Will You Follow God After High School?
NOTE: This article appeared in Direction Magazine, Summer 2015. View article here. I also published this blog to jeffreydeanblog.com. Hoping this will be helpful to you as a parent & will provide for a healthy discussion with your teen.
Congratulations, you are almost there! After twelve years of fall break, Thanksgiving break, teacher in-service breaks, Christmas break, spring break, and summer break, the big break is finally just around the corner! High school isn’t just getting out for the summer; it’s getting out for good. So get ready. Very soon you will shake your principal’s hand, move that tassel, do your dance, and pose for the camera. You are about to graduate!
During the next five years, change will be inevitable in many areas of your life, such as moving away from home, attending and graduating from college, choosing a career, choosing a spouse, developing lifelong relationships, starting a company, joining a new church, traveling abroad, living abroad, purchasing a house, buying a car, applying for a loan, and much more! During these years, big decisions that will affect the rest of your life and those closest to you will be yours for the making. Now more than ever you have the freedom and responsibility to make your own decisions and set your own boundaries. In short, from here on – every choice matters!
Studies show that many teens, once leaving high school, often make the choice to leave behind their faith. They stop praying. They stop reading their Bible. They stop going to church. Why? – – Rebellion. Uncertainty. Tragedy. The influence of professors, employers and friends. Apathy…
If you are like most Christ-following teens, you are probably saying, “Not me. I’ll never stop following Christ. I’ll never leave the church.” It’s easy to say that now. But, know this: More than anything Satan wants to bring you down. He would love for you to leave behind your faith post-graduation. And, he will work like mad to be successful. He knows that most everything in your life is about to change, and he would love to use this season of transition in your life to get you off-course with God. Of course, you can’t control the unknown or unexpected, but you can position yourself so that, when change does happen, your response isn’t to move away from God. Here’s a heads-up on some of the potential challenges you will face post-graduation, and five suggestions to help you remain a God-focused graduate:
1. Know What You Believe About God’s Word
It is critical that you have confidence in what you believe. If you are not confident in what you believe and why you believe it, eventually your belief system will be shaken by someone, something, or some circumstance. That’s not to say that your beliefs should never change. The fact is, each of us is wrong about some things. But, one essential for us all: God’s Word is true, real and relevant for every area of my life!
2 Samuel 22:31 tells us that God’s way is perfect and that the word of the Lord is flawless. Psalm 119:160 reminds us that the entirety of His word is truth, and that all His righteous judgments will endure forever. Everything begins here. If you don’t believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God, then it’s only a matter of time before you lose confidence in who God is and His ability to guard and guide your life post-graduation. You must know that you know that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Be confident in knowing that the Bible isn’t just a book of words. The Bible is absolutely the word of God!
2. Know All Religions Aren’t The Same
My English 101 professor in college really challenged my faith. She was not a Christian, and she believed that we all could believe want we wanted because we were all going to Heaven. Her beliefs really forced me to solidify in my heart what Colossians 2:8 warns about Christians being taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy. This verse will be an important verse for you after graduation, because, either in the classroom, the dorm room or at a future job, you too will be challenged! All religions are not the same. Some religious groups worship false gods. Some believe in God but don’t believe that Jesus was His Son. Some believe Jesus was a real person but don’t accept the fact that He died for us on the cross and was resurrected from the dead. Some don’t believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Christianity accepts God as the only God and believes that Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth, died for humankind, and conquered death by coming back to life and proving that He is the one true Savior of the world. We believe the Bible is God’s Word and the ultimate authority for everything we do. To be a Christian means one is a follower of Christ. Period!
3. Know That The Alarm Clock Won’t Be Your Friend (Especially On Sunday AM)
My freshman year of college I found out that mom and dad were no longer there to wake me up for church on Sunday mornings. I also found out that it was a lot easier to keep hitting snooze (or not even setting the alarm the night before) than it was to get out of bed and go to church. My laziness really forced me to ask myself, “Is church really important?”
Have you ever considered why you attend church? People go to church for many reasons. Some attend out of a desire to know God better. Others attend church out of a sense of responsibility or guilt. Still others view church as a place to socialize or meet new people. There are many reasons why you should go to church. The greatest of these is that you love God and desire to know Him more fully through worship, serving, growing in knowledge of Him, and fellowship with other believers.
You don’t have to make the choice now of where you go to church after graduating. But you need to solidify in your mind the choice to go to church after graduating. Being confident in your beliefs about church will help make getting out of bed on Sunday mornings a priority and help you make the right choice about where and how often you will attend.
4. Know That It’s All About Serving, Not Being Served
Worship style, attire, decor and more are all issues you may want to consider when choosing a church. But more important than the style of worship, suit or jeans, and organ or guitar is your consideration of service. Simply: Get involved and serve!
Psalm 22:22 encourages churchgoers to declare His name and to praise Him in the congregation. What a great reminder not to fall into the trap of attending church for what church will do for you. One of the greatest privileges of going to church is to serve God – to bring Him glory. As you plug in to a church to bring God glory, He will plug you in to places of service where you will impact the lives of others and honor Him.
5. Know That You Have To Focus On God To Be God-Focused
Think about this question: How much time have you spent with God in the last year of your life? Are you satisfied with the amount of time that you give God each month? Each week? Each day? The more time you spend with Him, the more you get to know Him, His love, and His will for your life. It is impossible to stay God-focused if you are not spending time with Him.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Where will you be working? What kind of car will you drive? What city will you live in? Who will you marry? What house will you buy? What investments will you make? What church will you serve in? How will you use your finances to support a family, give to church and charities, and save for retirement? These questions are just a few of the many big ones you will be asking post-graduation.
So, do you have all the answers now? No, of course you don’t. But guess who does? God could choose to give you the answers to all of your big questions today. But what fun would there be in that? There’d be no adventure, no surprises, and for sure no need for God if you knew it all ahead of time. This is why time with God matters.
Countless passages in Scripture give us proof that spending time with God works. The writer of Psalm 119:104-105 says that one gains understanding about God by reading His truths. Want to know the answers to the biggest questions about the rest of your life? A professor can’t give you that. Neither can your parents, your friends, your dates, or even Wikipedia. But God’s Word can. Psalm 119 makes it clear that by spending time in the Word, you’ll gain knowledge and understanding about what really matters most. With the potential of a new address, a new school, a new schedule, a new job, and new friends, your calendar may be a work in progress until you lock in your new rhythm. For a while, you may have to adjust your God-time each day. But the more you work to make a habit of it now, the more you will desire to spend time with Him post-graduation.
It is impossible to know what lies ahead for you. There will be moments when it seems there are no immediate answers to the questions you have about school, finances, marriage, a career, and more. This is where trust in God will be critical.
I wish someone had told me this important truth: You can’t trust in the moment, the situation, or simply your feelings. But, you can always trust that God has your best interest at heart, and He has big plans ahead for you. So when you walk across that stage and finally wave “good bye” to high school, do so with faith and determination to forever remain a God-focused graduate!