Making the best of one’s time at University: How God provided a 100 marks

100 marks.

A full score.  

As a student whose allegiance has been long pledged to the arts and humanities, I never did dare expect this result, associating such possibility only with the maths and the sciences.

But I knew,

I knew,

my God was, and is, Capable.

And He did it.

Earlier last week, another essay was returned for a 94.

Similar phenomena had happened in the midst of my third year (last year), where I had, due to a circumstantial lack of time, written a field report on Berlin in two days (not compromising on sleep), and the same mark greeted me when I collected my paper at the examiner’s office.

So also, that time in second year, when my thumb-drive, un-backed-up, had died on me just a few days before two major final essays were due. Two months’ worth of research had disappeared into thin air, and yet my essays returned with an overall first-class.

These were a few of the moments where God had miraculously, miraculously provided what I needed, in fact, way beyond what I needed, to fulfil my academic responsibilities.

I remain simply in awe, of what God has done in this life of mine.

Before you go “Oh that’s because Theo is secretly really smart, and it’s all by chance…”

I firmly encourage you to hold your thoughts, and let my story encourage you where you are.

I write simply.

Let me tell you the miraculous story of God’s provision in my time at University.

Let me share how I spend my time here in Durham, and what it was, that led to these evidences of God’s faithful and gracious provisions.

I’ll tell you my testimony, to the glory and praise of God.

As much I hope that it is an encouragement to you, dear reader, it is also a reminder to myself, of God’s faithfulness and Providence in this life of mine.

Here. Stories like these – they stay with you for life.

A life lived for God is this: He won’t let you down.

Aviary Photo_130267295475756795

~

Introduction.

As I write, I weave in lessons I have learnt, as an encouragement to you.

First and foremost, remember to Whom you belong to, if you are a child of God.

Yearn to truly know His heart and His will for your life, and align your own heart and will with His.

With this mindset, go and tackle the university, tackle the world. Tackle the world, with the knowledge that God goes before you, and that He is beside and alongside and in you, as you walk with Him.

~

 1.      First things, don’t underestimate the importance of your study in the economy of God.

God has called us to our vocations, having planned each of our days before we were born (Psalm 139: 16). 1 Corinthians 7:17 is a profoundly important verse for understanding that God determines our various vocations: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” Wherever we are called, we are to be faithful.

One is in school to receive an education, and that’s a great privilege many people long to have. Studying has a spiritual benefit. Whatever it is you have decided to study, may be used well for the purposes of God. Almost any degree or any course — engineering, nursing, teaching, accounting, theology, you name it — can take you into world missions or local church service for the glory of God.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

The older translations render this verse, “Study to show yourselves approved.” It’s the pastor’s study of Scripture that is in view, but I think a legitimate application may be made to the student in the college classroom or the college graduate entering into a new career.

The Bible affirms the goodness and beauty of good, simple, quiet hard work. Paul commends working quietly and earning a living (2 Thess. 3:11). He says that believers should “aspire to live quietly, and to mind their own affairs, and to work with their hands.” This is done so that they “may walk properly before outsiders” and “be dependent on no one” (1 Thess. 4:11-12).

A useful article mentions the building blocks for a theology of work:

“God works.

The Bible wastes no time in conveying what it thinks about work, for it portrays the very act of creation as the work of God: “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Gen. 2:2, ESV). And lest we think God is only resting and not now working, Jesus tells us, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). God is the ultimate Workman, which loads the act of work itself with inherent meaning, significance, and dignity…

We were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27), which means that we relate to him, resemble him, and rule under him. God commands that we “subdue” the earth and “have dominion over” it. It doesn’t say “plunder and pillage,” doing whatever we want with the earth. Rather, as God’s image bearers we are to use our God-given creativity and responsibility to use the earth for godly purposes. For Adam and Eve, part of what this meant was that they were to “work” and “keep” the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15).

And the great news is that because of the Cross, those who trust in Him become transformed from those who “have born the image of the man of dust [that is, Adam]” into those who will “bear the image of the man of heaven [that is, Jesus]” (1 Cor. 15:49).

We are being conformed into the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29), which means that the work we do should reflect that reality.”

2.      Make prayer an essential part of your work. Pray and work, and work and pray.

photo 2

Always seek God and make prayer a part of your work – realise that you must consciously depend on God-given wisdom and strength for each assignment, no matter how small, how significant. Seek God faithfully in prayer.

