It really is the struggle of struggles. It’s what we were made for, it’s what we crave, and it’s what we manage to mess up in some way almost every day.
What’s the struggle? The struggle for glory.
I’ve said many times that I believe the most important words in the Bible are the first four – “In the beginning, God…” – because these four thunderously important words will radically alter the way we view ourselves and our world.
According to Genesis 1, everything that we experience was made by God and for God. All the little and good glories of the created world were designed to point to his magnificent, unending glory. The universe and all its inhabitants were designed to function in accordance with his glorious purpose and plan. That includes you and me.
We were not made to pursue, or bask in, our own glory. No, we were created to live for the glory of God. But because of sin, we forget (or ignore) the Creator and choose instead to pursue the temporary and trivial glories of creation. This pursuit sidetracks our purity and kidnaps our imagination, and in the end, it’s what makes our lives messy and our relationships conflictual.
Maybe another way to phrase our struggle is like this: human beings are glory addicts. We’re glory junkies. Whether you like to admit to it or not, you’re addicted to glory. In a way, this can be a very healthy thing, because you’re actually designed to crave glory, as long as it’s related to the things of God. So yes, you should be “addicted” – you should wake up and have a strong desire for Christ each morning, and you should experience a buzz when the Holy Spirit is moving in your life and in the lives of those you love and care for.
At the same time, however, you can’t be so naive to think that you have overcome your addiction to self-glory. You see, glory addicts aren’t just found in Hollywood, Nashville, or in professional sports. Glory addicts exist in the bedrooms, kitchens, and offices of everyday life.
I love how the Apostle Paul captures this idea in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” When Paul thinks about giving glory to God, he isn’t thinking about the speech we make after accepting an Academy Award or scoring a game-winning touchdown in front of millions of viewers. No, he thinks of the utterly mundane, when very few people are watching. And that’s where 99% of us live every day.
I want to help you recognize some signs of your glory addiction, not as a doctor looking in, but as an addict myself. I wish I could say I’m a recovering addict, but in many ways, I’m grieved to admit that I still struggle with the exact things I’m writing about today.
So, here are three diagnostic signs that reveal your addiction to self-glory:
1. Glory Junkies Parade Their Righteousness
The Pharisees are recorded for us as a primary example, and as much as we like to self-righteously proclaim that we’re not like the Pharisees (Luke 18:11 – oh, the irony!), the fact of that matter is that we are Pharisaical, because we’re just as quick to parade our righteousness before watching eyes.
When you’re sharing personal stories of your faith, are you telling them in a manner that makes you the hero? Even if you are experiencing a season when faith feels natural to you, you shouldn’t be finding ways to incorporate those private moments into public settings. Glory junkies think they’re worthy of acclaim, and in the church, we seek acclaim of others by finding ways to present ourselves as righteous. Ask yourself – how righteous do I actually think I am?
2. Glory Junkies Talk Too Much
Glory junkies talk about themselves a lot. We think our stories are more exciting, our accomplishments are more impressive, our jokes are funnier, our kids are more successful, and our ministries are more effective. If you find yourself cutting people off a lot in conversation, you should consider yourself a glory junkie.
Instead of shining the spotlight on your weaknesses and failures while celebrating God’s glorious and utterly undeserved grace in your life, do you shine the spotlight on you? Ask yourself – how much do I talk about me?
3. Glory Junkies Are Self-Important
When you’re impressed by your own glory, you fail to remember that in a multitude of counsel, there is wisdom. You’ll fail to see the need for the essential ministry of the body of Christ in your life. You’ll fail to recognize your bias and spiritual blindness. Glory junkies won’t live in relationships with humility towards what others have to offer.
This may seem harsh, but be honest – you and I often see people as a waste of time. Because we’re overly confident and independent, people become an irritating and unhelpful interruption of what we could accomplish on our own. How often do you blow people off completely, or at least “tolerate” their lesser opinions while masking your frustration? Ask yourself – do I actually think I need the body of Christ?
Everyone is a glory junkie, and we all will be until we meet Jesus, but not everyone recognizes their self-righteousness and self-importance. Ask the Lord to show you where you think you’re too righteous, too awesome, and too important. You are never in more danger than when you think you’ve spiritually arrived, and there’s never more joy than when you’re completely reliant of the grace of God.
The good news is Jesus welcomes our brokenness. He came to earth to heal junkies like you and me.
Paul David Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. For more information, visit www.paultripp.com.