The new semester has started. Classes to attend, books to read, assignments to submit, friends to make, and fun to have. A student life can be challenging and full of adventure at the same time. Many students wish that they had finished studying and had started working. They don’t know any better. Why? Because many workers wish that they were still studying. Students have got so much time on their hands, and a simple ‘pass’ on a subject (or multiple subjects), although not ideal, is acceptable. Workers go home everyday exhausted and a simple ‘pass’ on a project might mean your job is on the line. No, that does not mean the job is calling you on the phone. It means totally the opposite.
As the new semester starts, you naturally ask, “What should I do differently this semester so I can do better than last semester?” If you don’t, then you’d better do. If you are a Christian, however, there is another question to ask, “How do I glorify God with my study this semester?” We heard perhaps many Christians say or pray something to the extend of “glorify God with your study.” Have you ever paused and pondered what it means? If you haven’t, then you’d better do.
As Christians, it is our duty and joy and privilege to glorify God in everything that we do. Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” and in 1 Corinthians 10:31 he says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Westminster Larger Cathechism begins with this point: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” So, it is without a doubt that we are to glorify God in all we do, including our study. However, if we don’t take time to think what it looks like, then we end up shooting empty prayer and we would conduct our study in a way that does not glorify God. We might not defame Him, but we might not bring Him glory either.
What does come up to your mind when you heard that phrase, “Glorify God with your study”? I must confess that to me, for a number of years, especially when I was younger and more naive, it really meant, “Get a good grade.” When your fellow Christians asked you to pray for their upcoming exam, or when they asked you to pray for the exam they had already done, if you were anything like me, you would say something along the line of “May the exam result brings you glory.” To be honest, what I thought of was closer to this: “God, please give this person a great result in exam. At least a ‘Distinction.’ When that happens, he will be joyful, and as a result he will praise you. Because if he failed, there is a chance that he would be sad and even leave you. So, please give him good result. All for your glory.”
Now that I am older and a tad wiser, my tummy cringes when I think of that. I still do that, mind you. Old habit dies hard. However, it is so wrong in so many places. Firstly, it is so unbiblical because I subconsciously (or at times consciously) told God that in order for His Name to be glorified, He had to give him good grades. I could not think of other ways, and neither could God, or so I thought. Secondly, it would naturally mean that people who are academically challenged would have lesser chance to glorify God with their study. Thirdly, it would give an impression that God is interested in our academic performance than anything else. Fourthly, sanctification would not have any place in it, although sanctification is the very thing that brings God glory.
Of course, to add the ‘sanctification’ bit into the formula, when we pray for people going through exam, we also pray that they won’t cheat in the exam. Well, that will definitely bring glory to God. Or at least, it won’t jeopardise his glory. But is that it? Don’t cheat in exam and score high? I know this is rather reductionistic, and I know many of you would know much better than I did. So, what does it mean to glorify God with your study? At the next post, I will give a few points on how we can and should do so. In the mean time, if you have any thought, please share.