At the moment, many students in Bristol are in the midst of exams. It’s the time of year when arriving at the library at 8.30am sharp is no longer enough to secure a study space; when you’re up all night with your books instead of your friends, and when caffeine intake goes through the roof. In a culture that seems motivated by a desire for success and fear of failure, how can faith in Jesus alter how we approach our work?

It can be easy as students to compare ourselves with others, especially at this time - we can’t help measuring how much revision our course mates have done or how prepared they are for the essay deadline. We compare and despair. Yet looking not inwards or outwards, but upwards, offers us something entirely different.

Someone who calms the storm with a word, promises to never leave or forsake us and in whom are hidden every treasure of wisdom and knowledge. As Charlie said a few weeks ago, if we measure ourselves the way the world measures, we will never see ourselves as Jesus sees us.

We can also so easily fall into the performance trap. Yet there are no results you could get that would make God love you any less or any more – He loves you because of who He is, not because of what you’ve done. Jesus passed the ultimate exam for us by living a sinless human life, taking all our unrighteousness upon himself at the cross and imputing His perfect record onto us.

When we feel restless to prove ourselves, He reminds us that it is His righteousness that covers us, and that nothing less would be enough. He wants us to find our rest, security, satisfaction and identity in Him.

In terms of evangelism – be real. As Christians we can feel ashamed because we claim to know the Prince of Peace, and yet behave exactly like the rest of the world when the exams and deadlines begin looming. Sharing with friends about how you actually feel, but also what you know is true and can hold onto, despite the way you feel, is so much more powerful than just pretending.

Practical tips:

* Pray – students, before you start the essay or start the day of revision, invite God into your work. Acknowledging Him as the one who knows absolutely everything about the subject you are studying, and asking Him to help you work for His glory and not your own, will help gain perspective. Psalm 46:10

* For the rest of the church – also pray! Also if you can, send an encouraging text on the morning of an exam, maybe with an encouraging verse. This can really mean a lot as it shows the person you’ve remembered and that you’re praying for them.

* Breaks are great! Eat lunch outside, go for a walk ...

* Study with people – as long as you know they won’t distract you. It makes the long hours in the library seem less scary.

* If you’re stuck for study space, the Meeting House (home of Emmanuel City Centre) is open during exam period every Thursday 8.30-6pm for students to work in. There are bacon sandwiches for breakfast and WiFi is available.

- Kerry Bowler