Grounded, Surrounded, and Astounded

A bible rests on the dining table with the sunrise peeking through the window

Sixteen years ago, I stood in your shoes. It was the summer awaiting my first semester at DBU. I ran the full gamut of emotions—excited about exercising my own independence, anxious regarding making new friends, fearful about whether or not I could pass my classes (and pay my bills!), overwhelmed in the layout of the campus and location of buildings, and the list goes on. You name it—I likely felt it.

And here I am now, having come full circle. I successfully graduated from DBU, traveled, earned a few more degrees, got married, began a family of my own, and have returned to join the DBU family and teach classes. I’m paying it forward, investing in the next generation of global leaders. After all, you will become the pastors, schoolteachers, lawyers, and doctors of my children. So let’s have a heart-to-heart.

Let me give you three words to remember as you begin your journey—grounded, surrounded, astounded. These simple words, I pray, will help to plant you firmly in God’s will during your DBU journey and set you up for Kingdom success upon graduation.

Grounded.

The best counsel I could give you is to stay grounded in God’s Word on a daily basis. Read your Bible devotionally. Study your Bible exegetically. Memorize your Bible diligently. Savor its every word. In the same way your stomach will growl for food in a few hours (if it’s not already!) and you will satisfy that hunger with a meal, teach your soul to crave the spiritual things of God from the Bible. Then satisfy that soul’s thirst and hunger, not from a self-help book or a podcast preacher, but from God’s Word directly. It is, after all, the bread of life!

But let me caution you about the road ahead. At DBU, we value your personal walk with the Lord. Thus, you will get ample opportunity to hear God’s Word taught, be it a devotional in class, chapel 2-3 times per week, a mid-week Bible study, various accountability groups and small groups on campus, or of course, your Old Testament and New Testament required classes.

You will be tempted to think, “Since I hear the Bible so much already, why take time to read it by myself?” And that, dear friends, is precisely the lie that Satan wants you to believe. If you fall prey to that predator, the Bible will become to you nothing more than an ancient piece of literature to be dissected for its genres and appreciated for its longevity, or it will become a sacred text to be followed religiously but not personally. Either approach plants you at opposite ends of the spectrum and far from the heart of God.

So, long consistently for your daily bread and learn from the deer who pants for a drink of water in the north Texas heat in summer. May your soul desire and delight in a daily diet of God’s word (Ps. 42:1).

Surrounded.

The next best advice I can give you is to surround yourself with a small, close group of friends who pursue Christ in all they do. Take your time this first semester (or even this first year) and seek out a band of brothers or sisters whose single pursuit is to please God with all their being. Be patient in this process. Ensure there is good chemistry in the group with common shared interests. Assess to see if everyone is there to sharpen iron with iron (Prov. 27:17).

This is the group of friends who will carry you through doubt and depression, who will rebuke you if you should fall into the trappings of sin, and who will rejoice with you in your mountaintop experiences. In the years ahead, they will be the ones to encourage you to take on the challenge of a new job, rejoice with you at the announcement of an engagement, celebrate when you and your spouse begin a family, and comfort you through trials of loss and hardship along the way. These are your life-long friends.

Everyone dreams of these kinds of friends. But my observation is that when it comes to the process of forging these kinds of friendships, some folks compromise, settle, and try to microwave the process. What we fail to realize sometimes is that the tiniest of changes on the front end of our University experience sends us down a different trajectory ending in a different place on the back end. Take golf for instance. A slight mistake in the swing isn’t noticeable when the ball first leaves the tee. And we sometimes think that this slight shift will only place the ball a few more inches away from the hole than originally planned. This small change doesn’t put us even on the green of the 18th hole, but oftentimes in another fairway!

That is why it is so important to surround yourself with friends who pursue Christ, and why it is so encouraging that on University Hill, you will discover so many of these types of individuals. Band together so that your bonds are stronger than your differences. Two, three, or four years from now, you will look more like Christ individually and more like his bride collectively.

Astounded.

Be enamored, awestruck, and astounded by Christ. Too often we worship a domesticated God. He is cordial and kind—a reliable babysitter for our souls. But this is not the only picture of Christ our God in the Bible. He has grit—he fasted 40 days without food. He performs wonders—he raised Lazarus from the dead after rotting for 4 days. He confronts the unrepentant sinner—he drove out the moneychangers in the temple (with a whip!). We sing it often, but do we really “stand in awe” of Him?

My generation, and our predecessors in the faith, have done a marvelous job at creating a Christian culture beyond the walls of the church building—a feeling of a safe space to express our faith. But my fear for this new generation is that the coziness of cultural Christianity has diluted the potency of our fervor for Christ himself. Nowhere in Scripture does God perform wonders with casual Christians. No, He moves mountains with radically, sold out, fully committed disciples.

So be wooed and wowed by the work of the Messiah. Fall in love all over again (or for the first time) with God. Drink deep from the passion with which he pursues you. And return the heart’s affection for his embrace. In short, be astounded by Christ and so secure salvation for your soul.

Get ready for the road ahead, and remain grounded, stay surrounded, and be astounded as the Lord takes you on this great adventure.

Written by Dr. Brent Thomason

Dr. Brent Thomason serves as the Program Director for the Master of Arts in Global Leadership for the Graduate School of Ministry at DBU.