Session at the annual conference of InterVarsity’s Black Scholars and Professionals (BSAP), 2015. Image courtesy of Boris Collins.
ESN is delighted to share wisdom on continuing in the journey of higher education from Dr. Claudette Ligons, and to highlight the work of InterVarsity’s Black Scholars and Professionals (BSAP). BSAP, a national ministry within InterVarsity, recently hosted its fifth annual conference in Cambridge, MA. Dr. Ligons spoke on persevering and growing in the academic life, a topic very relevant to emerging scholars. Dr. Ligons also has the distinction of a 100% graduation rate among the Ed.D. students she has supported through the dissertation process at Texas Southern University. ESN is sharing her paper as a four part series. You can find Part 1 here.
Planning for Victory, Prayerfully
Let’s begin with Prayerfully Planning for Victory. If you are convinced that your studies and your career are aligned with God’s purpose, you are starting in a place of victory. Knowing that will enhance your faith as you pray for His guidance and His support in other areas of your life.
Colleagues, I want to encourage you to actively, daily, persistently invite God’s rulership in your life. The way a believer engages life should be very different from the approach that is commonly used in the world. The world teaches that we are free, that we should function independently, we should chart our own course and be the masters of our fate. These ideas run contrary to scriptural teaching.
The scripture (1 Cor 6:19) teaches that we are not our own, we were bought at a price. Scripture also teaches that the “wages of sin is death” (Ro 6:23). As you know, Christ paid our sin debt with His life. He died so we could live. I know this is review for us, but, I think we are strengthened when we call to remembrance how much God loves us and how extensively He is willing to intervene in our affairs on a day-to-day basis. We can’t benefit from these abundant provisions if we live as though they don’t exist or as if they don’t matter. If we approach our work and our study using natural means alone, functioning exclusively through human wisdom, our senses, our experiences and the world’s philosophies, then we are functioning impaired. We are trying to chart a course by what the scriptures call “the arm of the flesh” (2 Chr 32:8). We’re trying to succeed in our own strength. Human knowledge and wisdom are finite. On the other hand, God’s wisdom knowledge and wisdom are infinite. Why wouldn’t we choose to function at that level of excellence? This is an excellence that captures the world’s attention because it is borne of what is supernatural. God makes these provisions available to all who are His.
In salvation, the Holy Spirit is resident in our hearts (Gal 2:20). He is the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is our Guide, our Teacher, our Comforter. It is He who helps us be in the world but not of it. We can study at advanced levels in the most elite institutions for God’s purposes. We have to know that we are not there simply for ourselves.
You remember Esther’s story (Esther 1-9), don’t you? Mordecai, her cousin, reared her as his own daughter. When Queen Vashti was dethroned, the king issued an order that led to the selection of young virgins who would be considered to replace her. Mordecai arranged for his cousin, Esther to be among those selected for consideration. Mordecai instructed her not to tell anyone that she was a Jew. After 12 months of purification and preparation, Esther was chosen as the new queen.
The back story is that Haman, a high ranking official in King Xerxes court hated Mordecai because he refused to bow as Haman had instructed the people to do. Mordecai reserved that level of reverence for God alone. As an act of revenge, Haman convinced the King to issue an order for a group of people to be killed because they were a threat to his kingdom. These people were Jews. When Mordecai learned about this plan, he sent word to Esther to approach the king on behalf of her people. Her response was, I could lose my head if I were to enter the king’s presence, uninvited. Mordecai sent word back to Esther that God might have placed her in the role of queen for this very purpose, to speak on behalf of her people. He said if she failed to act, God could save them through someone else.
I am not suggesting by this illustration that your life’s work would be linked only to the lives of people from your respective cultural communities. As a Christian, your work is broader than that. But, wherever it takes you, when it is God-ordained, you can count on His leadership, His counsel, His encouragement His insight and other kingdom resources as you have need of them. As Believers, we are legitimate heirs. We ought to behave as though we believe that. I implore you to live in the natural AND the supernatural realm. You are more than “just human.” You are human and divine. Living by the Spirit (Gal 5:25) is the place of fulfillment, contentment, abundance and real victory.
God intends for us to live in abundance, to engage life from His perspective, not the world’s. The world can’t help us sort through these issues because the world does not understand them. To the world, living by the principles of the Holy Scriptures is senseless. The world would consider it utter nonsense that we surrender our lives to God’s control. So, we can’t consult the world about things that can only be discerned through spiritual means. We have to make sense of this directive in the body of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and in our own intimate communion with Him, in prayer. In salvation, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who is resident in our hearts. We can’t recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit if we are unfamiliar with the Holy Scriptures. Daily, as we consume the Word, we begin to recognize His voice (Jo 10:27) as He gives us practical application of the scriptures for our lives. His ongoing counsel will be evident in our relationships, in our work and in virtually every aspect of our lives.
Sometimes God’s plan in our lives is crystal clear at the outset. At other times, the plan is revealed in phases. Because we have His assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6), we can live with some uncertainty until He reveals His plans for our lives, completely. That initial uncertainty can keep us on our knees. To the world, our relationship with God is a crutch. The world does not see prayer as a place of power. While prayer can be humbling, it is not a position of powerlessness. Prayer is really a position of power. As we pursue God in prayer, He will reveal and confirm His plans for us. As He does, we are energized, encouraged and strengthened for the journey ahead. We can begin our journey in His strength and with the assurance that He has made full provision for our studies, our career and other areas of our lives as well. Scripture teaches that we are not an afterthought with God. He has made each of us as the apple of His eye (Ps 17:8). Doesn’t that delight your heart? Most of us would never be able to get on President Obama’s agenda. But, God, our Creator, makes time on His agenda every time we need Him. Isn’t that amazing? Let’s look at the second area of discussion, Strength Enhancement through Load Reduction.
Dr. Claudette Merrell Ligons is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs of the College of Education and Professor in The Department of Curriculum & Instruction, at Texas Southern University. She teaches and mentors doctoral students, shepherding them through the dissertation process.
Ligons began her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer Teacher in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Other international work includes effective schools’ research in Thailand; research on parent involvement in schools as a Fulbright Scholar in Tanzania; and faculty professional development in teaching innovations at Eastern Cape Technikon in South Africa. Ligons says her work in Africa is among the most rewarding of her career.
Recent publications include The effect of legislation on the use of physical restraint of special education students in Texas public schools and A Study of the Experiences of a Critical Friends Group of African American Faculty in an HBCU and a Predominately White University.
As committed Christians, Ligons and her husband Bob work as a team in discipleship training and intercessory prayer. In May of 2015, they celebrate 18 years of service as intercessors. They see these as the most satisfying areas of service that they are privileged to offer in the body of Christ.