Does God Care About Our Good or His Glory? (Yes.)

One of the most encouraging truths I’ve come to understand about God could be put this way: his glory is not the opposite of my good. That is, far from being adversaries, God’s concern with his own glory and honor actually coincides with him bringing about what will ultimately result in my joy and happiness.

It’s a worthwhile point to make, especially when you realize that God seems to be relentlessly concerned with demonstrating, protecting, and magnifying his own glory. A careful reading of virtually any story in the Bible bears this out, from the creation account in Genesis, to the new heavens and the new earth in Revelation.

That God is so concerned for his own glory and honor can tempt us to think—if we’re honest—that he seems a bit self-centered. And frankly, our experience with self-centered people (including ourselves) is that they rarely take much thought for the good of others. So if God concentrates so much on his glory, does he give much thought to us and our needs?

Something I came across recently reminded me that, yes, in fact he does…and that when God pursues his glory it results in very different things from when we pursue our own.

When I want to help people understand the truth that entire universe exists for God and his glory, one of the places I turn to do that is Colossians 1. There, in the midst of a soaring paragraph about God the Son, Paul includes this phrase: “all things have been created through him and for him” (italics mine). In other words, every created thing finds its purpose in Christ. They all exist for him in some way.

But as I was reading a chapter from Tim Keller’s Encounters With Jesus the other day, I was reminded of another truth that Paul communicated, this time in his letter to the Ephesians. Keller writes:

Ephesians 1, speaking of God the Father, reads: “He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and…placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body.” Notice the little word for. Ephesians 1 is saying that the man who died for you is now not only at the right hand of the divine throne but he’s there as the executive director of history, directing everything for the benefit of the church. If you belong to him, then everything that happens, ultimately happens for you (182-83).

So God the Father rightly exalts God the Son, placing him above every other power and authority. But one of the reasons he does so is to benefit his people. To say that all things are ultimately for him means that all things are, in an important sense, for us. In other words, his glory results in our good.

To be sure, the above passages aren’t the only place the Bible communicates this truth. We read in Isaiah 46 that no one is like God, who “make[s] known the end from the beginning” and “will do all that [he] pleases.” In other words, he is set apart—glorified—by his sovereign power over history. And yet in Romans 8, we’re assured that this same power works in all things “for the good of those who love him.” Likewise, Psalm 34 invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” for “those who fear him lack nothing.” We could list many more examples.

All this is part of what lies behind the famous first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a 17th century document created to teach the fundamentals of Christian faith:

Q: What is the chief end of man? A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Happily, his glory and our good will always be tied together.

3 Comments

  1. Sangs said:

    God’s concern with his own glory and honor actually coincides with him bringing about what will ultimately result in my joy and happiness.
    “his glory and our good will always be tied together”.

    –No it is not.

    GOD’s glory does not always work out for my good, but for HIS people’s good. I lost many things working for HIS glory. Many have lost their health, family, possession and are put to shame, persecution and death. Is that good? Ya, ya …I know you would say count it as a reward. But eternity is for everyone who believes in HIM. You obey or don’t obey you are still a child of GOD and you still go to live with HIM in heaven. What difference does it make. GOD blesses some (like Job, Joseph, Esther) and some have a miserable time serving the Lord (like Jeremiah, Hosea, Moses, Peter, Paul). Don’t fool us by saying His glory leads to my good. It is not. Yes, His glory leads to good. Not for my good all the time, but good to some of His people.

    I love HIm with all my heart but I feel He is exploiting my love for HIS glory and for HIS people’s good. I feel like a slave and not like HIS child anymore. I feel like HE has favoritism.

  2. Nathan Tiemeyer said:

    Sangs, a few things came to mind in response:

    1. It sounds like you may have been through a fair amount of hard stuff. And that can be challenging to anyone, even when you love God and want to follow him. And that’s why it’s really key to talk though your situation and process it with people who are spiritually mature—friends, pastors, even a counselor—people who will help you remember important truths and walk with you through the difficulty. I sincerely hope that you are able to do that.

    2. With that said, I want to emphasize that I’m not making up the promise that God is always bringing about our good in each situation. That comes from God himself. In addition to Rom. 8:28, you can see the principle in passages like 2 Cor. 4:17 and Mark 10:28-31.

    3. Also, I think that God’s promise, rightly understood, is to bring about our eventual and ultimate good, not that we always immediately feel like we’re benefiting from our circumstances. What is good for us in the end isn’t always pleasant when we experience it. Cancer treatments are often extremely difficult. But if they’re able to get rid of the thing that is life threatening, we usually consider that a good outcome, even if it was a challenge to endure them. Along the same lines, James 1 speaks to the role of trials in bringing about the steadfastness of our faith, Hebrews 12 talks about God disciplining us for our good, and Paul comes to rejoice in his very painful weakness precisely because it turns him to the source of real strength: Christ’s power (2 Cor. 12). One more example, Mary and Martha endure the agony of their brother’s death in John 11, but through that situation they see firsthand that Jesus really is who he says is he is: “the resurrection and the life.”

    4. In no way does this mean that the pain and frustration we experience on the road to these good outcomes isn’t real and often very challenging. So please don’t hear me minimizing that reality.

    5. Despite the way we may feel at times, I don’t think any of us will one day be able to stand before God and legitimately claim that he took advantage of us for his glory. God is no man’s debtor. Again, we might always understand or initially recognize the good that God is bringing about, but he is doing it.

    6. Another thing to keep in mind: the Bible seems to teach that while all of us will be perfectly happy in eternity (i.e., no jealousy, etc.) not all of us will have the same reward. So someone who sacrifices greatly, like Paul, will likely have a greater reward.

    7. I’d also add this about the biblical examples you mentioned: Job, Joseph, and Esther were indeed blessed, but they all went through very difficult trials in the process. And as for the other group you mentioned: while they at times expressed real pain and agony (Jeremiah, for example, and Paul in 2 Cor. 12), I’m not aware that any of them, in the end, thought that what they faced wasn’t ultimately worth it. Off the top of my head, Paul (see 2 Cor. 4:17 above) and Peter (1 Pet. 4:12-13 and 5:10) seem to clearly say the opposite, and the writer of Hebrews tells us that Moses thought the same way (11:24-26). All that is good news, because if they had reason to find hope and encouragement in the midst of their trials, so do we.

  3. JamesL said:

    I would say that Sangs did hit a point. God thinks that his glory coincides with our good. However in reality, that is not always so. In fact, it can leave a wake of destruction but what does God care as long as it gets him his glory? I likened it to God’s glory is similar to dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. Yes it demonstrated glory of air power and high tech science and US military might but it also killed a lot of people and infected civilians with radiation poisoning. The only difference is United States actually cared. God doesn’t because he already credited himself as the creator and flawless.
    That means in truth contrary to the author’s reply, a lot of us will one day be able to stand before God and legitimately claim that he took advantage of us for his glory. Not that it matters because it is a kangaroo court already. For example, God showed his glory through Lazarus’s expense. Lazarus had to die so God can make a point. God certain had shown glory through death and others’ expense. How many innocent Egyptians had to die so God can show his powers through the plague and deliberately hardening Pharaoh’s heart? Exodus says God hardened his heart even though Pharaoh was already going to throw in the towel just to prove a point. I don’t think Pharaoh was that stupid to keep punishing his people by himself. It has to be God’s work.
    So what is chief end of man? Glorify God and enjoy him forever? True but not necessarily enjoying. If one person is suffering in order to glorify God, then to God that suffering should be worth it and eternal.

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