I had prayed before, during, and after all these assignments: “LORD, please establish the work of my hands. Psalm 90: 17.” I am aware that unless I pray for the LORD to bless my work, yes He can provide still, but I would miss out on that opportunity, the blessedness of knowing Him through answered prayer.

This useful J. I. Packer video sums up the thoughts I have in one’s approach to work.

Daily work as worship:

Moved by His grace, I pray for my work and its quality to be a good witness and testimony to the LORD. A recent TGC article expounded on how and when to share one’s faith at work, and amongst these it is mentioned that God is glorified through quality work, too.

This is a before-exam prayer which I had shared earlier last year, may it be of encouragement to you who would be taking your exams soon! 🙂 Link:  http://twiyesudowo.tumblr.com/post/50286791954/a-prayer-to-god-above

This has always been my prayer, that as the exams begin and as I had committed the last remaining study days into His hands, that I will remember His Faithfulness, and remember to be Faithful. That is, to not depend on my own human abilities, nor trust in myself, but depend wholly on His grace and provision.

As George Mueller speaks of the great secret:

“Work with all your might; but trust not in the least in your work. PRAY with all your might for the blessing of God; but work, at the same time, with all diligence, with all patience, with all perseverance.

Pray, then work. Work, and pray. And still again pray, and then work. The result will surely be, abundant blessing.”

3.      If you are in academia, be a good witness for Christ in class and in lectures.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”  – Luke 12: 8-9

If you attend a secular university, it is practically guaranteed that you will face a professor who may assail Christianity in some way or another. The important thing here, on top of standing firm, is choosing the right response. You will realize that, when searching deep, there are mountains of verifiable, testable evidence which support conclusions is the fields, ranging from history to chemistry. Conclusions usually lead to a theistic (God-centred) view of reality. And so, Christians must stand up for our worldview. (I do however concur that there are certain arguments for which one’s salvation is not contingent on… and I believe every discussion must bring into it some form of Christology. That’s my stand.)

I have been blessed with really warm professors who have made four years here in Durham an incredible education experience, and whom are aware of my stand on faith. There are many chances to witness in your research and in your study. I remember that once, in a research methods tutorial, we had to practice the art of interviewing with one another in groups. I had been paired with a British friend and a Polish friend, and was open to being interrogated about different coffee-drinking habits (haha!). My research group and department here, however, has always been aware of my sincere interest in the geographies of religion, and my Polish friend suggested that I be queried about living life as a Christian at university (of all possible potential interviewing questions!) Gladly, I acceded… look for opportunities like these. Even if you don’t, God gives them to you, whether by surprise or not, and resolve to make good use of them 🙂 Indeed, in 1 Peter, it is mentioned, in your hearts, honour Christ the LORD, always being prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3: 15).

Friends who are aware of my dissertation topic for my third year do know that that was one very dear to me, where I was, by His grace, able to speak up about the importance of religion and the witness of faith in the public post-secular sphere, as well as in the private lives of workers. I am only thankful that I should have the opportunity to engage with my faith in academia, and this is only but one of the many ways one can glorify God. Counting cells and numbers, and pursuing Christian poetic literature, are also God-glorifying endeavours!

Christ spoke the truth about Himself, His Father and humanity in the face of His enemies. We must speak the same truths in the face of the same kind of opposition. And it is helpful to remember that Jesus didn’t use the same words with the Syrophoenician woman that He used with the scribes and Pharisees.

The Lord will supply us with the right words for the right people, if we ask. But we have to be willing to speak them. Ask and seek the LORD for wisdom, and He will speak through you. There are countless verses throughout the Bible which reminds us that God equips us with the words we need for every occasion.

And yes, trust me, that’s for every occasion! 🙂

4.      Accept your lot (lecturers, classmates, fieldtrips), and do not complain, but give thanks!

I have heard, and feel that it is easy to, complain about tutors, lessons, tutorials or excessive work, especially group work, where one may encounter the challenges of working in a team and balancing different work styles and personalities. For the international student, communication may sometimes be a problem. There is the temptation to feel resentful, or to grumble and complain, but don’t. There is a reason why God would place that particular tutor, or particular peer, in your life. Use that opportunity to prove yourself a faithful worker dependent on God, and give thanks in all circumstances, knowing that God is working to shape you into humility, into Christlikeness 🙂

5. Accept unexpected interruptions with grace, knowing that a Sovereign LORD always has His reasons.

In any circumstance, one will always encounter the unexpected. So, as mentioned above, I had all sorts of unexpected surprises… dysfunctional thumb-drives, sudden lap-top shut-downs, bouts of illness before major papers… and this is a recount of my challenging field trip to Berlin last year, where I had come down with food poisoning after a trip http://twiyesudowo.tumblr.com/post/45662932579/christ-has-set-the-task and last-minute emergency phone calls, etc.

