I remember the first time I truly understood the meaning of the phrase “to glorify God.” Although I have been engaged in full-time ministry over the last 7 years, regretfully, I only began to give a thought to how and if my life was giving glory to God (or not!) about two years ago.
For me, doing God’s work had always been an end in and of itself. Ministry was always about the “doing” and the task list: Lead people to Christ. Disciple believers. Evangelize in the community. Serve in my church. My efforts were always action-oriented and results-driven.
While action is always necessary and positive results are certainly cause for rejoicing, if these two things become the end goal, ministry is reduced to simply another form of striving for success. It’s no secret that in our world today, one can “climb the ladder” of achievement not just in the corporate world, but also in Christian ministry.
Two years ago, I was very much humbled reading the book “Desiring God” by John Piper. I felt that the Lord used that book to teach me what is meant by the concept of “glory” and also to re-think the way I live my life so as to make Him the focus of everything I do.
John Piper said it this way…
“God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is.”
This quote challenged me, as a member of the global Body of Christ, and made me question: As Christians, are we living our lives to make God look great (that He may receive glory), or to “make a name” for ourselves (or our churches or families)? That was the sin of those who created the Tower of Babel in Genesis. Yet today, thousands of years later, many of us are still building “Babels,” striving to reach the heavens, with our eyes fixed not truly on Christ, but on receiving honour and recognition for our hard work.
The Bible has much to say about work and ministry that is not done with the primary intention of bringing glory to God. Isaiah likens our “righteous works” to “filthy rags.” 1 Corinthians 3 states that all of our works will be “revealed by fire” and burned up if they are found lacking at the end of days. Even if we exercise spiritual gifts but “do not have love, [we are] nothing,” according to the same book (chapter 13). And that is the key—love must be the motivator of our ministry. Not simply a love for people (as wonderful as that sounds), but first and foremost, our heart’s burning passion must be for God Himself.
“Soli Deo” is a foundational concept of PIONEERS International as an organization. It is the essence of our first core value of “Passion for God.” Our passion is not for missions, but for “God alone.”
The story of Mary and Martha in the Gospels is a powerful analogy of how we are meant to live “Soli Deo” lives. Many Christians, especially industrious Singaporeans, are most comfortable being “Martha’s”—driven by constant work, always keeping busy at our tasks and striving for our goals. Yet Jesus clearly saw Martha’s striving but did NOT commend her for it. Instead, he pointed out her sister, Mary, and said that she had chosen “the better thing.” What did Mary choose to do? She was not hard at work serving the Lord, but instead, she was simply spending time in the presence of the Lord Jesus, worshipping Him. Worship of God is THE most important thing we can devote our lives to. Although we all need to work, we must never neglect worship. It might not seem “productive,” but don’t be fooled—the simple worship of spending time with God through his Word and through prayer is never a waste of time.
What about you? Are you living a “Soli Deo” lifestyle—devoting your life to worship (not worshiping work) and seeking God’s glory (instead of your own) in all that you do?
Take some time this week to think about how you can live out “Soli Deo.” What perspectives need to change? What might you need to do differently? What might you need to surrender?