Advice for Discouraged, Unemployed College Grads


Audio Transcript

Desiree emails to ask: “Pastor John, what advice and biblical encouragement do you have for college graduates who are unemployed or have no certainty of a job in the near future?”

Before I get practical about strategies to make yourself available to employers, I would want to talk at a deeper level. First, Matthew 6:31 commands, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?” Jesus seems to be directly talking to this issue. Or look at Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Finally, Matthew 6:28–29 asks, “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Kingdom Driven

God will take care of you. Seek first the kingdom. That is my first counsel. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Be about kingdom things. This, of course, could include looking for a job. But focus on God’s glory, and all these things will be added to you.

“Seek first the kingdom, because God will take care of you.”

The amazing thing about these verses is that the phrase don’t be anxious about tomorrow follows them. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” says Matthew 6:24, “for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Don’t make tomorrow’s trouble part of today’s burden because God apportions mercy for every day. Lamentations 3:23 comforts us saying, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Each day has trouble of its own, Jesus said. And Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:23 every morning has mercy of its own. I think Jesus has tailor made the mercies for the miseries. Tomorrow you are going to have mercy for the challenge of that day. Trust him for this.

Promises to Trust

Take verses like Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Or 2 Corinthians 9:8 which says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” That is where I start. I start with these stunning, amazing, practical, precious promises of God to take care of us.

“Jesus has tailor made mercies for today’s miseries.”

Here is an illustration of that from my own life. I was in Germany finishing up my doctoral work. I turned just 28, so had been in school for almost 28 years. I hadn't had a real job yet, ok? I had got a wife and a kid. I needed a job. I just wanted to be a good husband and father. I wanted to put bread on the table, but I am in Germany and nobody knows me in America. How am I going to get a job?

At that time, I got a letter from Dan Fuller, my mentor from seminary, and he quoted 2 Corinthians 4:1 to me. I had never seen what he showed me. And I have used it over and over again for comfort and encouragement. Paul says, “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”

The as, he said meant, “John, you will have a ministry. That is, you will have a job by the same mercy that you were saved by.” That is the way he understands the as. His letter gave me tremendous encouragement, and God worked a miracle. God brought one job. I wrote 30 letters of inquiry to churches, denominations, and schools saying, “I am ready to do whatever with the Bible you want me to do to advance the cause of the kingdom. Anybody have work for me to do, please? I need to support my family.”

One door opened, a temporary sabbatical replacement at Bethel College. And I said, “I will do it. I will do anything.” I had never been to Minnesota. I didn't know Bethel existed. But I took that job, and God in his mercy made it last for six years until he called me to Bethlehem. And so that promise was really, really crucial.

Thankful for Closed Doors

One last encouragement about closed doors. Probably the person that asked this question had knocked on a lot of doors, like me, sent out thirty letters, zero response, just one open door.

“God will provide for you today by the same mercy that saved you.”

If you read Acts 16 and see how Paul was being led, he wanted to minister. He wanted work to do in cities. He tried to go into Asia, and it says the Holy Spirit stopped him, forbade him, wouldn’t let him go. And so they went up in to Bithynia an then it says the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go into Bithynia. Then they made another “left turn” and went over to Troas. In Troas, Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia, which is across the water over in Europe so to speak. The man said, “Come over and help us.” And the gospel spread from an eastern Asia religion now penetrating Europe because of two closed doors.

My concluding encouragement is God’s closings are his plannings. You may be puzzled; he is planning. You may feel delayed; God is designing. Trust him. And then, of course, we could get practical and say, I know you are doing all of that, but these are the kinds of things I think that really matter. Trust the Lord’s timing and give yourself faithfully to seeking to do his calling.