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Are You Seeking the Glory of God or the Glory of Man?

April 6, 2016

As I’ve watched the last several weeks of political debates, caucuses, and interviews, I’ve been struck by the number of presidential candidates who claim some form of faith in God, while talking and living in a way that seems far more about pursuing their own agenda than living under the authority of God and his Word.

For this reason, John 12:42-43 jumped off the page.

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

While I cannot know the true state of anyone’s heart, let alone a politician whom I have never met beyond a television screen, it did strike me that even the authorities in Jesus’ day loved the glory of man more than the glory that comes from God. Despite the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, was walking among them, they were blinded by their fear of and love for the glory of man.

How many in this world believe, to some extent, that there is a God and that he even has some authority, yet, their love for the glory and fear of man has blinded them to how lost they really are, stealing their heart’s affections? Tragically, it seems, this is the majority of the world around us.

For this reason, one can talk as if they know God, yet still live a life marked by pride, selfish gain, envy, and foolishness.

Rather than this leading us as believers to pride, however, it should drive us to our knees in prayer for these lost and dying souls (which we once were). It should also cause us to reflect on our own hearts and examine where we too may be seeking our own glory above the Lord’s.

The Glory Question

As a believer, does my life express more of a love for the glory that comes from God or the glory that comes from man?

While it seems that most of the authorities whom John was referring to never came to a saving faith in Christ because of their great love for their prestigious positions and the glory and praise of men, I wonder how much of a love for the glory of man can remain subtly prevalent in a believer’s life as well.

I certainly feel this at times. Although I truly desire to bring glory to Christ, I also feel the incredibly attractive pull of having my self-esteem stroked and receiving praise from those around me. After all, doesn’t everyone desire to be successful, appreciated, liked, and known to some degree? Yet sin distorts these desires, causing us to seek these things from the glory of man and for the advancement of our own name, rather than the Lord’s.

While we live in the flesh, we will still battle the desires of the flesh. And one of the greatest battles of our sinful nature is a desire to be our own God. Therefore, when we receive the praise of man, if it is not immediately brought under the truth of the gospel (that we deserve nothing but the wrath of God), it can become an addictive drug that we seek at the cost of the freedom and joy that is ours in our secured and loved identity in Christ.

14 Markers of Loving Man’s Glory

So how do we know if love for the glory of man has gained a stronghold in our life? Here are a few markers:

1. You measure your success by what you see and feel in the moment. (eg. If other’s don’t appreciate what you’ve done or your ministry isn’t flourishing, it must be a failure and not worth continuing.)

2. You are motivated and unmotivated in your work, friendships, church, etc., by the praise or lack of praise of those around you.

3. Your decisions are often driven by what others will think.

4. You are easily discouraged, irritated, or angry when your efforts are not appreciated by others or when others receive credit for something you have done.

5. When others praise you, you begin to feel self-confident in your own abilities, rather than relying on the Lord to lead and provide.

6. You are more drawn to the type of work and serving opportunities that will be noticed and praised by others.

7. You struggle with competitiveness and envy when someone else succeeds or is given praise (even within the body of Christ).

8. You measure success with a short-term view, rather than an eternal one.

9. You spend less time in the Word and prayer and more time perfecting your craft, skill, job, or reputation.

10. You only portray the admirable aspects of your life to those around you (in church, on social media, etc.).

11. You find comfort in making sure others see your pain and shower you with attention because of it.

12. Your relationships only go so deep that your struggles are not revealed.

13. Your emotions and how you feel about yourself are constantly swayed by what you assume others think of you.

14. You only share a surface level of your faith out of fear of offending someone or giving the perception that you are weak, strange, or narrow-minded.

The list could go on, but hopefully these are a helpful start in examining the motives of our heart. If you find yourself discouraged by seeing some of these descriptions to be true of you, don’t be! You are certainly not alone! Strongholds cannot be broken if we do not first recognize where they have a grip on our lives. So be encouraged, if you are a child of God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and are in the process of sanctification along with every other believer.

Although I hate to admit where I am seeking my own glory over God’s, I am thankful for his conviction, and that I am fully forgiven and cleansed from my unrighteousness. I can also be confident that his sanctifying work will continue in my life until the day I am holy, perfect, and complete in his presence (Philippians 1:6).

12 Markers of Loving God’s Glory

Because of God’s grace, I find it encouraging to see areas where the Holy Spirit has been at work to change my heart. Here are few markers of the person who loves the glory of God:

1. You find joy in Christ’s name being exalted, even if you receive no attention or praise in the process.

2. When others praise you, you feel genuinely humbled, undeserving, and overwhelmed by God’s grace in your life.

3. You persevere in doing good and find joy in serving Christ, even when it isn’t glamorous and goes unappreciated.

4. You find pleasure in exercising the unique gifts that God has given you, no matter the outcome or level of success it brings. On the other hand, you are able to let these gifts go if the Lord chooses to allow it.

5. You are excited for those who do well and compassionate and gracious towards those who fail.

6. You do not measure success by the world’s terms, but by the truth of God’s Word.

7. You are honest about your struggles, failures, and sin, recognizing that you are in the process of sanctification alongside every other Christ follower.

8. You do not feel the need to portray a certain type of life on social media and do not need a certain amount of likes, comments, shares, friends, or followers to feel good about yourself.

9. You respect church leadership (and others) with the goal of glorifying Christ, rather than needing to be seen and heard.

10. You seek to know and pursue what Christ values more than climbing the ladder of success and seeking what the world values.

11. You extend grace and forgiveness to those around you, seeking unity in Christ, rather than self-protection and  justice.

12. You do not feel threatened or intimidated by those who seem to be more spiritually mature than you, but you humbly desire to learn from others, resting in the knowledge that we are all saved by grace and in different places in our faith.

As we stop fighting for our own glory and unify in glorifying Christ, we become a witness and testimony to a lost world who is divided and fighting one another for their own temporary glory. What a blessing it is to be a part of God’s people who are building one another up for the glory of Christ rather than tearing each other down over the endless and empty pursuit of our own glory.

What other markers you would add to assess you heart?

glory of God

The Author
Sarah Walton

Sarah Walton is the co-author of Together through the Storms: Biblical Encouragement for Your Marriage When Life Hurts (The Good Book Company, 2020). She is also the co-author of the award-winning book Hope When It Hurts and blogs at She lives with her husband, Jeff, and their four children in Chicago, Ill. You can find more of Sarah and Jeff’s story in their book trailer. In her free time, she dreams about what she would do if she actually had free time.

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