THIS MONTH, as I begin my four years of university life, I am both excited, and yet fearful of the culture I am about to be immersed in. The challenge of university is an enticing one, but there is the innate fear of failure. After all, the mentality in the Singapore education system is: “Either you make it, or you don’t.” The pressure is immense.
Yet, the question that resonates within me the most is one regarding my faith: How can I keep following Christ without succumbing to conformism, to peer pressure, or to the demands of university education?
In the recent Trackers 2013 programme, organised by the youth wing of Trinity Annual Conference, I was placed in an environment where I experienced God daily. This was an amazing experience which I desire as a constant feature of my life.
However, can I really keep seeking God so consistently, so consciously each day, especially with the expectations of university life?
First, there’s the rat race that everyone is in, but no one wants to acknowledge. In Singapore, everyone is paranoid about their grades. Those who say otherwise are either enlightened, crazy or a combination of both.
While I agree with the Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, that a degree is second in value to character and attitude, the ugly truth is that to survive in the Singapore workplace, you need a degree. Not only that, you need to graduate with first-class honours.
At least, that is what society signals to us. Little wonder that everyone puts so much unhealthy emphasis on pursuing that piece of paper.
The next hurdle is student life, or more specifically, peer influence. God created humans as social beings, needing interaction and communication with other humans. The danger is in prioritising this interaction over our relationship with God.
You may meet friends who disapprove of any mention of religion, others whose values may clash with the teachings of Jesus, and even some who are simply indifferent. The point is, your faith will be challenged.
As a Christian, you will be scrutinised in the way you speak, the way you act. You will be pressured to go with the flow, to do what everyone else is doing in order to get approval and be accepted. Can you truly rise above and do what is right and godly, rather than what is popular?
Lastly, time is in short supply for university students. It is very easy to get caught up in university life and “not have enough time for God”. But there is no shortcut to cultivating a relationship with God – it requires time and effort. For those of us with poor time management, this is a very real threat to our Christian walk.
So how do I intend to be the exception, to excel in university life and still actively seek God?
The cliché but effective solution is to manage time well. As much as I hate planning my time, I admit that it will help me build my relationship with God and also set aside time to serve the needy. This will allow me to spend time with God while still doing well in university and having a social life.
Always put God first, and never take your eyes off Jesus. Remember: God may have called us to be students but He first called us to be His children, through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hence, nothing should be of a higher priority than God.
In Jeremiah, it is stated that God has plans for us, to give us a hope and a future. Hence, trust God. Trust that the Creator knows what is best for you. Trust that the Father will only give the best to His children.
Hebrews 12 says: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
This is the race that God has called us to run, a marathon through the Singapore education system. I intend to finish this race while glorifying God. What about you?
Thanks, Benjamin, for sharing your reflections with us in response to our call to readers to contribute to MM. Email your submissions to email@example.com and we’ll publish if appropriate!
Benjamin Soh, a freshman at the Singapore Management University, worships at Covenant Community Methodist Church.