What’s your problem? Too little education? Wrong kind of education? Too much education? All of these problems are common in Christian circles today. But, like other problems, every one of them can be faced and solved by any young Christian who is determined to follow his Lord completely.
Many young people have been overpowered by the attraction of earning money at an early age, only to find out later that it can be exceedingly difficult to obtain the additional education they need and want.
Others discover, after completing their education or after working for a time, that they have followed the wrong course and chosen the wrong career. They find that they have become interested in another field for which they are better suited. Acquiring the desired education then, particularly with a wife and family, can be a very difficult problem.
Nowadays, one wonders if there is not a possibility of seeking too much education. Everyone of us is responsible to make full use of the talents given by the Lord. But this does not mean that we should all be Ph. D.’s or even study indefinitely, say in the evenings. It would appear in some cases that the time devoted to education might be out of proportion to the time required for the essentials of a truly spiritual life.
The basic questions in all these problems are simple: “What does the Lord want me to do? What kind of education should I pursue? How far should I go?” If these questions were asked more frequently and the implied principles followed more consciously, we would less often hear our young people saying: “I wish I hadn’t quit school so soon!” “I wish that six years ago, I’d known what I know now. Things would have been different!” “I can’t come to prayer meetings. Sometimes I even have to study on Sunday. After all, it’s a heavy course this year, you know!”
If the basic questions are going to be answered, scriptural principles must be followed. Can we expect the Lord to guide us if we’ve already made up our minds? Analysis of our thinking reveals that we often go to the Lord, outwardly asking Him what we should do, but knowing all the time what we want Him to answer.
This can hardly be described as yielding to the Lord. It fails to express the spirit of Christ, “not my will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). It falls short of Paul’s ideal, “present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1).
“I think I’d like to be an engineer.” “I’d love to be a nurse!” Young people often have thoughts like these. But it’s a good idea to ask ourselves where these thoughts have come from. Are they from the Lord? Sometimes they are. Other times, they are only notions dreamed up in our own imaginations without asking the Lord what He wants.
Discovering what the Lord wants is not a magical process. Some people might think that only missionaries experience the Lord’s guidance about their life’s work, and that this requires a mystical voice or a chain of unusual events which all add up to the right answer.
At times the Lord does use such means in teaching us His will. But the basic operating principles are simple and available to us all.
Fundamental to all Christian guidance is a close fellowship with the Lord. This requires daily prayer, Bible meditation and study, constant yielding to Him. It means frequent, diligent confession of sin, continually reckoning ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God (1 John 1:9. Rom. 6:11).
This is how we abide in Him and bear fruit for His glory (John 15:5). And there can be no more pleasing fruit for God than a life devoted to the “good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
No doubt the good works He has ordained include getting the amount and kind of education He wants us to have, and pursuing the type of career that He has chosen for us.
The same basic principles can be applied to all of youth’s educational problems. “What school should I attend?” “Should I go to college in my home town, or should I go away?” “Would it be better to attend a Christian school or a secular institution?” “Should I take all of my education by day course, or should I go to work and finish my education by evening course?” “How am I going to finance my education?”
We get wrong answers to these questions when we look for them in the wrong way and in the wrong places. Vocational guidance and aptitude testing can be most helpful in many circumstances. But they seldom, if ever, give clear-cut answers. For the Christian, there is no substitute for a close fellowship with God, a constant yielding to His Spirit and His will, a patient waiting for Him to develop our convictions in the right direction.
It is virtually certain that the bulk of youth’s unsolved educational problems today are the result of failing to apply these basic Christian principles consistently.
Dependence on the Lord does not mean that we should ignore the knowledge and help available to us from various sources. There is an abundant supply of literature about education and careers, giving information on a wide variety of fields. School guidance counsellors, university placement officers, and the personnel and public relations departments of many companies are equipped to provide assistance. Scholarships, bursaries, and fellowships are more generous and plentiful than ever before.
But even with this help, there is still the crucial matter of deciding — a matter between the Christian and his Lord.
The absence of such communion can spell disaster for anyone. And for the Church at large, one wonders if the low level of our private and collective communion with Him is not at the root of some of the broader educational problems confronting us today.
Some think that the shortage of male missionary personnel today is a direct result of young men seeking lucrative careers at home in the professions and in business. No doubt the Lord has a place for each of us: some at home in secular work, and others at home or abroad in full-time missionary work. Nevertheless, one suspects at times that the bulk of our best people, spiritually speaking, are on the mission fields of the world and that many who are gainfully employed at home are here for the dollar more than for the Lord.
It is also worth noting that throughout our assemblies today, the education of many of our young people appears to be oriented more towards business and the professions than towards the arts, and least of all towards the study of Hebrew and Greek.
Broadly speaking, with possibly a very few exceptions, assemblies of brethren today are largely dependent upon other Christians for Scripture translation. One wonders why scarcely any of our young people feel called of the Lord to study the languages of the Bible, while countless hundreds aim at financially rewarding careers in fields such as business, industry, medicine, and law.
A further problem presents itself in some of our larger centres where evening schools and colleges make it possible to extend one’s education while holding a job during the day. To many young people, deprived of more normal educational opportunities, this is a great blessing. In many cases, nevertheless, there is considerable difficulty in giving the proper proportion of time to work, studies, and the spiritual necessities of life.
Evening studies coupled with a full-time job inevitably tend to cut into the Christian’s time for prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other Christians, and service for the Lord. The best way to avoid this problem, of course, is to pursue one’s education as far as possible, as early in life as possible. Evening studies should, in general, be regarded as a last resort, and then only under the definite guidance of the Lord.
Youth’s educational problems are undoubtedly many and often great. But as James reminds us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith” (James 1:5).