“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
—2 Timothy 4:2-5, NIV
I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a summer class at Appalachian State University. I had been a student at Liberty University for two years, and I was just taking a summer class at Appalachian to test the waters to see if I wanted to go there instead. When the professor found out I was from Liberty, she sort of looked down her nose at me. She said, “Miss Lib-er-ty.”
I did transfer to Appalachian, and as time went on I wound up taking six different courses with that same professor. All of her classes were debate style, and sometimes I was the only outspoken conservative Christian, if not the only conservative in the class.
Unfortunately, universities are becoming more and more hostile toward Christians and conservatives. Colleges used to be places we went to stretch our wings and be opened up to different points of view and to learn who we are. But universities now want to tell us who we should be, to the point that students feel endangered if they have an opposing point of view.
In today’s world, students have to learn how to stand their ground and be prepared. They have to know where truth comes from. Truth is so much the question on university campuses and has been through the ages. Even Pilate stood before Jesus and asked, “What is truth?”
Truth is God’s Word, and God’s Word is perfect. It is never changing. But universities and culture will tell us differently, and what they tell us about what’s right and wrong changes daily because it is based on human opinion, and human opinion changes with the wind. Young people have to know what God’s Word says in order to be able to correct and rebuke a world that’s forever coming against them (2 Timothy 4:2).
I had to learn in that classroom who I was and what I believed—and why I believed it. I had to dig deep into my heart and into God’s Word to boldly stand with confidence in the classroom. And I had to learn to debate graciously, kindly and respectfully in all circumstances. In time, I gained the respect of the professor and my peers, and the professor became one of my dearest friends. She even ended up coming to my wedding, along with her husband.
If I had gone in her classroom and said, “Well, this is what I believe because it’s what my dad taught me,” I would have received zero respect. What I’ve learned is that you have to gain respect before you can gain the power of influence. The fact that the professor and I could be on different sides of the aisle and still come together on the common ground of kindness and love for one another was a testimony to God’s grace.
My grandmother Ruth Bell Graham wrote a poem when she was on the ship coming back from China to the U.S. to go to college. It’s in her book Sitting By My Laughing Fire.
Test me, Lord, and give me strength
to meet each test
not striving nervously to do my best,
not self-assured, or careless as in jest,
but with your aid.
Purge me, Lord, and give me grace
to bear the heat
of cleansing flame;
not bitter at my lowly lot, but meet
to bear my share of suffering and keep sweet,
in Jesus’ Name.
That was her prayer as she was going to college. And that’s my prayer, too, for Christian students in these secular universities—that they would not only be filled with God’s Word but also with God’s grace for the time when the heat comes. God doesn’t promise that we’ll go untouched. The flame might singe some, but we’ll come through standing strong with Jesus.
I challenge all parents, especially parents of middle and high school students, to start preparing your children for battle. A battle with God’s Word as their only sword (Hebrews 4:12). The world is ready to challenge and fight Christians on all fronts. We need to make sure our children are prepared, and that we ourselves are prepared with God’s Word hidden in our hearts.
My dad has challenged all the grandchildren in our family to learn the Gospel Alphabet—26 Scriptures that begin with each letter of the alphabet. I’ve already started with my little girl, who’s 4, and she has grabbed on to them quickly. I pray that when the time comes, when Satan comes knocking at the door of her heart, she’ll be able to recite those Bible verses because there will be nothing I can do at that moment—when the world is yelling in her face—except to make sure she has God’s Word hidden in her heart.
As her mom, I must train her for battle, for when Satan comes attacking. And I know the battles will start early. They’ll be there in elementary school. They’ll be there in middle school, in high school, in college, in her marriage, in her career.
My job, my burden, is to teach her the Scriptures so one day when the waves come crashing against her, she can have the confidence to stand boldly and unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in an opposing world.
Cissie Graham Lynch is the daughter of Franklin and Jane Austin Graham.
The Scripture quotation marked NIV is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.