by Gayle D. Beebe, PH.D.
All of us have a longing to make our life count. There’s wonderful merriment involved in the college experience — as we witness in our students — but it’s also about finding our purpose in life and discovering what God wants to do through each one of us. In fact, we see our students seek their calling in life with seriousness and persistence. God wants to prepare us, change us and develop us for the greater good of society and the glory of God.
The book of Romans is one of the most important books of the Bible throughout the history of Christianity. It defines God’s great purposes for history and our personal and important role in His plans. By reading Romans, Augustine (354-430) became a Christian, Martin Luther (1483-1546) launched the Reformation, John Wesley (1703-1791) experienced God, and Karl Barth (1886-1968) recovered the centrality of Christ for Christian living.
In Romans 12, for example, Paul combines some of the highest philosophical thoughts with some of the most discerning practical applications in the New Testament. It’s a glorious portrayal of all that God envisions for us. This passage illustrates the way in which God is always at work in us and is never finished with our transformation. Consider just a few of the important principles that demonstrate the way our life counts.
First, it takes all of us. Students come to Westmont to develop all their capacities, not just their brain. Each one of us must grow intellectually, but this is never enough. We must mature in every aspect of who we are as we strive to fulfill great purposes in and through our life. That is why our emphasis on the whole person is so important.
Then we need to become open to all God has for us. Coming to Westmont was one of the most life-changing experiences of my life. This is where I began to experience the transformation God intended for me.
It began in classes at Westmont with two professors who are now retired: Robert Gundry, an internationally known New Testament scholar, and sociologist Brendan Furnish. Dr. Gundry had us read theologians who took completely opposite points of view and brought them together in an amazing synthesis. He helped us understand both the strengths and the challenges of these authors and their different ways of thinking.
A class with Dr. Furnish got me thinking about the development and impact of local, state and federal policy. I also learned through
a ministry to the homeless called The Well. One night I asked a homeless man if I could talk to him. He turned and said, “Why, do you want to save me?” Of course, we weren’t there simply to lead people to Christ; we were there to love the people in the hope they’d be drawn to Christ. So I asked him how he became homeless, and he told me his story. It served to humanize homeless people and those who live all their life at the margins. It also taught me how to look and see the needs of those around us in order to help meet these needs.
A critical piece of our transformation is recognizing our differences while celebrating how God has uniquely gifted each one of us. To do this, we must avoid letting envy for the gifts of others consume us. Instead, we can celebrate how God has populated the earth with such an amazing array of difference. God has given each one of us the gifts and abilities to do certain things well, and we need each other to do our part so that together we can accomplish God’s work in the world and make our lives count.
The passage in Romans 12 clearly states the importance of learning to love and serve God fully. Of course this is a process as we are not born fully formed but must develop into the people God intends us to be. Such growth is how God works in and through our lives, and the quality of our love demonstrates the degree of our development. We can’t just pretend to love others; God calls us to really love them.
Finally, God calls us to serve enthusiastically with spiritual fervor and never be lazy in our work. Through the Scriptures, God invites us to discipline ourselves to excel in every aspect of our life. We find additional inspiration in the lives of Christians throughout the centuries who allowed God to transform them. Augustine, Luther, Wesley and Calvin are four of the great legends of the church whose lives bear the imprint of God, and they went on to change the world. In thinking of these legends, we should never be intimidated by their history. Instead, we need to be motivated by their example and committed as they were to making our life count.