I was innocently reading my new book last week when all of a sudden I got slapped around a little by the Holy Spirit.
We are all glory seekers. We’re all built to pursue greatness. The question that every one of us has to answer is: do we spend our lives seeking the glory of God or our own glory. Do we exploit our time, energy and resources to pursue the greatness of God’s kingdom, or our own kingdom?
It’s so sneaky. So many of us seek God’s kingdom as a means to seeking our own. America might be the only country in the world where you can actually use God’s glory to get glory for yourself with our weird Christian celebrity sub-culture.
What that means is that we can’t just assume we’re seeking God’s glory. We have to examine our hearts and consider if selfish ambition is hiding in any of the corners, crouching and waiting to consume us.
It doesn’t look the same on all of us. See if you connect with any of these 8 ways to steal glory:
1. ‘Great in your own mind’: Maybe you’ve mastered treating others as more significant. Maybe you really do treat those around you with humility. But maybe you look at others and even though you wouldn’t say it, you think they could have a lot to learn from you.
Do you have a hard time staying quiet as others speak because you’re pretty sure you have the right answer? When you hear others thoughts that are different from your own, do you often think: I wonder if I am wrong? Or is your primary response: well, I’ll pray for them to be brought around to my way of thinking…
Your understanding of greatness is distorted. You think pursuing greatness means believing you are truly ‘great’ in your own mind.
2. ‘Potentially great’: Maybe you are someone who doesn’t pursue greatness very visibly. You watch others do ‘great’ things. You could hardly be accused of ‘selfish ambition’. If anything, you tell yourself, you have too small a view of self; you need more ambition, and more belief in yourself. Here’s the question: do you fear failure so deeply that you would rather remain ‘the person with potential’ than actually try and fail?
Your greatness is so precious to you, it’s such an idol, that you won’t even risk trying because failure would absolutely destroy you.
3. ‘Formerly great’: Maybe you don’t consider yourself all that great today, but you often think on great things you’ve accomplished in the past. Maybe you fondly recall your high school or college days when you were involved in something that seemed significant. Maybe you spend time recounting the greatness of your past, reminding you of how advanced you were in the past; how ahead of your time you were.
You would rather think on your greatness of yesterday and lean into the danger of nostalgia than spend yourself for the kingdom today.
4. ‘Comparatively great’: Maybe you know you’re not the best. Maybe you know that you’ll never be the John Piper of theology or the Chris Tomlin of Wworship or the Steve Jobs of the company. But they aren’t your standard of greatness. All it takes to make you feel ‘great’ is to be slightly ahead of the person next to you.
You find your identity in being a little further ahead than the people around you.
5. ‘Tomorrow I’ll be great’. Maybe you’re someone who can sense your greatness is just around the corner. Maybe you don’t pursue greatness today because you have the feeling you’ll be a part of something really significant in the future. Do you spend time thinking or dreaming about those days to come when finally you’ll be free to show everyone the true greatness within?
You live in tomorrow. You neglect and sometimes resent opportunities to serve and surrender today because you’re too busy contemplating greatness in the future.
6. ‘If-only’: Maybe you’re someone who believes you could be great if circumstance and situation weren’t conspiring against you. If others weren’t letting their sin and weakness sabotage your potential, you know you’d be truly great. If only your boss wasn’t so frustrating, or your friends weren’t so short-sighted…then you’d be great.
Your selfish ambition leads you to doubt the promise of God that all things are being worked for God’s glory and your good.
7. ‘I’d be great if others would just notice’: This one goes hand in hand with the previous one. Maybe you spend your time serving like crazy and living on mission, and you think you’re doing it for the right motives. But, if you serve for weeks or months without receiving the thanks you ‘deserve’, then you feel a slight hurt that becomes anger and finally turns into a deep bitterness.
Despite what you’d say, you’re working for the praise of man, not God. Your pleasure in serving is increased when people pay attention and when people applaud; God’s approval just isn’t sufficient.
8. ‘I’ll be great if it kills me’ Are you so motivated for greatness that you are willing to sacrifice spiritual health, physical health, time and energy or anything else to achieve your goals?
God has called us to spend ourselves – all of our energies and efforts for His glory. However, there’s an easy way to check if you’re doing that with the right motives. Has your pursuit of ‘building God’s kingdom’ cannibalized your faithfulness in the details? Have you begun to break commands like resting or living joyfully without anxiety or serving your spouse because of your desire to achieve? If so, it’s a good indicator that you might really be seeking your own glory above God’s.
God is never interested in us pursing His kingdom at the cost of obedience.
On a personal note: ouch.
Which of the 9 do you relate to most? Share below!