on Monday, August 21, 2017

Finish the race, but don't do it alone

One of the most memorable events in Olympic history happened in 1992 in Barcelona. During the 400-meter relay semi-final, Redmond’s hamstring tore, hobbling him halfway through his lap. Although he limped for a while, he was unable to finish. Soon, however, his father rushed through security and onto the track. Together, the two pressed through the finish line.  

A popular saying among seminary students and faculty is that seminary is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be surprised by difficulties, challenges, and stressful circumstances that are sure to arise. These happen to all who are here, and the trials are meant to produce endurance in us (James 1:2-3).

Finish the race, but do not do it alone.

Paul uses the examples of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer (2 Timothy 2:3-6). None of these are easy. All three require reliance on others.


Love this city

When I first moved to New Orleans, I had a negative view of the city and could not wait to leave. Over time, however, I began to see another side of the city. For one, New Orleans contains a vibrant, colorful culture and is as close to a melting pot as possible. More than this, though, was the realization that God loves this city. If God loves New Orleans, then so should we. 

Love for New Orleans does not mean glossing over the problems or blindly accepting everything about it. Rather, love for the city involves weeping over yet another violent crime, serving meals at the homeless shelter, or maybe even opening your door to a young man who does not know where he will sleep that night. When Jesus saw the crowds of the cities, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He then told his disciples to pray for God to send out more laborers (Matthew 9:35-38).

That’s you.


Seminary feeds your mind, but don’t neglect to feed your soul

We have all heard the common expression, “seminary is actually a cemetery.” Unfortunately, this has some basis in reality. If our faith becomes a purely academic endeavor, then we are in danger of fulfilling this expression. 

Seminary will grow and stretch your mind beyond your expectations, which is a good thing. However, the worship of God is practiced in both truth and spirit (John 4:24). For me, I had to make sure my personal times of devotion were kept separate from my academic studies. Writing Greek and Hebrew translations for a grade and reading the latest critical commentary in class cannot sustain a soul hungry for God’s truth.

Feast on the richness of Scripture, practice the spiritual disciplines, and keep your soul well-fed by words of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).


Plan a budget and calendar and actually follow them

Budgeting and planning may not seem to be the most spiritual tasks, but you will not be able to do any ministry without them. Jesus describes a man who desires to build a tower, but does not weigh the costs. He begins the construction, but soon runs out of money and is ridiculed as a fool by everyone else (Luke 14:29). While the immediate context of this passage is discipleship, the principle remains the same.

Following God’s call to seminary - and indeed a life of ministry - is not without financial and time costs. Know what these costs are and make plans accordingly. The difficult part, however, is sticking to these plans.

Discipline and accountability are vital here.


Sometimes, a B is better than an A

God’s command to remember the Sabbath is one of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:8-11) and repeated all throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments (Exodus 34:21; Mark 2:7; Hebrews 4:11). The requirement to take a day of rest is not temporarily suspended while we are in seminary.

On the contrary, actively remembering to take a day off from our labors should become an even higher priority for us since our burdens are increased significantly. Between family, multiple jobs, ministry, and school, we can easily become weighed down by our responsibilities. 

I have learned that I am far more productive in six days than seven. While I attempted to submit every assignment on time, I was not afraid to submit something late if necessary (while letting the professor know as well). It is better to turn in quality work a few days late than shoddy work on time.

Most importantly, if we overwork and exhaust ourselves, we may not even make it to the finish line. 


Don’t Lose Faith

Seminary is fraught with trials and challenges. Know that these challenges are meant to develop us, strengthen us, and remind us that God is the one who provides (James 1:2-4). Unfortunately, I have seen many leave for all kinds of reasons. I myself came to the verge of quitting several times during my time here, yet the Lord kept me here.

If God calls you to seminary, He will sustain you while you are here. 

One of the great, yet often overlooked, miracles in the Bible occurred during Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. During their forty years in the desert, their sandals and clothes did wear out, and they never went without food (Deuteronomy 8:4).

God may not give us what we want when we want it, but He gives us what we need when we need it. 


Learn the Gospel

This one seems to be a given.

However, I don’t mean to just learn it intellectually or memorize a certain type of presentation, but truly understand the Gospel. Meditate on it. Contemplate it each morning. Let the Gospel be good news for you. But we should also remember that the Gospel is not about us, but Jesus. 

The message is simple enough that it can be stated in 10 words: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31). 

Yet it is rich and complex so that whole sermons cannot adequately convey its fullness. (Acts 2:14-36; Acts 7:2-53). The Gospel is so vast and far reaching that there is no aspect of life to which it does not lay claim. Deeply entrenched political views, patterns of behavior, family histories, and personal prejudices are confronted, subdued, and transformed by Jesus. 

We may graduate from seminary, but we never graduate from the Gospel.


Travis Milner is a recent MDiv graduate from NOBTS and currently works for the Louisiana Baptist Convention.