We’re well into October, and for our students, it means it’s the exam season! As important as they may be, school examinations are not our all-encompassing reality. God remains our all in all. So, in this challenging season, I would like to suggest 5 biblical principles that all who are facing exams can bear in mind, to keep us rooted in our faith, even in the midst of stress.
- YOU MUST AIM TO PLEASE GOD AND BRING HIM GLORY
This is the overarching purpose for everything we do in life, be it something as mundane as eating and drinking, or as significant as taking our examinations (1 Cor 10:31).
This means that our foundational motivation for doing well in our exams isn’t our personal achievement, ambition, self-esteem or even our future. It’s all for God. It’s all about him! (Rom 11:36)
This means that we must not dishonor God in the process of preparing for our examinations. We must keep him central. We must be willing to sacrifice even our precious grades on the altar of worship. The exams (a good thing) must not draw us away from Christ (the best thing).
What does it practically entail? The next 4 principles help us apply it.
- YOU MUST WORK HARD
God made us in his image, and a big way of glorifying God is to reflect his character to the world. In the bible, God is constantly working
(John 5:17). He is described as the Creator, Sustainer, Helper, Comforter, Saviour, etc – all of which involves working.
In the opening verse of the bible, we see God at work – “In the beginning God created… (Gen 1:1). The first thing he did when he created Adam and Eve was to give them a task to do (Gen 1:28)!
So, the wisdom literature tells us to “consider the way of the hardworking ant” (Prov 6:6) and “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl 9:10). Being lazy does not glorify God, because it does not reflect his nature. He is a God who works, and he gave mankind intelligence, strength and gifts so that we can be productive men and women for the good of his world, and for his glory.
- YOU MUST KEEP THE SABBATH
Just God takes our work seriously, he is just as serious about our rest. So serious is he that the penalty for breaking the Sabbath is as severe as it gets – death (Ex 35:2)! The reason for this is to ensure that work does not become and idol – it does not consume all of our heart and mind and strength.
By resting one day a week, setting it aside for worship, we are reminding ourselves that ultimately, God is the one keeping the world spinning. Not us. Ultimately, God is the one who determines our future; not our grades (Jas 4:13-15). Sabbath keeping reflects that belief. Underlying workaholism is the belief that it is our work that builds our life. That’s not true. (Ps 127:1).
So take work seriously, and the Sabbath just as seriously. Fear of not studying enough must give way to faith that God is the one who ultimately determines our grades, our life, and our eternal future. So we can keep the Sabbath and trust God to do his good will in our exams.
- YOU MUSTN’T WORRY
The exam season is fraught with worry. We worry about whether we have revised enough, we worry that we might have missed an important detail, we worry about the possibility of our minds going blank on the day of the exam, we worry about whether we will get the school of our choice when we graduate. There is always something to worry about.
Worrying is natural. But worrying is also unnecessary. The bible tells us that we need not be anxious because we have a heavenly Father who loves us, is in control of every unknown in our lives, and is able to provide what is best to us (Matt 6:25-34). Furthermore, we can pray to Him when we are anxious, knowing that he is near (Phil 4:6).
Freedom from excessive and unnecessary worrying is one of the great privileges of being a child of God. This is not a promise that we will always get the grades we desire, but it is based on the promise that even if we don’t, that things will be okay (Rom 8:28).
- YOU MUST LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF
It is a stressful period not just for your youth, but for all their peers and classmates as well. Glorifying God means being like Christ, who considered the needs of others above his own, and chose to be servant of all (Phil 2:3-8). Instead of viewing our classmates as competitors, we must strive to be their consultants (to help them with their revision), their cheerleaders (if they do well) and their comforters (if they do poorly).
It is by our love that the world will know that we are Christians (Jn 13:35). The exam period is a great opportunity to live out the Great Commandment to “love God and our neighbour as ourselves”!
Finally, parents, let your youth know that you’ll be glad for them if God gives them the results they hope for, but that you’ll rejoice much more if they glorify God through it all, regardless of their results.
– Ps Luwin Wong