I have always felt that one of the big, umbrella prescriptions and descriptions for our Christian lives comes from Paul’s words: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). The “glory of God” is the big story of our lives! All we are and all we do should focus on honoring, praising, and glorifying God! This was captured in the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647): “Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” A little child got it a bit wrong by giving the answer that our “chief end” is to “glorify God” and “endure him forever…”! It’s “enjoy,” not “endure”!
Our life’s purpose is to advance the glory of God! How do we follow this purpose?
The Presbyterian, Puritan theologian, Thomas Watson (ca. 1620-1686), had wise suggestions about ways we can “advance God’s glory” [A Divine Cordial (London, 1663), 82]. What does it mean to “glorify God”? Watson said that “when we do what in us lies to lift up God’s name in the world, and cause others to have high reverential thoughts of God, this the Lord interprets a glorifying of him” (81). When we live for God, speak of God, and share God with others—we are glorifying God. This is what God desires.
Watson discusses three ways of advancing God’s glory.
Aim at God’s Glory. We should make God “first in our thoughts, and the last in our end”—meaning God should be the purpose of our actions, the One in whom all our actions begin and end. For “as all the Rivers run into the Sea, and all the Lines meet in the Center, so all our actions terminate and center in God” (82).
Do we live this way? Is God our “first thought”—or do we move first to think about what an action or our deeds will mean for us? Is God at the center of our thoughts and actions? Is our first impulse to ask if what we intend to do, or do—is lifting up God’s name in the world and leading others to reverence God? Is God the beginning and the end of what we are aiming at and seeking to do in life? Our lives and all we do should begin and end…with God! God is the one on whom our attention should be fixed. God is our focus. We aim at God’s glory!
Be Fruitful in Grace. Watson points out Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8). So “we advance God’s glory by being fruitful in grace.” We dishonor God when we are “barren”—when we do nothing and do not grow in God’s grace by “bearing fruit.” Jesus’ disciples “bear fruit” when they follow Jesus’ way and will; when they do God’s will in all things; when they show the love Jesus taught and came to bring. In this way, by God’s grace, others will experience God’s presence in their lives and they will be drawn into the love of Jesus Christ. “Bearing fruit” is the result of God’s grace at work within us; and of our efforts to honor God’s name and purposes in our lives as disciples of Jesus. Are we seeking to “bear fruit” by God’s grace? Are we advancing God’s glory by following Jesus’ way and sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ with others? We seek to be fruitful in grace!
Give all Praise and Glory to God. When we “give the praise and glory of all we do unto God”—we are advancing the glory of God. All we do, we do…for God. We acknowledge God in all we do, giving God praise and glory—not ourselves!
Watson provides an interesting illustration of this focus on humility and giving all praise and glory to God. He wrote: “When the Silk-worm weaves her curious work, she hides her self under the Silk, and is not seen. When we have done our best, we must vanish in our own thoughts, and transfer the glory of all to God.” Like the silk-worm, according to Watson, we do not emphasize or bring attention to, or seek glory for ourselves—we do our work, even in “unseen” ways—then we “transfer the glory of all to God.” This reminds us of John the Baptist’s words in relation to Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Watson points out that for the apostle Paul, through all his labors—“the Apostle pulls off the Crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of Free-grace”: Paul acknowledges “it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” which enabled Paul’s work—all to the glory of God! Remember the silkworm! Do we give God the glory through all we do, seeking to advance the glory of God?
So Watson concludes: “Let us endeavour to make the name of God glorious and renowned. If God seek our good, let us seek his glory; if he makes all things tend to our edification, let us make all things tend to his exaltation” (83). Are we seeking to advance the glory of God? Do we aim at God’s glory in all things? Are we being fruitful in God’s grace? Do we give all praise and glory to God? God grant that we all will seek to advance the glory of God!
Dr. Donald K. McKim currently lives in Germantown, TN and is an Honorably Retired minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Some of his publications include: (with Jim West), Heinrich Bullinger: An Introduction to His Life and Theology (Wipf & Stock, 2022); Everyday Prayer with the Puritans (P&R, 2021); Everyday Prayer with the Reformers (P&R, 2020); Living into Lent, new edition (Westminster John Knox Press, 2020); Everyday Prayer with John Calvin (P&R, 2019). Several of his other articles can also be found at The Presbyterian Outlook https://pres-outlook.org/