A More Effective Way to Study

When we "study to show (ourselves) approved unto God," we gain a more spiritual view of our relationship to God, and we are precisely guided to prepare and fulfill tests, exams, projects and papers.

By Amy Sparkman

Categories: School

It's May! The days are longer, the temperatures are warmer, the trees are green again, summer is just around the corner, school is almost over… Omg, exams! Whether your child is facing semester tests or finals, the AP exams, the SAT, final projects, research papers, or end-of-term analytical essays, the age-old challenge is how to get through.

There is a terrific verse in the Bible that addresses this issue very specifically. It's from 2 Timothy (2:15) and it goes like this:

Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
King James Version 2000

At first glance, this verse is a straightforward call to action – to study. The reward would seem to be God's approval – you'll be an upstanding workman. That's not a bad place to start, really. In fact, sometimes, it's very comforting to know that if you do the right thing – in this case, study – your approval rating with God will go up. Presumably, the more you study, the better your rating. So goes conventional reasoning, and if you've got time and good lecture notes, you should do pretty well on your exams and essays as well as gain a better seat in God's court. So, get going!

WAIT! What if there's more to this verse than brownie points with God and hope for good grades? What if a closer look reveals a more effective way to study, and a faster way to get the results you most desire? And, what if this closer look leads to a deeper understanding of God, which outlasts any test or project deadline and becomes a daily guiding light? If you're interested in knowing more, then set aside your textbooks and class notes for now, and let's dive into this verse more deeply.

"Study to show thyself approved unto God…"
I suggest that you consider this a challenge – an invitation, a prompting, even a dare – to be more than you are right now and to change your motives for your actions. In other words, why are you studying? Why do you want to do well? Is it for a grade, for your GPA, or to get into a good school? Is it to prove yourself or to please a parent? There's nothing wrong with these reasons, except that they are all self-centered – focused on you, and comparing you to others. As a result, there's a strong possibility of disappointment – of not measuring up to either your own or someone else's standard. If you do measure up this time, what about next time – where's the assurance that you can do it again? In all honesty, there is none. Unless…

Unless, you accept the challenge: "Study to show thyself approved unto God…" The purpose of studying is to be well-prepared to glorify God. To be "approved unto God" means to be in tune with God – in sync and connected the way a ray of light is permanently linked to its source. Our relationship to God has always been there and lasts forever; it is inextricable, impenetrable, uninterruptible, and imperturbable. At times, we seem to lose sight of this fact and to believe that we're independent personalities that are striving to earn God's love and care. But that's not true. The more we understand our intrinsic relationship to God, the more we discover that we are not at the mercy of tests and projects, of teachers or admissions officers, of anyone or anything that would try to define us and outline the course of our lives. God created man – "…male and female, created he them… And God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:27, 31). From this, we can't deny the fact that we are 100% approved already.

As we come to know this deep within our hearts, we will find all sorts of situations that once seemed scary to now be opportunities to express our God-given nature – intelligence, clarity, perspicacity, creativity, diligence, consistency, as well as grace and confidence. Acknowledging each challenge as an opportunity means we're not acting from the standpoint of self-centered fear and hope, but with the confidence that God is always with us: "and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (Isa. 30:21). This applies quite literally to knowing what to study, what to write, even which answer to choose on a multiple-choice question.

Now, let's take a look at the rest of the verse from Timothy: "…a workman that needs not to be ashamed; rightly dividing the word of truth."

First, a workman who can be proud is one who is faithful in his work – not just for this test or this month, but in daily life. Your work is a reflection of your purity and honesty, of a purposeful life, of daily diligence and consistency, all of which attest to your integrity – your God-centered being. When you have properly prepared for tests and projects, there is nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the grade you receive.

Second, "…rightly dividing the word of truth" goes far beyond school – it includes every aspect of life. Bible commentaries suggest that "dividing" is akin to "apportioning" or "distributing." I have enjoyed thinking about this phrase in terms of both how I spend my time, and how much time I spend "studying," that is, affirming my relationship to God. This doesn't mean that all my time is supposed to go towards studying the Bible or praying alone. It means being very much a part of the world around me, but interacting with a spiritual, God-centered perspective. In terms of exams and final projects, it means first clarifying in thought your God-derived, God-directed, and God-sustained identity and then expressing that identity by studying diligently and conscientiously, all the while trusting God to direct you to learn exactly what you need to know, and to write or create precisely what needs to be presented. This is what it means to be unashamedly faithful in your God-centered work and workmanship.

Okay, let's look at this verse one last time:

Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

This is a specific directive – a command. It's an offer – an urging. And, it's a promise. When we study, we receive a more spiritual view of God and our inseparable relationship to Him; there is only and all good to be gained; we are led to make wise decisions about what we do to prepare for any and all of life's challenges, including tests, exams, projects and papers. This divine guidance is with us always – right now and forever.

By the way, this verse relates to the parent as much as the child! These last several weeks of school can sometimes feel like a pressure cooker. Helping our children find a deep, settled peace within is essential to their well-being, to their effectiveness as students, and to their progress throughout life.