Helping Students Find their Place in the Kingdom

Every year I make sure I am either mentoring a student or leading a small group of students. I do that for a couple of reasons. I suspect that deep down I’m just an old campus minister who still gets excited to invest in a student and to watch what God does in their life. The other reason is to make sure I stay on the front lines and never forget the important role a college or university plays in society. One can get lost in business strategy, finance, compliance, and politics, and forget the important work of developing people so that they can be all God desires for them to be.

As I work with students, I often discover that so many of them come to us discouraged and hopeless. They come from modest family backgrounds and often from families filled with dysfunction. Just last week, I listened to the 5 young men I spend time with each week and was amazed by how much struggle they feel to overcome their family backgrounds. I see it in their eyes as they wonder; “Can I ever become…Will God be able to use me…Will I ever overcome?”

The great thing about God’s grand story is that he specializes in using people with huge struggles and imperfections. In God’s big story, he uses the small and insignificant—the son or daughters from the most dysfunctional backgrounds—and he weaves his story through generations of family drama, poverty, and even outright disobedience in order to bring us a perfect Savior with a perfect plan that ultimately changes us from the inside out and allows us to be used to help another.

As I read through Genesis and see the journey of Jacob who fathers the twelve tribes of Israel, it is easy to follow the heroics of Joseph. If his brothers hadn’t betrayed him then he would not have been able to save the family during the great famine. Watching God bless him all the way from being falsely imprisoned to ruling Egypt is quite an accomplishment, and God used Joseph to keep Israel alive. But don’t forget God also used Judah, Jacobs 4th of 12 sons. Judah’s mother was Leah whom Jacob did not love. Judah was 4th and neither the oldest son nor the favorite. Judah, who failed to enforce family protocol when his daughter-in-law’s first husband died and did not arrange her marriage to another of his sons as was the custom. Judah, who after his own wife died went to a prostitute for sex, later to discover the woman was really his daughter-in-law who he got pregnant. Yes, that Judah. And God used Judah’s family to bring us King David and finally King Jesus.

So when I look into the eyes of a student who wonders if God can do something with their messy life, I know He can. Judah’s messed up life resulted in a perfect Savior. And a perfect Savior has changed my life and yours forever.

Go find someone who is broken and help them discover who they can become for God and for his Kingdom.

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
Genesis 49:10 ESV

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV

Written by President Dean Collins ’79