Sisters drop by, friends drop by at the most unexpected of hours – never stop short of being a friend.

“I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work – one’s work for God – consists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day – the part one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it.” – Annie Keary, 1825-1879.

Emily Judson, the wife of the missionary Adoniram Judson, once said this: “Be reconciled to the minute cares. Be enabled to learn that the person who would do great things well must practice daily on the little ones, and she who would have the assistance of the Almighty in important acts, must be daily and hourly accustomed to consult His will in the minor affairs of life.”

It does one well to cultivate an attitude of mind which will enable one to welcome a person from the heart and at any time.

“She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, to the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it” – The Life and Letters of Jane Erskine Stuart

In the words of Elisabeth Elliot, there is peace, in acceptance of God’s Sovereign will.

Moving on from this… (and if not, an obvious point you haven’t already guessed… ) 

6.      Keep your Bible and prayer-book/notebook/journal nearby, at hand.

Having the word of God within reach, and indeed, when my memory fails me, is always, always a helpful thing to do. There are various Scriptural passages which bring great comfort (I am sure you have a plentiful store of your own! 🙂 Philippians 4, Matthew 28: 20, many of the Epistles and all through the Bible really) and I too have a love for really meaningful and heartening quotes, which remind me of sweet truths. I have them on hand at my study table, within reach (they are as close to me as my coffee cup! Haha). I glean these from Elisabeth Elliot, among some of my other favourite authors.

I share a few which mean greatly to me, here:

Psalm 90 is my favourite psalm for work, and especially these lines: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom… Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days… Let Your work be shown to Your servants, and Your glorious power to their children. Let the favour of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90: 12-17)

My all-time favourite:

“God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s provision.” (Hudson Taylor)

“The essence of our work as humans must be that it is done in conscious reliance on God’s power,

and in conscious quest of God’s pattern of excellence,

and in deliberate aim to reflect God’s glory.”  (John Piper)

And this beautiful hymn!

“Though the work of life be lowly,

Let me true and faithful be;

This the thought that makes it holy—

Christ has set the task for me.

Hush, O heart, thy wild ambition!

Toil, O hands, in service free!

Blest indeed is my condition—

Christ has set the task for me.

Christ, I know, will not forget me

When at length the evening falls;

From the place where He has set me

I will answer when He calls.” (J. B. Pounds, 1915)

And finally, one from J. C. Ryle, which I love and have quoted before:

Let us seek to have an abiding sense of God’s hand in all that befalls us, if we profess to be believers in Jesus Christ. Let us strive to realize a Father’s hand measuring out our daily portion, that our steps are ordered by Him. A daily practical faith of this kind, is one grand secret of happiness, a mighty antidote against murmuring and discontent. We should try to feel, in the day of trial and disappointment, Joy… all is right and all is well done. On the bed of sickness, there must be a ‘needs be’. We should say, God could keep me away from these things if He thought fit, but He does not do so, therefore they must be for my advantage. I will lie still, and bear them patiently, I have an everlasting covenant ordered in all things sure (2 Samuel 23:5)

What pleases God shall please me.”

Hope these bring great heart to you, too!

7. Take regular breaks if and when you are able – look outside, to the greenery, to the clouds!

I never do compromise on sleep. Even when I had been rushing my Berlin essay in 3rd year, having to complete a total of 10 pages with appendix and bibliographies in two days, I kept faithfully to my at-least-six-or-seven-hours of sleep routine. That of course, is an extraordinary circumstance (hopefully never repeated!) Haha. My point is to be made, however: Don’t compromise on sleep.

I think it was Tim Keller in his book “Every Go(o)d Endeavour” which gave me the insight that resting as an act of faith. I am reminded that I am first a Christian, then a worker. The LORD had declared a Sabbath day of rest, and so I must find this in the week as well.

