Obedient Scholar

by Jennifer E. Walsh

Most APU students claim some type of talent, such as athletic prowess, artistic ability, or musical genius. Rare, however, are those who recognize their ability to craft a perfect sentence, master an algebraic expression, or find, read, and correctly integrate primary and secondary source material into a term paper assignment. Yet these, too, are talents bestowed by the Creator.

I delight in helping students see that stewardship of their academic gifts represents an act of obedience that pleases God. The world desperately needs APU graduates to love God by using their minds, as well as their hearts and hands, to seek out what is true, pure, right, holy, and proper. Being a good and faithful servant means investing in these talents to ensure healthy churches, governments, courtrooms, laboratories, corporations, classrooms, and universities.

But being a wise investor is not easy. It takes hard work and sacrifice. Talented students know that investing in their studies will mean turning down a social invitation with friends or an evening with Netflix in order to spend time in the library researching their paper or preparing for the next exam. Other times, however, sacrifices are even more difficult. Sometimes it involves leaving friends and family behind to study abroad, accept an internship or job offer, or attend graduate school.

"Over much coffee, conversation, and chocolate, we discussed what it meant to be faithful to God."—Jennifer Walsh, Ph.D.

A few years ago, I counseled a former student of mine, Margarita Ramirez ’12, as she wrestled with whether to accept a prestigious Fulbright fellowship award. As a sophomore, Margarita had participated in a competitive program at Claremont Graduate University to prepare students for advanced study. She then spent a semester at Oxford, followed by a term as an academic integrity peer counselor and a two-year stint as my undergraduate intern for APU’s Common Day of Learning. She knew adding a Fulbright designation to her curriculum vitae would open up many academic doors in the future, but she was also a little nervous. After all, it meant living for a year in the Azores, where she knew the language but little else. Yet the experience would provide an opportunity to study how immigrants viewed America—a familiar topic to Margarita, who spent the first decade of her life in Mexico.

As the youngest in her family, she felt pressure to stay in the States near her widowed mother. Traveling back and forth from Portugal would be unlikely—even for the holidays. But other relatives stepped in to care for her mother and enable her to move ahead with the application process.

Over much coffee, conversation, and chocolate, we discussed what it meant to be faithful to God. I shared with Margarita the famous quote by Eric Liddell, the Christian Olympian portrayed in Chariots of Fire. In that film account of his life, Liddell states confidently: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” Likewise, when Margarita loves God by studying hard, she feels His delight at her good stewardship.

Margarita accepted the fellowship—not because of the academic opportunities, but because she wanted to please her Savior. It is the same for all of us. No matter what gifts, talents, abilities, and opportunities God gives us, we should nurture and use them in obedience to Christ, so that we hear His praise of “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Jennifer E. Walsh, Ph.D. is dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of [political science]

Originally published in the Spring '15 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.