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Can Studying Glorify God?

I know. I said it. Study. It’s the dreaded word that many of our students are facing as finals week quickly approaches. With several late nights and lattés planned, many students come to the end of the semester dreading the “s” word. And as difficult and draining as studying can be, we have to be careful not to miss the bigger picture: studying, yes studying, is an act of worship.

Here’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Translation: as a follower of Jesus, your studying matters. Yes, it matters in order to pass the exam that will help you pass the class. But it matters far greater in terms of your call as a Christian. As you approach the last few weeks of the semester, here are two crucial things to keep in mind.

1. All of Life Is God’s

A while back, I read an incredible book by Leland Ryken entitled Worldly Saints. The book outlines the historical theology of a group of people known as the Puritans. Much has been said about the Puritans (good and bad), but one of the most striking things about the Puritans is that they truly embodied Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Here’s what Ryken had to say:

“Puritanism was impelled by the insight that all of life is God’s. The Puritans lived simultaneously in two worlds—the invisible spiritual world and the physical world of earthly existence. For the Puritans, both worlds were equally real, and there was no cleavage of life into sacred and secular. All of life was sacred.”[1] 

So what do 17th century Puritans have to do with 21st century college students? They remind us very clearly that there is nothing you do that doesn’t matter to God. Church stuff is most definitely important, but no more important than studying (this is not an out to miss church because you have to “study”). Ask yourself this: how would your study habits change if you knew they mattered to God as much as your personal quiet time or sharing the gospel with your suitemate? 

I would venture to guess that your efforts towards studying might change a bit. Laziness and procrastination are not glorifying to God. God has placed you where you are at and it is his desire that you glorify him there. Studying might not seem super spiritual, but over the next couple of weeks, it might be one of the most “spiritual” things you do. So study well, and study to the glory of God.

2. Your Grades Don’t Define You

Laziness certainly doesn’t glorify God but neither does idolatry. For many students, exam week is filled with extreme amounts of stress, anxiety, and worry, most of which derives itself from the root cause of idolatry.

Your problem is not neglecting to study but rather it’s studying too much. You are driven by the fear that if you don’t get a certain grade in a certain class, then you won’t be the person you are supposed to be. Your identity is so wrapped up in your academic performance that it drives your sleep habits, your health, your emotions—pretty much everything. Remember what John Piper famously says: “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him,” meaning not in what grade you get at the end of the semester.

So which is it: laziness or idolatry? Both approaches to studying are sinful, and both approaches bring anything but glory to God. For some, this simply means that you need to actually pick up a book and study. Stop being lazy. It’s not cool, and it’s not glorifying to God. For others, it means that you need to put the book down and go to bed and trust God that His plan for your life does not hinge on this one test. All of life is God’s. So study to the glory of God, which means you need to stop reading this and start studying or sleep (like now)!

– Jeremy Dager (Executive Pastor of Ministries)

[1] Worldly Saints, 208.