Living in Pursuit of God’s Glory

Flame-grilled burgers and theology.

To say that those two components make up an ideal date night might sound surprising to some, and perhaps even lame to others. But for my fiancé and me, the dishing out of great food and the unfolding of even richer conversation about God often results in the perfect date night combo.

Nourish the body. Nourish the soul.

One of our more recent date night conversations revolved around the events of the believer’s salvation. I posed questions like, “If God chooses us – and we don’t choose Him – then how does faith come into play?” and, “What does it mean to say we have been saved by grace through faith?”

The enormity of such questions boggles my mind, making me realize that I will never have all the answers. By the end of our dining and discussion, I had concluded a paradoxically simple, yet complex, reality: God rules justly and lovingly over creation and does so to glorify Himself. He does whatever He pleases, and it is ultimately best for His children.

I consider God’s answer to Job’s many “why” questions, understandably posed after the faithful, godly man is afflicted on every side by Satan – and at the permission of God. God replies: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” (Job 38:2-5).

I wonder what Job’s posture must have been during God’s answer. Though we can only speculate what his body was doing, we are told his verbal response: “Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

When we experience, see and read of God’s glory – whether we are reading our Bibles or talking about Him on date nights – our response should look like Job’s. We understand that we never deserved salvation, so we “repent in dust and ashes.”

But we also worship and rejoice that the great God who saved us has lovingly re-purposed our lives to pursue His glory for our ultimate joy!

Yet–

We often find ourselves consumed with the external cares of this world, investing our time, thoughts, and energy on selfish gain, vain conceit and worrying about the future. We spend our time and money focusing on temporary pleasures that will not last. We grasp at anything and everything to satisfy us and make us content. We deem man’s opinion so much more important than God’s.

We somehow make our own glory bigger, and the Creator’s glory smaller.

This inwardly-focused and self-glorifying perspective runs contrary to our new nature as Christians. It is not who we truly are in Christ! Paul writes of this identity reorientation and perspective shift in Colossians 3:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

“Seek the things that are above, where Christ is” is a command for our ultimate good. When Christ is at the center of our focus, then God’s glory is what we pursue—and not the fleeting pleasures of the world, our unresolved problems, our unsettling circumstances, nor the unanswered questions we may have.

Why does God call us to pursue His glory? “…you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v.3).  When Jesus defeated death on the cross, He broke the power of sin over our lives. We became a new creation when we trusted in Christ’s justifying work, and so we have died to our old selves. Our lives are freed from bondage to sin to now please God. He calls us to glorify Himself because our joy depends on it – and He loves us enough to give us what will bring us ultimate joy and satisfaction!

So practically speaking, what does it look like to pursue God’s glory? We can talk about the Lord’s glory over dinner-and-a-date all we want, but there is an active pursuit of it that must also take place. God’s Word is truth, providing us with the wisdom to live Christ-centered lives. Here are some thoughts on how we can daily pursue God’s glory:

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful (Colossians 3).

Glorifying the Father means reflecting His character in love, thankfulness and peace. Our everyday interactions with people, as well as our response to circumstances, will reflect what we believe about God. Staying our minds on Christ and trusting His sacrifice for us allows the peace of God to dwell within us (Isaiah 26:3). An attitude of gratefulness focuses us on the One who provides and sustains, lifting us above our daily situations to bring glory to the Father.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2).

Glorifying the Father means thinking of ourselves less and of others more. Jesus glorified the Father when He left His rightful place in heaven and descended to earth, to die a criminal’s death on a cross. Christ thought of us. We pursue the Lord’s glory when we trust that our worth is found in Him alone. Our approval in Christ frees us to love others without boundaries, while helping us rid of finding our worth in what we produce or attain.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10).

Glorifying the Father means choosing the good portion in Christ. How we invest our time and energy speaks volumes about what we find valuable. Jesus tells us that only one thing is truly necessary: Himself. Abiding in Christ – seeking to know Him better through the reading of the Word; in focused prayer; under sound preaching; within Christ-centered fellowship – is the cornerstone for a life in pursuit of glorifying God. The peace that reigns in our hearts will be related to the direction of our gaze.

