A new semester is upon us, and with it comes more opportunities to glorify God in all we do. Since my first semester, I looked for ways to improve my life and productivity. I don’t have it all together, to be sure, but I’ve learned much over the years. I believe organization and preparation are important for the believer.
The first person who caused me to think about how I spend my time was Trip Lee. In his 2015 book Rise, Lee says that time is an investment God makes on you, and you are accountable for what you do with it. We are not only responsible for what we do with our words, as the book of James says, but also with how we live. A lifestyle that honors God’s Kingdom is holistically wholesome, and it goes way beyond your moral commitments not to sin and to act for the less privileged ones. We all have a responsibility to honor our bodies and spirits as God-given elements for the furthering of his Kingdom.
I want to share some ways in which you can glorify God in this upcoming semester. This will not only help you with your grades, which honors the God-given opportunity that not many have to learn from him and his creation, but it will give you a more expansive view of how your life intersects with God’s Kingdom.
1. Care for your soul.
Two books have heavily influenced me in how I have led my life in school thus far. Helmut Thielicke’s Little Exercise for Young Theologians helped me see that the knowledge I gain in school should not lead me to arrogance. Jesus was the smartest man who has ever lived, and he held a perfect theology. Yet, he spent his time with a community of people who did not understand him and were not like him, and he humbly invested in them.
A second book that shaped me was David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell’s How to Stay Christian in Seminary. You must stay connected with a body of believers who will motivate you and keep you accountable. You must pray and meditate on the Bible constantly. Do not think your introductions to Bible are themselves the Bible. They will help you read your Bible, but only if you read it prayerfully.
If you spend your semester sleeping too little, eating too much and exercising poorly, you will be paid back.
2. Care for your body.
In the book Spark, John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman lay out the benefits of physical exercise to your brain and mental work. Investments always generate dividends. If you spend your semester sleeping too little, eating too much and exercising poorly, you will be paid back.
Since I started taking care of my body, I have gotten sick less often, my daily headaches have decreased, and I get papers done early (so I don’t have to pull all-nighters). I challenged myself: I would sleep at least 7 hours no matter what, exercise daily no matter what, and spend time with God and my wife no matter what. Guess what? My grades are better, and I feel better. The result is not only a better self-esteem (and Timothy Keller has a great book on this topic called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness), but more patience in my counseling, more attention to my sermon hearing, more care and love towards those whom I interact with, and so on.
God gave you a body; you are not merely a soul with a disposable body. Christians are not second century Gnostics who saw salvation in the displacement of what is physical. Honor God’s creation, and that includes yourself. Spend time taking care of you and your body will do the same.
3. Care for your mind.
If you follow the previews two suggestions you will greatly improve your mental health, but there are some other things you should do this semester. First, learn how your brain works with John Medina’s Brain Rules. Second, do yourself a favor and read Thomas Frank’s 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (While Studying Less). His book will give you all sorts of tips to organize your mental life for the semester.
Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit helped me see the benefits of having a consistent and regular schedule for everything—I no longer study only in my free time (though I do that), but I schedule my study time by the beginning of the week and treat it as a hard-commitment as I do with classes, work and church.
Cal Newport’s Deep Work has been very helpful as I pursue mental peace. I delete all of my social media from my phone and have absolutely no notifications turned on during the semester. The same counts for my emails on my computer. I schedule a time to post and check social media. I also utilize an app called SelfControl2 to schedule times in which distracting websites are available for me. This and other things have helped me be more engaged in the work that I am doing, and allows me to focus for longer periods.
Honoring God and the Gifts He’s Given You
If you need more motivation during the semester, read Nick Winter’s Motivation Hacker or Cal Newport’s How to Win at College (his How to Become a Straight-A Student has been tested and proven right many times in my experience).
Follow websites like the College Info Geek (which is the website/YouTube channel/podcast from which I learn the most), and ask your professors how they are able to accomplish so much with their time. Last year I published my first peer-reviewed article, wrote several articles for other journals, volunteered on a number of occasions, taught a class at church, got married, learned a new language, read more books than weeks in the year, tried new diets, traveled, learned how to manage my money, went to conferences, and all that while being diligent with my college work at the College at Southeastern. I believe you can accomplish much this semester, as long as you commit before the Lord to honor him and the gifts he has given you.
Now, I realize that not everyone has time to read all of these books or perfectly implement all of these tips. But you can listen to the audiobooks during your commute, author’s lecture on YouTube while cleaning the house, or read the summaries of those books instead of scrolling social media. For example, I listen to my Greek vocabulary on my phone repeatedly, which means I spend less time invested in my flashcards. I watch my lectures while washing dishes and learn about great books on YouTube before reading them for class. No matter how busy you are, you can find ways to glorify God with your time and resources.
Are you ready to honor God at every hour of your day this semester?