I have been following a series on the Desiring God blog that is about staying Christian in seminary. On the face it might seem a silly notion that one might struggle with their faith in the very place designed to train pastors. But alas it is a very real possibility. Seminary is not all about spiritual formation and deepening your walk with God. Rather it gets into both the minutiae of doing theological work as well as theory of ministry work. Along with the profound and deep revelations that come up are the mundane and tedious. (While the third round of Greek vocabulary flashcards might teach one the value of patience and persistance, it really starts to feel mundane and tedious.)
But I don't think that it is just seminary students that struggle with staying Christian throughout their walk. It can (and I believe it does) happen to everyone. It might not always happen in the same way for everyone but I think that at the foundation of it all we lose that sense of wonder that surrounds the grace of God that first grabbed us. In the third post of the series author David Mathis writes:
"Grace is no peripheral thing in Christianity. God’s astoundingly lavish favor toward us terribly undeserving sinners, because of Jesus, is at the very center. Lose our taste for grace and we have no good business calling ourselves Christians, much less putting ourselves forward as leaders in the church."
It is easy to lose that desire for God's grace. We lose it for many reasons. Our lives seem devoid of grace as our world comes crashing down around us. It may be due the loss of a job and the threat of losing our home and security. It may be due to problems at home with a spouse or a child that just never seem to get resolved. It may be due to the unending pressures of work or school. It may be due to the overwhelming trouble that we see in the world. It may be due to the loss of a dear loved one. It may be due to any number of things that would make trying to list them all out impossible.
Mathis makes the point that we need to be intentional about being sensitive to the grace that God has provided to us. It is not about what God has done for us in this world but it is an eternal thing. Mathis suggests taking time to dwell in Ephesians 2:1-7. It reminds us that we were once dead in our sin but that God's grace has made us alive again. God's grace, while it does have consequences for us now, will be lavished upon all those that call on Jesus name in the heaven and the life to come.
Mathis concludes with an exhortation to never take God's grace for granted:
"Don’t be under the delusion that seminary automatically makes you grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). In fact, it can have quite the opposite effect. Beware of so frequently handling such holy things as the Scriptures and good doctrine and the gospel itself. And especially don’t be flippant with grace. For God’s sake, your own sake, and the sake of the people you’ll one day serve, don’t ever take grace for granted."
That isn't just good advice for those going through seminary. It is something that we should all keep in mind.
The other posts from the series:
Introduction: Seminary: Life or Death