February 26, 2018 • Life for Leaders
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
According to Ephesians 1:11, we exist for the praise of God’s glory. For much of my life, I assumed this referred primarily to the things we did in worship services at church. In our prayers and in our singing, we praised God. So, I read Ephesians 1:11 as saying, in effect, “You exist to go to church and sing hymns and songs. That’s the core purpose of your life. Everything else is secondary.”
Now, let me be clear, I am quite fond of singing praise to God. Often in a worship service, I am deeply moved, and my love for God is deepened when singing rich lyrics to beautiful music. When I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I helped to lead four worship services each weekend. This meant that, if you were to add up all the music from the four services, I spent about an hour and a half each weekend singing praise to God. I was singing more praise than most people in the church, probably more than most Christians in the world, for that matter (although some Pentecostals I know are just warming up at an hour and a half of singing!). It was great for my soul to spend so much time praising God’s glory in song.
But is this what Ephesians 1:11 envisions? Was praising God in corporate worship the core purpose of my life? Would my life have been more glorifying to God if I had quit everything else I had been doing so I could spend all of my waking hours singing praise to him? I have sometimes heard preachers who seem to envision the ultimate Christian life in these terms. They equate living for the praise of God’s glory with the activities of corporate worship. Everything that happens outside of the sanctuary is of secondary value. At best, it’s preparation for what matters most: worshiping God in church.
But I would suggest that this is not the meaning of Ephesians 1:11. As we’ll see later in the letter, there is one verse about singing to God (5:19). But there are dozens of verses about how we are to live each day. This ratio does not imply that singing praise is insignificant. But it does remind us that we exist for the praise of God’s glory. We are called and privileged to glorify God, not just in singing and praying, not just in doing things we identify as “spiritual,” but also in every part of life, in every action, every thought, every feeling. Just think of how different your life might be if you began to think of glorifying God as the core purpose of everything you did.
We’ll keep working on this in this week’s devotions. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.
Something to Think About:
So, how would your life be different if you thought of every facet of it being for God’s glory?
How might you do your work today (paid work, volunteer work, housework, homework, etc.) differently if you were doing it for the praise of God’s glory?
How is it even possible to do “ordinary work,” like selling shoes or creating spreadsheets or washing dishes, in a way that praises God’s glory?
Something to Do:
Several times today, stop and consider what it would mean for you to live in that moment for the praise of God’s glory.
Gracious God, you are worthy of all the praise I could ever offer, the praise of my lips, my heart, my mind, my body. You deserve praise when I gather with your people for weekly worship. And you deserve praise when I’m hard at work, or when I’m hanging out with my colleagues, or when I’m eating dinner with my family, or… you name it.
Help me, O God, to learn how to be for the praise of your glory. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
What Is God’s Glory? Part 2
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, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
A number of years ago, while immersed in the gospel of John with Bible Study Fellowship, I had an experience with John 14:13 as Jesus’ words spoke to me and clearly shared the same truth you have expounded on today. In verse 13 Jesus says, “…And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father…” It seemed to me then and still today, that Jesus answers our prayers and through those answers is bringing glory to the Father. When I fail to pray and ask God for “greater things” as stated in verse 12, I am not providing an opportunity for Jesus to glorify the Father but when I obey Jesus’ words directing me to “ask in his name”, I am providing an opportunity for God to be glorified as Jesus answers my prayers. Therefore, what I ask for and what I am able to do provides a path for me to glorify God inside and outside of my church life. Thanks for reminding me of this truth found in Ephesians I:11.
Linda, thanks for that comment, and for showing how another passage of Scripture leads in the same direction. Good to hear from you!