Studying for finals to the glory of God

Charles Spurgeon enjoyed his cigars.[1] When confronted with criticism about his tendencies for tobacco, Spurgeon defended himself by writing, “when I have found intense pain relieved, a weary brain soothed, and calm, refreshing sleep obtained by a cigar, I have felt grateful to God, and have blessed His name.”[2] Spurgeon clearly felt that he could smoke a cigar to the glory of God. Few college students find the respite Spurgeon found in his cigar especially during finals; fewer still revel in the glory of God. Given that Paul commands us “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,”[3] how do we study for finals to the glory of God?

To many Christians, 1 Corinthians 10:31 is very familiar. For this reason we may readily assume we understand it while missing its fuller meaning and applications. While practices like attending church, allotting time for scripture intake, or giving thanks before meals can easily be applied from this verse, we are called to do all things to the glory of God, not just the inherently spiritual.

First, it is important to note the severity of this commandment. Since it is sin to disobey this biblical commandment, then to do anything not to the glory of God is sinful. John Piper[4] explains the essence of this verse: “Sin is not just a list of harmful things… [but] leaving God out of account in the ordinary affairs of your life; sin is anything you do that you don’t do for the glory of God.”[5] The breadth of application for this verse may appear extreme, but 1 Corinthians 10:31 demonstrates how central the glory of God is to the lives, thoughts, and actions of Christians.

When reflecting on 1 Corinthians 10:31, John Piper notes “whether you eat or drink or work, do all to make God look as great as he really is.”[6] If studying reveals and propels us to dependence on Christ, then God has been glorified. If it tests our integrity by not breaking course or university policy, then God has been glorified. If we deepen friendships with brothers or sisters in Christ by encouraging and serving each other by studying together, then God has been glorified. If we are able to form or deepen friendships with non-Christians and strengthen our witnesses, then God has been glorified. 

Moreover, 1 Timothy 4:4-5 shares that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” Glorifying God through studying can be as simple as utilizing the time as an opportunity for genuine gratitude from a believer’s heart that is filled with faith. If the opportunity to study was prayerfully received with thanksgiving by one who knows and believes the word of God, then God has been glorified. 

This command to glorify God in all things may appear burdensome to fulfill because it is indeed demanding a change to everything in our lives, but the process of reorienting our lives to glorify God is actually a righteous joy! As the Westminster Shorter Catechism opens, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”[7] Glorifying God and enjoying Him are inseparable. John Piper finally reminds us that “Being satisfied in God as our supreme treasure is not only a response to seeing Him glorified, but the way He is glorified in us.”[8]

More than any exam, degree, or cigar, enjoy Christ.

[1] Charles Spurgeon was a highly influential 19th century English preacher colloquially known as “The Prince of Preachers.” His sermons are still studied by Christians from many denominations. 
[3] 1 Corinthians 10:31
[4] John Piper is the founder and a teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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