Threats, Exams, Deadlines, and Eternity

I heard about London Theological Seminary a few days ago, so I checked out their website.  It's a school that specializes in training men to preach the Word of God.  It seems to be a very purist school, holding to some ideals that a lot of students (and probably professors) talk about but that are hard to apply.  For instance:

The examination system with its attendant emphasis on diplomas and degrees has been rejected. If the threat of examinations is what keeps a man diligent in his studies, it may certainly be questioned whether he has been called of the Lord. The same thing applies if his supreme aim is the possession of some qualification.

(They qualify the above statement by saying, "This does not mean that degrees and diplomas have no place.")

I would assume that most Christian students and teachers would agree with these principles: (1) I ought to question and change my motivations if the threat of exams and deadlines is the main thing that makes me work hard; and (2) I ought to be concerned about my purpose and perspective if my primary objective in school is gaining a certain degree.

However, "the examination system with its attendant emphasis on diplomas and degrees" along with grades and deadlines is rarely "rejected."  It's just the way education is done (at least in the West).  Practically, it seems to make a lot of sense.  My point is not that exams and grades and deadlines and degrees are evil.  It's the student's heart and motivation that matters most.  But there are some very serious spiritual and practical dangers that accompany this system of education.

I have often been bothered by my own deadline-diligence and grade-lust.  I don't like the fact that I often work harder and better under (earthly) pressure than I do when that immediate pressure isn't there.  And I hate it when an assignment that should take two hours takes me four just because I had two extra hours to give and I didn't concentrate as hard as I could've during the first two hours.

I'm not into rushing assignments or "just getting things done" or "just passing the class."  I wish I had more time to let things soak, to review, to meditate.  But I also know that the pressure of a hard deadline often produces more excellent and timely work than a "get-it-done-when-you-can" assignment.  The question, though, is: should it be this way?

I want to work hard because of the Bema Seat grade that's coming.  I want to labor to the point of fatigue because my job is to get the gospel to people who are approaching the Great White Throne deadline.  I want to concentrate on all the work and ministry I do (not just the pressing work) because it's my responsibility to help prepare the church for when she'll meet Christ her bridegroom.  I want eternity, not just graduation, to be my commencement.  I want a heavenly reward, not just earthly scholarships.  I want to please my Master, not just my professors.  In short, I want to have the perspective represented on London Theological Seminary's website even in the midst of end-of-the-semester pressure.  I want eternal reasons to fuel what I do and how I do it.

And the great thing about this is that if my life is truly driven by heavenly motivations, my Bible professors will be pleased, because I will do excellent work.  If my eyes are fixed on the Lord's evaluation of me at the end of my life, I will approach my studies with a mentality that will usually earn good grades.  If my heart longs to please my Master, I will study hard for my upcoming exams.  This isn't an either-or issue.

But it is an issue where self-examination is important, because none of us is free from the sin and folly of short-sightedness.  We naturally give in to grade-centeredness and "senioritis" and summer laziness and the "I'll-do-that-tomorrow" disease.  We all wake up in the morning with an earth-bound mentality that forgets eternity, neglects the brevity of life, and minimizes the seriousness of our calling.

So if you have things to do today, work hard at them and do them well.  But do them for the right reasons.  Meet your deadlines and get your grades, but fix your eyes on the ultimate deadline and the Final Evaluator, lest you arrive there and stand before the King and realize for the first time that your work was shoddy and half-hearted and time-wasting — except when it was due tomorrow.


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