It’s a solid biblical principle to say that in the overwhelming majority of cases God gives a lot of warnings to people before he deals with them according to their sins. We see this on a global scale with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the numerous wars going on, the unrest in Arab countries, the economic crisis in the West and in other acts of God’s wrath against this sinful and fallen world. As Jesus says:
“Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Luke 13 v 2 – 5
The pain, suffering and death of this world we live in are warnings to all of us that God’s wrath is set against sin! We would do well to heed those warnings. But we see it as well on an individual level. God will often send us warnings about sin that we still allow in our lives. At least, that is how I have found it of late. Largely because I’ve ignored the quiet warnings and then God has shouted and the consequences have been extreme.
Take for example, my sense of humour which I was misusing and building myself up by making light of topics too weighty to be made light of. There were warnings about this now I look back on it, jabs of conscience, doubts in my mind about my behaviour and a nagging sense of guilt. I ignored them. And in due time I suffered from a period of darkness where I could not find God, my prayers were empty and my soul was troubled. And then through these various means God shouted at me and rebuked me for my sin.
It has left me with a renewed desire to listen and heed the quiet voice of God so that he does not have to shout. And so I get onto my work ethic. When it comes to university, it’s not high on my priorities list, third, oh who am I trying to kid? Easily fifth place. This is not necessarily wrong. What is wrong is how little work I do for university. In fact, how little academic work I do in general.
This is true during the Semester but it is especially obvious during exam time. I hate revision, no, I loath revision. An hour a day is usually the most I ever do and then it’s only for a week or so. Up until recently I could get away with this because I’m one of those annoying people that can.
But more recently I’ve had a few warnings on this front: I failed a minor exam during the Christmas exams, an elder in my church rebuked me for not working hard enough, my Mum did the same quite recently, my guilt over not revising is growing. And it is becoming increasingly clear that God is trying to warn me that my reluctance to study is going to lead me somewhere I don’t want to go. His quiet voice is telling me to work hard. And if I don’t he’ll shout and by shout I mean I’ll likely fail an exam.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10 v 31
Even if I can’t find any personal motivation to revise then I have one motivation which should surpass all other concerns – I should work for the glory of God. Am I glorifying God in my work now? I think not.
It is simple: I am being lazy, idle, indolent and arrogant. I am misusing my intelligence and refusing to submit this area of my life to Christ. I am not being the man I should. I am not being disciplined, hard working and self sacrificing. I am not what I should be.
God is stripping my excuses away. I need to change.
So in a bid to create a culture of accountability then here’s my plan:
Pray: I can’t do this on my own. I am dependant on God for my every breath and for my every academic pursuit. So everyday I will turn to him, acknowledge how much I struggle to work, ask for forgiveness and ask for the grace to be given a desire to study, a mind willing and able to learn well and to request that my revision would be blessed.
I don’t deserve these prayers to be answered. Far from it. But I don’t deserve any answer to any prayer I utter. I don’t want to be like the men to which it is said: “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4 v 2)
Plan ahead: I like plans. If I don’t plan to work I won’t. If I do plan I might. So I plan.
The Plan: This week I’m going to revise in the library from 2 until 5 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and from 9 – 11 on Thursday. And I’ll revise Issues in Global Economics.
The week after: I’m on a Christian conference so revision time will be limited but I’ll do an hour a day. Revising philosophy because that’s least important.
The next three weeks: In the library from 9 to 12:30, lunch to 1, work to 2:30, in the library again to 5. I’ll mainly revise Economics and Economic History. For every day except Sunday and maybe Saturday and when I have my exams.
The week after that: Lot’s of exams all in close succession.
I can’t say I’m going to like this because at least at first I won’t. I’ve heard it can get easier. And the cynical part of me thinks it will never happen. But I will pray on. And I do find a part of me that is almost looking forward to it. I’ve always wondered what would happen if I actually put in the work and revised properly. Guess I’ll find out…
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4 v 7 – 10
If I don’t carry out this plan it is because I refused to submit my work ethic to God. If I don’t carry out this plan it is because I was stiff necked and stubborn. If I don’t carry out this plan then God will shout and I will suffer for it.
It is, largely, a matter of humility and discipline. The humility to confess how hard I find it to revise, the fact that I need to and that I have been sinning against God by not glorifying him in my university work. And the discipline to correct this and actually work.
Both qualities do not come naturally to me. And so I turn to God and find in him all I need. If I go about this with the right attitude and seek to work hard for the glory of my Father God then he will help me. For he has promised to do so.
“For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 2 v 6