Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Difficult Class

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Colossians 1:21-23 NIV)

I was a freshman in college when I walked into my first day of World Literature class. The small classroom was full with about 30 students. The professor was old, probably about my current age, and, from the start, grumpy. He began almost immediately calling out students who were chewing gum, talking to each other, or had failed to yet purchase the required textbooks. He invited them to leave if they couldn’t show more respect. He was no nonsense and rude. He wouldn’t have lasted a semester in today’s environment, as certainly students and parents would have complained so much, he would have been fired.

When I walked into the classroom for the second time, it was almost emptied out. Probably a dozen brave souls and me (I was just too passive to drop the class) filled the seats. I can’t speak on how the others felt, but for me it was one of the most difficult classes I ever took in my college career. The professor lightened up a bit once he had before him a group of what he perceived to be committed students, willing to tolerate whatever he dished out or handed out. But his grading was brutal!

I considered myself a decent writer and had been told so by a number of my high school teachers. But the first several papers I turned in were covered in red ink and given less than average grades. I was shocked! But over the semester, I hung in and worked hard to improve my thinking and writing skills. And one of my most pleasant memories of college is when I received back my final paper with an A- grade and comments that it was a well-written and thought out paper. Because of how demanding this professor was, that grade and those comments meant the world to me because I knew I had earned them and he was not just being nice.

After all of these years, I still consider that class the best I ever had, not because it was all that enjoyable, but because of what I learned about good writing and my capabilities. Unlike my classmates for a day, I persevered and was rewarded in ways I never imagined at the time.

I share this story because I see a very meaningful spiritual truth from it. We live in a time where many who call themselves believers seem to think nothing should be demanded of them once they’ve (publically or privately) confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior. Many believe there are no demands and few, if any, consequences if they fail to grow and mature in their faith along the way. Like the students who quickly dropped out of the world lit class, they are missing out on what God has desired for them.

Most students want easy classes and good grades, but if they get their wish, they will graduate from college with a degree, but without a true education. Great professors know this. In the same way, the Lord knows perseverance is required if we are to become mature (James 1:4). So His classes on life are often demanding and difficult, not because He is mean and uncaring, but rather because He loves us so much and wants us to experience the great riches of being spiritually mature, just as I believe my professor wanted his students to grow in their academic abilities. He has our best interests in mind.

Today, know being a believer, a student in the Lord’s classroom, will never be easy. The costs and demands are high. They are a designed as a test of our perseverance in order to help us become who He created us to be.  And if we indeed persevere, we will realize just how valuable it all was. But, if we choose just to get by or drop out, we will miss out on all of the benefits of a quality education.

© Jim Musser 2018

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