I had an experience many years ago when I was in my last year of university studying accounting. We were encouraged to sit for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam before we graduated, and while we were still in study mode. So I went along with my classmates to take the three-day exam. I passed everything but Business Law. I had to wait six months to re-sit that part of the exam. By that time, I had a job and had to juggle study and work. I squeezed in my devotions when I had time. I found myself struggling spiritually, which really shouldn’t have been surprising, as I was starving for spiritual food. I took the exam again at the end of six months. I felt very confident. After all, I had put in a lot of study time, and now I was sure I had passed this time. I finally got my results: I had failed again. I was crushed. I had put so much effort into it this time. It definitely wasn’t my subject.
As I thought through the experience, I knew I had sacrificed my time with God. I had failed the exam, my job was not going that well, and I felt kind of empty spiritually. Since that plan had obviously not worked, I had six months now to prepare for the next exam. So, I decided that I would do my personal Bible study first every day. If I had any leftover time, I would study for Business Law. If I had no time, I wouldn’t study for the exam. No pressure on myself. I thought, I’ll put God first and leave it all in His hands.
Work became busier. My performance on the job really improved, and I was happy, really at peace. However, I had very little time to study for Business Law. I decided to take the exam at the end of the six months anyway. I knew I was unprepared, so I wasn’t stressed out at all. I took the exam, and I knew I had failed this time, but I didn’t care. God was so much a part of my life that I gave the whole thing to Him. I didn’t even look for my exam results this time because I knew I had failed. When the exam results came back, I was so surprised. Not only had I passed, but it was one of my highest passing marks on the entire exam.
This experience really taught me about grace. I didn’t deserve to pass. God did that for me, just because I had put Him first. He had fulfilled to me the promise, “them that honour me I will honour” (). It also reminded me of the promise, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” ( ). I also wondered how this could have happened? Then I remembered this passage, “In searching out the various parts [in the Scriptures] and studying their relationship, the highest faculties of the human mind are called into intense activity. No one can engage in such study without developing mental power.”— .
“Those who consecrate themselves to God, and who have the protection of His grace and the quickening influence of His Spirit, will manifest keener intellectual power than the mere worldling. They will be able to reach the highest, noblest exercise of every faculty.”—That I May Know Him, p. 8.
The issue really wasn’t whether I had achieved something or not, but what I had been forfeiting in trying to get ahead. “It is well and essential to obtain a knowledge of the world in which we live, but if we leave eternity out of our reckoning, we shall make a failure from which we can never recover. It will be as the knowledge gained by eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree.”—In Heavenly Places, p. 137. [Emphasis added.]
How many times have you sacrificed your relationship with God to achieve something in your studies or in this world? If you achieved it, were you satisfied? A friendship with God is worth more than money, fame, or academic achievements. You gain a peace that no man can give or take away. Try putting God first today. He will give you back much more than you give to Him.