10 Nov Stephen’s Story: A Call to Joyful Obedience
I find it funny – God took me from New Jersey down to Raleigh, only to bring me back to New York City, only about forty miles from my home, for me to truly understand discipleship. A disciple is someone who knows God, follows Him, and teaches others to do the same. For most of my life, I was so interested in teaching others that I had lost sight of what it meant to truly know and obey God.
On August 12th, 2010, I found myself in the fourth floor lounge of Sullivan Hall at North Carolina State University. The room was packed with thirty other students, and it felt like everyone already knew each other. Meanwhile, I didn’t know a single person at NC State. In fact, there may have been only one other person from my high school in New Jersey who was starting college in North Carolina. My friends and family joked with me and asked me how being a Tar Heel was – they had never heard of NC State.
In retrospect, I’m not really sure how I ended up at NC State. Instead of choosing the school I really wanted to attend, it seems like I just eliminated which schools I wouldn’t go to. Regardless of how I ended up in Raleigh, I’m very thankful that I did and that God brought me to this place. In my time here, I have learned so much about who God is and how He desires to bring me to completion in Christ.
My spiritual growth in college has definitely been a gradual process of God teaching me and molding me. My first two years of college, I was trapped in the pursuit of knowledge and was more interested in arguing about God than in making Him known. I spent a significant amount of time reading blogs on different theological issues and how to effectively argue the Christian faith. Yet when it came to obeying God and His command to control my tongue, I turned a blind eye. Instead of turning to a community of believers for encouragement to obey, I sought out opportunities to debate about Christianity and conservative politics with my roommate. One of the most distinct memories from my freshman year was spending three hours at McDonald’s until three in the morning with a few friends arguing about politics and religion.
But God doesn’t call us to argue about him or defend him. He calls us to know Him and follow Him in joyful obedience. One of God’s clearest commandments in scripture is to make disciples of all nations, but even after I had the desire to obey God, I was uncomfortable with the command to love people that were different than me.
In New Jersey, where I grew up, all of my friends and neighbors were all from the same socio-ethnic background. Yet in the summer of 2012, I participated in City Project and spent a week in Queens, New York working alongside a ministry team of people who had devoted their lives to people different than themselves. Two summers later, I found myself there again – this time for two months with a group of college students from Second City.
While in New York, I read the parable of the sower:
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13: 3-8
One of the most remarkable things about this passage is that the sower scattered seeds everywhere, even in the places that seemed unable to support plant growth! As followers of Jesus, we are called to do likewise. We must scatter seeds of the gospel everywhere – not just among people who like drinking French-pressed coffee while wearing a button-up shirt, and who look a lot like us. When I look at the disciples who followed Jesus, they were all very different than him. None of them were carpenters, and none of them were from Nazareth.
My experiences in Queens with City Project and Second City have been some of the most formative times of my life, and God really used them to change me. They have completely transformed how I interact with people and the people I surround myself with. For me, this meant choosing to strategically plant myself amongst international graduate students.
As I move towards the end of my college career, I’m not sure where God will lead me, but I know what he has led me to: obedience.
Stephen Taylor is a student at North Carolina State University and a member of the Summit College Leadership Team.