How Important are Studies?

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Our youths explored this topic at their recent youth session on 2 September 2023. Samuel Ho helped them to see rightly, the value of studying. For most of us, our studying days are over. But if we are parents or grandparents, may this encourage us as we interact wtih our children and grandchildren. And as church members, we can continue to keep our students in prayer and encourage them when we chat with them on Sundays too. 

How important are studies?

When I think about this question, I think of 2 types of people. The first type is the "mugger", one who seems to do nothing but study. He or she will might choose studying over exercise, meals church, perhaps even a friend with a problem. For this person, life revolves around their studies. It is the top priority in their life and his or her answer to today's question is, "Studies are the most important thing.”

Then there is a second type, the "slacker", one who seems to do anything but study. He or she might choose exercise over studying, may end up copying a friend's homework or fail to put in the work before an exam. This person does not see the value of their studies and seek to do other things for their leisure instead of studying. To the slacker, the answer to our question today is, “Studies are not important at all.”

So, which type of student do you identify with? 

Deciding what's important

In reality, we usually fluctuate between these 2 types, isn’t it? Sometimes, we find ourselves more like the former, consumed by studying, pushing everything else away for the sake of our studies. Our whole life becomes just about studies.

And other times, we are more like the latter, unmotivated in our studies, spending all our time slacking off, doing other things, neglecting our studies.

So, who is correct? How important are studies?

To start us off, we need to think about what determines importance. How do we decide whether something is important? The simple answer is: It’s important if what we’re doing ultimately matters. 

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So, are your studies now important? The answer depends on what you study for -- the purpose of your studying. Have you thought about that before? It’s worth spending time thinking about this question. Some common answers might be: 

  • ... to pass and not fail
  • ... to get good results
  • ... to impress people and look good in front of others
  • ... to be smart
  • ... to get into a good school
  • ... to get a good job
  • ... to make a lot of money

Friends, these might be common answers, but if these are your ultimate answer to why you are studying, then let me try to show you now why your studies will not be important.

It’s not that it’s bad to pass and not fail.
It’s not that it’s bad to get good grades.
Or for people to respect you.
Or to get into a good school.
Or to get a good job.
Or to make a lot of money.

None of these reasons are, in and of themselves, wrong reasons to study. But if they are the final reason -- the ultimate purpose for why you are studying, then I really think your studies will not be important. And I say that because these things don’t ultimately matter.

This is not just my opinion. It’s what the Bible tells us. Let’s look at this book called Ecclesiastes together. It’s a very interesting book. It’s sort of like someone’s diary, except it’s the diary of the wisest and richest king that Jerusalem ever had. And in this diary, the king recalls what he has done in his life, and he reflects on what he has done.

The foolish reason to pursue studies

Let us read Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:11 together. 

Friends, have any of you ever tried running after the wind and catching it before? Anyone chased after wind and managed to catch the wind before?

It’s a silly thing to try to do, right? That’s what the author is comparing all these kinds of pursuits to. He chased after these kinds of things as his ultimate goal in life. Firstly, he chased after wisdom, to become smarter and more knowledgeable than everyone else. Then he change his goal to chase after pleasure, achievements, and possessions -- he enjoyed more experiences than anyone else, owned more things than everyone else.

But each time, when he surpassed everyone in each of these areas, when he reached the pinnacle of these goals, when he reached the top, he realised that it’s like chasing after wind. He saw how pointless and meaningless it is and was a waste of his time and effort. These things are actually not important.

What was his reason for his conclusions? Let’s look at 2 other passages. Firstly, let's look at Ecclesiastes 2:15-16 then secondly, look at Ecclesiastes 2:18-19

In summary, the author has concluded that chasing after these kinds of things is not important, because, like everyone else, he will ultimately die, and he cannot bring any of his stuff with him when he dies.

Friends, have you ever thought about that? When you die, what’s going to happen to all the wisdom you’ve accumulated? Does it matter whether you are smarter than everyone else when you’re not alive anymore? What’s going to happen to all the good results you worked for and achieved? What’s going to happen to all the money you’ve made?

They’ll all be gone. Your lifetime of work and effort all will be gone in an instant.

This is exactly what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:19-20. He says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Sometimes you don’t even need to wait until you die to lose what you worked so hard to get, isn’t it? Your stuff breaks, your memory fails, you lose your job, your stuff gets stolen. Friends, why give your time and effort to the ultimate goal of gaining these kinds of things that you cannot even guarantee you can keep, and that you will ultimately lose?

So, if your ultimate purpose for studying are earthly things that you will lose, that will fade away, then I can tell you that sooner or later, you will realise that you wasted your studies and you will look back and see that your studies were not important. Because you pursued things that ultimately didn’t matter.

So, am I saying that studies are not important then?

No! I’m saying that we make our studies unimportant when we pursue the wrong purposes in our studies.

The wise reason to pursue studies

But your studies are important, very important. Why? They are very important because it’s the situation that God has put you in at this point in your life to achieve His purpose, which is to glorify Him.

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God created man for his glory, so that’s the ultimate purpose that we all should pursue, in everything we do. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”. Even down to the simplest of things like eating or drinking, we should be doing it to the glory of God. This definitely includes studying. Thus, our ultimate purpose in studying should be to glorify God!

You see, this is the exact conclusion that the king in Ecclesiastes came to all the way at the end of his diary. Let’s go there, to the last 2 verses of this book, and look at his conclusion. This king who has experienced being the richest and the wisest person, and who has said that it’s all chasing after wind -- what does he conclude that we should do in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14? 

The author concludes with all the other biblical authors that in all of life, in everything that we do, what ultimately matters is that we fear God and keep His commands, what matters is we glorify Him.

