Glory to God!
“Glory to God!”
That’s one of those phrases I have heard and said for much of my life, but don’t think I ever really dug deep into the meaning of the phrase. Glory to God in the highest! The angels sang it when Jesus was born. It’s in the Psalms. It’s in the Gospels. It’s in the letters of Paul. We hear it a lot. So what does it mean to give God glory? What does it mean to glorify God?
We get a hint at the Catholic Mass. We begin by asking God to forgive our sins, and He does. Then we sing Glory to God. We have been forgiven and praise God for his great mercy. We give glory and praise to the only one who can free us from our sins. When we sing or say Glory to God we are acknowledging that it’s all about Him. All good things come from God. All of creation came from God. All freedom comes from God. All beauty comes from God. Without God there is nothing. So all glory goes to God.
Let’s look at three specific ways to glorify God:
- When we acknowledge God’s greatness. Look around and you will see God’s glory in creation. Have you ever seen the Northern Lights. They are beautiful; awe inspiring. They give glory to God. My husband and I were once on a motorcycle trip out west and were climbing a mountain, not able to see much of a view because of the trees. But when we got to the top, the view was breathtaking. That amazing view glorified God. Have you listened to music that lifts your heart and mind to God? That music glorifies God. Have you held a new baby? That baby glorifies God because it is a new creation that came about through two parents who were co-creators with God. God is great. When we acknowledge that greatness – and our littleness in comparison – we give glory to God.
- When we participate in praise and worship. I was at mass recently and was struck by its beauty. The altar was beautiful. The candles were lit representing the light of Christ. We had incense as an image of our prayers being lifted up to heaven. I thought about the ancient rituals we follow at the Mass and how they have been the same for 2000 years. And I glorified God with my brothers and sisters because of His wisdom in leaving such profound rituals. All our worship should point to God. It should never be about the preacher or the choir. If their worship doesn’t point to God or lift our hearts and minds to God, something is wrong. Worship is all about giving glory to God.
- When we do God's work. Each of us has been given gifts and has a role to play in pointing people to God, in introducing people to God, in encouraging people in their spiritual walk, in teaching people about God. I do that with my podcast and writing and retreats and spiritual direction. Those are obvious ways I glorify God by doing His work. But it goes beyond our actual job or apostolate. When I serve others with love and humility I bring glory to God. When I am kind to someone who is having a bad day, I bring glory to God. When I encourage someone who is discouraged about their failures I bring glory to God. I do God’s work when I see others as another Christ and when I bring Christ to them in some way. Doing God’s work gives Him glory.
Why does it matter that I glorify God? For me, I am reminded of God’s greatness and my insignificance. I am reminded that I can do nothing without Him – and also that with Him I can do anything. I have a right relationship with God when I focus on His glory.
Maybe you have heard this prayer: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. That simple prayer tells us who get the glory, and it’s not me. It is only God.
When I seek my own glory, that’s called vainglory. It’s about my vanity. Look what I’ve done, as if I actually accomplished it all by myself. So sometimes we seek glory for ourselves. We must be vigilant against that. It’s hard, though. Our culture tells us to talk about our accomplishments. We have to do that in a job interview or when applying to college. But a balance is needed between acknowledging our gifts or talents and being full of ourselves – as if these talents are completely our own doing. We glorify God in acknowledging the gifts humbly.
Sometimes we have to reject disordered praise. In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas are in Lystra and they perform many miracles. The people conclude that they are gods and begin to worship them, but Paul says NO! We are men like you! Paul recognized that the people were giving him honor that only belongs to God, and he corrected them. That still happens today. People admire you and heap praise on you because you’re great at something. They want to put you on a pedestal, and that might feel good. But it’s a dangerous place to be. We must be like Paul and Barnabas and redirect that glory and adulation to the correct source – which is God. We are just his unworthy instruments in the hands of the master. So we always want to turn that praise back to God.
We want to glorify God and the devil wants to divert that glory. It doesn’t matter where – as long as it is away from God. He’s okay with it being diverted to our own egos. Look at me – I’m so wonderful. But he’s good with it going elsewhere – really anywhere else but to God. So I might give glory to a human person, admiring their gifts without seeing those gifts as from God. Or I might give glory to nature without seeing that nature is God’s creation. It didn’t just happen. That beautiful mountain or flower or ocean didn’t just create itself. If I see a beautiful piece of art or hear an inspiring symphony, I can and should appreciate it. If I know God, my appreciation is transferred to Him – what an amazing God to give someone so much talent. So instead of thinking – Wow! Aren’t oceans great! Isn’t that music great! I go beyond that to consider God’s power in creating the ocean, in providing the talent to create music. Then I am giving glory to God.
When I remember that I should do all things for the glory of God, I have to consider whether I am actually doing that. And I know there are times when I don’t give glory to God. When I yield to temptation. When I get critical of others. When I snap at someone. If those actions are not giving glory to God, what are they doing? They are gifts to the enemy of my soul. He doesn’t want me to give glory to God. He doesn’t want people to be drawn closer to God through me. He wants to divert attention from God to himself or anywhere else. So I have to be aware of when I give glory to God and when I don’t. And I have to try to make every waking moment a time to glorify God.
I’m sure you know people who do that, who glorify God in the things they do. Maybe it’s your priest or pastor who courageously speaks God’s truth – all of it – with great love. He glorifies God. Maybe it’s someone who is so filled with God’s peace that you are inspired to be more like her. She glorifies God. My friend Linda is so open to the Holy Spirit and hears His voice and shares what she hears. She glorifies God. My mother raised 11 children and never raised her voice. Ture story. Through all the challenges – and there were many – she remained faithful. She glorifies God. A friend who suffered great tragedies in her life sought God’s healing. It wasn’t easy but she is so joy filled now. She glorifies God. A man from our church who has passed away used to hand carve wooden crosses. He made tens of thousands of them and gave them away. He glorified God. The many people around the world who suffer for their faith, who are persecuted or tortured or face lawsuits. These people give glory to God. Parents who embrace life and welcome many children – in a culture that promotes selfishness – these people glorify God. I’m sure you know many people like this who also glorify God. Thank God for their examples in your life. Learn from them and be an example to others.
It is worth spending time thinking about how we glorify God and praising Him for the people we know who do the same.
So with that, here are some questions to bring to prayer.
- Each evening, when you review your day, ask yourself, “How did I glorify God today?” Praise him for the opportunities you had to give Him glory.
- What opportunities did I miss today to give God glory? How can I miss fewer opportunities tomorrow?