By THOMAS HUKAHU
IF you were a parent sending your child off to boarding school or university hundreds of miles away from home, what would be the best advice that you’d give him or her?
Such a thought passed through my mind as I recently viewed a Korean-American believer talking about how his mother urged him to keep on the right track as he left his home and travelled to Yale to do university studies. I will say a bit on this a little later.
As stated last week, this article ends the series on learning about Bible characters – the kind of people they were as well as the kind of education they obtained to make them effective, not only as believers but also as professionals (whether they were fishermen, Jewish scholars or medical doctors).
Starting next week, I will share with students essential tips on how to prepare for examinations, seeing that Grade 8, 10 and 12 examinations are not too far away.
What did the mother want?
Now, let me get back to that Korean-American mother and his son.
When Paul (the son) was about to leave for Yale, his mother read him the book of Proverbs, possibly the whole book.
Proverbs is the main book of wisdom in the Old Testament and the mother must have thought that that was the best way his son could learn wisdom and avoid getting himself involved in all the daring activities that the young often get entangled in, and often to their regret.
(On the other hand, Paul’s father’s advice to him was in one statement: “Son, have fun, but whatever you do, keep away from drugs!)
Paul admitted in his talk that at that time, he did not really believe in God. Sure, he went to church and participated in youth activities, but deep down he was not sure about anything and paid the least attention to the things of God.-
He also stressed on how different his parents thought. His mother wanted him to walk the way of wisdom while his father gave him the licence to do whatever he wanted, except to stay away from drugs.-
Almost every week while at Yale, Paul would call his mother and they would talk and the mother always asked him if he attended church.
Paul said it was because of his mother that he would attend church – not because he believed in God. One day though, he realised that God was urging him to follow the right path and his life changed from then.
If he had continued on with how his roommates were spending their free time, it is likely that Paul would have messed up his life, as is the case with many first-year university students who have no personal sense of focus while living in a free world where there was no guardian to tell you what to do or not to do on a daily basis.
The times are challenging
Watching that video of the Korean-American talking about his life reminded me of the challenges that face families today where the parents and guardians of young people are always anxious about their children when they leave home to go off to study many miles away from home.
If you are a parent, what advice would you give your son or daughter before they left for college or university? Would you give them a one-sentence advice like Paul’s father did?
Would you have an hour talk with them each day for a week on your expectations of them? Would you read the whole book of Proverbs to them to hopefully get them to soak in the wise counsel so that they keep clear from all that is evil?
Would you talk to them about your culture and heritage and the responsibilities that are now on their shoulders as every member of your tribe is watching their progress and are motivated by that?
What would you do?
Christians have a guidebook
Bible-believing Christians have a book to guide them – and that book is available to each and every one of them, young as well as old.
That book first takes the sinner to the cross to have his or her sins forgiven and that book will continue to guide, counsel, strengthen and encourage a Christian in his or her daily walk.
The Bible is full of advice or counsel on many different aspects. The duty of each and every believer is to read and try to correctly apply the principles taught in the book.
The advice in it will help the university or high school students who are living far away from their parents and guardians. That book should guide them to remain focused on their journey in education. It should urge them too to keep away from bad company and walk in the right path.
They should also make it their duty to regularly attend a Christian meeting (like Sunday or Sabbath service) to be taught by qualified and genuine teachers to grow in the faith.
That is the sure way of keeping themselves away from the evil things that are destroying lives all around us, the life of abusing substances (like drugs and alcohol) and practising immorality in many different ways.
The Bible is the Christian’s manual, as one preacher said in a church I was a few weeks ago. It is God’s word to the believer. It is the spiritual bread for their soul.
Proverbs urges people to trust God
In my first year at the University of Papua New Guinea decades ago, I joined a Bible study group and that group helped me learn and, most importantly, urged me to read the Bible for myself and dig more into the word.
Reading the Bible for myself answered a lot of questions I had about myself as a person and the destiny of all of us mankind. It helped me see what was essential in life, and what was not.
It made me realise that I was carrying a lot of unnecessary baggage and some of them had to be shed, including bad habits. So, changes were made to add value to my life as well as those I related to.
