glory

To God Be the Glory?

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There’s a beast within me. It’s hungry, demanding, and jealous. The beast desires applause. It seeks glory, acclaim.

The beast is me.

THE BEAST WITHIN

I want everyone to know how hard I work to organize service projects. I want people to look at my children and think about what a great mother I am. I get angry when someone steals the spotlight.

The beast is insatiable.

And this beast is inside all of us. We’re all glory seekers.

We were made to chase after God’s glory (Isa. 43:7), but sin distorts this God-given desire into a pursuit of our own glory. Our chase changes course. We’re like the dog who runs around in circles chasing his own tail. Our eyes are fixed on ourselves and the vanity of our chase eludes us.

THE GLORY OF GOD ECLIPSES THE BEAST

My heavenly Father frees me from the clutches of the beast. He frees me from fixing my eyes on me, and from the desire for everyone else’s eyes. More than that, he invites me to lock eyes with him—and when I do, I behold his glory.

Beholding his glory changes me (2 Cor. 3:18). His glory is full of grace (John 1:14), and it transforms what I want and what I value.

His glory is full of truth. And the truth is, his glory makes mine much less appealing.

When I behold the beauty of God’s glory, I’m no longer invested in my own greatness; I want the world to see the greatness of my God.

BOASTING IN STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS

In his book Radical, David Platt writes, “God actually delights in exalting our inability. He intentionally puts his people in situations where they come face to face with their need for him.” When we exalt our insufficiency, we boast in the sufficiency of Christ.

So I’m free to be bold in my weakness, knowing that when I’m weak, I’m strong (2 Cor. 12:10). I can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5). My insufficiency doesn’t discourage me, it empowers me because his power is perfected in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

My weakness can be a spotlight for who’s extraordinary—almighty God. My shortcomings as a parent showcase God’s glorious grace in my children. My openness about gluttony highlights God’s power to break every chain of bondage when I’m no longer a slave to my appetite.

Seekers of his glory are not motivated by selfish ambition, but holy ambition. We want to make Christ known. In the book, Alive in Him, Gloria Furman says we are, “dying to ourselves in every way for the sake of making Christ’s name famous in all the cosmos.” We don’t want people to look at our social media posts to notice our greatness. No, we want to use our social networks to, “proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Our boast is in the Lord, not in ourselves (1 Cor. 1:31). We want to show the world our neediness for God because our neediness brings him glory. We are, as Martin Luther said on his deathbed, “mere beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.”

CELEBRATING OTHERS’ SUCCESS

The beast in me doesn’t like sharing the spotlight with anyone. It wants me to outshine everyone else. It’s threatened by the successes of others. But when I seek God’s glory, I celebrate all the ways and means he chooses to reveal it—even if he does it through someone else.

When I’m more concerned with God’s glory than my own, I rejoice when others succeed. They’re not a threat to me and my glory; they are evidence of God’s glory shining through them. We are one body in Christ (Rom. 12:5). We are co-laborers in gospel work. We rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom.12:15). Your successes are my successes, and vice versa.

When I struggle to get a single article published and my Twitter-friend gets a book deal, I thank God. May he bless her with words to encourage his people. When I struggle financially and my friend’s husband gets a promotion, I praise God. May they bless others as they have been blessed. I can rejoice in God’s grace in other moms whose children act angelic in public while mine are perfecting their defiance.

I can celebrate these evidences of his grace in others’ lives because I love God’s glory. I desire to see his grace cover the earth, including Twitter and my friends’ successes. He uses us in different ways to glorify himself. We should champion—not compete against—one another. God gives us the grace to cheer one another on in the faith: “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Ps. 34:3).

LIVING TRANSFORMED

The world tempts us to build a platform; God invites us to build his kingdom. When we’re building his kingdom, ours loses its attractiveness. His glory becomes my pursuit.

When I’m more concerned about God’s glory than my own, I live out of the transformational grace given to those who behold his glory (2 Cor. 3:18). His desires become what I want. His thoughts become my thoughts. My words start to sound like his—edifying and life-giving. I don’t live for temporal, but eternal, pleasures.

God alone has the power to transform me from a seeker of self-glory to a seeker of his glory. The world tells me to take care of me and mine, but God is glorified when we look to the interests of others (Phil.2:4). The world says we should keep to our own kind, but we bring our Father glory when we embrace people from every tribe, tongue, and nation that will make up our eternal family (Rev. 7:9).

