Dan. 1:17; James 1:6; 1 Kings 4:29; Ecclesiastes 2:26
“For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 2:26, NIV
“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.” – 1 Kings 4:29, NIV
“God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom.” Daniel 1:17a, NLT
It is no doubt that God has an indispensable role to play in the life and success of every individual on earth. Those who acknowledge and submit to Him and His will are like efficient surfers who ride the waves amid the storms. The scriptures in Daniel 1:17, 1 Kings 4:29, James1:6 make it clear that God is and the author of all wisdom, and therefore as His children, we have an incredible advantage for academic excellence; since we are made in His image and likeness. Dan. 1:17 is a popular verse which many know and even use for prayers but don’t actually look further to examine the lives of the characters. In this article, we explore the characteristics exhibited by Daniel and his three friends, which will become a blueprint for us in achieving academic exploits invariably making us powerful tools and effective arrows in God’s hands.
Before proceeding, it is important that I establish the fact that our pursuit of academic excellence is not an end in itself but a means to a greater end. As believers, acquiring knowledge and scoring higher on standardized tests and examinations are not the ultimate goals of learning. Paul puts it this way, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”( Eph. 2:10, NIV). Just like warriors make use of arrows to achieve a purpose, in this case usually to attack the enemy, so is every child of God in God’s hands. Our excellence in academics is to achieve a purpose for God. As Christians we are to glorify God with our lives – “… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. (Mat. 5:16).
When God becomes visible in the life of a man, it becomes easy for his message to be accepted. If as a student, you perform very poorly, it naturally becomes difficult to talk to a friend about Jesus but when you are sound and perform excellently in your academics, it provides a platform for witnessing as well as gives a good representation of God.
Principles of Academic Success
1. Relationship with God
“He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God”(Dan. 6:10, NLT). Having a relationship with God is the foundation for a successful Christian life. Your relationship with God defines how successful you become in every aspect of life. In the case of Daniel, he had consistent times that he spent with God. For him, it was a daily affair, not something he did once in a while or when he needed things from God. Most times, the excuse we give for not having time with God is that ‘we are very busy’ with lectures, school work especially during assessments, tests and examinations. Daniel knew the importance of having quality consistent time with God, such that when his life depended on it, it was worth it!
It is also important to note that God is completely interested in us.
The key to a successful relationship with God is consistency. How can we then be consistent with God? I’ll share two major things that would help us develop consistency with God:
a. Schedule time
Schedule time with God. It takes effort to find the time and energy to connect with God on a regular basis – just as it does with any relationship or anything that matters. The truth is we can find a few minutes to be alone with God, but we have to be intentional. Think of it as though you’re scheduling time for attending lectures. Our commitment is not reflected in the number of days we can check time with God off on our calendars; nevertheless, it does matter that we consistently set aside time to sit with Him.
Consistency doesn’t mean a boring routine either. Don’t be afraid to change your habits. What time of day offers you the best chance to have a clear mind and the ability to focus? Are you still using the same devotional guide even though its message doesn’t meet you where you are? Have you been doing the same thing for years because someone said it was the best way? Decide what works (or doesn’t) for you. Explore a new strategy, and don’t give up if it seems hard at first.
b. Go quiet
Christ often went to solitary places to pray (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12). May be leaving your room sometimes to find solitude in order to shut out the noise and put yourself in a position to hear God isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it’s essential. Remember that each moment is another opportunity to reconnect with God, step away from the same old routine, and invite Him to do a new thing in your life.
The more we spend time with God, the more our lives take positive turn. “And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him”.( 2 Cor. 3:18, MSG). “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”(Ps. 13:20, MSG). What do you think will be the result of ‘hanging out’ with God who is wisdom Himself?
2. Hard work and Diligence
“But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” John 5:16.KJV
“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15, NLT.
“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” Prov. 22:29, KJV.
God Almighty works, Jesus works, if then we are the children of God then we must work and follow our father’s example. Arrows being shot are expending energy (work done per unit time) therefore to be effective arrows in academics requires work to be done diligently (attentively and persistently).
Having a relationship with God or responsibilities in church or fellowship, is not a licence to be lazy. In fact, it should be a motivation for hard work. God ises obviously not lazy, so why should we? All through the bible, it is evident that God doesn’t support laziness. Therefore, if you are to represent God in your academics, you have to be hardworking and diligent to produce excellent results that bring glory to God.
Someone once said to me, “to know if you are diligent, check where/whom you are standing before”. Prov. 22:29 says (paraphrased) if a man is diligent in his business, in this case academics, he shall stand before kings and not before ordinary men”. God indeed wants to place you before great people but if you are lazy, you leave with no option than to do otherwise. Why do you think scholarship conditions are usually for high performing students? No one would like to associate with and commit resources to low performance; everyone loves to associate with excellence.
Despite the fact that Daniel was in a foreign land, he rose above challenges of the times and setbacks. He exhibited the following characteristics:
Hardwork and diligence involve determination. You must be resolute in your heart to excel. You must be ready to do what is lawfully necessary to succeed. Daniel decided (even if it meant rejecting the food of the King) not to indulge in activities that do not glorify God. You do not have to be present at every event! Only be involved in activities and events that would have positive impacts in your life. Live a life of focus.
People with focus are not found roaming everywhere. You have to set realistic goals for yourself each academic year. Pen down the scores you want for each of the courses you are taking and put it somewhere you can see everyday so you can daily challenge yourself.
You have to be repeatedly consistent with your work. Many students start the semester being serious but do not continue with the level of seriousness they began. Daniel and his friends were committed to living a disciplined lifestyle. Don’t get distracted from pursuing the goal of excellence. Constantly remind yourself of God’s expectations as well as your written goals and plans.
Daniel served three generations of Kings and his testimony was excellent in all. He did not at any point slack in his lifestyle but was increasing in his pursuit. It is natural to get weary, tired and discouraged but when we look at our written plans, surround ourselves with like minds and commit our ways to God, we become strengthened and pull through.
This is a crucial part of the hard work. You have to study. And Daniel understood through books… In other to be relevant, Daniel had to study the books. He did research and not only relied on revelations he got. Many students do not study but rely on residual knowledge. The few that study do not go the extra mile to consult other relevant materials but stick only to what the lecturer gives. However, to be an exceptional student, it is imperative to go the extra mile. Make sure you daily go through whatever lectures you have had for the day. Find your study rhythm and habits and stick to it.
d. Good company
Bad communication corrupts good manners. Surround yourselves with people of like minds. Don’t move along with people who are not going anywhere. Study together, practice past questions, encourage one another. Remember, Daniel had three friends of like minds. It is also good to have people with better understanding around you so you can learn from them. Iron sharpens iron
To be successful academically, the place of prayers is very important. When Daniel and his friends were faced with difficult situations, they took the matter to God in prayers. It was during prayers that God revealed the solution to them. It is possible to get revelation about assessments, tests and even examinations when we pray.
Also, since the weapons of our warfare are not canal, we need prayer backup to deal with whatever plans the enemy might have to impede excellent performance. Cases where the enemy places obstruction in any form, such as difficult lecturers, sickness, marking mistakes by lecturers, or whatever it might be can be resolved and conquered in the place of prayers. Likewise, difficult topics can be brought to God in prayers for easy understanding.
God wants to showcase you to the world, so that you can bring glory to His name. He therefore expects you to stay close to Him, be hardworking and diligent.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11, NIV