As an international student, there are a variety of factors that contribute to choosing a major and especially in accepting a job offer. If you are like my friend Anna, the most important determinant in this process is not personal interest or satisfaction, but anything that will prolong times spent in the States. If you are like Evan, it is a degree that is the most marketable and will allow you to support your family back home. If you are Hector, it is a major and career that your parents have always dreamed you would have.
As if it weren't difficult enough to balance familial expectations, financial pressure and societal expectations, add the strong desire you have to honor and serve God through your major and into your job post-graduation. What does it look like to serve God in your job long term? My desire is to encourage you from Scripture with four opportunities I think God is presenting to you to provide perspective for what I pray will be success and joy in your years beyond graduation.
1. Opportunity for Preparation:
Abraham, Moses, Jesus. Abraham waited 100 years (Gen. 21:5) for his son Isaac to be born and see God's promise of an heir to be fulfilled. Moses was 80 (Ex. 7:7) before God mobilized him to lead the Israelite people out of Pharaoh's hands. Prior to that he had been a shepherd for 40 years. Jesus too had a 30 year period of preparation before the start of his ministry (Luke 3:23). Granted there are some in the bible who God seems to use immediately at a young age, but for many God takes his time and gives them a season of preparation and a set of experiences that shape them into who it is He wants them to become. Character development, humility, dependence on Jesus, learning to hear God, patience and faith are just a few of the things God developed in these three men during their seasons of preparation.
What kind of preparation might await you in your future job? What do you anticipate is going to be challenging personally and professionally? It could be that God wants to use the job that awaits you to instill things in you that can only come from these specific experiences, people and location. These next 5, 10 or 15 years will be formidable in preparing you for God only knows what in the latter years of your life and ministry on earth.
2. Opportunity to love others:
My mentor told me about an Aunt she so desperately wanted to share Jesus with. This Aunt was an atheist and forbid my mentor from contacting her in attempts to avoid conversations about spiritual things. As a result, my mentor prayed fervently that God would send someone else to witness to her. Years later, my mentor was able to visit her Aunt in her retirement home. Upon entering her Aunt's apartment for the first time, my mentor noticed a book called God's Promises lying on the table. My mentor curiously if her Aunt knew what God's promises were. Without hesitation, her Aunt replied, "Oh sure! The cleaning lady has told me all about them! I'm a follower of Jesus now you know!?"
Whether you are going to a place where you can openly talk about your faith in your workplace or not, what this testimony shows me about God is that he can use any person, in any job, in any place to reach any one that He desires. There is an opportunity for you as you graduate and join whatever lab, company, post-doc group or city you may find yourself in, to trust God to accomplish His will in the most creative ways possible.
You may feel like my mentor and be in a place where you feel prohibited from sharing your faith and need to love through fervent prayers for those around you. Or God may want to use you like He did the cleaning lady and bring you into contact with people for whom it will be your privilege to share the gospel to Jesus with through the relationships you develop at work. Make the most of every opportunity and never underestimate the power of prayer to affect the lives of those around you!
3. Opportunity to exercise your spiritual gifts:
Spiritual gifts are given by God to individuals within a broader community of believers to manifest His goodness in a fuller way (1 Cor. 12). Not everyone has the same gifts and, when used together, people are beautifully dependent on one another and blessed by the unique ways God has empowered them through His Spirit. These gifts include but are not limited to wisdom, faith, prophecy, prayer, evangelism, teaching, administration and so on. You see these gifts at work within the context of the church and Christian community, but they can also be exercised in the workplace.
Take some time to ask close Christian friends and mentors around you which spiritual gifts they have seen God developing in you. As you are able to identify spiritual God has given, take some time to pray about how God could use these gifts and incorporate them into the work you are getting ready to do.
4. Opportunity to practice financial stewardship:
The amount of money I have access to now as a graduate is thousands more than I ever had when I was in college. How I spend that money is important! I have learned that what I do with what I earn speaks just as much to my relationship with God as what I do between the hours of 9-5pm. Our love and devotion to God and His purposes can be reflected through the ways we give. Not only that, 2 Corinthians 8:7 refers to financial giving as a grace. We have the chance to receive God's grace through parting with hard-earned money and distributing it to those in need. All that to say, God has given us an opportunity to give not only for the needs of others, but because we need it to remain dependent on Him and know that it is by grace alone that we are saved. It's a win-win opportunity!
What missions work excites you to which you could radically give? What missionaries do you have relationship with who are in financial need? (My guess is that it's all of them!) Are you planning on giving a 10% tithe to the church you will attend post-college? What about beginning right now? On top of seeing the opportunities God is giving you to influence within your job, consider the ways you can financially contribute to God's work through what you are about to earn.
As you graduate and begin life in the "real world," take encouragement that God wants to prepare you for future service, use you to love others, exercise the gifts He has given you and bless and be blessed through your financial stewardship!