The Second Most Valuable Lesson I Learned at Bible College (Part 2)
When I wrote about the most valuable lesson I learned at Bible college, I realized there was something else worth discussing. Namely, the second most valuable lesson I learned at Bible college.
We look at the grim world that surrounds us and see wars, grief, illness, and tragedy around every corner. Turning inward, we see anxiety, doubt, confusion, and insecurities. But when we turn to Christ, we realize He’s walking right beside us. He carries us when we’re weak and picks us up when we stumble. A sinful world does cause pain and affliction, but it won’t ultimately defeat us, since He secured victory for those who put their faith in Him. We must focus on Christ.
But is it just me, or is it really hard to do that?
I grew up with a dad who was in the Air Force, so my life involved many significant moves. By now, I’ve lived in eight states plus two countries overseas. I’m used to change. I’m also used to communities that are temporary. I moved back to America as a freshman in high school and realized how many families stayed in the same spot their whole lives. My classmates grew up together, and many didn’t have plans to leave. Such a life was (and is) foreign to me but projected what I used to consider an actual community.
While I wouldn’t change a thing about my upbringing, younger Sarah longed for that kind of consistent community because she felt depraved of one. I remember thinking often that Jesus was my best friend, and He was constant, which was good because I didn’t really have anyone else. I frequently got burned out trying to be, in a sense, my own community, pushing myself toward the things I knew I should be focused on. It wasn’t easy, and I often failed.
There’s not enough space to detail all the ways this affected me or all that went into this phase of life. In most cases, it made my day-to-day feel strenuous. I yearned for something I had never experienced and felt I strongly needed, yet didn’t even know what it was or how to find it. But at Bible college, everything changed.
As explained in part one, attending Bible college better equipped me for inevitable worldliness. And the lesson of keeping my gaze fixed on Christ was the takeaway that continues to work in me. However, what also proved prominent during those two semesters was the necessity of not just a community, but a godly community that pushed me toward Christ. This was the second most valuable lesson I learned at Bible college because it changed my definition and pursuit of community.
Author and pastor David Murray wrote that Christians (as with humans in general) need community. However, he added that community “must begin with God.” You can have all the company in the world, but as Murray concluded, “No amount of marriage, family, church, or friendships will substitute for the fundamental loneliness we will experience if we try to live apart from God.” And this “God first” mentality fit the bill at Bible college.
We were students of God who craved to know, love, and serve Him better. But we also craved to know Him to better serve others — believers and unbelievers alike. Keeping our gaze fixed on Christ on our own is hard, but our Christian communities are central in assisting us in this pursuit. You see, communities can be made up of a cluster of people who’ve known each other their whole lives, but a true community, specifically for those of faith, involves far more than longevity and proximity.
Bible college provided an example of Christian togetherness I hadn’t witnessed prior. It led to the realization that we were not designed to run this race of faith alone, even though, for a long time, I believed I could. Ironically, running is often considered a solo sport. Even if you’re on a team, it’s common knowledge only one person gets first place. The team doesn’t typically trek to the finish line holding hands to stay together. And yet, for believers, we do just that.
We are one body unified in Christ. We share the same chief end to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Yes, we have different spiritual paces and experiences, but unlike in an earthly race, it’s worth slowing down to tend to a brother or sister in Christ. Unlike in an earthly race, all Christians who cross the finish line receive the same prize. We weren’t meant to compete against one another, but to uphold one another in love, so that we will all say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (Ephesians 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:7).
Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter said yes. And three times Jesus replied, then “tend” and “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Every time students formed hymn circles around campus, helped each other study, or just shared life together by strolling around the lake on campus or getting ice cream, I saw the love of Christ so blatantly, beautifully, and to a capacity I never had before. It was everywhere! My teachers, classmates, roommates, and friends filled almost every hour of every day, and they were all pointing me toward Christ.
None of this is to say I had no Christian friends before this. I have my wonderful family and dear friends throughout the world I love deeply. Even now, I have such God-fearing coworkers and even more new friends. But my experience at Bible college opened my eyes to the significance of godly community in a way that deepened my appreciation for the people in my life (both old and new). It caused me to start craving a community not of my earthly standards, but of Scripture — a kind of community that transcends physical barriers. Whether we’re miles apart or temporarily separated by death, a community rooted in Christ goes into eternity — and how much more glorious it will be on the other side of those pearly gates!
This was an exceptionally valuable lesson for me. As I stated already, much of my past involved someone burned out from trying to do things alone. And arguably, the larger problem is that I convinced myself I preferred it that way. But now I firmly believe God used Bible college to reveal to me the true beauty in doing things alongside other believers. Additionally, I learned that a godly community is worth praying for, waiting on, and seeking out. Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
I may not be at Bible college anymore, but I carry the lesson with me. I heard a lot growing up that fellowship is “sweet.” Yet, Bible college seemed to be the first place I truly tasted its nectar. Taste it once and you crave it all the more, but it’s the initial taste that allows you to know what exactly you’ve been looking for.
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.