rebelling against low expectations

Three Habits Every Christian Student Needs to Practice

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If I had to use one word to describe this semester, it would not be the word “fun.”

As if a full load of college classes wasn’t enough, high school algebra and chemistry are killing my GPA. I don’t know anyone taking the same classes as me, classes I didn’t want to take in the first place. And no one wants to get me started about the complete lack of decent places to sit and study between classes.

These type of complaints run through my head almost as often as the overwhelming question every high school and college student faces: what am I going to do with my life?

Look, we students are pretty pre-dispositioned to stress out, wallow in sadness, and complain about all that’s going wrong in our worlds. Just a few years ago we were kids having the time of our lives, and now we have textbooks and major life decisions keeping us up at night.

Naturally, we don’t know how to respond to this shift in responsibilities, so we end up chasing goals for our own glory, settling into the fog of apathy, or having an emotional breakdown when we realize we can’t handle it all.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way.

If we want full, God-honoring lives, we need to start making mature decisions–not just being wise about major life choices but also consciously deciding how we’re going to react and respond to challenges both big and small.

Complaining, freaking out, and giving in to despair is not the only way to handle high school and college. In fact, the Christian student’s path to success can be broken down into three simple steps: checking our hearts, using our brains, and keeping our eyes on God.

1. Check Your Heart

Christian growth is rooted not in a list of activities we do or don’t do, but in our hearts. If you’re anything like me, you may feel pretty good about your Christian resume. You earn pretty good grades, avoid nasty language, and sometimes even read your Bible in the hallway at school. It doesn’t get more Christian than that, right?

But God sees beneath every “Good Christian Kid” facade. That verse we like to use to talk about inner beauty? “God looks not at outward appearances but the heart”? (1 Samuel 16:7) Just as God sees the good in us, we also cannot hide the bad from him. As sinful human beings, that should be a sobering realization to us.

God notices when we slack off on assignments and when we work hard for the wrong reasons, as I learned all too starkly last semester.

In public speaking class, I was one of the teacher’s pets. I relished every word of positive feedback he gave me, fed off of his approval. That is, until he assigned an “informative speech”, the most miserable assignment of my entire semester.

I spent hours in front of my computer, scrolling through websites to get the maximum amount of sources and fulfill the time requirements. Once my speech date rolled around, I had spent so much effort trying to make my speech impressive that my delivery was bland and my teacher was, frankly, disappointed in me.

Looking back, I can see God’s grace in that moment, yes, even in my tear-streaked “I hate school” momentary mental collapse. Being crushed by my teacher’s disapproval helped me see how I’d been idolizing my good student status.

Students, check your hearts. Consciously examine your motives and your thought-processes. Guard your behavior, thoughts, and attitudes from corruption. If you don’t identify the sin in your life, God very well may do it for you.

Students, check your hearts. Consciously examine your motives and your thought-processes. Guard your behavior, thoughts, and attitudes from corruption. Click To Tweet

2. Use Your Brain

I’ll admit, when that girl walked into history class with a green polka dot blanket, I was jealous. Personally, I can understand wanting to savor a little snooze instead of listening to a teacher deride his students for an hour and a half.

And yet, as I pack my backpack for the day, I leave my gray blanket at home. I walk into class ready to crack open my notebook, because believe it or not, I didn’t come to school to sleep.

Students, use your brains and try to learn something this semester. Pay attention to your teachers, knowing a little respect goes a long way. Do the homework and put in the hard work to actually understand the material. Create a strategy for accomplishing your assignments well in advance, so you aren’t running around like decapitated poultry when your paper is due.

Exercise common sense, get a decent amount of sleep, eat something other than ramen noodles or granola bars once in a while. Get help from your peers and your instructors if you need it.

No matter what you score on the SAT, God has given you a brain for the sake of his glory. Human consciousness and intelligence outshines the glory of any other part of God’s creation; we are the creatures he has made in his image, after his likeness, to delight in him and honor him.

No matter what you score on the SAT, God has given you a brain for the sake of his glory. Click To Tweet

God could have made you a poodle, or a wombat, or a hamster, but instead he made you a human. You have a brain for a reason. Use it.

3. Keep Your Eyes on God

We cannot thrive in high school and college without staying connected to God, depending on him, and regularly meditating on who he is.

God breathes life into our skeletons. He’s the one who enables us to think and reason and feel and love. He’s the one who instills our existence with meaning. He’s the source of all that is right and good and praise-worthy in the universe.

But then, if we believe in a God who made the world alive and keeps the world alive, how come we’re so quick to forget about that God and hide in our rooms with our textbooks or our cell phones and completely ignore him?

Not that being busy is always bad, but if we can’t make any time for the God who fills our lungs with air every second of our lives, we have a problem with our priorities.

If you want to have joy, peace, and clarity this semester, spend time with God. Get wrapped up in something bigger than yourself, someone who can handle all the stress and all the assignments and all the questions and choices you have to deal with. Ask for his help, be refreshed by his truth, and anchor yourself in his promises.

Take a long look at him, soak in that knowledge of who he is, and come back to that as often as you can.

Soli Deo Gloria

School is hard. So is life. And that’s all the more reason to make good habits this semester, figuring out the best way to cope and handle all the stress and frustrations and busyness of it all.

If you make three resolutions this year, let it be these: Check your heart, use your brain, and keep your eyes on God.

Regardless of personality, learning styles, or schedules, these three overarching principles are the most crucial habits for any student to practice. Whether you’re homeschooled, private schooled, public schooled, or in college, the principles still apply.

Evaluate your thoughts and motives, working to please Christ and not just your teachers or yourself. Make the most of the intelligence God has given you, expressing gratitude for the gift. Look to him in every situation, every class, every day, relying on his wisdom, guidance, and peace.

With a Christ-centered mindset, learning doesn’t have to be a chore. In spite of the frustrations, the exhaustion, and the stress students face, we have an incredible opportunity to worship God through academics.

In spite of the frustrations, the exhaustion, and the stress students face, we have an incredible opportunity to worship God through academics. Click To Tweet

We won’t be in school forever. Let’s make the most of it.


About the author

Olivia Morgan White

Olivia Morgan White is a dual-enrolled high school junior and college freshman. In addition to writing regularly for The Rebelution, she dabbles in various genres, especially realistic fiction. You can find more of her writing at her website.

rebelling against low expectations

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