Recently, my nephew graduated High School near Charlotte, North Carolina . As a graduation present, I had the privilege of writing him the following letter. It was my way of encouraging him to think seriously about the purpose of education. Hopefully, his letter will encourage you as well.
Beth and I are so proud of you. Graduating from High School is a significant accomplishment and serves as a milestone for leaving adolescence and becoming a man. Do you feel educated?
According to Dictonary.com, the definition of Education: “is the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.” I’m not sure what you think about that definition or if it even reflects what you have experienced, but if you don’t mind I would like to offer my own definition of education and conclude with a few comments.
Bartley’s definition: Education is a gift from God that imparts truth, rooted in the person of Christ, for the glory of Christ, resulting in the right application of knowledge.
Education is a gift from God:
Jake, for a long time I did not view education as a gift from God. In fact, until I entered North Greenville I only saw education as a way to get a better job. Having the capacity to learn was something I took for granted, but God, in His mercy helped me to see that knowledge is a precious gift – a gift that should not be squandered, but pursued with intensity and great humility.
As you enter this next season of life, it is my prayer that God will give you the eyes to see that you are a blessed man. I have two sons who struggle to learn. Their path will look different than yours. What comes easy to you will most likely be difficult for them. Please don’t take it for granted. Maximize the gifts God has given you and absorb all the knowledge possible. See every subject in college as vital to your success. Take that knowledge and sift it with God’s Word, keeping the good and discarding the bad. Don’t settle for mediocrity; let God inspire you to learn more.
that imparts truth, rooted in Jesus Christ:
Jake, truth emanates from God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). What that means is that truth has its origin in the person of Christ. Why that is important is because we live in God’s world under God’s laws, both natural (law of gravity, etc.) and revealed (Scripture). When Jesus came, He not only showed us the way to a better life, He became our way to a better life by revealing truth to us, namely Himself. Tragically, most young men your age too often attempt to live contrary to God’s ways, especially, His revealed ways. How do I know? I was one of those young men. The result is always –sooner or later – extreme hardships.
My prayer is that you will come to love the truth. Never be afraid of seeking the truth. I’m certain you will encounter the antagonist who loves the darkness. Don’t fear the questions. After nine years of theological education and almost 20 years of ministry I have learned that God made man and man did not make God. That may sound simple-minded, but to me the height of arrogance is when a finite human being thinks he know more than an Infinite God. In other words, God has an answer to the tough questions – don’t be afraid to embrace the struggle when you are challenged. Seek God and let the truth set you free (John 8:32).
For the glory of Christ
Jake, we have an incredible capacity to love ourselves too much. John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory… Every one of us from our mother’s womb is an expert in inventing idols.” These idols take numerous forms, but all of them revolve around making much of us or at least our happiness. You would be wise to learn that happiness was always meant to be a means to an end. It was never designed to be the end. In other words, if your goal is to pursue happiness only (which, at its worst, is idolatry), you will never be completely satisfied. Happiness leaks! However, if your goal is to glorify Christ, then when you’re happy you can praise God or when you are not happy you can still praise God. Pursuing Christ’s glory will sustain you.
It is my prayer that you will learn to live by the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease…” (John 3:30). This will be a life-long struggle. But it is the only endeavor that can truly satisfy the soul. Everything else is temporary.
Practically, develop the discipline to put others before you without drawing attention to yourself. Jesus said He would repay you (Matt. 6:4). The truly educated person has his or her priorities right and lives by them.
Resulting in the right application of knowledge:
Jake, wisdom is knowledge correctly applied. Knowledge that is incorrectly applied is, in my opinion, poor education and certainly not godly wisdom. Over these next years you have the opportunity to acquire extensive amounts of knowledge. How you apply it to life will be extremely important. I believe God intends for you to become a godly man full of wisdom. You must take the knowledge you learn and apply it to life according to God’s Word. Success will follow.
It is my prayer that God will empower you to live with much wisdom. You carry with you, both the Wooten and Baucom heritage. I pray you strengthen the foundation given to you by your parents and grandparents. Leaving a legacy begins now and with God’s helps you can accomplish wonderful things.
More importantly, you are an ambassador for Christ. This is a high privilege and an act of grace. Please live accordingly. You will soon be leaving your home and will no longer be under the care of your family. You will need great wisdom to navigate these new waters. Don’t be afraid, pray often, read your Bible, and listen to wise counsel.
Lastly, know that I love you. If you ever need me all you have to do is call. I’m serious. I’m really good at listening and people say I do pretty good (bad English) at encouraging them. So, never hesitate to reach out if you need me.
Love Always, Bartley