Everyone will spend their seventy-or-so years living for something.
Sadly, most people will end up living for the wrong thing – and not even realize it!
For example, name the most famous athlete you can think of. Michael Jordan? Michael Phelps? LeBron James?
You probably would not have thought of Mark Spitz. But he was very famous when I was growing up.
He was swimming before he could walk. He moved to Sacramento when he was six so that he could start training with a famous swim coach. He swam four hours a day! By age ten, he had won several national titles for his age group. In 1967, at age seventeen, he competed in the Pan-American Games at Winnipeg and won five gold medals – a record that would stand for 40+ years! His dad commented, “Winning isn’t everything – it is the only thing!”
In the 1972 Munich Olympics, he won seven gold medals and set a record for the most gold medals ever won by one athlete at a single Olympics. Before he retired, Mark “the Shark” had racked up a total of twenty-six world records and thirty-five US records. He was inducted into the Swimmers Hall of Fame in 1977 and was chosen as one of five athletes of the century by the Olympic committee in 2000. Sports Illustrated named him as one of the six greatest Olympians in the history of the Olympics.
Mark Spitz lived for swimming – it consumed him! It was the sum total of his life. It was his passion and focus – and for 25 years he dominated the sport! He gained world recognition. Everyone knew his name!
All this – and seventeen years later most of you have never heard of him!
Without question, Mark Spitz lived for something – but he lived for the wrong thing.
So how do we live for the right thing? How do we live so that our lives count for more than a brief blink of time – a few short years?
The Bible gives us the answer – an answer that many of you are familiar with if you’ve ever been to the WILDS Christian Camp. This is what we focus on during our CIT (“Counselor-in-Training”) Program. A simple but life-defining verse:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)
God has given you a specific mission in life. Your responsibility is to discover that mission and dedicate your life to fulfilling it.
The mission is to glorify God!
Glorifying God means to cause others to come to right opinions about God. It means to give Him His proper place.
And we are to do this through the most basic and primary activities of our life. Eating and drinking are necessary activities, but are the most basic activities we do. And if we are to do this at the most basic and primary levels of life, this means that it should extend to every area of life.
If we can’t glorify God when we eat and drink, we should not eat and drink! And if we have to eat and drink to stay alive, then this tells us that God wants His glory to be more important to us than even staying alive. The history of the Church tells us that sometimes God’s will for His people to advance His glory is to let them be killed for His name!
Wait a minute – are we sure about this? Well, if this is true, then there should be an illustration in our Bible. And there is – a persecutor who became a preacher because of a man who was willing to give up his life to glorify God!
Paul is the illustration and Stephen is the man who was willing to give up his life to glorify God (Acts 7). Two chapters later (Acts 9), one of the men who was involved in killing him became a preacher of the message Stephen died to give glory to!
This is what life looks like when you dedicate yourself to God’s mission. When you are passionate to bring Him glory.
But what is so important about this mission that I should be willing to die to accomplish it? Why should I live for God’s glory?
The word “glory” means heavy or weighty, and it came to have the idea of “worth.”
Displaying someone’s glory meant that you showed forth the worth of that person – his/her importance.
In short, glorifying God means that we give God His proper worth. And it means that we cause other people to see God for who and what He truly is – to give people a right opinion of God!
Before Creation, Jesus shared this glory with His Father (John 17:5). After Creation and before the Fall, God the Father personally displayed this glory to Adam and Eve and His creation when He walked with them in the cool of the evening. After the Fall, God the Father displayed His glory in the Tabernacle/Temple in the Holy of Holies/Ark of the Covenant.
Moses saw the glory once – his face shone and no one could look on it unless he covered it (Ex. 34, 2 Cor. 3). The high priest could only enter in once a year.
When Jesus came at the incarnation, He displayed the glory of His Father. Jesus became the temple.
Now, God has placed His glory in a new temple that He has been building out of living stones – the Church.
God has given you and me as believers the incredible responsibility and privilege of being the bearers of His glory to a world that has no idea what God is really like!
This is why we are to glorify God in the most basic and necessary activities of life – eating and drinking!
The World is in darkness and has lost a true picture of God!
As a glory-bearer, you have the great and glorious task of helping people see a right picture of God. A God who loves them greatly!
You also have the great responsibility to show them how important Jesus really is!
Therefore, in order to do this, you are going to have to make Jesus the biggest thing – the central and single focus of your life, even if it costs your life!
And to be honest, it might come to that!
And that is why we need a motivation for this kind of commitment to this mission.
A motivation like the kind Paul had. Another simple verse that we would do well to repeat to ourselves often. A verse that sets our focus on the mission of being glory-bearers of the God who saved us.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)