Exams, tests, friends, and life; All these things, plus a few more add up to make a student’s life a whirlwind of activity. This kind of pressure can be quite a thing to deal with for a Christian student at university. How much time should I spend on my devotions? How much time can I give to the church? When am I making my studies an idol? These are the worries of a student striving after godliness and striving after grades?
Here are some guidelines that may help the student get a grip on the great gauntlet of varsity vocation:
- All Work is Sacred
The first step is to look at your work differently. Studies are not the secular thing you do when you are not worshipping God; studies are a way to worship God. This is God’s calling for you during this stage of your life. Ecclesiastes 9v10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” The Reformation did a great service is showing how even the menial tasks of life are a service to the Lord, and so we read Pauls words to the Colossians, “…in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (3:22). Use your studies as a worshipful thing, what Scriptures can you apply to your specific area of studying (e.g. Biology: We are fearfully and wonderfully made; Math: God is Faithful; etc)?
2. Seek First the Kingdom of God
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus said, “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. Being a Christian means you have been freed to see what is important, that is God’s Kingdom. While in seeking to be excellent in your studies you are achieving this in part, there are also the primary means of grace that you must be committed to. We are told in Hebrews 10:25 to, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” As a believer you need to prioritise your attendance at the formal gathering of the Church, in most cases this is Sunday services and a mid-week meeting; this is far less than the early church met. One of the issues you will deal with is faith, you need to trust God that obeying Him will bring you greater reward and joy than slighting your means of grace for the sake of studying, there make be occasional exceptions to this as wisdom guides you, but this would be the rule. The next point is in the same line…
3. Keep the Sabbath
The fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath is still an important part of our lives, as it is God’s command. As you prioritise your work through the days and plan your schedule, plan in such a way that you close your books on Saturday evening to only open them again on Monday morning; use your Sunday for spending time in God’s Word, with God’s people, family and friends. So your work load for the week would be a bit more as you prepare yourself to not have to do work on the Lord ’s Day. It’s about preparation.
Figuring out your priorities is an important part of dealing with the stress. God comes first, family, Church and then vocation. Now part of that may mean taking on fewer courses, or even dropping a course and extending your studies. It may mean dropping certain church activities that are good, but not vital during times of intense work. It may mean leaving dinner straight after a meal, or seeing friends less.
5. Time is Money
Well, time may not always be money, but think about the tithe, God doesn’t demand that all your money be devoted to church work, but rather that all your money is submitted to Him, to the church you only give as a guide 10%, over and above that you can give. Think about time in the same way; there is no reason why you must have a 2 hour devotional time everyday; there can be very productive and helpful devotionals done in 1 hour or even half an hour. During times of exams/projects you may need to take less time in devotion, not compromising the quality of your devotion, but rather the quantity of time spent.
6. Church Community
Believers are to help each other in bearing the burden of the curse. If you need to leave one of the church meetings early, arrange to leave immediately after a meeting instead of waiting around talking during times when you are very busy. Perhaps ask a group of people in the church to commit to pray for you during difficult times, this is a great way to be involved in the lives of other people in the church who you may not normally interacted with, ask some of the older people to commit to pray for you, and be sure to give them feedback.
7. Long Term Perspective
Remember that if you are unable to prioritise the important things in your life now, it won’t get easier when you work and have a family. Think about mentioning when you are at a job interview, that you will be unavailable for work on Sundays; explain that this is just something your employer must come to terms with upfront.
8. Seek Advice
Get help from your elders on applying these principles, and perhaps write out a time-budget and get them to look through it with you.
9. Don’t Over-spiritualize
Sometimes students try to over-spiritualize their work and pretend that praying replaces studying. This world is God’s world, so learning things about the world is learning how God designed things. In short- Serve God like you have not studied, and study like God won’t give you an iota of help.
Well, in order to save you some time, I’ll end this post now. Go love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and study hard!