Whether we’re ready or not, back-to-school season is upon us. Summer days are melting into autumn chill. Backpacks are full-price again. Dorm halls are disaster zones.
And books are everywhere. We have boxes and bags of new textbooks, shelves sagging under the weight of required reading, millions of words we’ll spend this year learning from and dissecting and (hopefully) appreciating. College students are swimming in books, both in paperback and on our digital devices, swamped by an overwhelming flood of resources.
In the midst of all of these words and writings, Christian college students face an ever-present danger: to forget about the precious, priceless, life-giving Word, the Bible.
No Ordinary Book
As a recent college graduate, I know the pressure well. It can be tempting to shorten our time in this book, skip over its wisdom, speed-read to check it off a list, or cut it out all together. In the face of so many other things to read and write and do, the Bible can seem unimportant. But why?
It’s because we miss the big-picture beauty of the book. Scripture is utterly unique, stunningly different from every textbook, novel, study guide, essay collection, poem, video, and lecture out there – and stunningly better. The Bible is inspired by God, his very words “breathed out” for us to read (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is inerrant, absolutely faultless, flawless, completely without error or defect (John 17:17). And the Bible is alive, living, moving, and used by God to change hearts, minds, and motives (Hebrews 4:12).
This is no ordinary book. These are no ordinary words. This is the book that changes everything.
Three Ways College Students Can Prioritize the Bible
When faced with this understanding of what the Bible is, how can we not want to keep God’s Word front and center this year? But when you’re struggling with stress, distraction, and unending homework, (like me) you might wonder just how to do that. From my own experience juggling a full academic plate and hectic back-to-school schedule, here are three things I’ve learned to do.
1. Delight in God’s Word (or work hard to).
There were many days in school when I didn’t feel like reading the Bible. Even worse, I would pad myself with excuses (there was so much other reading to do, I was mentally drained, I was physically exhausted), so that reading the Bible became a burden. I’d put it off and put it off until I finally got to my devotions out of sheer duty, bringing a loveless heart and lackluster enthusiasm.
The key to changing my experience was changing my perspective. With the encouragement of faithful mentors, I began to pursue delighting in Scripture, reading it out of joy instead of just duty. It was a mindset switch. We prioritize what we love, and so working hard to love God’s Word gave me the proper focus. This was a time to enjoy. It was a time to be refreshed, nourished, encouraged, and convicted. It was a time to hear the very words of God spoken to me. I had to take active steps to treasure it as a privilege instead of begrudge it as an obligation.
Think about how hard we work to know, learn, and love our college studies. We invest dozens, even hundreds, of hours in academic books to reap their rewards. Why do we think we won’t have to work just as hard at prioritizing and pouring ourselves into the Bible? Of course, this book is not the same as any other book, but why do we think loving it will always come naturally to us? Work hard to delight in God’s Word.
2. Make time for it every day.
In college, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. A sloppy scholastic schedule can have mammoth consequences. Unorganized, last-minute, on-the-fly projects never pay off. Planning is critical to long-term faithfulness. The same is true for reading the Bible. I realized that if I wasn’t diligent about carving out time to read God’s Word every day, it wasn’t going to happen. And that was always detrimental to me.
I told myself I was being a better student by neglecting my Bible for schoolbooks, but the opposite was true. My daily time in God’s Word centered me, cleared my heart and mind, and sharpened my focus. It rejuvenated me to approach school happier and freer and fixed on the gospel. If you want to prioritize the Bible, you have to read it more, and know it more. Do that by making time to read it daily.
3. Embrace accountability.
Throughout my college education, I had parents, professors, friends, and church members who persistently asked me, “How’s school going?” They wanted to know what I was studying, what truths I was learning, and how I was feeling about it all. I discovered that accountability was essential to having a healthy and engaged relationship with my studies.
The same is true with Scripture. You need people to help you prioritize God’s Word, people who will ask you, “How’s your Bible reading going?”—and not out of legalistic pressure, but love. Find people who will support you and push you to stay disciplined. Look for mentors or teachers or pastors who will challenge you to constantly and consistently make the Bible a top priority—and who will love you enough to ask you the hard questions. Be honest, and embrace accountability.
The Best Book You’ll Study
You’re busy. I get it. A new semester is here, and with it a flood of fresh responsibilities, pressures, assignments, and tasks. But as someone who’s been there, let me encourage you: The Bible is the best book you’ll study this year. It’s eternally better than any other resource. So work hard to delight in it. Make time for it. And have others hold you accountable to read it.
Textbooks won’t last forever. Novels won’t last forever. Study sites won’t last forever. College won’t last forever. But “the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).