STOP LOOKING AT ME

A.W. Tozer said, “The glory of God always comes at the sacrifice of self.” If everyone is looking at me, they’re not looking at Christ. When I seek my glory, I’m working in opposition to the gospel. When I care more about God’s glory than my own, it’s my joy to sacrifice my desires for his greatness.

Father, give me the desire and the means to make your name famous, and not my own. Be big in my smallness; strong in my weakness. Unite your people to display your glory together to the ends of the earth.

Slay the glory-seeking beast within each of us—and start with me.


Christy Britton is a wife, homeschool mom of four biological sons, and soon-to-be mom of an adopted Ugandan daughter. She is an orphan advocate for 127 Worldwide. She and her husband are covenant members at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. She loves reading, discipleship, Cajun food, spending time in Africa, hospitality, and LSU football. She writes for several blogs, including her own, www.beneedywell.com.

Killing Social Glory-Seeking Hearts

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“We didn’t seek glory from people.” Or did we?

One of the darkest dangers of the Christian life is the pursuit of praise. We want people to affirm and recognize us for who we are, what we have accomplished, and the results of our efforts. Perhaps rightly so.Our culture at large gives renown and praise to celebrities for who they are, what they have accomplished and the things they have produced. We taught that if you want your life to matter, you have to have people pay attention.

Our culture at large gives renown and praise to celebrities for who they are, what they have accomplished, and the things they have produced. We taught that if you want your life to matter, you have to have people pay attention.

Disciples devour and dwell on the things of God found in the Scriptures. We pray. We kill sin in our lives. We serve others.

Consider the incessant reality of social media today. Masked as a vehicle with which to share your life with your “friends” these channels have become self-glorifying platforms in which we project ideal versions of ourselves for the world to like, favorite, and adore.

Forbes Magazine reported a recent study from the University of Houston that found that the “highlight reels” of social media were linked to higher rates of depression among users. Our social comparison of each other creates a culture in which everyone seeks to be the celebrity.

Even think about the videos that have gone viral across social media platforms. We call it “transparency,” but it is a kind of voyeurism and narcissism that causes a couple to share live on video everything from their kids spilling milk at breakfast to a heated argument, to the sad realization that she has just had a miscarriage. All of this to get clicks, likes, shares, and a social platform of celebrity.

We are seeking glory from people!

So how do we overcome this sort of glory seeking? Paul, writing to the Thessalonian church in one of his first letters sought to demonstrate this sort of challenge that he himself faced, and the remedy for that sort of glory seeking.

In a high charged socially-aware and omnipresent world today, we have to think through how to defuse our social-glory-seeking-selves. Paul gives us three remedies to the illness of social-glory-seeking.

We Live in Gentleness Among the World

In the context of Paul’s ministry he is speaking of the way in which he and his missionary team conducted themselves among the new believers there in Thessalonica. The paradigm he uses is that of a mother and her small infant child. He describes his relationship with the people there as, “gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thess 2:7).

Set in opposition to the glory-seeking orators and thinkers of Paul’s day he postured himself as someone who would hardly be celebrated or recognized in the world—a nursing mother.

Most mothers I know don’t get a lot of platform and social praise for the labor they do in raising children. Gentle mothers aren’t usually lifted up in our culture as the kinds of people that we should aspire to be. They aren’t the paragons of society, influence, and renown. Yet this posture should be the very first posture if we are to kill a social-glory-seeking virus among us.

You can’t build a platform or make much of yourself when you’re busy being present with people and listening to them. Pastors and ministry leaders who embody this don’t get to Instagram and selfie their every counseling conversation, tear-filled pleading for repentance, broken-hearted funerals, and hours of labor alone in a study listening to and pondering over the Word of God.

These kinds of leaders often do most of their work without Twitter announcing to the world their efforts, or a live-stream, webinar conversation with empowered leaders and entrepreneurial dynamos. The social-glory-seekers get those. This kind of leader humbly, gently works among his people feeding, shepherding, and loving them.

We Yearn For The Good of Others

Paul says that a second remedy to the heart illness of social-glory-seeking is the compassionate longing for the good of others. He describes his ministry this way, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you…” (1 Thess 2:8).

Paul’s affectionate desire was a deep yearning and ambition for the good of that church. He truly loved them. The context of his ministry there and the conflict, persecution, and strife that befell him as he ministered to the Thessalonians knit their hearts together. As they went through the deep waters of adversity and struggle, they were bound up together in love and compassion.

