It’s easy to become pessimistic, isn’t it? I mean, every time we turn on the television, check the news on the web, read the paper (some of you know what I mean when I say “read the paper”. . . if not, ask your grandparents). We all need things, people, and experiences to help us maintain perspective. I’m afforded the rich opportunity to meet a lot of people and sometimes have the chance to represent Jesus and our church in some really great places. Such was the case last Wednesday. I had the opportunity to preach at the chapel service at Hannibal LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri. I had to meet some people there at 9:00 A.M. Wednesday morning, so I drove up Tuesday night and they put me up in one of the houses they own close to campus. The drive was beautiful! I needed those few hours to take in the beauty of God’s creation once again. The scenery was gorgeous, I was able to put the top back on my Jeep, and to make it the perfect evening driving, I was also able to listen to baseball on the radio. Can you say “nostalgia”? Had I died right there and gone to Heaven, that would have been totally fine.
Preaching to college students is a challenge on a lot of levels; mainly, I remember as a college student how we “sized up” the speakers. Depending on the venue, collegiates are either conciliatory or combative, I suppose just like the rest of our culture, huh? At any rate, I relish the opportunity to speak to college students; I love their enthusiasm, their inquisitive nature, and often times their optimism. To say that my experience at Hannibal was a blessing would be an understatement. Every student I met on campus looked me in the eye and spoke. They were so gracious! The laughter I heard in chapel (both before I spoke and during some lighter moments in the message) was like salve to my soul. These students know they’re going to face the “real world,” but it’s apparent that they’re taking in as much of the “good stuff” of Christian fellowship as they can right now in preparation for being “sent out.” I told them and I told their President, my good friend, Dr. Anthony Allen, that Hannibal was the happiest college campus I’ve ever visited. The joy of Jesus permeated the place.
Please don’t misunderstand . . . I didn’t preach a “sugar stick.” I preached a sermon designed to move students toward full-throttled, sold-out faith for Jesus, knowing the world will hate every fiber of their being if they do so. They took it in. They paid attention. They responded. It was such a blessing! So when it starts to feel dark to you, or your hope for the future of our country or our faith begins waning, get in your car and drive over Highway 36 to Hannibal LaGrange University. You’ll see some great examples and be reminded that our future is in good hands . . ..
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set he believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 ESV).