Savannah Smith, CRC Intern | May 4, 2023 | CRC | George Barna, Biblical Worldview, Millennials
From the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University
“Arizona Christian University is your spiritual bootcamp.”
That’s the message Dr. George Barna shared with ACU students in a recent campus chapel as he challenged them to recognize the spiritual battle swirling around them and to view their time at the University as preparation to engage in that battle.
“Whether you like it or not, whether you embrace it or not,” Barna explained, “you’re a participant in the spiritual war every moment of every day of your life. And that means that you have to make some incredibly important decisions about your life, doesn’t it?”
And ACU is a great place for students to do that.
As he reminded them, “When you’re done here, you’ll be off to the front lines of the war for the duration of your time on Earth. You’re here to be equipped for battle.”
In the meantime, Barna encouraged students to use their time at ACU well. “Make the most of your spiritual bootcamp here at ACU so that you may graduate with honors in spiritual warfare and be prepared to be a victorious warrior for Christ.”
The first step, he said, is to resolve the fundamental cultural challenge facing today’s college students—the issue of identity. College students struggle to answer basic questions such as “Who am I?” and “What’s my purpose?”
In fact, Barna’s recent research of the youngest American adults, including today’s college students, shows that three-fourths say they lack meaning and purpose.
“Who are you? The simple answer is—you are a spiritual warrior,” Barna told students in his chapel message, “Honing the Spiritual Warrior Within You.”
As Barna notes, individual identity is heavily targeted in this battle, especially among college students. “I marvel at Satan’s influence in our country. He’s managed to rile up the entire society with discussions about something that’s as obvious as our identity.”
Barna suggested that this is just another tactic Satan uses to create strongholds in areas such as anxiety, depression, self-doubt, confusion, and selfish ambition. His research also shows that half of 18- to 20-year-olds say they struggle with anxiety and depression.
After identity, he said the next important question to ask is “If you’re a spiritual warrior, then who are you fighting for?” As Barna noted, “I know some of you here today are really wrestling with that question. There are only two possible answers. You either fight for God, or you fight for Satan.”
As he explained, there are no sidelines and no place to rest in the spiritual war. “Choosing the sidelines is to rebel against God,” Barna stated. And if you’re a Christ-follower, that is not an option.
As he noted, “You enter the army of the Lord as a raw talent, unrefined, and it’s this place— ACU—that’s here to help refine that talent.”
After embracing their identity, spiritual warriors need weapons and training. Barna pointed to Ephesians 6:10-18 as a good starting point. And, as he noted, “Paul is a model spiritual warrior.”
According to Barna, the first order of business is the belt of truth, “When you know and represent truth, you’re capable of taking every thought in the world captive for Christ.”
Secondly, the passage focused on the body armor of God’s righteousness. Becoming obedient to God’s principles and commands prepares us for “usefulness in service to the king,” he said.
An arsenal for the spiritual warzone is necessary for transforming culture with truth—the ACU mission— and we’re better equipped to engage with the culture if we’re immersed in and transformed by Scripture. As he points out, “Transformed people transform people.”
Barna reminded students to develop the habit of taking on the full armor of God: the shoes of peace of the Gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit, and fervent prayer in the Spirit.
“So, if ACU is your bootcamp, how can you maximize your time of preparation for the front lines of the spiritual war, which is where you’ll be sent when you leave here?” Barna asked.
Barna highlighted six ways for students to work towards refining their faith and biblical worldview while at ACU. Resolving identity tops the list. Secondly, students should consider and clarify their calling and gifts. As Barna explains, “God always gives you exactly what you need to accomplish your divine assignment.” Part of this is also to rightly understand how He is calling you to serve.
Other ways to strengthen faith and worldview discussed by Barna include: master the arsenal, befriend the Holy Spirit, prepare for resistance, and buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Although recognizing that the battle is difficult, Barna encouraged students with the promise that God will sustain them and help them develop a grace-driven relationship with Him so they are equipped to wage war for Him.
As Barna closed, he challenged students:
“But remember this, ultimate victory is yours according to God. And as the embodiment and definer of truth, you can trust Him in that. So, enjoy the process. Experience the amazing blessing of being counted worthy to serve and sometimes to suffer for His name, and to know that you are going to share in His glory. Realize that He can transform the world through you, but only if you remain ready and committed. And remember that no matter what happens on the battlefield today, when the war is over, you win.”
Dr. George Barna is the Director of Research and cofounder of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. His research focuses on issues of faith, worldview, and culture, and cultural transformation. He has written more than 50 books, including a number of New York Times’ bestsellers. His most recent publication, Helping Millennials Thrive: Practical Wisdom for a Generation in Crisis (Arizona Christian University Press, 2023), is available here.
You can get the full transcript of Dr. Barna’s chapel message “Honing the Spiritual Warrior Within You” (March 23, 2023) here.
For more information or to receive research alerts from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, visit our website.
Savannah Smith served as an intern for the Cultural Research Center and Arizona Christian University Press during the spring semester. She is a junior Communication major at ACU.
Photo Credit: Lyrah Panarigan.