Looking out over my snowy backyard, I fondly recall one of my favorite springtime activities -- \ planting my container gardens. I use plants that spike up, plants that fountain down, flowering plants, and foliage plants. Each year I mix the pots up a bit but, I always include a coleus plant. Coleus is a gorgeous foliage plant but there’s always a struggle with it. The coleus wants to create flowers and go to seed which will end its life cycle. I don’t want this to happen so regularly I go through my containers and pop off any flowering growth. Unfulfilled, the coleus will continue to produce gorgeous leaves. While working to maintain this beautiful plant, I considered how specifically this little plant knows its purpose and works to fulfill it. Do you long for that? Have you ever wondered at the world around you and thought, “Why am I here?” or “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” If you’ve thought that, you aren’t alone. Philosophers and scholars have pondered these questions. Thousands of self-help books have promised to help readers find the answers. They tell people to find something they love, seek to make themselves whole, make themselves happy, help each other, and the list goes on. Wouldn’t it be great if we could know our purpose specifically?
According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the chief end of humans (our purpose) is to glorify God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 was the school verse at the Christian school where I grew up so it was something I quoted every day for several years. Despite all that quoting I still had an incomplete understanding of what it meant to glorify God or how that was achieved. Some said it was by doing excellent work and performing to the best of our ability. This seemed to fall flat because everyone can (and should) do a good job and work hard. How does that glorify God? Now my son attends that same school and his class chose that verse as their class verse. Never truly having understood it and desiring to find a simple way to explain what it means has lead me to spend the last few years pondering the question, “How do we glorify God?”
Here’s what I concluded in a simple enough form that I can explain it to myself and young people: to glorify God is to point others to him. We do it when we sing “Jesus Loves Me” we are sharing the Truth that points back to God. When we sing “Nothing But the Blood” we are sharing that Jesus is the way of salvation. Everything we do should point back to who God is. When we cook good food we share the bounty that God has provided and consume the wonderful flavors and textures that God created for us to enjoy. Everything we do should point to God.
Some of this involves motivation which is why this is a command to each person individually. If I bake Christmas cookies to thank my neighbors for being awesome and share the love of Christ with them I am glorifying God. If I bake Christmas cookies to demonstrate that I am better at baking than they are, I am seeking to glorify myself. In both circumstances the neighbors get cookies, but in only one of the circumstances is God glorified. You might be saying, “That’s really confusing!” You’re not wrong. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. If you’re given a gift, even one you really like, you can usually tell the motivations of the giver. My neighbors might not notice the first time, but they would pick up on my prideful and condescending attitude at some point and see through my selfishness. But if I give out of a desire to show love and Christ that will also become apparent as I live that out around them.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” But doesn’t that sound kind of egomaniacal? Why is it okay for God to demand our adoration and praise? If I was leading you and asked you to follow me and give me your adoration and praise, you would quickly discover I don’t deserve your praise and glory. I make mistakes, I’m selfish sometimes, I forget things, and I’m a hot mess and can behave unpredictably. Quickly, you would be fed up and move your adoration and praise to someone else. I’m not worthy of your glory and neither is any other human.
In Revelation John is in heaven and the angel asks an important question. “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:-1-5)
So God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are worthy of your praise. You are not and should not be the focus of your life. I am not God and should not be the focus of my own life. We are not God. God is worthy. We aren’t.
So, Why are we here? What is our purpose?
Everything we do should point to God. If you’re not quite sure what that looks like or how you can talk to God about that, maybe this can help us understand. When Mary was told that she would be the mother of Jesus through a miraculous virgin birth she praises God with the following exclimation:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50)
Let’s look at her first line. “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The word magnify means to make bigger, but not in the way that a microscope magnifies things but more in the way that a telescope makes faraway heavenly bodies bigger. Here’s an example. The Andromeda Galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy and is the closest major galaxy to the Milky Way, where the Solar System resides. It is 2.5 million light-years away from Earth.
The radius is 110,000 light years. So if you wanted to go from the outside to the center it would take you 110,000 million years to get there.
On a clear night, you might see a tiny spot in the sky that is the Andromeda Galaxy, but with telescopes like the Hubble telescope or even powerful telescopes here on Earth, we can see more details. The telescopes magnify something that looks impossible to see but is actually massively large.
God is the all powerful soverign king of kings but to those who don't know Him He can feel distant and incomprehensible. We magnify, point to, or glorify God when we show others who He is. When we reflect his beauty, love, grace, justice, and peace.
I'm going to be spending some time on this topic and posting about it on my social media to provide more understanding. If you want to find out more and grow with me you can find and follow me on the links below.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."