futility of life but have no saving knowledge of Christ. They need Christians who are not just on the defensive, but rushing the gates of hell to rescue condemned sinners. Will you step out of your comfort zone and help them? For some more practical tips on how to be used in college, I would encourage you to watch a short film series compiled by Pastor Brian Weed, called “Being a Christian in College.”
What Will You Choose To Do?
Thriving spiritually in college is something that each student can choose to do. As strong as the tide opposing Christ in college may be, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) At times it will feel like it is impossible to resist the flood of temptation, but you must remember that there is no situation that Jesus can’t get you through. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)