I remember this one time during the exams, when I wondered if I should accept a gracious invitation by my ‘adopted’ church family over to lunch, or to catch up on unread articles. I made the better decision of the two, and had come away greatly encouraged by nuggets of wisdom gleaned from them. Read about this day here! 😀 http://twiyesudowo.tumblr.com/post/50847859916/remembering-gods-faithfulness

Earlier last May as well, I had another summative (counted) essay due in the week after my dissertation was submitted, and time was pressing hot on my heels. Yet, given the long slew of essays I had recently completed, I felt that I needed to take one day’s proper break. And I did ask, in faith, for one day of rest in the week before I plunged deep into my work again.

This day, was the BEST day I had in the Spring of 2013. Join me here on my journey with God to Barnard Castle and the High Force waterfalls! :D: http://twiyesudowo.tumblr.com/post/49425866104/a-day-i-shall-never-forget-his-love-divine

Image

Curious about these lovely old ladies and I? Do read the story linked above!

Image

High Force Waterfalls, an affordable (and possibly free!) bus-ride away 

Take long walks in the parks if there are any nearby, and be in wonder at His creations. I love taking lone walks in the woods by the River here, as well as doing something as spontaneous as running outside to watch the beautiful night sky of stars (and in better times, snow!

9498_10152085000136988_2063768192_n

Do click here for a compiled album of a glimpse of my morning walks in the snow: https://www.facebook.com/theophilia.yyf/media_set?set=a.10152013083491988.495404.660781987&type=3 ).

Worshipping the LORD in the beauty of His Creation, because He is all Praiseworthy for what He has done for us in His Love, in Christ Jesus.

Remind yourself why you exist, who You are in Christ, and the Great King whom you serve. Good breaks, taken in faith, make the return to studying all the more joyful and peaceful. You have my word on this.

~

And here, I wish to make this final and most important point,

which makes University life, in essence, the most fruitfullest that it may ever be:

8. Take my word that there is no other time than now for campus ministry, that is, to go all out for the Gospel.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to give your time, to invest your life in genuine participation in the life of a church, and for full-blown evangelical outreach in love for God’s people.

There is no joy outside of knowing and loving Jesus, and serving Him. Jesus’ loving command is clear: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28: 19).

This will take an incredible amount of your time at University, but know this: it is worth it.  

I will be honest. In my first year here in Durham, at age 19, by God’s grace I did think that I attended church rather ‘faithfully’ every Sunday – but that was that. Nothing more. I was one of the grand total of the committed 5 in a little Singsoc Bible Study group which met fortnightly then, a group which eventually dwindled and dispersed because everyone had different schedules.

I realized then that I needed to find a place where I could grow and serve (for in serving, I grow), and I found that in the International bible study group “iFocus” in Christchurch Durham, the church I had been attending. I made the decision then, to be more committed to a serious study of God’s word, and to invest in the genuine participation in the life of a church. We had started off with a group of 7 (God’s perfect number! 😀 ) meeting in a lovely British home, and it has now grown and expanded over the years, have changed leadership and now meets weekly in church (We miss the nostalgic old times of huddling up cosy with homemade cake and tea and our Bibles … But what to do but to praise the LORD for its exponential expansion!) 😀

Image

Ladies’ table here at iFocus, credits to Kiesha 😀

& A lovely memory of our iFocus- get-away held in December 2013, where we had a Bible overview and lots of great talks surrounding key Christian topics.

Image

Credits to dear Daphne 😀 

On this note, settling in a good church, where the exposition of Scripture is central to the preaching and life of the congregation, is important. A church where one gets to practice what it means to serve as a body of Christ, where leaders take seriously their responsibility for overseeing souls in their care, and where members submit to that care, and care for each other. For no one has seen God, but if we love one another, we see God, right? Take this seriously. In rooting yourself in one church (to all church-hoppers out there, I hope this serves as a useful piece of advice), it is a declaration that you want to be cared for spiritually by the congregation, and you too pledge to care for others. It is a place of accountability, encouragement and positive, corrective discipline practice. And above all, this is done in love, for one another, as we build up and encourage one another in our faith as the Day draws near (Hebrews 10: 24-25).