This affliction-born affection radically changed the perspective of the relationship. We often like to envision Paul’s missionary journeys as being some sort of multi-city tour where he would book a venue, have a big entertaining gathering, amass a crowd, preach the gospel, and see hundreds if not thousands get saved.

He stuck around for a few days with a discipleship class, and then off to the next town to raise up the next evangelistic crusade power-assembly. How wrong we would be. His visit to Thessalonica was anything but that. Acts 17 paints the picture of civil discourse in the Jewish synagogue turned into a violent mob and a harrowing late-night escape to the next town. Nothing self-aggrandizing in this ministry but a beating from jealous religious zealots.

But this affliction-soaked ministry birthed deep love and concern for the good of others. Ministers that care only for the glory of the platform don’t worry themselves with the street-level stuff.

Seeking glory from people means working to make sure that people affirm and like you, not that you care about them. Paul saw the hostility and the rage against the new Christians firsthand in this city, and it moved him to compassion for those people and that city. Social-glory-seeking would count Paul’s work as a loss and a failure. He saw it as a means to love.

  • Pastor, do you care for the good of those in your church?
  • Do you yearn for the fruit of the Spirit to be prevalent among the flock of God?
  • Have you shown up unannounced at the home of a friend who is living in folly to try and wake them out of their stupor?
  • Do you pray with the lonely, elderly, sick, and shut-in? Or do you only care about the “wins” (blasphemous term!) of ministry and celebrate the numbers of success; attendance records and fiscal prosperity?
  • Are you intertwined in the affliction of ministry or just the successes?
  • Or are you busy retweeting the rave reviews of your books, declaring where you’re speaking on the tour next, and the fiscal perks of your work?

Killing the social-glory-seeking heart that is present among the ministerial ranks requires an affectionate yearning and care for the good of others.

We Share Our Lives, Not Just Our Message

No one will say that proclaiming the gospel isn’t necessary, or even important. However, an insidious trap has been set by our enemy. In a social-glory-seeking world we’ve been deceived to believe that our message of the gospel is a product with which we can dispense to the world, build a platform around, and amass a pop following of glory with.

But if we’re not seeking glory from people, why do we act like the stage is the pinnacle place of ministry in the world today?

Paul’s remedy is very different. “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:8). For Paul, living in community was essential to defeating the monster of the glory-seeking me.

Sharing lives, not just messages required that people knew him, and that he made himself known. The believers at Thessalonica became part of Paul’s life. He had friends, he had meals with them, he shared everyday stuff of life.

Social-glory-seeking however creates false barriers. It puts out only the best and brightest of our lives for everyone to see. We may feel that we are “sharing our lives” but it’s never our failures, never our sins, never our weaknesses or losses. It’s always our wins. Does anyone really know us?

To kill this kind of glory seeking requires an imbeded-life together. We have to be known; we have to be sharing of ourselves—our joys, our worries, our frustrations, our aspirations, our true selves with others. I worry for leaders and pastors who are not in community life with people in their church.

They don’t express hospitality to the church; they don’t attend or participate in normal small groups; they create bubbles and barriers of protection and circles of trust that isolate them from the crowds, unless everyone see their faults and weaknesses.

Killing Social-Glory-Seeking

I am convinced that the postures of gentleness, affection, and imbeded-life together will keep us from seeking the glory that comes from people. We won’t have time to get caught up in seeking praise.

Instead what will result, especially among pastors and leaders, is hard work that engages the lives of the people in a community and church and the effective advance of the gospel at the street level.

These attitudes will produce a church life that is ripe for revival and gospel-advance. It will bring a contagious movement of the Spirit of God that will produce fruit for generations to come.

It won’t end with a celebrity parade or self-sticked spiking of the ball to tell everyone how great you are. It will conclude with honor, praise, power and glory to the King of all Kings—Jesus.

“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

Reflections

  • Pastor, do you care for the good of those in your church?
  • How has social media contributed negatively to your spiritual health? Positively?
  • In what ways have you sought glory from others?
  • How do you overcome the social glory-seeking?

Jeremy Writebol (@jwritebol) has been training leaders in the church for over fourteen years. He is the author of everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present (GCD Books, 2014) and writes at jwritebol.net. He is the pastor of Woodside Bible Church’s Plymouth, MI campus. 

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