Are you in pursuit of God’s glory? Whether you are feeling like Job as the storms of life rage around you; or you have just come to faith in Jesus Christ and you have a lot of questions; or you are in a season of blessing and abundance, God seeks to be glorified through your life by transforming you to Christlikeness and redirecting your gaze to His Son, Jesus Christ.

So whether over a meal with your beloved, or during a time of prayer, may God’s glory be pursued and magnified in your life!

[Post credit: Crosswalk]

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

I sit here, my legs elevated, staring at a blue hospital boot on my left foot.

Whoever coined the expression, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” was clearly living in another universe…because it is absolutely not true. Nowhere in the Bible does that statement appear. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that hardships and struggles come with an “only-as-much-trouble-as-your-strength-can-carry” standard attached to them.

Of course, this adage is an excellent encouragement for people with no need for help or rescue. But I see my human reality on a daily basis; I know that I am weak. We are weak. And often, we are indeed given much, much more than we can handle on our own strength.

As I add “blue hospital boot” to my quickly-expanding mental list of injuries, I humbly look at my Lord and Savior and admit, “I cannot do this alone. This hurts. This is digging to the very core of my pride. This is uprooting my false hopes. This is more than I wanted, selfishly. And it is certainly more than I can handle.”

Let’s face the truth: It is fooling ourselves to say triumphantly that God will not give us more than we can handle. Believing this wrongly emphasizes our own ability to weather storms and save ourselves. It assumes that God’s desire is never to overwhelm us, which would cause us to actually need Him. At best, believing this adage attempts to brush the difficult reality of our weaknesses right under the rug.

See, all of the above might boost our self-esteem for a little while, but soon we will find ourselves increasingly discontent. Because, if God won’t give me more than I can handle, then why do I feel that I simply cannot handle the hardship and pain set right before me?

No, my friends, the Bible does not say that God will spare us from circumstances that are too hard for us to endure. The opposite holds true. He has lessons for us to learn regarding weakness. Weakness is His instrument. God will give us increasingly more than we can handle so that He, in His infinite grace, can root out our sin and replace it with a deeper love for Him and His strength.

If you are not sure that you can believe this, consider the following men:

Take Moses, who was given an assignment much greater than he could manage. He was to lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, despite Pharaoh’s flagrant refusal to let them go freely. More than he could handle? I think so.

Take Job, a man who loved God, and whose entire livelihood was taken from him, including his family and his health. More than he could handle? Absolutely.

Take Paul, whose gospel-preaching ministry landed him in jail multiple times. Add to this beatings, starvation, and shipwreck, and you’ve got only a portion of his difficult circumstances. More than he could handle? Yes and yes.

The wonderful, yet difficult connection between our weakness and God’s infinite strength runs throughout the whole salvation story. Here is our reality: our Heavenly Father desires that we would share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10). And though we will never know precisely the wisdom of God, why He does what He does, we can trust this promise from Hebrews 12:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God will give us more than we can handle, and so:

We consider Christ and draw from His strength (vv. 3-4). We look to Jesus and see quickly that God gave His Son the weight of the world to shoulder, all by Himself, so that we would not need to! Our Savior knew what it was to endure hardship, all the way to the cross. And for those who believe in Him, His Spirit dwells within, providing the strength to endure hardship with trust in and submission to the Father’s will. Hardship, then, becomes an opportunity to fellowship in the sufferings and power of Christ.

We trust that all hardship stems from His love for us (vv. 5-6). When it feels like God is giving you more than you can handle, praise Him for such a loving demonstration of His grace! This might sound counter-intuitive to us, but the Bible says that God shows His love for His children through discipline and trials. How can he root out our selfishness and pride and vanity except to lovingly show us where we are wrong? This can take a million different forms. But our weaknesses showcase that God is interested in doing a more important work within our souls. That is love!

