Living Coram Deo: A Positive Example

By Mark D. Roberts

August 2, 2017

The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.”

Genesis 7:1


The face of someone looking upward.

In yesterday’s reflection, we focused on the phrase in Genesis 7:1 where the Lord said that Noah was “righteous before me.” This notion of living “before God’s face,” translated from the Hebrew literally, has inspired God’s people throughout the centuries. Christian theologians often use the Latin expression coram deo, meaning “before God,” to convey the sense of living all of life in the presence of and for the pleasure of God.

I mentioned yesterday that when we think of living coram deo, some of us immediately think of our sin and how we displease God who looks upon us. This is one part of what it means to live before God. But I would suggest that an even more important and powerful aspect of living coram deo has to do with delighting God, giving God pleasure through what we do. I remember the telling line from the movie Chariots of Fire, in which the Christian runner, Eric Liddell, describes his running in this way: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

Living coram deo can indeed motivate us to excel in righteousness. I think, for example, of an experience I had while in high school. I was a shot putter on the track team and achieved a measure of success even though I was one of the smallest shot putters in the league. In one dual meet, I faced an opponent whose personal best was almost exactly the same as mine. I knew I needed to put the shot farther than I ever had before if I wanted to be assured of victory.

As I was getting ready to compete, I looked up into the stands and was surprised to see my dad there. He knew it was a crucial meet for me and had gotten off work early to cheer me on. Seeing my dad excited me. I wanted to excel, not only to win, but also to please him. The adrenaline flowing in my veins because I was competing “before my dad’s face” empowered me to set my personal best in the shot, which was just enough to win the event.

If we recognize that we are living “before God’s face,” and if we believe that we can please God through our actions, then this will motivate us to do what is right, not just to avoid what is wrong. A coram deo consciousness will inspire and encourage us to live for God in everything we do, to achieve greatness for his purposes and pleasure.


In your work as a leader, do you ever think of being coram deo?

If you were convinced that God is present in your life today, and that you have the capacity to give him pleasure, what might you do that you wouldn’t do otherwise?

Can you think of some specific ways you can please God today in your work?


Gracious God, as I take seriously the fact that I am living “before your face” today, may I be inspired to give all that I am to do. Show me along the way how I can please you. May everything I do, say, think, and feel honor you and contribute to your work in the world. To you be all the glory! Amen.


This post originally published on August 11, 2015.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryGod’s Covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:1-19)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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