Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau
It would be easy, after what might have been the best Welcome Week ever at Grand Canyon University, to simply bask in the glow of enthusiasm and joy. Keep the momentum building. Don’t mess with the good times.
But GCU is a different place, on a difference-making mission, and President Brian Mueller urged his audience to make a difference when he spoke at Chapel on Monday morning at GCU Arena. He warned of the trappings of success and reminded the standing-room-only crowd of 7,000 that contributing to the greater good is the only true success.
“I think about how we have been blessed in unbelievable ways, how God has been so good to us. What is our response going to be to all that?” he said. “Number one, there are people on this campus who are going to struggle. We need to look for them. We need to care for them.”
Same goes, Mueller said, for the largely immigrant community that surrounds the University in west Phoenix, but the caring starts with looking after ourselves. Mueller pointed to the alarming depression and anxiety rates among millennials in an increasingly violent and decreasingly devout world. For a reference point, he used the first 34 of the 49 verses in Luke 6, which he called “one of the most important chapters in the Bible.”
As He began his ministry with his 12 apostles, Jesus didn’t mince words. He told them they would be blessed when they were poor, hungry, sad and hated – not exactly what you would call an effective recruiting technique.
“The thing that’s interesting about this, I think, is that His disciples were about your age – 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 years old,” Mueller told the largely student audience. “Most of them were away from home for the first time. Many of you are away from home for the first time. They were going to begin a new life. Many of you are beginning a new life at college with new friends, new opportunities but new challenges.
“You’ve got to believe they were feeling the same level of anxiety that many of you are feeling about being here at this place today.”
As Jesus went on to describe all the difficulties the apostles would face, “I’m sure the disciples started to wonder why they were sitting there,” Mueller suggested.
“Jesus knows us. He knows us a lot better than we know ourselves.”
It’s all about those trappings of success. Good word … trappings. Meaningful word. It once described the decorations attached to a horse’s bridle – the more elaborate the decorations, the more effete (supposedly) the rider.
But trappings are like a trap. Money. Power. Fame. Popularity. All a trap. Can’t trust them. Never trust them.
“In today’s world you see it all the time, right?” Mueller said. “Hollywood stars and successful businesspeople and politicians – those people that have power, those people that are well thought of, they’re in the limelight, people are serving them. They crash and burn time after time after time because of this. Jesus knows this to be true about us.”
Another reference point: Mueller talked about a book by Charles Colson, the White House counsel and legendary “dirty tricks” practitioner when the Watergate scandal engulfed Richard Nixon’s presidency in the early 1970s.
Colson went to prison for seven months for his actions but became an Evangelical Christian during that time and spent the rest of his life doing God’s work before his death in 2012.
“He formed prison ministries, he wrote books, he preached, he taught, he had an unbelievable impact in the world,” Mueller said, “but it wasn’t until he understood what Jesus was telling us about His kingdom.”
Mueller got personal in the last part of his talk, sharing the story of his determination to become a college basketball coach before God sent him down the path to where he is today.
“It took me a long time to figure out that I had to surrender and let God be in charge because I’d have never been here,” he said. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. This is the best job I’ve ever had. The blessings of this are innumerable, but I never would have had it unless I surrendered.”
So what are we to do about all this? Mueller had begun by wondering aloud whether Christian communities can make a difference anymore in a world gone wrong. He answered his own question with this closing statement:
“Christian communities can be really, really impactful. You’re going to be part of that.”
Plenty of momentum in that statement.
- Chapel replay: Click here.
- Next week: No Chapel because of Labor Day holiday
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or email@example.com.
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