Christchurch Durham, has been that for me. And I am thankful, that a gracious God had so stirred my heart to be a more active participant in church, towards the end of my first year (I was a slow learner). I now share the fruits of being part of a Bible-based, fellowship-growing church 🙂

In my 2nd and 3rd years, God had begun to place a good burden in my heart, towards pursuing evangelism in the University campus, on a more intentional and intensive level. Previously, until age 19, I would agree that I had been quite a passive person, and did not particularly enjoy public God-talk. My faith was a pretty private affair – Sure, people knew I was ‘Christian’ and went to church, but that was about it. Having been the boisterous ‘cool’ wild-haired kid in JC (JC friends would chuckle here… haha, what a young dudette aye, I was pretty hippie indie-carefree then – it’s only the grace of God that I would have grown to resemble somewhat of a toned-down feminine person today (do feel free to disagree). Few would be aware of the theological conversations about spiritual life and living that went on underground with some classmates of mine, but sadly, they were more a matter of intellectual arguments, rather than motivated by a humble faith). Despite having been on several mission trips early on, I was never an active ‘evangelist’, but that was until, the marvellous grace of God found me! (As it does all His children) =)

God had opened the doors to a ministry specifically catered to international students who were studying short-term (a year) here, mostly from the great land of China. Being Singaporean means that I am thankfully fluent in Chinese and English, and that amuses a great many people overseas (People are often surprised at our command of English/Chinese, both ways!) I used to attend iClub (Christchurch), and it used to be, and still is, a group which meets every Monday in a local venue, where one has the opportunity to pick up one of the books of the Gospel and learn about Jesus Christ, a very attractive Person (if you would take up the invitation to get to know Him). Many other brothers and sisters in Christ serve on the team now!

Sincere and genuine friendships, however, take time and investment, and as a church leader once told me, it’s the meeting of my new friends outside of Bible study in ‘personal work’ where Gospel work bears fruit – I find that one-to-one meet-ups outside of these general studies, helps a believer, and pre-believer, to talk through difficult issues in a more comfortable, relaxed environment, and gives one the space and privacy for personal sharing, the answering of personal questions. And of course, and crucially, the sharing of personal testimonies (always the best testimony one can use, in any situation. For a personal story of how God has touched your life, is much more meaningful than a generic sharing, I feel. It’s the real sharing of the heart, which will move people, and that’s by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit). God is Good; the multitude of cosy and affordable teahouses here in Durham greatly facilitate such meetings!

In addition to this, active participation in campus-wide ministry is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you should not miss. Mission week by the Durham University Inter-collegiate Christian Union happens once a year here in Durham, and brings students from different churches together for the sake of the Gospel. It consists of a series of talks, with invited speakers who address key issues in Christianity, and its great chance to invite your pre-believing friends to find out about Jesus over free lunches and dinners. I once had the opportunity to share my personal testimony before an international speaking event, and it is a joy to relive how God had brought me to Him over the years.

(Do click here, http://twiyesudowo.tumblr.com/post/42992950524/testimony  for an abridged version of my personal testimony of coming to Christ).

A 24/7 prayer chain goes on before that (for prayer is the secret to missionary success!), and its amazing to see how many people sign up to intercede for lost souls and to pray God’s promises, of His Sovereign Mercy to save, back to Him. And to see Him faithfully answer them, of course! ‘Mission week’ continues through the year, however – this is a great chance to step-up on evangelism, but its often the follow-up and the loyalty to friendships, which makes the difference. There are lots of opportunities to continue open up your doors (and your heart) to friends – I love having people over for lunch and dinner, and Singaporean dishes are always enjoyed by Chinese friends 😀 I love cooking in the oddest of times too (everyone probably knows I prepare most dishes with my favouritest Lao Gan Ma chilli, introduced to me by my Chinese friends. I had found the bottle selling in the local Cambodia markets in December too… and was I greatly superbly delighted!!! 😀 )

It’s been very humbling and great blessing to personally witness three ladies come to Christ thus far – Renee, Nicola, and of most recent, Vera. He has also brought to Himself many dear friends from Malaysia, and that has been an amazing testimony to the Lord’s work here in Durham. Lots of people continue to find Christ in University. God is so worthy of praise, is He not, Christian? There is mighty power in Jesus’ name to save – and one must really and truly believe that 😀

christmas

With Chinese sisters and friends, credits to Zin Sze 🙂

Exercise wisdom in these – ask God prayerfully. God honours the posture of one’s heart and intentions. Not every circumstance lends itself to giving a good witness – e.g. going out on the streets to talk about Jesus late into the night might not work the night before a final paper. Don’t fall prey to the legalism and burden of guilt – it is all circumstantial, and require wisdom. There was a time that a 2-hour getaway at iClub was a great breather I could take from writing an essay due in the week (and a great reminder of the Gospel’s power to save and the blessing I already have in Jesus!), and there was another time where I fell sick and had to juggle papers and therefore decided that the better move was to stay home, and pray for the session going on instead (I believe prayer is the best gift one can give someone, especially in times like these). Pearls before swine, yes? In all areas of student life, Christ-like character in the face of challenging situations may just be the opening the Holy Spirit wants you to use. Be sensitive to His leading, and ask when the right time is, to go out for the Gospel.

