What it Means to Glorify God

I don’t know about you, but when I don’t resolve a conversation as well as I might have liked it swims around in my brain forever. Almost a year ago, a friend of mine asked me about the meaning of life… because who likes small talk, right? I answered with a part of the Westminster Catechism, because that sums up nicely: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The conversation didn’t last very long, but I’ve been thinking about my friend’s response ever since, and what I could or should have said to fill out his understanding of what “glorifying God” means.

What Glorifying God Isn’t

When I said that our purpose is to glorify God, my friend responded with something along the lines of, “I don’t think God needs us to glorify Him. I think He knows what He’s done.”

This is a somewhat valid argument. After all, Acts 17:25 tells us, “Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” God doesn’t need for us to glorify Him.

But that’s not the purpose of glorifying God.

What Does it Mean to Glorify God?

In order to understand the purpose of glorifying God, we have to understand what glorifying God is. How do we glorify God? What does He ask of us?

The Oxford dictionary lists this as its first definition of “glorify”:

1. praise and worship (God)
– acknowledge and reveal the majesty and splendor of (God) by one’s actions

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us that, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

So to glorify God means to acknowledge and reveal His majesty in everything we do… no matter how small. In practical terms, that might mean thanking Him for His generosity when you eat; wondering aloud at the intricate designs of His creation; acknowledging His guidance and provision in a difficult situation.

Glorifying God is for Our Benefit

Glorifying God Gives Us Perspective

“If your eyes are on the storm you’ll wonder if I love you still, but if your eyes are on the cross you’ll know I always have and I always will.” – ‘Just Be Held’ by Casting Crowns

There are two areas in which glorifying God shifts our perspective. First, when we’re in the middle of a battle. When we’re struggling with something, it’s easy to forget that God has overcome the world and that He still has a plan for our good. Making a choice to worship Him anyway, to seek out the blessings in a situation, and to trust God’s will regardless of how much good we can or cannot see reminds us that He is God, that He is in control, and that He loves us.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:6

In everyday life, it’s easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and neglect the needs of others, as well as our relationship with God. When we turn the focus off of ourselves and onto God’s glory, we regain a godly perspective (Colossians 3:1) and we’re able to live for God and for others rather than solely for ourselves—which always leads to failure anyway.

Glorifying God Strengthens Our Relationship with Him

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.” – Psalm 40:1-3

When we aim to glorify God, we place our focus on Him and come to understand and love Him better. We are drawn to Him and our relationship with Him is strengthened. He inclines to us and picks us up out of our troubles and we draw closer to Him.

When you become friends with someone, you get to know them better. You come to understand what is important to them, the things that they’re passionate about, and what their character is like. The same is true of our relationship with God, and one way we get to know Him better is by glorifying Him and acknowledging and revealing His character.

Glorifying God is for the Benefit of Those Around Us

As Psalm 40 says, when we praise God, “many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.” We are called to be salt and light, we’re called to be transformed and not to be of the world. We’re called to stand out. And when we do, others see that and wonder why we are the way that we are. When we glorify God, unbelievers seek a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

Glorifying God serves as a witness to unbelievers, encouraging them to seek God themselves. Glorifying God is part of how we fulfill the great commission and share the gospel with others. While there’s more to sharing the gospel than praising God in our everyday lives, it does lead to questions and it places us above contempt when people try to “defame [us] as evildoers” (1 Peter 3:16).

Glorifying God is Inherent in Creation

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is nor heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” – Psalm 19:1-4

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” – Romans 1:20-21

All creation inherently brings glory to God, because His handiwork is evident everywhere. Though we may close our eyes to it or reject it as evidence of His presence, it is still there and it still brings glory to Him. It still points to His character and His presence.

We bring glory to God through our very existence (there is no creation more complex and intricate than a human being). Why wouldn’t we seek to bring glory to Him consciously, as well, out of love and respect for Him and out of gratitude for all that He has given us (including life and breath, as Acts 17 tells us)?

We Glorify God Because He’s Worthy and Glorious

“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” – John 1:3

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” – Acts 25:24-25

“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!'” – Revelation 19:1

Though God does not need for us to glorify Him—He is sufficient of Himself—He does deserve for us to glorify Him. All that was created was created through Him, which means that all things created are His and all credit for their creation belongs to Him. And since we are and have nothing with Him, all that we have and all that we create and all that we do is also thanks only to His grace and ought to be repaid to Him through our glorification of Him. Therefore, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Because anything less is robbery of His glory.

My friend wasn’t wrong that God has no need for us to glorify Him. All we are and do and all that creation is and does brings glory to Him already. We glorify Him whether we do so intentionally or not. But there is far more to glorifying God than inflating His ego, as if we could. The purpose is not to benefit God, but to remind ourselves and others of His glory and character and majesty.


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