You’re More Than A Number – The Series

Canterbury Baptist Church is situated in the heart of Melbourne’s private schools. Within two kilometres of the church there are six private schools, two public schools, and a number of primary schools. The suburb has one of the highest university entrance rates within the country, and is one of the wealthiest areas in Melbourne. It produces the leaders of tomorrow, in any industry you can think of. Students are well-educated, well-resourced, and driven.

But there’s a problem.

You're More Than A Number - The Series

Expectations on students in this area is astronomical. Expectations come from parents, who have paid plenty of money for their child’s education. Expectations come from teachers and schools, who expect a certain level of achievement for their organisation. And then there is the students own expectations, the results needed for their university course, the ATAR score to match their peers, and a false understanding that their final marks dictate the next 40-50 years.

But this problem isn’t just limited to wealthy areas of Melbourne.

It occurs in every part of the state and country.

Expectations placed on students in their final years of high school has seen many deal with high levels of stress, an increase in anxiety, and even depression. The amount of VCE students with health concerns, mental illness, breakdowns, and other physical symptoms causes concern for friends, family, schools, and society.

In Victoria, all students, at the end of year 12, are ranked against each other. This is known as the Australia Tertiary Entrance Rank (ATAR), where each student is ranked against another from 99.95 down to below 20. In essence, each student is competing against their fellow classmates to see who will achieve a higher score.

By the time a student is 17 years old they have been taught that their results are the most important thing in their life. And while we’d like to think that everyone is simply trying their best, the pressure and expectations from the system tells otherwise.

The underlying assumption taught to our students is that their final score defines their intrinsic and extrinsic worth. In other words, their identity is wrapped up in what they achieve in their final two years of their schooling.

So, for a number of years it has been my desire to write a devotional series for VCE students that speaks to the heart of their identity. Often we define ourselves, often we allow others to define us. In the bible we see it is God who defines who we are.

Identity is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. It is central to how we understand ourselves in light of being Spirit-filled followers of Jesus.

It is my hope this series will help you as a student, or anyone who reads these posts, to understand God and who he has created you to be. I hope to shift your mind to consider how God truly sees you, rather than what others and our wider culture forces upon you. Rather than simply being a number ranked among your peers, you are a unique individual made to glorify God. You are indeed more than a number.


I will kick the series off on Wednesday 1st November, a few hours before all students undertake the English exam. From there daily reflections (I hope!) can be delivered directly to your email (see below) or you can find them through my FB page.


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Here’s the list of the various posts for this devotional series:

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God
  11. You Are A Slave
  12. You Are Made For Good Works
  13. You Are A Follower
  14. You Are Relational

You’re More Than A Number

Hey,

Tomorrow you find out your VCE results.

This is a big day.

It’s a day where you find out where you’re academically rated amongst your peers after 15 years in the education system.

Tomorrow is also a big day for your parents. For 18 years they’ve been encouraging you, praying for you, and helping you learn and grow into who you are today. For them it marks the final hurdle in seeing you complete your studies and the beginning of a new season – university, work, and other adult-like activities.

As much as family, friends, and teachers have told you that your ATAR score doesn’t define you, I know it doesn’t feel that way. I’m sure you’ve been in conversations about what you’d like to get, what course you might like to apply for, and what you’d like to achieve in 2017 and beyond. People can say this moment doesn’t define you but I’m sure you can’t help but feel nervous and anxious about these results. The text message you receive tomorrow may well dictate the mood of your coming days, weeks, and months. It’s certainly not easy to be in the middle of it all, let alone have others try to convince you that it’s not as important as everyone makes it out to be. Everything from school to family to culture implies something different.

It screams make or break.

A friend of mine received a score lower than 30 when he went through VCE. It was disappointing for himself and his parents. Yet over the years he has held a full-time job, completed studies in Marketing, and in the world’s eyes has become ‘successful’. Another friend scored over 98. She had her pick of all the courses in Victoria but chose to continue her passion and study Psychology (a course that didn’t require such a score). A little while after completing her degree she switched to teaching and has enjoyed it ever since.

I mention these examples because as much as their scores reflected their academic results in the year they completed year 12, they didn’t let it define who they were.

The culture you’ve grown up in, the culture you continue to grow into, tells us that it is what we DO that defines us. It is what we achieve, what we accomplish for ourselves, what we are ‘successful’ at, that makes us who we are.

For those of us who follow Jesus this is turned upside-down.

Rather than having to impress God with the things we do and achieve, we are made free because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. When we have our faith in Jesus, recognising that he has taken our brokenness upon himself, and turn to follow him, we are made new. We are a new creation, a child of God, one who has been bought back to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Since the middle of the year our Sunday services have focussed on our identity in Christ. In the Letter to the Colossians the author makes clear that because of this Good News we are now considered holy and blameless in God’s sight (Col 1:21-22).

Our identity is not defined by what we’ve done, good or bad, or by what we’ve achieved, successful or unsuccessful. We are defined as one who has been made alive in God, forgiven and free (Col 2:13-14).

When you get that text, or make that call tomorrow, the knowledge that you are ‘in Christ’ enables you to have a different perspective.

No longer does the result you achieve define your intelligence, your gifts and abilities, or who you are. Rather, knowing that you are ‘in Christ’ brings perspective and redefines who you are. Look at yourself. God has made you to be you. And nobody else. He’s given you unique passions, abilities, gifts, and ambitions for his good and the good of his kingdom. Therefore, high marks, low marks, bettering your friends or bombing out, do not define who you are.

When we move away from understanding that we are ‘in Christ’, the perspective we have of ourselves becomes distorted. Our self-worth, our identity, and what we deem to be valuable turns inward. We begin to consider ourselves more important and valuable than God and soon enough those things that we DO are defining us again.

So tomorrow, remember that you are worth incredibly more than the number you are given. You are a child of God, made in his image to reflect who he is. You are valuable, someone worth dying for. And you have been made new by the grace and freedom given through the work of Jesus on that cross.

Whatever happens tomorrow Jesus continues to love you and seek you.

Remember, you’re more than a number.