“It’s just two weeks! Missing two weeks of church to study wouldn’t hurt!” my mother used to tell me during the examination season.
I was stumped whenever she said that. It was as if God was pushed to the side, far less important than the crunch time that awaited me.
Soon, these “two weeks” began to grow into months. God would become some distant, absent figure during my examinations.
Over time, I came to perceive church as impractical in helping me to do well and I eventually fell out of the discipline and love for going.
Is church still worth our time with examinations around the corner?
It’s an important question that many believers, including myself, will have to grapple with at some point.
If we attend church to honour God, then we need to weigh up whether our desire for good results has started to outweigh our reverence for Him?
One clarifying question we can ask: Do we attribute our success to the amount of time put into studying or to God’s grace?
When we choose to honour God by making time to worship Him at church, especially when much is at stake, I believe He is pleased!
Certainly, it can be tough. Many of us still find this decision hard to make. We ask, “Shouldn’t God be aware of how limited my time is?” or “Doesn’t God know that I can’t afford to fail?”
But we need to check ourselves, to see if grades have replaced God as the object of our worship.
When I struggle with this tension, I ask myself this question: Are these grades mine, or are they God’s?
If everything we have comes from God, then the grades that we receive are not truly ours, but should ultimately go towards His glory.
We must entrust every aspect of the examinations — the effort we put in; the questions that come out; the educators who mark the scripts — to God.
We must be willing to let God have His way with the outcome.
So, while examinations may be a test of our skills, they also test our faith and willingness to surrender.
How we act in the face of examinations (which are some of the earliest trials we will face in life) will reveal what we have built our lives on.
If we have established our worth on anything but the firm foundation of God, it will show.
And as students, what does it say about our faith when we do not consider making time to honour God on the Sabbath?
“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” (Psalm 127:1, NLT)
Ultimately, while we can strive to do well, our efforts are still at the mercy of God.
Many of us complain of emptiness, burnout and anxiety as we grind, only to be left disappointed at our imperfect results again. Unless we study from a true desire to please God, we will never be satisfied chasing the desires of our flesh.
It is good to be an excellent student, but let us recognise that no amount of studying can remove our fear of failure or desire for recognition. Only God’s love can satisfy our deepest desire and assuage our fears.
Rest does not necessarily mean an absence of work or conflict, but it is where we find peace in God.
When you know who God has called you to be, then you will no longer need to fear losing out in life. With whatever you have in your hands, God will provide exactly the right resources to lead you to where you must go.
We must humble ourselves to trust His plans above ours.
The church is where we come to encounter God in fellowship with our spiritual community.
For many believers, it is precisely the place we need to be so that we may be “topped up” in face of any coming hardships!
While we do not attend church out of obligation, we should be disciplined in seeking the Lord continuously.
If we are faithful in putting Him first in the small things, we will be faithful in the bigger things.
Therefore, if going to church during our exams serves as a means to live out obedience and faith, then we should go. If attending cell group keeps us accountable in this difficult period, then we should go.
To close, I was reminded of something Jesus said during His visit to Mary and Martha.
When Martha accused Mary of not helping around the house, Jesus said, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42, NLT).
Martha was occupied with traditions and preparations; Mary dropped everything to sit at the feet of Jesus.
We must first and foremost prioritise the approval of God in our lives. Only then will we experience His goodness that nothing — not even an imperfect or perfect grade — can take away from us.
The only question is, are we willing to put God first in the face of worldly pressures?
- Draw a pie chart of your life.
- What does the portion allocated to God look like?
- What needs to change?