The idea of a Father is one that has a huge amount of significance in most people's lives. For some, it may conjure up ideas of a caregiver and provider; for others, it might be someone that protects and teaches their children. Unfortunately, for some people this image won't be a pleasant one due to being abandoned or hurt by their own earthly fathers. Fortunately, we are promised that when we accept God into our lives, we have a perfect, heavenly father who will never let us down.
We were lucky enough to hear Tim Chester speak about Fatherhood at the 6 on the 16th of October (if you can find any of his books, I highly recommend!). In the light of that talk, I wanted to explore a bit more of what it means to be a child of God at University, and how adoption into his family can equip you for the struggles that lie ahead during your University life.
But how exactly are we adopted into God's family? What gives us the right to call him Father and why should that change the way that we act?
In Galatians 4, Paul expresses his concerns for the Church in Galatia. He says they have lost joy in their identity as children of God and that they are acting like slaves again. Effectively - they're acting like they were never saved by Jesus and like they have to earn their salvation again.
But we know that we don't have to live like this - because Jesus took all of our sin, we are saved by faith alone, and not by our own actions. We're not workers in the house of God, who have to watch how they behave and fulfil duties in order to be accepted. We are his children and he loves us regardless of what we do. In Galatians 4 verse 7, Paul says that "you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." For more information on justification by faith, I'd recommend looking at the book of Romans, which clearly and concisely explains how we are saved through God's love.
But what difference does this make to University life?
Because we are children of God, we can trust in his promises as a father. The Bible contains thousands of promises to us of God's goodness - in Luke 11, Jesus says "“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?... If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." In other words, God is the ultimate, perfect Father.
God's promises can be broken down into three main aspects of his character (thanks again to Tim Chester for this one!) which each offer support for even the most mundane problems that you can face at University.
1) God is Good. Literally - he is the provider of everything that is good in this world. When He commands you to turn away from sin, he's not asking you to give up something which will help you. He's offering you something better. A few examples of where to apply this:
2) God is Gracious. He forgives anyone who repents and saves us through faith and grace, not through our own efforts. This means that we do not need to prove ourselves to Him! And if we are good enough to God, we have no need to prove ourselves to others.
3) God is Powerful and He has plans to prosper you. Worrying is something I have always struggled with and uncertainty can be a very scary thing to deal with. Particularly for those who are nearing the end of their degree, the future can seem like a terrifying chasm of potential disasters. (I was quite a melodramatic third year). But it's important to remember:
For more on this topic, Romans and Galatians have wonderful passages on God as a father, and Tim Chester's sermon will be available to listen to online.
Student Intern, tea enthusiast and Child of God