When in Babylon find a Faith community

I have learned over these years at university that when we honour God, He honours us.

I started my university career in 2019 at the University of Cape Town with the aim of showing ‘secular’ people that Christians can also party and have fun. Unsurprisingly, this led down a path that challenged my faith and dishonoured God.

The Babylon life of a university student

On the first day in Smuts Hall, I met the guys living next to me, who were from Sri Lanka, Durban, Khayelitsha, and Grahamstown. I am still close friends with people that I met that day. We got to know everyone quickly because of the vibrant res life. In the first week, a bus arrived and took us to the fine establishment Mzolis, which is a bar in the heart of Gugulethu.

We ate shisa ‘nyama, drank Zamalek, and made poor attempts at dancing to Omunye.

Throughout the rest of the year, we had socials and formals, sold magazines for RAG, and spent time in Smuts’ pub, the mighty George. I also joined the Smut’s band and rugby team.

In my second year, I went into a digs which we christened the “Ramapozie” with four of my best mates. The pressures and temptations of girls and drinking was a problem right from day one. Every weekend there were parties; usually at the Ramapozie. We once had a dress up party, and I saw someone who I thought was dressed as a policeman on the dancefloor. No surprises there, it was a real policeman who had come to shut us down!

Excessive partying left little time for other things that interested me, like tennis, hiking, and water polo. It took me months to pick up my trumpet, and my academics took strain. Other consequences included losing my ID in Boogies nightclub, and of course wasting my allowance on regular carousing. Let’s leave that there.

The importance of a Christian community

My older sister was in her fifth year of study at UCT when I arrived. She attended Rondebosch Common Ground church, so I naturally started going there with her. Truth be told, she lured me in by giving me a ride to church and then buying me ice cream afterwards. But I am grateful that she did.

We attended the evening service which was popular with students. A mate and I joined a Bible study for young adults who assembled weekly. I met many people this way and being a part of this Christian community was essential for the growth of my faith.

At the beginning of 2021, I joined Every Nation in the City Bowl. I started attending a men’s group of six who meet weekly to talk about Jesus. I quickly realized that my challenges are not unique to me – all men face them. The difference being I was now receiving Godly strength to conquer the temptations of alcohol and lust that came through the power of accountability: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:18).

Just like the Israelites in Babylon, Christ calls us to live out our faith in the ‘secular’ world. This is a relentless Christian battle, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, friends, and family, it has the potential to lead us all to greater things.

Jesus calls us to boldly proclaim His truths and to love people. To effectively do this we need grounding and support from a church community. And we need accountability in a Bible study, to “put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).

God’s ways are best, even for a student

I was blessed to get into these habits early, as things can quickly overwhelm us. Two of my mates from school have been in rehab for alcohol and drug abuse. A Christian friend of mine went to study in the UK and lost his faith there. The addiction to porn is likely the most widespread and destructive habit.

A loving community and accountability are essential to keep us on track and help us live out God’s will for our lives.

I do not say these things to make parents feel overly protective or students to feel afraid, but the reality is that we live in a fallen world. It makes our discernment as Christians ever more important.

Jesus doesn’t want us to be fearful, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). He wants us to be brave and bold, and to seize this opportunity that we have to enjoy an amazing student life in this beautiful country.

He wants us to speak of His truths in places that need it.

I have learned over these years at university that when we honour God, He honours us. 1 Samuel 2:30 says, “Those who honour me I will honour.” And in honouring Him, although difficult at times, we see that His ways are the best, His ways lead to “unspeakable joy” (1 Peter 1:8), and through His ways we find life itself: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

(Mike posts regularly on his blog The Carpenter)

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Author: Mike Herbert
Mike enjoys tennis, literature, gyming, the outdoors, and tall pints. He grew up in Johannesburg in a family of five, went to boarding school in KZN, and is currently studying at UCT. He writes a blog on Christianity which explores Christ's teachings, apologetic material, and personal testimonies.
Published: 19 October 2022
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