". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


The Most Valuable Lesson I Learned at Bible College

December 30, 2023

Not to be dramatic, but five semesters at a secular university really tested me. I started my freshman year with high school credits that got me ahead, but it didn’t take long to realize I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. Perhaps not the best response to my external circumstances, but as someone who struggled with things outside of school as well, I was overwhelmed in many ways.

Overarchingly, I grew up believing in Jesus but lacked the knowledge and discipline necessary to defend and rest in my faith when trials occurred. Choosing a fairly left-leaning major, I was assigned to read several books with homosexual themes, had professors that made their worldly beliefs known, and struggled finding likeminded people to befriend. The friends I made back then I do love, but I was not in a good position to deal with the abundance of worldliness seemingly everywhere I turned. My spiritual cup drained quickly and filled slowly.

Sometime between a few bad decisions and my graduation, I was utterly convicted of one thing: I needed to know more about what I believed and why I believed it. My past reveals a slothful Sarah who hardly cracked open her Bible and scarcely spoke even a word to her heavenly Father. It’s no wonder I fell victim to my emotions and desire for control so very often. I decided, if I was going to learn more and actually be affected by it, I needed it to be in an academic setting where there was pressure to do what I always found an excuse to put off.

And by His grace, after only one year at Bible college, my faith was strengthened beyond what I believed possible. I’m a person who still struggles, to be sure, but a person far more equipped to be firmly in the world, yet not of the world.

Looking back, I’m not sure what exactly I was hoping to get from attending Bible college. Yes, the reasons I listed above applied, but I couldn’t tell you any specific thing I wanted to learn or do while I was there. I went into the fall semester with a hands-open approach. If anything, I recall thinking, “Lord, I just pray You teach me what You want me to know, whatever that is.” And I believe He did just that.

In two semesters, we covered church history from the Apostolic church up to the 21st century, different denominations and theological frameworks, biblical hermeneutics (interpretation), the overall narrative of the Old Testament, in-depth study of the Old Testament Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy), as well as various church doctrines and sacraments. I will say, it’s hard to boil it down in summary because, in two semesters, this college covered a lot.

I’m amazed not only with how much information I retained but how much of it was put into practice not even a week after I graduated. And I continue to use what I learned nearly every single day (and no, I am not exaggerating.) The motto of the school is, “Theology for life.” Simply put, each moment since I left the beauty and solitude of the little Florida campus has proved this very notion true.

But aside from all the wonderful things I learned at Bible college, the most valuable lesson I took away was not something that was explicitly taught in one lecture or class. Rather, it was the foundation of everything that was taught within the entire school.

The most valuable lesson I learned from Bible college was not about how this theologian stood firm, or how that part of Scripture can be interpreted. It wasn’t the breakdown of history or doctrine. While all of this is crucial in our pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14), they still were not the most valuable of lessons I learned.

The most valuable lesson I learned was this: we must strive to focus solely on God as much as humanly possible.

Now, I’m not saying focusing on God or trying to understand Him is always going to be easy, but by simply prioritizing it, life changes. In a way, I initially went to Bible college for myself. I didn’t feel equipped. I didn’t know enough. I, I, I.

However, it wasn’t really about how much I could learn to merely be more knowledgeable. It was about learning who God is, and truly getting as close to the core of His nature as possible. I went to Bible college thinking of myself, and I left thinking of God (at least far more than I ever did before.) And by knowing God through focusing on Him, Christians set up a solid foundation upon which no intellectual or emotional argument, temptation, or distraction could sway. Is that too high of a claim? I don’t think so.

You see, the reason this is the most valuable lesson I could have ever taken away from Bible college is because of two things: 1) how much we naturally focus on ourselves, and 2) how much Scripture urges us not to do that (Colossians 3:2, Hebrews 12:1-2, Luke 9:23, John 5:44, etc.).

By focusing on God so much through my academic study, I realized how much, for the first time, I was pushed away from thinking of myself — and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Rather than having time to focus on doubt, worry, or my flawed understanding of myself and my life, I was constantly reading about God, because it was my homework. If I didn’t fill my time doing that, I would have gotten a bad grade. But it was in that process my mind began to transform. The more my brain was filled with the things of God, the more it craved to spend time with God even when I wasn’t studying, in class, or doing homework. Why? Because He is so, so good, and the more you focus on God, the more palpable His goodness becomes.

Think about it. He is the fountain of perfection, joy, life, and righteousness. He is radiant and majestically glorious. He is Father, Creator, Healer, Deliverer, and Love itself. There are no words that can truly describe His wonderous, magnificent nature!

This is the lesson I learned through the academic curriculum, because not a single lecture was detached from getting as close as possible to the very nature of God. No class was distinct from God, His work, and His Word. Rather, everything we learned was carefully crafted so that our gaze would always be directed back to God and His glory, even if it wasn’t vocalized (although, it often was).

Focusing on God strengthens our relationship with Him.

Focusing on God increases our affection for Him.

Focusing on God emboldens our faith.

Focusing on God is what enables us to persevere through persecution.

I could write a book going into all the little details of what I am trying to convey. But for now, it’s important to know that the most valuable lesson I learned at Bible college is also, I would argue, the most valuable lesson every Christian (I pray) learns, as well. And you don’t have to go to Bible college to do so.

Simply put, to focus on God allows us to know Him. And I have learned, despite who I am or what I’ve done, to truly know Him, is the peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s the secret to being content. It’s pure joy. It’s life, love, freedom, and hope. To focus on God, to know Him, is the foundation upon which we live our lives as followers of He who is worthy of it all. But to know that, you must know Him.

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.