Many years ago an elderly gentlemen asked me whether I had ever heard of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer one. To his surprise, I told him that I didn’t have a clue. He then graciously proceeded to tell me, and just in case you don’t know or have forgotten, allow me to refresh your memory.
Q: What is the chief end of man? A: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Of course this is nothing less than what Scripture encourages us to do. Note Psalms 34:3; 63:3; 69:30; 86:12; Romans 15:6, 9; and many others (cf Rev 16:9)).
It may surprise you to learn that this single question and answer has had the greatest impact on my life. More than my initial education at primary and secondary level. More than five years of theological study and even more than twenty years of ministry.
I would suggest that until a person has an understanding of this profound question and answer, they cannot know fully their purpose in life as their Creator intended. They may delight in having a great career; developing a great business or even having a healthy bank balance, yet without the fundamental understanding of their chief purpose in life, all these things will leave them feeling as though they have fallen short of attaining lasting satisfaction, fulfillment and joy.
We were not created in the first place to carve out a great career, or a great business or a healthy bank balance. We were created in the first place to glorify God. Yes, we can glorify God in all these other things, for when properly considered they are gifts from God. However, for so many, to glorify God is hardly considered and if it is, it is tacked on the end of all our busy-ness.
Do you know the same trap is true in ministry and in preaching? In today’s modern world, there is a tremendous emphasis placed on preachers to ‘do’ and to make sure their listeners also ‘do.’ To that end, preachers are encouraged to use all sorts of illustrations and load their messages with suitable application so that their listeners have been challenged about the ‘doing’ (or not doing) in their Christian lives.
The ‘doing’ may be to change their life styles, their language, their evangelism techniques, their prayer life, their bible study patterns, their mission or evangelism focus or church planting focus and a whole lot more. And let it be said, most, if not all these things are probably right and proper to ‘do.’ However, I cannot help thinking if this is the prime object of our ministry and preaching, we have missed something.
I would suggest the thing we have missed is what is most important, namely, to encourage God’s people to glorify God first. That’s not being lazy as a preacher for not finding some suitable application from a text. Nor am I suggesting for a moment that we should try and drive a wedge between what it means to glorify God and suitable application that comes from the biblical text.
But surely, it is not so much ‘our doing’ that glorifies God, but what He has already done for us in Christ that we should be delighting in (or if you like – glory-ing in). Dr John Piper is well known for a particular phrase and I believe he sums up what I have been trying to say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
When we are most satisfied in God, we will do the good deeds God has prepared for us to do. The ‘sheep’ in Matthew 25:34-36, did not know when they fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, invited a stranger in, gave clothes to those who needed them, or visited the sick and those in prison. When God’s children’s first desire is to glorify God and that takes precedence over all their ‘doing,’ then they will not only realize their chief end and purpose in life, but will begin to enjoy Him presently and forever. JZ