photo 2

Belabouring on the point above, therefore, trust me when I say, make church a priority. Making church a priority is not something one should leave behind in your home country or private life or wherever that it is, but wherever you are, for work or for school or otherwise, make church a priority.

Never skip church for the sake of studying/working. I agree that when I was much younger, the temptation was strong to not go – I could always ‘meet God at other times’. But no, never miss church for the sake of something less. Going to church even amidst stressful times near essay deadlines has always refreshed me and reminded me of my Saviour’s great Love and providence in my life. Sharing with others at church and being blessed with prayer gifts, make me smile at God’s goodness and how He ensures that the Christian journey is not one which one walks alone, but together as a community, a body of Christ. I draw lots of comfort in the reminders that God is Faithful regardless of the circumstances, and He will provide what He knows that I need, and I can trust His Sovereignty. And hey, especially so, that I can expect no richer blessing than what I already have in Christ (Ephesians)! 😀 God always blesses your time in church, and go to church, to be a blessing and encourage others as well. Sign up to serve in areas like welcoming, or to make coffee and tea, or the praise team if you are musical in the least. I have found being on the welcoming team a very joyful endeavour – and that is when you rely on God-given cheerfulness to welcome members to the house of God for worship (and on occasion, to invite passerbys in, too!)

Attend your weekly Bible studies, and look for opportunities to serve and love one another. We have a small and warmly knitted community here at iFocus for international students, as well as a second weekly Bible study called ‘TnT’ (the 20s and 30s Bible Study group that I had begun to join this academic year, but have left off for awhile due to a busier second term, but which I am re-participating in again (thank God for the chance to do so!). Having grown spiritually over the years, by God’s grace, I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as a rotational Bible study leader for iFocus, and that involves attending SLOBS (Senior Leader’s Own Bible Study), amongst other little things one can do to serve – such as help in meal preparations for the pre-study dinner fellowship, study set-up, or pack down afterwards (washing dishes is a great time to catch up with friends too!).

We have thus far worked through many books, and are currently looking through the book of Matthew, one of the four gospels telling the story of Jesus Christ. The in-depth study of the Beautitudes (living as salt and light) has been very humbling and convicting as we are reminded like living as salt and light in the world is not to be ‘excellent, prim and proper’ believers, but rather, admitting our daily, constant need and dependence on the Cross which saves (for in ourselves we find nothing, but in Jesus, everything). It is always important to work through the Bible together with other believers – you can cross-check your understanding and encourage one another in a faithful and rightful study of the Word, and that is nothing short of being a great blessing and encouragement to the Christian soul.

With this, therefore, know the importance of keeping accountable to your church family.

‘Church’ extends beyond a Sunday, and through the week – Make time to meet with sisters or brothers in Christ through the week to encourage one another in each’s spiritual walk. This may be people who are part of your study table, or maybe another lady whom you got chatting with having sat next to her in church 😀 I currently read through the Imitation of Christ (one of the BEST books I’ve ever read, so good, its been read many times over – highly encourage you to get your copy, (Oxfam sells this for 2 pounds)) with another sister, and meet others through the week for times of blessed prayer and fellowship. Meeting someone new – a new brother or sister in Christ – and learning about each other’s lives (so different) is always insightful and encouraging, as one shares about how God is uniquely working in one’s life, your hearts are mutually strengthened and encouraged too!

I am ‘adopted’ as part of a church family programme which pairs up students with local families, and go over to their house once a term to enjoy fellowship over a meal. These experiences have been nothing short of wonderful – you can read about my experiences here: http://twiyesudowo.tumblr.com/post/39255952550/gods-surprise-present

Image

Sun was in our faces then…. an abundance of Sun! 

