Thursday, May 18, 2006


As one of the tallest boys in class, I was expected to play basketball. So from the fourth through the sixth grade, I dressed, practiced and played in almost every game. In three years of play, I scored one basket. The whole school cheered: it was a glory day.

Of course, the actual accomplishment of one basket in three years could not begin to compare with the vast accomplishments in my mind. For in every game during those three years, I spent most of my time sitting on the bench and imagining that I achieved amazing feats of athletic prowess, bringing the whole school to their feet in admiration. In my dream world, I enjoyed endless accolades for one victory after another.

It’s nice to be glorified.

Whether for beauty or skills or intellect or performance most of us like to be recognized, to be lauded, to be praised. My overactive imagination gravitates toward new ways of winning esteem and glory. In fact, it seems that whatever activity is at hand, I suddenly become the mental hero in the midst.

If I am watching a spy movie, it’s just a matter of minutes before I begin envisioning my own escapades among the notorious enemies. Soon I’ve rescued the captive, captured the enemy and saved the day. A small parade in my honor might be appropriate.

When I felt called to preach, I imagined that I was being commissioned to launch a new reformation on the scale of Martin Luther’s project. Standing before a congregation of the faithful, I envisioned uttering such powerful words that people fell to the ground in tears. Like Taliesin of old, my words would clench the tongue of every person in the room, as conviction spread like wildfire.

Even sitting in the hospital room, I’m pretty good at finding glory. I see myself fading from this life and passing from this world to the next. As doctors and nurses and family and friends gather round the body of this poor dear soul who died so young, I suddenly come back to life. Light streams from my body and everyone trembles in the glory.

We live in a world that lusts for honor and glory. From jobs to church to family to the community, we want recognition. We want someone to say that we are of value and that we matter, that we make a difference. We yearn for a glory that others will recognize and acknowledge.

But the glory of this world is fading. The trophies tarnish, the memories fade, the light dissipates. As the poet reminded us, it is better for the athlete to die young with his glory still in tact than to die old and watch it gradually fade over time. Whether he dies young or old, it will fade. He will be forgotten.

Paul says, But he that glories, let him glory in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17). There is so much conflict, so many self-esteem problems, so much discouragement that comes from the longing, the frustrated craving for honor and glory here and now. But glory is due to the Lord alone. Outside the light of God’s glory, I have no lasting glory. It is all temporary illusion.

The truly free person can let go of glory. She can be overlooked. She can be forgotten. All claims to honor and glory and success can be stripped away and she can still rejoice. The human heart is so subtly evil that we can glory in anything. We cry out for revival and if revival comes, we glory in our accomplishment. As we fall before the Lord in humble repentance, we glory in our brokenness. Whether in disaster or in success, we can still find a way to glory in self.

The Lord strips us of all glory except his own. We have no true glory. It is all illusion. Isaiah was a prophet who used his tongue to proclaim the holiness of God, but in the presence of God, he realized he was a man of unclean lips. The very thing he offered as a thing of glory was unacceptable outside of God’s grace.

The only one worthy of glory is the Lord. It is the Lord’s work. It is the Lord’s love. It is the Lord’s victory. We glory in him alone. The mystery is that God’s glory, God’s love, God’s presence completes, sustains and will ultimately meet my deepest needs. Our need for significance, for acceptance, for value comes from His unconditional love.

Success and failure are temporary conditions. What looks like a success today could be disaster tomorrow. And what seems to be failure after failure after failure might simply be the prelude to a great achievement. Our challenge is to be faithful in what we are called to do and then rest, trusting God’s purposes, God’s love and God’s glory alone.

As I learn to rest in God’s glory alone, I can let go. I am free to embrace humiliation along with exaltation. Like Paul, I can say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).


Milton Stanley said...

Amen, Doug. Overcoming our cravings for glory is a big step in growing in discipleship.

That said, your post worries me a little bit. I know you've had some serious kidney problems lately, and your references to hospitals and dying are a little unnerving. How is your health?

Vicki said...

Found you via Milton's blog--such an excellent post. It causes me to realize many things tonight and I thank you for expressing God's heart so well. The Lord bless you and continue to glorify Himself in you.