Five actions to grow your faith in first year

Jul 27, 2015 | Terra Hensel

Action #1: Be made strong in the gospel

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

A weak faith revealed

My first weeks at university revealed just how weak my faith was.

It seemed like the new environment itself surfaced a myriad of insecurities and doubts I didn’t know were there. I was intimidated by the god-like status of my profs, huge impersonal classes and endless amounts of coursework. I was terrified that I was going to be crushed by the professor’s impossible expectations and fail.

To further challenge my faith in God, atheism was the dictator that governed all that I was being taught.

It felt like I was a slave striving to please my new task masters, professors.

They were aloof and indifferent, not apologetic about putting us through harsh labor. It felt like I wouldn’t have time to do anything but work to satisfy their requirements. They assigned so much work, giving no consideration to the thought that I had a life outside of studies. I assumed they were Pharaoh and me their slave.

Tempted to find my identity in self-indulgence

To add to my anxiety, I was socially overwhelmed and paralyzed by the dominant culture of status, sex and alcohol. It wasn’t that I had never been exposed during grade school, it was just the sheer magnitude and overt practice of it right on campus. It was being publicly endorsed as the norm.

All the restraints of were gone for many students giving way to their selfish indulgence and its flourishing.

An environment toxic to my faith

On its own, the university culture was toxic to my faith.

On one side I was being crushed by the expectations of my studies.

On the other I was being enticed to selfishly indulge myself.

I was being sucked into a culture striving for success and the pleasures it affords. At no other time in my life did I feel the weight was all on me to make it happen. Perhaps this was the most burdensome belief of all.

Could it be that this is exactly where God wanted me to be?

Broken and humble, aware of my need for him to do work in my heart.

First things first. God needed to do a work in the core of my being.

The trajectory of my life changed when Power to Change staff and students started to speak God’s Word into my life privately and in small groups.

I confessed I had often placed my identity in my success or self indulgence. They helped me experience God’s love and forgiveness. Although I resisted the simplicity of their message at first, their warmth and care partnered their words and won me over. They were so patient.

Seeking God and serving together continually safeguarded me from making my identity in success or pleasure.

The toxic environment of the university gave me all the more reason to strengthen my faith and grow it. On its own it could be considered a place hostile to my faith, but God’s work through Power to Change turned it into a greenhouse for my growth in faith and confidence in Jesus and his Word.

This should be your greatest priority.

First be strong in the gospel.

Find your identity in Jesus.

Your value is first a child of God.

Action #2:  Make others strong in the gospel

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

Telling others about Jesus 

Photo by Gabriel Ting

Before my involvement with Power to Change I made minimal attempts to integrate my faith into my relationships with non-Christians at school.

I was too fearful of what people would think of me.

In High School I just kept quiet about my faith. I was living in two worlds. I put on one face when in Christian circles and one face with friends at school. There was no overlap. I did what I had to do to fit in wherever I was.

So when the concept of talking to my peers about Jesus was introduced, I naturally felt very insecure.

Although I knew that I was supposed to reach out and tell my friends about Jesus, I was afraid. In elementary school I would sometimes invite my friends to Awana, 5 Day Bible clubs or youth group. My friends would come, but I never learned how to talk to them about matters relating to faith in God. Unfortunately, after grade 9 I stopped inviting my friends at all. I became more fearful of crossing that barrier.

Power, not fear

I experienced the power to share the gospel once I belonged to a gospel centred community. My whole purpose for being at university changed.

Instead of trying to make my identity from success, I started to see the greater reason God had me there. As I became stronger in the gospel I was more able to help others become strong. It didn’t matter whether I talked with a student who hadn’t given any thought to God’s existence or to those who were already on the journey towards God.

Will you pour into others?

Something amazing happened in those small group Bible studies. Faith multiplied. As much as I grew, I could see others around me growing as well. We were mutually growing each others faith. Not only that, there was a camaraderie that I never experienced before. There was a sharing of life’s joys and struggles. We took steps of faith together, praying daily for our non Christian friends and sharing the gospel with them…leading others to do the same…even going on missions to others countries.

Action #3: Learn from mentors and pass it on

Although I grew up knowing a lot about Christianity, I didn’t know how to find my identity in Jesus, rather than finding my identity in success or self indulgence. I lacked wisdom or spiritual power to resist temptation, let alone make others strong in their identity in Christ. I needed to learn to think about everything from a Christian view.

I needed someone wiser than me to teach and model for me the application of the gospel. I needed accountability to turn from finding my identity in either success or self indulgence.

I needed someone to help me

Part of my defeated Christian life was the fact that I had minimal modelling of how to put my identity in Jesus. I remember being frustrated, only having God’s word, but not knowing how to follow apply it in my situation. I needed guidance. I am so thankful that God brought mentors into my life. Whether it was a P2C staff or students, I started to learn how to live out the gospel in my relationships with non Christians. It was as if there was an incarnation. I could see and imitate their life and example.

Action #4: Grow your faith. Share it. Repeat.

I never made plans to lose my faith, but I can see how easy it would have been had I not taken the steps to grow my faith.

Jesus warns that the worries of this world, the deceitfulness of wealth and persecution can squeeze the life out my faith. Here is a critical question.

How can I create good soil and conditions in my life that will foster the growth of faith?

If faith comes from hearing the word, I need to learn to preach the gospel to my heart. I realized my need to be in relationship with others who can keep preaching it to my heart, just as I needed to share it to others. I was in a habit of confessing sin to God and my close friends, repenting and turning back to God.

I needed help to make plans to grow in my faith. Until all the world hears, I will not to stop sharing.

Action #5: Make a lifestyle of gospel living and sharing your priority

After my first year, my whole purpose for being at university had changed. I wasn’t there simply to get a degree. I realized that I wasn’t there to have others serve me, but I was there to serve others. I was there to be made strong in the gospel and experience it. I was there to help others be strengthened in the gospel as well.

I was starting to think biblically about everything in classes and university culture. I was forming a Christian worldview. All of life was now navigated in light of God’s word and his priorities.

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About the Author

Terra Hensel

Terra Hensel has served on staff with Power to Change – Students for over 12 years. Terra is a vibrant and beloved-by-Jesus coffee-snob, project manager, problem-solver and creative. She loves her husband, friends, jazz, books, sewing, singing, and dancing.

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