We set our hope on that which will endure forever (vv. 10-11). What might be this more important work within our souls, which God is interested in doing? God gives us plenty more than we can handle so that our hopes are redirected to the treasures of heaven. Rather than believing that we can conquer our difficult circumstances and somehow be happy, God would have us trust that His Kingdom is the only thing worth truly hoping in, and that He is producing in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness…regardless of how our situation unfolds. The things of the world cannot be trusted to endure; but the reign of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God will endure forever.

My sister, has God given you more than you can handle today? If so, I’m with you. I’m with you in all the tears and the confusion. But you and I don’t need to stay there because we know God’s truth: He will give us more than we can handle so that we rely on the wonderful, all-sufficient, hope-producing strength of Jesus Christ. Our Lord and Savior came to save weak sinners, supplying forever the strength to endure, until the day when He comes again on the clouds of heaven.

And to that I say, Amen!

[Post credit: iBelieve]

When Faith Is a Fight

Crawling through sticky taffy.

The above phrase is how I would describe my recent struggles with faith. As of late, it had seemed that the entirety of my stillness before Him was like a spiritual fight. A struggle to be real with Him. A battle to set aside my own expectations and simply revel in His awesome, joyful presence. A bout against my sin-bent propensity to lean on works, instead of relying on the assurance of grace. A fight to take hold of the faith I profess, and to trust God at His word.

Have you ever felt that way? Like faith was a fight?

Why is this? Our fallen world, our sinful nature and the presence of the enemy will be faith-stretching realities–until the fullness of God’s glory appears at the day of Christ. It is so apparent that we are not home yet, and what a comfort that is! What I am learning more clearly day by day is that, the more deeply we desire the Lord—His presence, His Word, His Son’s likeness, His promises–the more brutally we will be opposed.

A reality to consider is the timelessness of the battle we endure. Consider David, who penned Psalm 13 during a fight for his own faith (I feel as though he took the words right out of my mouth):

13 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?…

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

What a comfort to know that even David, a shepherd boy chosen by God to lead a nation, fought for his relationship with the Lord! It is a war that Christ-followers have been waging since the fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15). Because the battle we fight is a present reality, we should prepare ourselves to stand firmly in the truth.

Rest assured, my sisters in Christ, you can put up a fight! The magnificent Lord enables you to do so through His power and authority, which has the final word over darkness and sin. Pastor Colin Smith says, “It’s possible to have faith and not use it…Faith does not work automatically. It has to be engaged.”

How can we engage our faith in the fight?

David gives us three specific guidelines in Psalm 13 above for engaging in the battle at hand:

Trust in the Lord (v.5). All of God’s promises are true, wise and faithful. His love is steadfast. Therefore, we can trust that He will never leave us or forsake us (Psalm 9:10), that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and that He will see our journey of holiness through to completion at the day of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23-4).

Knowing and believing these promises means investing time in God’s living, breathing Word and asking Him for a deeper revelation of Himself through the Scriptures. When the battle comes, we can then take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) and recall to mind, by the Spirit’s help, everything we know to be true. It is ultimately the Lord’s power and authority which will cause us to stand firmly during the fight.

Worship the Lord (v.5). It is especially powerful during fighting times (and at all times) to remind ourselves of the gospel, the good news of what Christ has done for us. Revel in Ephesians 1:7-10, which proclaims, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

How can we not worship the Lord knowing all of this? Our sins are forgiven. His grace is lavished on us. His will is made known to us. The gospel has the power to dispel the darkness!

Remember the Lord’s faithful works (v.6). David recalls that the Lord has “dealt bountifully” with him. How has the Lord been good to you? Make a list of all the ways you have seen God work in your life. Consider where you would be if not for salvation in Christ; that in itself is enough! Consider also how He has been conforming you into the image of His Son.

Also consider the daily blessings God provides, His marvelous creation, the fellowship of believing friends and family, and even the dark seasons and trying hardships from which He rescued you. Read of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites, to Abraham, to Joseph and to Jesus Christ, whom He resurrected from death for our sake—what an amazing God!

God is faithful, and that never changes—even when faith is a fight. “Faith is not some inner capacity that we develop. Faith draws its strength from the capacity of our Savior” (C. Smith). Let us stand firmly and proclaim, But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

[Post credit: iBelieve]