When I consider the mission of Christian Academy Schools, “to develop students with a heart for God, who grow as Jesus did in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and men,” I recognize it is not a mission I can fulfill alone and certainly not without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Such a task requires me, the teacher, to be a diligent student of God’s Word and a willing vessel that is fit for Him to use (KJV, 2 Timothy 2:21). I recognize that failure to be faithful in the study of God’s Word is like cutting off blood flow to the vital organs. Just as the body cannot function without the oxygen that blood supplies; I cannot be the godly teacher and example that my students need without being constantly filled with spiritual food. Another vitally important area that I must be disciplined in is prayer. If I attempt to accomplish anything for God apart from His power, then I am doomed to fail Him and my students (John 15:5). On the other hand, if I put the agenda for each day in His hands I have no reason for frustration or for fear (Psalms 37:5). One thing I have learned over the course of the past two years is the importance of taking time to pray with my students. It is a blessing for them to know that their teacher cares enough to pray with and for them as individuals on a daily basis. They are able to see the need for dependency on God, see His hand in their lives, and grow in their faith and trust in Him. The Lord has recently challenged me to pray more for my students individually, not just corporately, outside the classroom. After all, it is God alone that can change any heart and mold it into a masterpiece for His use. Donovan L. Graham points out in his book Teaching Redemptively, “We must also be willing to recognize the place of the Holy Spirit in moving and shaping the thinking and lives of our students. Recognizing it is not enough, though; we must pray for it diligently. Prayer for and with students is a significant response to the limitations of our finite nature.” (124)
The book Teaching Redemptively has re-emphasized a problematic area I have noticed in my nature that consequently shows up in my teaching. I have always been performance driven and while it is important to strive for excellence it is equally important to be able to recognize the need for grace in imperfection. God is gracious to teach us through our failures and I want to be a teacher like Him. This point was driven home to me three years ago when I failed an exam for the first time. Initially, I was devastated but in the days following the Lord helped me to realize that I was guilty of basing my identity on my performance in academics just as I had in athletics for many years. Through that experience I was reminded that there is nothing I can do to earn God’s favor, it is unmerited, grace. I was able to respond with thanksgiving rather than guilt and frustration. This is something that I want my students to internalize and never forget; salvation or anything else God provides us is based on His love and grace not on anything we could attempt to do for Him (Titus 3:5). And while I do not want to see my students fail in any way, they must learn to deal with failure as all of us fall short. I like how Donovan L. Graham put it, “Failure is not our goal, but we should willingly accept it as part of the process of growing and serving God. We need not fear it, but rather we need to learn to capitalize on it and stop punishing ourselves and our students for it. The freedom to do that can only come from realizing that we rest securely in God’s arms and that He is a sovereign God (123).”
During my very first year of teaching at Grace Baptist, our school verse was Psalms 78:6-7, “That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:” I believe that this verse is foundational for parents but also for Christian educators. As I dwell on it, I feel a weight of responsibility that is placed in my hands each time I interact with students. First, and foremost, our students need to “set their hope in God”. In his sermon, Eight Characteristics of a Truly Christian School, Dr. David Gibbs Jr., founder of Christian Law Association, asks the question, “What good is it to fill a mind and lose a soul for all eternity?” The answer I believe is none. They must recognize their need for salvation through Christ before they can grow spiritually and ultimately any other area of their lives. Without the Holy Spirit dwelling in their hearts they will not have a godly desire to fulfill His purpose for their lives (John 3:3). Since I am not God and cannot see their hearts, I have to be faithful to plant the seeds and depend on God to bring them to salvation in His timing (I Corinthians 3:6). I also need to have a godly love for my students and live out the Gospel before them daily by exercising patience with them. Second Timothy 2:24-26 says, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” I must see them as Christ sees them and not through fallen, human lenses.
My calling is to point my students to God in all that I teach through His Word and His creation (Psalms 19:1-11). Mathematics is based on properties that are consistent no matter where you are in the world. I have seen this firsthand with having the opportunity to teach students from China, South Korea, Brazil and America. We see patterns like Fibonacci’s sequence and the Golden Ratio all throughout creation that point us to a God who is infinite in wisdom and understanding, yet desires to reveal Himself to us in creation (Colossians 1:16-17). Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” Our study of creation using mathematics points us to the Gospel and it is my responsibility to bring that to the awareness of my students.
Godly wisdom is something to be greatly desired. We all need it to live a life pleasing to the Lord. Solomon, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Our students need to recognize the importance of fearing God and understanding the consequences of not doing so. The world bombards us with temptations and unless our students have a proper respect and love for Him they will fall into sin. I cannot adequately instruct them in living for God apart from His Word. So, I must be intentional about directing them to God’s Word. Psalms 119:11 says, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” I must be hiding His Word in my heart faithfully so that I am equipped to instruct my students in doing the same. Solomon also concludes the book of Ecclesiastes with, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” If that is our main purpose for being here, then this should be the focus for teaching young people.
It’s an awesome privilege to be involved in the shaping of young people for God’s use. I cannot wait to see how He is going to work in and through their lives. This requires investing time, energy, and tears at times but is well worth it in the end. God has blessed each individual with special talents and abilities that He wants to be used for His glory and to draw others to Himself. Some students have not recognized yet what their gifts are or how they can be used and it is awesome to be a part of that process. During the past couple of years I have learned the importance of presenting material in multiple fashions to reach students with a variety of learning styles. I recognize that God has created all of us with strengths and weaknesses and in the classroom it is my job to help students identify both and build from it. This opens doors for cooperative learning as they recognize each other’s strengths and work together toward a common goal.
Another responsibility I have is to teach students faithful stewardship of what they have been given. One aspect of Christian education that is completely opposite of public education is that we can look at the Creation Mandate in Genesis and discuss with students how our content areas are impacted by it. Finances, economics, and the sciences are three areas where mathematics plays a significant role. We have a responsibility to use what we know in a Christ-like way to serve God and to serve others. For example, one lady in my church uses her skills in mathematics to serve as a nurse in a doctor’s office, but she also uses it to serve as the financial secretary for our church. This is a great ministry that God is using her for because she developed the skills and understanding many years prior. I want my students to have this same attitude of service without the expectation of gain for self.
Finally, if my students are going to demonstrate Christ-likeness, then it must follow that they will have a heart of obedience. John 4:34 says, “Jesus saith unto them, ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.’“ Christ set the perfect example of obedience for us. Paul emphasizes that having the mind of Christ will lead to obedience. Philippians 2:5-8 speaks of Christ’s obedience to the point of death on the cross. Many of Christ’s disciples also were willing to follow Christ though it cost them in terms of materialistic things, family, and even their lives in some cases. I heard it said once, “Your talk talks and your walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” In other words, my actions speak louder than my words. As a Christian teacher I must be willing to make sacrifices to live out what I teach to my students. Paul said in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” This has to be the mindset that I approach my classes with each day so that they will see it lived out and desire to do the same in their lives.