Starting the Semester Well
A semester has come and gone, another awaits you patiently. If you are anything like me you’ve already been strategizing on how to do better this semester or at the very least survive. In my student days (a distant seven months ago) the buzz word around campus was balance. Balance your academics with exercise, relationships, spirituality, family, entertainment and the list was almost unending. Oh the juggling act! Those who juggled well were admired as demi-gods. Balance. Balance was key. Balance was god. Not a means but an end. Universities are still trying to create the Renaissance man/woman. The Polymath1. So as a Christian student in this kind of atmosphere, the question that came to mind at this time was; how do I keep this Jesus ball in the air with all the others I’m juggling? How do I balance my varsity work with my Christian walk? The shocking and overwhelming answer from the scriptures is; don’t. Don’t you dare juggle God with work or anything else for that matter. Let me show you how the Scriptures teach this principle, how to cultivate this in your life and finally how this does not minimise your work but in fact blesses and prospers it.
The Bible is a troubling book for the Polymath because it speaks most pervasively and passionately about one thing and one thing only: God. From Genesis to Revelations, the Bible is a story about how God created all that is seen and unseen, how His creation rebels against Him and despite this damning act of treason, He, in His mercy, formulates a plan to save, renew and redeem His creation, how He through His Son becomes like His creation to set in motion His salvation plan and finally how He will, without fail finish what He has begun. It’s all about God. The Bible does not merely relay this as a nice fable we ought to know but it insistently and consistently calls us to the same singular passion and bias in our lives. Look at how He orders the 10 commandments; Exodus 20: 1-17 and Deuteronomy 5: 4-21, when God wants to instruct Israel on how they should live; the first three lines in the Decalogue are about His importance and pre-eminence and how that fact must be observed and this is not just an Old Testament obsession; Jesus reaffirms it in Matthew 22:37 and in that great sermon on the mount He teaches us to seek first His Kingdom and all else will follow. There is an imbalance to the Christian walk and it leans towards God and His Glory. A glorious imbalance if you will.
Well, what does this mean for you and your work? How does this reality play out in our lives?
It’s a lifestyle…
Let’s get Paul to help us here. He says to the Christians in Colossae, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”2 And again he says, “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not men.”3 He speaks in a similar way to the Corinthians; “So whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the Glory of God.”4
Surely he means when we pray, read the Bible and sing… No, whatever and all we do, he says. That glorious imbalance again. You see Paul and in fact the whole scripture, unlike the advocates of balance, does not call for moments of worship here and there but a lifestyle of worship. All is to be an act of worship and this certainly includes your work. There is no secular and sacred, all is to be made sacred. This has very little to do with when and what you do but more so with how and why you do it. It’s a disposition of the heart, an attitude, an approach, a framework, a way of living. It’s a lifestyle.
So on a Monday night, in front of a very, very thick textbook… How do you worship?
1. Acknowledge God
The amazing news for those who have put their faith in Jesus is that He will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5) and not only that, He actually lives in you (Gal 2:20). So as in all of life, when you are faced with intense academic demand, remember God is with you. You have a celestial study partner. Start by acknowledging His presence.
2. Ask Him for help
This fact is not only comforting but also empowering. We have the omnipotence and omniscience of Jesus available to us and if we only but ask He will give us great help in our academic ventures (James 4:2)
3. Aspire to see more of God
All things were created through Jesus and for Him and in Him all things hold together
(Col 1:15-17). The most exciting thing to ask God is for Him to show you something
of His character in your particular area of study. This is the heart of worship, to see more of God.
4. Thank Him
“Do not be anxious for anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Phil 4:6-7). Thank Him for His presence, for His sure help and every fresh revelation of who He is.
These are not hard and fast rules but guidelines on how to train yourself to use work as worship. Remember it’s about cultivating a heart attitude. Finally here is how this lifestyle positively influences our work.
Work like never before
I see at least two ways in which you and your work are positively impacted by a lifestyle of worship.
1. God, gross or gift
The thing that makes our work incredibly tough and unproductive in the eternal sense is how we relate to it. Some of us see work as God, so when we fail we are disproportionately devastated and when we succeed we are diabolically proud. Others of us see it as gross, a thing to be avoided at all costs, your best efforts go into finding ways of getting through varsity by doing the least. However a worship attitude sets us free to receive it as a gift to worship God and serve others.
2. Guilt of the grind
What I’ve found is that most Christians feel guilty about the time they spend working because it’s seemingly time spent apart from God. A worship mind set frees you from this. Your work can also be your worship.
3. Gazing deeply
The curse of our age is that we struggle to engage, to focus and to go deep and that affects our understanding and recall of the material we study. A worship heart posture alerts us to depth in our study material and this focuses our minds and hearts.
4. Getting it done
Finally and most practically, most of us simply struggle with sitting down and getting it done. Knowing that God is with you, He will help you and He wants to show you more of Himself through your work helps us to sit down and get it done.
First and second things
C.S Lewis makes a profound and almost obvious observation when he says, “You can’t get second things by putting them first. You only get second things by putting first things first.”5 This begs the question, what is first? Jesus tells us; God is.6 If we put God first, all else is given to us but if we put all else first, we lose God and all else. So put God first this semester and your work will not be diminished but blessed.
A polymath is a person of great expertise and various fields of study, a Jack of all trades in a sense. The bible does not encourage us to become polymaths, it calls us to be specialists in the knowledge, service and enjoyment of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
First and Second things: Essays on theology and ethics is an excellent work by C.S Lewis. Worth some of your time should you have any free.
Matthew 6:33 is really the heartbeat of this blog post; we not called to balance God with all else but we are called to prioritize Him above all else.
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