Some of the best counsel I got in life while I was a student there did not come from my parents or my village elders. They came from that group – Campus Bible Fellowship.
The American chaplains there, as well as genuine Christian brothers and sisters in that group, guided us to see what the Bible was saying and pointed us to the real Christ, and not the one with the long black hair in the portraits that are hung in many homes.
It was there too that Proverbs 3:5,6 became good memory verses to live by. I call them the student’s Bible verses. (Actually, they are good for everyone.)
The verses say: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Many challenges will come in the way of believers but they must trust in God and he shall direct their paths.
(A few weeks ago, one of the elders in the church I attended shared the same verses. He taught that when people believe in God, he will not only make a way for them, he will also direct them to the right path.)
Proverbs teaches on love
Another important lesson I learned in the book of Proverbs was on “love”.
Particularly, in Proverbs 27.5-6, it states: “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
I began to understand then what love really meant. Someone who cared for you will be blunt at times, but that is important for you to learn and change for the better. (Good parents do that. Good coaches do that. Good teachers do that too.)
That also means people who allow you to do anything that comes to your mind are those who do not really care for you. They may allow you to possibly hurt others and maybe hurt yourself to in the process. (Good friends guide you to be a morally good person, not a narcissist.)
It was those verses that helped me understand why my parents disciplined me with the rod. It helped me understand why some of my older friends often were tough with me and at times said things to my face.
Actually, the book of Proverbs also urges parents to use the rod in disciplining their children. It says the rod helps direct children to a brighter future.
The book of Hebrews 12.6-11 and 1 Corinthians 13 teach us that love can be tough, but in the long run those who accept the rebukes, tough words and discipline come out stronger and better than those who dislike such words.
Lesson on siding with a group
Another important lesson I learned is the story of the 12 Hebrew spies who were sent out by Moses to survey the land of Canaan before they entered were to enter it. (You can read that story in Numbers 13.)
Ten of the 12 said they land was filled with giants and they should not enter. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, said they should enter Canaan and take it.
Of course, the people listened to the 10 and consequently the Hebrews had to take another 40 years to roam the desert because they doubted God.
The lesson learned was: The majority is not always right. Do not be afraid to side with the minority.
Get wisdom from James
There are many more lessons, but time and space would not allow me to tell you more. Let me suggest something to you.
If you want to make better decisions in your Christian life and want to try a shorter book, try reading the book of James in the New Testament. (It is has only five short chapters. If I had a child going to a school far from home, I would study with him or her that book for months before s/he left.)
The book of James is the wisdom book of the New Testament, as Proverbs is in the Old Testament. The book was penned by James the Just, not James the son of Zebedee, the brother of Apostle John.
James the Just was a church leader in Jerusalem and was present and spoke in the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15.12-15). He is an interesting character to research on and learn from.
He was known to have been a very upright and wise man, hence he was named James the Just.
Paul in the book of Galatians said when Jesus rose from the dead, he also appeared to this James, as separate from the apostles.
Here are some brief points in each chapter of James.
Chapter 1: If you lack wisdom, go ask God (verse 5). Be slow to wrath or anger (verse 19). Give to orphans and widows (27).
Chapter 2: Be fair to all (verse 2). You cannot say you have faith and then do not do good works (26).
Chapter 3: Be careful with your tongue, it is a little member but can cause great harm (verse 5).
Chapter 4: Lust is the cause of most wars and arguments (verse 1). The devil will flee when you first submit to God (verse 7).
Chapter 5: If you have a lot, learn to humble yourself (verse 1). Be eager to help those who err from the faith (19).
The reason why we need to be wise is that one day our children or other young people would need counsel from us. If we do not learn to be wise, we cannot guide the adults of tomorrow effectively.
Reading the Bible and applying appropriately the principles taught therein would help us avoid making the same mistakes and sins time and again, as well as cultivating better habits. In the process, we become wiser.
We must take the time to read Proverbs and James and even the gospels to be effective, as well as being like the Lord himself. We must apply what we learn too.
And as James has taught us (in chapter 1, verse 22): “… be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only …”
Next week: How does one prepare for exams?
- Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.