Walking through the classroom door, I could only imagine what I might be getting myself into. Secular college, I’d heard, would be a spiritual battlefield like none I’d experienced before. Would my faith survive?
As the semester unfolded, I constantly heard messages which contradicted God’s word—like the idea that humans evolved from apelike ancestors over millions of years. This idea lies at the heart of a worldview—a system of thinking about everything in the world—known as secular humanism. A quote from one of my professors summed up this worldview by claiming, “God did not create people; people created God.”
Although I realized these ideas were false, hearing them taught as fact every day wore on me. What helped me survive with my biblical beliefs intact? The answer comes down to three personal foundations that God had helped me prepare as a teenager:
- Spiritual foundations: Keeping a close personal walk with God.
- Intellectual foundations: Being able to logically defend biblical beliefs and answer messages that oppose God’s Word.
- Interpersonal foundations: Staying surrounded by strong Christian community, including godly family, friends, church, and older mentors.
After I graduated, I backpacked 360° around the world asking other Christian students about their university experiences. These conversations revealed that, although Christian students face diverse challenges worldwide, the solutions for overcoming those challenges look incredibly similar. They all trace back to having those three foundations I’d needed as a student.
What are some of the top practical steps that Christian young people can take to develop these foundations? Answering this for all three foundations will take a couple more articles. But for now, let’s start with Spiritual Foundations.
Walking with God
No student can keep their faith during university unless they have their own faith to begin with. The point isn’t for us to masquerade behind our families’ faith, but to cultivate vibrant personal relationships with God that color our moment-to-moment lives. As a result, we ground our identities in this relationship with Jesus rather than in anything temporary.
During my own teen years, nothing kindled my desire to pursue God this way more than reading missionary biographies. Stories of ordinary people who witnessed God’s extraordinary faithfulness made me want to know God like that myself, and to approach every aspect of life—even schoolwork and summer jobs—as part of a greater mission with Jesus. With this mindset, I could view challenges in university as opportunities to draw closer to God by giving him my concerns (1 Peter 5:7).
How to Build Spiritual Foundations
If spiritual foundations involve walking closely with God, how can we build those foundations now—and keep them strong throughout university? Here are three ways:
Talking to our heavenly Father is one of the best ways to draw close to God and impact our world. A vibrant prayer life includes not only setting apart daily time to meet with God, but also practicing an ongoing attitude of prayer by transforming whatever we’re doing, thinking, and feeling into opportunities to pray throughout the day.
After hearing a tough lecture full of unbiblical messages in college, I remember heading outside to detox my mind by listening to worship. Playing instrumental worship while we work, taking study breaks to sing or listen to worship, and checking the songs in our heads throughout the day are all great ways to stay “in tune” with our Creator.
- Soak in Scripture
Reading God’s Word every day, memorizing verses, and even listening to audio Bibles while going about our day helps us stay filled with Scripture. This, in turn, equips us to spot lies, counter temptation, and live the lives for which we were created.
Along the way, we can keep our foundations strong by prioritizing daily time with God, being aware of little compromises which could hinder our relationship with God, and drawing biblical boundaries ahead of time—before we face pressure to compromise our convictions.
Ultimately, building strong spiritual foundations prepares us not only to thrive as Christians in college but also to live the life we were created for: a life of relationship with God. Then, whichever doors God leads us through—whether into a college classroom or out to the world beyond—we’ll be confident that we’re going there with our Creator.
There’s much more to say—enough to fill a book! Find practical tips for building strong spiritual, intellectual, and interpersonal foundations in the book, Prepare to Thrive: A Survival Guide for Christian Students.
Patricia Engler is a Christian apologetics speaker, writer, and Youth Outreach Coordinator for Answers in Genesis. After 12 years of homeschool and a B.Sc. degree, she backpacked 360°around the world documenting how Christian students keep their faith at university. The top takeaways from this research are available in Patricia’s book, Prepare to Thrive: A Survival Guide for Christian Students. You can follow her stories and get connected through Facebook, Instagram, and AnswersinGenesis.org.