Image

Cheeky smiles are very generously offered, when they do pounce upon woodlice discovered in the garden =D

I have got meeting plans almost everyday this week, and cannot wait already! (Little things like that to look forward to greatly spices up one’s week) 🙂

Make these meetings intentional. That is, going beyond casual surface talk, to being lovingly intentional about listening and encouraging each other in their walk with Jesus. Someone once distinguished between these two: when one meets with non-Christians one calls it “friends meet-up” and any meeting with a bunch of Christians is called, by default, “fellowship”. That’s quite true of my categorisations I think. But a meet-up, I believe, is not fellowship if one does not share about how God is working in one’s life. Encouragement in the fellowship of the Spirit must follow! I am a person who thinks through conversation with people, meaning: I think as I speak. So sharing and edifying really helps me to think through my own feelings and experiences, share them in a safe space, among people whom I trust, and thankfully, I have always gone away from fellowship meetings being greatly encouraged and heartened by my sisters and their sharings – women talk a lot in general 🙂

Skype home regularly! It is a great way to counter homesickness (I miss Singapore for the people, less so the food!). If you, like me, straddle life between two continents (Singapore and the UK), make time to catch up in fellowship and prayer with loved ones, family and sisters back home. Regular skype sessions (I hold several weekly) helps keep one in touch with situations back home, and are therefore ‘updated’ with one’s lives. We all know that which happens when people don’t keep in touch for a long, long time… the friendship inevitably dwindles and by the time one meets in person in the Summer holidays, so many important moments are no longer ‘important’… which is okay in the general sense, but my point here is this: Friendships take effort and take time, and so, make time for them. My heart is always one-part-Durham, one-part-Singapore. 🙂 God has been very good to me – blessed with sisters and family and friends back home, and in other continents, never does a week go by without an out-of-Durham fellowship connection.

Here for a set of funky Skype fellowship photos!

http://twiyesudowo.tumblr.com/post/45289116637/d-just-a-couple-of-the-skype-sessions-that

Image

Image

Image

Image

Above: A montage I’d put together last year, where each person told me something which meant a lot to me 🙂 

Now, FaceTime helps greatly and is so incredibly instant!! (So is Facebook!!) 

*Of course, I have handpicked the above randomly-taken photos where people are generally smiling in good golden times. Know however that the Christian walk is not always a bed of roses, tears have been shed when hearts are poured out, and of course, then, if one is sane, one won’t be wanting to snap Skype shots (perhaps, just maybe, the sunshine after the rain when you want to mark a memorable time, when tissues cleared away and cheery-faces fill the picture again).

Anything you’re not sure of, call, email, Whatsapp, Skype Home (p.s. if you didn’t know, I was quite the late discoverer myself, you can now call and video call through Facebook!) When you have important questions that require prayer and careful thought, call Home. No one will have your best interest in mind quite like your parents, spiritual parents and family cheering for you in the walk of faith.

Pray for mentors and be on the lookout for them. If in God’s providence, parents or family are not immediately available, look for members of your church family who are spiritually mature and desire to see Christ exalted in your life and choices. I have greatly blessed to walk through difficult and joyful times and learn under the guidance of my shepherds, Uncle Leonard and Aunty Doris, and as well as two dear ladies (the wives of Singaporean pastors studying here), Angie and Beng Kwee. Prayer times and blessed conversation with them help me survive, and it helps greatly that they are Singaporean 😀 God has been extremely gracious to put these older mentors full of wisdom in Spirit in my life, and I can only thank and give praise to God for His faithful provisions. Pray for mentors, and be on the lookout for them. I am sure there are older men and women who are praying for mentees, too. And God matches people up in His providence!

Without community, we die. We cannot make it in this race we’re running if we try to do it on our own. To avoid being any of the soils that failed to produce fruit in the parable of the sower and the seed, we have to work together. Without the accountability, fellowship and support other believers provide, the soil of our heart will never be fertile enough to bear much fruit. (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-25; Luke 8:4-18). Without ministry, and opportunities to serve, one’s Christian life cannot grow, either.

Therefore, now is the time to be aware of how high a priority church attendance and Bible study is to a Christian at university, to running this Christian race faithfully. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate.

The point is this – doing all of the above, necessarily takes an abundance of time.

But I cannot lie – this is how God has worked in my life here at University, and the above, for me, is a priority. And He has blessed my time here in Durham very greatly.

~

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

This is really the first, the continuing, and last thing to do as a Christian at University. Trust God in everything.

