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Off to college: 10 temptations & strategies for beating them

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The next chapter of life for college students might be the best yet: learning new things, making new friends, finding new freedom. But college — whether Christian or secular — also guarantees something else: new temptations.

The September-October issue of Go! magazine, the North American Mission Board’s bimonthly magazine for students, offers strategies for dealing with 10 of the most popular temptations — armed with the same Word of God used by Jesus when confronted by Satan in the wilderness.

Temptation 1: Letting your relationship with God slide

During your first months at college, you might feel overwhelmed with your classes (this ain’t high school, baby!) and all the activities going on around you. You’ll have sporting events to attend, roommates to get to know, midnight coffee (or ice cream or taco) runs. It will be easy for God to get squeezed out of your schedule.

Strategy: Make an appointment

College is definitely not the time to drift away from Jesus. The key is to set aside time each day to talk to God and dig into His Word. Stick to that appointment! Think of it as your most important class of the day — and pay attention to what your Teacher has to say.

The Word: Matthew 22:37-38, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.'”

Temptation 2: Doubting your faith

Too many Christian teens ride into college on their parents’ faith. When challenged by intelligent and reasonable sounding but unbelieving professors and students, they’re more likely to shrug off their faith because they don’t own it, or harbor doubts without really looking for the answers.

Strategy: Ask the right people the hard questions

There are answers to the tough questions about what we believe. Dig in for yourself. Get to know the specifics of your faith. Ask wise and trusted Christians about your doubts and questions before you go to college, if possible. With their help, you will be able to boldly defend your faith when others challenge you. When you get to college, be sure to hook up with a solid local church where you can find community, biblical teaching, wise counsel and accountability.

The Word: 1 Peter 3:14-15, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.'”

Temptation 3: Buying into the “no moral absolutes” lie

If you go to a secular university you will be told, in one way or another, that most worldviews, philosophies and religions are equally good. Nothing can be known for sure. “If it works for you, go for it!” Your profs and peers might try to make you feel silly about believing that Jesus is the only way to God. You might want to fudge your beliefs just a little to be accepted.

Strategy: Commit to representing Christ to your campus

Don’t be surprised that non-Christians don’t agree with you. Turn it around, and make your campus your mission field! You’ll be amazed at how your own faith grows when you’re loving and reaching out to others.

The Word: John 14:6 (check out Acts 4:12 and the rest of Acts as well), “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

Temptation 4: Giving in to promiscuity

Dorm life, even on a Christian college campus, can mean three things: freedom, loneliness and a lot more time with the opposite sex. That’s not all bad, but it opens the door to sexual temptations. Add to that pressure from friends and the media to “get a boy/girl friend” or “get more physical,” and this is a serious danger zone.

Strategy: Make a plan now

Decide before you get to college how you will handle sexual temptation. What are your limits? How committed are you to sexual purity? Remember that it’s God’s will for you not only to remain physically pure, but to guard your heart as well. Learn how to develop godly friendships with both guys and girls and have fun hanging out in groups. Limit the amount of time you’re alone in one-on-one situations, even if you feel strongly about the other person.

The Word: 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

Temptation 5: Par-tay!

It’s Friday night, and a little voice says, “College is your last chance (or maybe your first) to really party before entering the ‘real world.’ And besides, who’s gonna get hurt if you drink a few beers, do a few drugs, look at pornography or sleep with someone here and there? Just have fun!”

Strategy: Plan faithful fun

Find friends who want to have fun, but who want to honor God. Commit to accountability with them. Be an initiator! Plan a party of your own that involves good food, good music, good movies, etc., but leaves out the drugs, alcohol and sexual immorality.

The Word: 1 Corinthians 15:33 (see also Genesis 39), “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'”

Temptation 6: Fit in!

Tolerance gets talked about a lot on college campuses these days, but it’s amazing how out of it you can still feel if you stand out from everyone else. You might think about doing wrong or worthless things you’re not even interested in just to feel like part of a group.

Strategy: Don’t fit in!

By the power of the Holy Spirit, you can choose to be your own person. Find your sense of significance and self-worth in Christ. Again, surrounding yourself with solid Christian friends is a good way to fight the desire to fit in with the wrong crowd.

The Word: Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the Lord is kept safe.”

Temptation 7: Body and food obsessions

It’s a huge issue for many women and some men. It’s natural to compare yourself with others and feel like you don’t measure up, or to let stress mess with your eating habits. Some turn to the school cafeteria for comfort, while others turn away from it completely in an attempt to control something in their lives. These patterns are unhealthy and can lead to more serious eating disorders and to dangerous weight gain or loss.

Strategy: Capture your thoughts

Identify the lie that’s making you think your body or the food you eat defines you. Think of that thought as a criminal running around in your mind. Arrest it, put the handcuffs on it and “take it downtown” to God — and to another person. Your school or church should have counselors you can talk to for help with this serious problem.

The Word: Psalm 139:14 (see also 2 Corinthians 10:5), “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Temptation 8: Money madness

Your first year of college will include lots of financial freedom — even if you don’t have a lot of cash. You might open a bank account or get a credit card for the first time. It’s way too easy to forget your limitations and lose control. All it takes is ignoring the bottom line in your checkbook for a few days or hitting the limit on your card.

Strategy: Make a money plan

Before leaving for college, sit down with a trusted adult and make a realistic budget. It’s also a great idea to decide before each year of school whether you’re going to get any credit cards and how much you’re willing to charge on them or if they’ll only be used in an emergency. Giving to God through a church is another important habit to start (or maintain). God cares about your money, too.

The Word: Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Temptation 9: Making college idols

Many things at college can become idols, from intellectual pride and perfectionism to finding your identity in athletics and extra-curricular activities. It’s tempting to devote all your time to your studies or a sport, but the Lord desires your whole heart to be devoted to Him, even while you’re committed to other pursuits.

Strategy: Daily worship

Stay consistent with an activity that has eternal value: your time alone with God. If you play the guitar, have a solo worship session, or turn on some music and sing your heart out. God loves to hear a joyful noise directed toward Him!

The Word: Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other Gods before me.”

Temptation 10: Cheating and giving up

Let’s be honest: College is tough! The fear that you’re not going to make it might tempt you to cheat or quit (both bad options). Each leads to further misery and, ultimately, to failure. Satan wants you to believe that you can’t succeed or that you can scrape by with only minimal effort.

Strategy: Commit everything to God and don’t commit to everything

If you have a problem with cheating or a fear of failure that tempts you to quit, find help! If you had issues like these in high school and you didn’t resolve them, they will only intensify in college. Ask God to help you rely on His strength and for the wisdom and self-control to turn down new opportunities when your plate is already full.

The Word: Proverbs 16:3 (see also James 4:7), “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
Reprinted with permission from Go! magazine, a publication of the North American Mission Board. Learn more at www.go.studentz.com.

    About the Author

  • Tamie Vervoorn