This is a verse that many remember from the wording in the King James Version: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." The modern translations take care of the change in the meaning of the word "study" from seventeen century English ("Be diligent to present yourself" NASB, "Do your best to present yourself" NIV). What Christians have too often forgotten is the One ("unto God") who does the approving (2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 10:18; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6).
An occurrence at seminary underscored this. On a rare occasion when picking up a date at the women's dorm, we heard a crash in the bushes and what sounded like a baby crying. Having heard cats sound like babies crying and knowing that they often crawled on window screens, I said that it must be a cat that fell off the window screen. Several women went over to the sound so that I didn't think anything of it until later. I found out that a woman had actually thrown a newborn baby out of the window to hide that she had been pregnant. By God's grace, the baby was ok.
It is not hard to believe that someone whom God called to serve might slip into an unacceptable lifestyle, but that she believed it was worth taking the life of her child to hide this sin and retain peoples approval is quite shocking. How could someone who desired to serve God get so far away from seeking God's approval to worry only about people's approval? Yet I as so many others were more concerned with the things that get people's approval than God's. I was obsessed with keeping high grades to get into the Ph.D. program. I worried about people being willing to hire me. Yet, where was God in all of this? What happened to living acceptable to Him? It grieves me how I was so much more concerned with academics than living a life pleasing God.
While in college there was a friend who didn't impress people that well and struggled in school. He had lived ok by our society's standards, but immoral by Biblical standards before coming to Christ. Later when called to preach, he asked his pastor how he could he be a pastor after having lived immorally? The pastor reminded him that we are all sinners saved by grace. It is who we are now in the presence of God that matters. Thus, he answered God's call and started studying Bible in college. His main concern in college was pleasing God.