1 Corinthians 10:31: “For the Glory of God”
Sunday morning worship, August 4, 2019
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). There. That’s the sermon. It’s simple, straightforward, and clear. It’s a command, an obligation, what God requires of us. The command is clear; it is easy to understand. You can go home now if you can do it, but living it in real time is the problem.
Let me share with those of you who remain some of the things life has taught me that might help you if you really do want to live in such a way that everything you do is for the glory of God. If you’re still here and you’ve set your sights on just getting into heaven by the Four Spiritual Laws or some other Gospel tract you’ve read, take a nap. But if you really do want to set your sights a little higher, if you really want to live a life in which your experience of God is a two-way relationship, struggle along with me.
Doing something, anything at all for the glory of God is a form of worship. A 17th century monk/friar named Brother Lawrence (born Nicholas Herman and lived from 1605-91) was made famous by a small book he never wrote, “Practicing the Presence of God.” Brother Lawrence is credited with being involved in many astounding works of God, but none of them were of importance to Brother Lawrence in and of themselves. Listen to these statements taken from an article in Christianity Today (https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/ innertravelers/brother-lawrence.html): “For Brother Lawrence, ‘common business,’ no matter how mundane or routine, was the medium of God's love. The issue was not the sacredness or worldly status of the task but the motivation behind it. ‘Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.’ He admitted that the path to this perfect union was not easy. He spent years disciplining his heart and mind to yield to God's presence. Only when he reconciled himself to the thought that this struggle and longing was his destiny did he find a new peace.”
Growing up in this church I was taught there was a difference in having and doing a job and having a vocation. A job was done to earn money to pay bills and enable a person to enjoy life. A vocation was a calling and an approach to life. Online dictionaries define a vocation as “a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation” and list synonyms as “calling, life’s work, mission, purpose.” When I cleaned floors, oil spills, and banburys in Goodyear at night, I can’t profess I found a calling to continue on that path for the rest of my life. But I was taught by the men of this church to clean those floors, oil spills, and banburys to the best of my ability and by doing that, my cleaning became an act of worship. So many of the repetitive tasks I did in those years held no physical dangers and required little to no thought. So my mind could travel to many places and I could watch and learn from those whose entire working career revolved around similar tasks. Working at night beside well-paid men whose motivation was the simply money and benefits and whose real passions lay in what they did with the rest of their days taught me much. One man taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. He lived alone in a small apartment above a bar. He rode a bus to and from work. One night he wasn’t at work. He wasn’t there for a week so I asked some of the guys about him. They told me he had died. What made his death so impactful upon me was recalling a prior conversation I had had with him in which he told me that he had almost two years of un-cashed paychecks in a drawer in his apartment. He loved talking about how the bookkeepers in Goodyear hated him because he kept their accounts from balancing. Who doesn’t cash their paycheck? That was when I learned the importance of listening to and sharing with someone who would never be a part of my everyday life. Worshipping God at work wasn’t just doing a good job in the tasks of my work. It also included taking advantage of opportunities to bring enjoyment to another’s life, even if their enjoyment was simply my listening to their stories.
The Bible is full of stories we can read or have someone read to us. Most of the stories are short and contained in consecutive verses in a chapter in a book. But some of the stories are more hidden and stretch across many years, centuries, even millennia. The story of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3 doesn’t find its conclusion until Jesus speaking from the cross says, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The story of Cain’s murder of his brother doesn’t end with Abel’s death. Hebrews 11:4-5 says, “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” Revelation 6:9-11 tells us that “under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” are still crying out for justice: “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Their only answer was to “wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.” Their words of comfort were only that more will die and the martyred sisters Abel never knew are still being added to his family. God is not a vigilante who is out there righting every wrong. God instituted governments and continues to raise up rulers. “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). Much is left to us. Joseph led his family of 70 (Genesis 46:27) into Egypt where in 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41) of relative safety they grew to more than 2 million. Then God raised up Moses to form them into a nation and then David to establish the throne that would lead to Jesus. But the Exodus did not occur until “the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them” (Exodus 2:23-24).
Why are these millennia long stories important? Each story begins with one person—Adam, Abel, Joseph, Moses, David—and ends with Jesus. But in between God gathers groups of people. God doesn’t act until groups of people cry out, not when individuals cry out alone. One stands firm, but others must lift their voices and their hearts as well. A leader is not a leader unless someone follows. God uses individuals, but God also requires groups and an audience. While doing something, anything at all for the glory of God is a form of worship, around the throne where God lives are 24 other thrones with 24 elders seated on them, the seven spirits of God, the four living creatures, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the prayers of God’s people, angels numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times then thousand, persons from every tribe and language and people and nation, and every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea (Revelation 4 & 5). Even God Himself exists in plurality.
To do everything for the glory of God is to be fully alive, to play our part in the work of the team that will usher in the new heaven and the new earth “prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” wherein God will make His dwelling place with us. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4). We are a community and we were made to live in community, work together in community for a common cause, and worship corporately in community. Each of us has a part to play and God has given each of us our own unique set of gifts, talents, and abilities and supplemented them with our Spiritual gifts and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that we can accomplish faithfully the part He has and is preparing us to play.
Imagine yourself on the outside in eternity looking down on time as one of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) as the events of our world are playing out. Every day we are still required to train and to hone our gifts and prepare ourselves. Then one day, our name is called and heaven cheers (see Luke 15:7), and we are given our uniform and we move from eternity to the bench. Now we train and hone our gifts and prepare as part of the team. Then one day, the coach calls our name, calls our play and we trot onto the field. The play is in motion. It is our turn to respond and what we do brings honor and glory to our God and King and to our team. Success is granted because we have prepared, because we are prepared, because of all that was involved in our preparation has made us ready. Across the years we’ve learned to do everything for the glory of God, because we’ve come to know and love our Father and Savior and friend. Responding in love is easy because our individual history and what our community has given us and we have given them have filled our hearts and minds with love. The cost doesn’t matter. We play and love for the team. We play and love for our God and King. Worship is second nature to us; it is a part of all we do because we have practiced long and hard. We have learned. We are ready because we’ve learned every step in the process was and is important. We are ready because we’ve come to know Jesus and He has made us like Him.