Why? Well, because that’s what we were created to do and so, that’s what we will be judged on. God will bring every act to judgement, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. To glorify God, to live under his good rule and design, is what we were created to do.

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Friends, out of all the tests you will take in your life, there is one test that will really matter -- when you finally stand before God at the end of your life and answer for everything that you’ve done, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil, every thought that you’ve had. Have you glorified God with your life? Is that what you have pursued in your studies? His glory? Have you feared Him and kept his commands? I wonder how you feel going into this test.

If you ask me, I feel doomed. I will definitely fail this test horribly. Because for the most part of my life, I have not glorified God. When I was in school studying, I pursued other purposes other than glorifying God. I built myself up, I worked for good grades so that people looked up to me, so that I can look good in the eyes of my teachers and my friends. I wasn’t doing it for God.

This is what the Bible calls sin. We have all sinned, because we all want to do things our way, we rebel against God. We don’t want to follow God’s good rules and design. We don’t want to live according to the purpose he created us for. We pursue our own purposes, our own goals, apart from God. We think we know better. But chasing after our own purposes doesn’t make sense, because we were already created for a purpose. We should live according to that purpose.

None of us are going to pass this final test by ourselves. We have all failed to live up to the purpose that we were created for -- to glorify God. We have all chose to rebel against God and to pursue our own silly goals, goals that we have seen really don’t matter in the end. For our disobedience against God, we deserve to die and face God’s anger forever.

But the wonderful news is that God sent His Son, Jesus, to rescue us from what we deserve. Jesus came to earth as a man. He lived a perfect life, He glorified God perfectly in his entire life, in everything He did, even in every moment of His studies when he was young – can you imagine that? He was obedient to His Father, and He died in place of man to achieve His Father’s purposes, so that if anyone puts their faith in Jesus, their sins are paid for by Jesus’ death.

How it works is something like this: You are working on the most important project of your life, but you come to the final review and your work is just so bad. But Jesus comes, with his perfect project and says: “Here, take my work instead.” And so, when God sees us, He no longer sees our terrible performance, but instead he sees Jesus’ perfect performance, and He accepts us.

The Bible also tells us that God raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus ascended into heaven, but He will return again one day. When he does, those who have not trusted in Him will face the punishment they deserve for eternity. For those who have trusted in His work for them, He will bring them to a perfect new creation where they will live forever in God’s presence, enjoying His wonderful blessings, where they will have everything they will ever need, where they will experience true joy forever.

So, friends, what does the Bible say about pursuing all these worldly things in your studies? It says stop doing that! Stop storing up for yourselves earthly things that will fade away! Firstly, because that’s not what we were created to do. Secondly, because iIf you trust in Jesus, you already have everything -- significance in God’s eyes, in the eyes of the one who really matters. You don’t need to chase significance in the eyes of others. In Jesus, you have the promise of a perfect, abundant, eternal life, lacking nothing when Jesus comes again and brings you to the new creation. You don’t have to chase after getting more stuff here, in this life, that will fade away, that is temporary.

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So, then, how should we study? 

Friends, this should change the way you approach your studies so much. Let’s store up heavenly treasures instead. Let’s no longer make our studies unimportant by pursuing our own goals in our studies. Your studies are so important because you are exactly where God wants you at this point in time to glorify Him. So, live out that purpose! Pursue things that matter! Glorify him in your studies!


Let me end with some ways that you can study to the glory of God. 

1. Guard your time with God in reading His word, in prayer, and in gathering with His people.

By doing this, you are showing that God is more precious than your studies -- that’s really glorifying to God. God tells us to rest, to not neglect gathering with his people. By obeying his commands, you are showing that you trust that His ways are good and wise – and that’s really glorifying to Him!

2. See the wonder of the Creator God in your studies and enjoy what you’re learning

If you’re studying science, be amazed by how complex a single leaf is! Think about how amazing it is that an egg can turn into a caterpillar, into a butterfly. What about our human bodies? How amazing is your body? Your brain? Be amazed by the solar system, the universe – think about how giant it is, how tiny we are. Think about how God provides exactly what we need here on this planet that he put us on.

If you’re studying math, appreciate how wonderfully complex numbers can get! And how math is everywhere around us, how orderly and systematic our world is. That there are rules to things. God is an orderly God.

Enjoy learning music -- thank God for sounds, for beautiful songs.

See how what you’re learning can equip you for doing God’s good works, and let that motivate you!

See how learning English and Literature can equip you to study the Bible better. Enjoy poetry and use your study of poetry to learn how to study the Bible’s poetry.

See how learning other languages can equip you to converse with many other people and be a witness for the gospel – Now, I wish I’d learnt my Chinese better!

3. Work not only for yourself, but for others.

If you know that your ultimate purpose is not to win other people, then the way you interact with your peers will look very different from other people. You won’t try to step on others and elevate yourself at the expense of others, you won’t try to sabotage other people, or hide information from other people. Instead, you would seek to help others where you can. If God has blessed you with a sharp mind that can grasp and understand a very difficult concept, find ways to help others learn it well also. But of course, don’t help people cheat!

4. Use challenges you face in your studies to grow in your dependence on God.

If you fail or didn’t do as well as you expected? Use it to turn to God for comfort and hope.

If don’t get into the school that you wanted to? Use it to learn to trust God’s sovereign purposes.

If you’re really stressed out and tired from studying? Use it to turn to God and ask him for strength

I hope these suggestions are helpful.

So, friends, how important are studies?

Your studies are very important. Not because of worldly reasons. But because God has put you in this position to glorify Him. So, don’t make your studies unimportant by pursuing your own goals that won’t matter in the end.

Don’t make your studies unimportant by slacking off and wasting your time neglecting the responsibilities and opportunities you have been given.

Make the best use of your time studying. Pursue what matters.

Study for God’s glory.