International Student Edition
Studying abroad really tests our zeal for the Lord. It’s easier to be dedicated for Christ back home because we have friends, family, and pastors to cheer us up. Now as international students, we need to discipline ourselves as we no longer have that physical support around us. Regardless of the country or school we go to study, it’s highly probable that the people or students there have little to no interest for the things of God. We are now surrounded by individuals who live immoral lives; additionally, academic busyness, financial stress, homesickness, loneliness, and other factors jump into the equation. Now we become tempted to follow the crowd or slow down our zeal due to circumstances. How do we stay grounded in our values/faith despite the pressures?
I’m glad the Word of God has several examples of people who experienced comparable situations to teach us the right way. Let’s take Daniel who was deported to Babylon (a pagan country) away from his family, nation, and comfort zone. As the king’s servant, Daniel had to eat delicacies that were previously sacrificed to idols; many Hebrew men alongside Daniel followed the crowd, however, Daniel took a step of faith with his three friends and renounced to defile themselves, “but Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself”-Daniel 1:8. This teaches us something important: In order to stay grounded in our faith as international students, we need to make it a resolution. We have to be serious about the decision to stay grounded in the faith and constantly pray God to help us to do so.
This leads us to our second task: Pray. For this, we take the example of Paul in prison in Rome. In his letter to the Philippians, he says the following: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy”-Phil 1:3-4. Despite the prison’s conditions (Phil 4:12), he still devoted time to pray and not only for himself but also others. Again, how serious are we to stay grounded in the faith? When we understand the surrounding danger, then we’ll make the effort to pray fervently and regularly despite our busy schedule. Furthermore, Paul loved the Word of God, in 2 Timothy 4:13, while he’s suffering greatly for Christ (2 Tim 2:9), he asks for parchments. These were animal’s skin used as material to write copies of the Bible. This hence shows the extreme necessity to stay in the Word when we’re under pressure.
Our last example is Joseph the son of Jacob. I think his circumstance was worse than any international student because he was unwillingly to go to Egypt, let alone as a slave. Just imagine his state! Yet in the midst of his time-consuming agenda, he found it important to serve God, “the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand”-Genesis 39:2-3. Joseph could have neglected his duties but he preferred to honor God in all things. As international students, we can be prone to follow what’s popular on campus and go astray, however if we want to stay grounded in the faith we must obey the Word of God no matter what because it’ll go better for us.
All of these advice boil down to one question: How bad do we want to stay close to God? I totally understand the frustration, confusion, and all the mess that go on in school. I remember at one point having no friends in my dorm just because I did not follow the lifestyles of the other girls. Did that bother me? Absolutely, but the Lord was my strength and at the end of the day, I didn’t defile myself. If today we were told by a doctor unless we take time to exercise 30 minutes a day we’ll die of a heart attack, I’m sure all of us we’ll take this seriously and do it despite our crazy schedules. More serious than health is our spiritual state that can be corrupted if we don’t take care of it. The Lord will give you strength to do His will if you choose Him instead of the world.