University is a great time. You make your own schedule, choose your own friends (or God chooses them for you 😉 ), create your own curfews, and truly be on your own.

Charles Bridges, a famous English pastor during the 1800s, offered some very helpful words on Proverbs 3:5-6. He wrote:

“Always plan for yourself in simple dependence on God. It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without His counsel. He loves to be consulted. Therefore take all your difficulties to be resolved by Him. Be in the habit of going to Him in the first place — before self-will, self-pleasing, self-wisdom, human friends, convenience, expediency. Before any of these have been consulted, go to God. Consider no circumstances too clear to need his directions. In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let Him be supreme.”

Trust the Lord in everything. There will be every worldly temptation and seduction, every fleshly deception posing as advantage and “wisdom,” that subvert continual trust in the Lord. Resist them. Oppose them.

Go to the Father in the Word, in complete reliance on Him and His promise.

Four years will mould you, break you, reshape you, refine you. But trust that God will use it for His glory. Dig deep into the Word, get on your knees daily. You will need God’s abundant guidance, protection and grace. Continually be open and sensitive to His calling, and let Him guide you. Remember your life is His, and your plans are subject to change (be flexible, knowing that He knows what is best.)

Remember to think outside of yourself and continue to cultivate Kingdom-thinking that outpours into actions for God’s Kingdom. If we are to have an influence for Christ in the intellectual and cultural life of the world, we need to represent unbelievers with a solid witness for Christ on college and university campuses.

Pray that He will use you mightily as a testimony to people around you, remember you represent Christ in your actions, words and all else, big and small.

“Jesus Christ teaches that if we have had a work of grace done in our hearts, we would show to our fellow men the same Love that God has shown to us” – Oswald Chambers

The University is your mission field. Don’t make the excuse that you will start serving God after college. Start serving Him wholeheartedly now, wherever you are. There’s no better time!

The world crowns success, but God crowns Faithfulness.

I hope that my sharing and testimony would have blessed and encouraged you.

God would provide just what you would need. You can trust Him to know what’s best. You need to go all out for God as what He had lovingly commanded in the Bible, and you trust Him to provide you with all that you need, as He moulds you and grows you into the likeness of Christ, until that day of Glory.

This is a call to live radically for God at University. Make full use of your time at University to live it well, and live it full, for God.

100 marks, was beyond what I had expected. It was beyond what I needed, to continue with my University studies. With my time spent as shown in the above story, you can see, and hopefully understand, that how this score was even possible, was beyond what my mind could conceive.

And yet, this is the GOD who is Capable of blessing His children, in this manner, as He so pleases.

God has been very gracious to me in these University years, and may my sharing only be an encouraging testimony to you, for His glory. If you’d like to hear more of my stories (there have been more amazing stories of how God has brought me through challenging and wonderful situations), do feel free to message and ask away! 🙂 I will only be humbly glad to share, how God has been so faithful, in walking through with me, through the valleys and the mountains of this, that we call Life.

Indeed, I write this to myself too, to remember that this same God will see my through all the other years of my life to come, (and the one more year of school which awaits in Singapore!) and remember, that His faithful providence extends to every area of life. 

My life is, now beautifully hidden, in Christ with God.

Know this, believe this: This is the same Faithful God working in your life.  

The same faithful God as revealed to us in the Bible, and the same God who will deliver you wherever you are, redeem, and embrace you in His Love.

~

“Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ,

who has blessed us in the heavenly realms

with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Ephesians 1: 3

~

God could well choose to with-hold that 100 marks. God could. There are times in my life where God had taken things away, and whilst those times had been hard and I had struggled, not knowing why, but to trust,

I look back each time from how far I had come, and realize,

how Faithful, Good and Loving He had been.

This is my testimony.

This is the God I trust.

This is the God whom I hold dear.

And this is the God I Love,

because He first loved me.

There is no situation, too hopeless for Him.

We are to stand to declare that God is greater than anything that anybody is fearing,

and that’s the great Joy of the Cross.

photo 3

~

This is the work of my Awesome God.

And its my prayer, that you reading this, will be encouraged, and come to put your full trust,

in Him

who was, is, and will always be,

Faithful.

Advertisements

One thought on “Making the best of one’s time at University: How God provided a 100 marks

  1. Pingback: “How blessed is she!”: My True Wretchedness, & Understanding Grace | la vie et les temps d'un escargot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s