The Worthy Walk—Part I: Seeking God’s Glory
If someone were to ask the question, ‘What is Paul’s purpose, what is Paul looking to accomplish, in his letter to the Thessalonians?’, I would point them to chapter 2, verse 12. Paul concludes an exhortation with the words, “so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
Everything Paul writes to the Thessalonians has this in view. Since God has transformed them by the power of the Gospel, since God has called them out of the kingdom of darkness and into His glorious kingdom, there is a manner of living that is appropriate and necessary to their new standing.
Paul insists that Christians are to “walk in a worthy manner”, and as I look at what constitutes a ‘worthy walk’ in Paul’s eyes, I see timeless truths. I see patterns of living, I see ethical standards, that are as necessary for Christians today as they were for the Christians of the first century.
Yet, before Paul begins to outline for us what constitutes a ‘worthy walk’, he first describes his motivation for the worthy walk. And, as you will soon see, Paul’s desire to live an upright life had little to do with impressing people, and it had everything to do with impressing his Heavenly Father.
We remember that Paul did not enter Thessalonica as a popular evangelist. Paul was largely regarded by his Hebrew colleagues as an apostate who should not be trusted. Even still, Paul writes, “we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.”
Notice, first of all, the source of Paul’s boldness, “we had boldness in our God to speak to you”(2:2).
Paul was an evangelist. This is plain to see. He was eager to share the gospel with others. Perhaps you are sitting there this morning, thinking, ‘That’s all very nice. Paul was an evangelist, but I certainly am not. I could never muster the courage to share my faith.’ If that is what you are thinking, I have good news for you: Paul could not muster the courage to share his faith either. No, Paul depended entirely on God’s strength to fulfill this task. Paul’s boldness found its source in God alone.
If you are waiting for some magical infusion of courage in order to share your faith, you could be in for a long wait. Paul’s example is to look to God for help in sharing our faith.
‘But Bryn, you don’t know my friend. He has such a hardened heart against Christianity.’ That’s fine, hardened hearts didn’t discourage Paul one bit. With God powering his boldness, Paul gained the ability “to speak the Gospel of God amid great opposition”(2:2). Paul certainly didn’t wait for ideal conditions to share the Gospel. Paul understood, what we must understand: that people all around us are perishing apart from Jesus Christ. Pray then, for Divine boldness.
Secondly, I would like us to look at Paul’s motivation for all of this. We know about his boldness; we know about how God empowered Paul to share the Gospel amid great opposition, but what was behind all of this? What motivated Paul’s passion to share the Gospel?
Paul writes, “our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is our witness—nor did we seek glory from men”(2:3-6).
Paul is emphatic that his message originated with God; it is not something that he has contrived in order to please human beings. Would it not be accurate to say that a return to this emphasis is needed today? For isn’t it true that the Christian preacher is often tempted to craft a sermon that will please those listening? Most people do not want to hear that they are helpless sinners and that they must depend entirely upon God for everything good thing. Nonetheless, Paul is adamant, “we speak, not as pleasing men but God”(2:4).
Paul’s primary motivation for preaching the gospel is the glory of God. Paul, more than anything else, desires to please his Father in heaven.
We have heard this before. We have heard this from Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”(1Cor. 10:31). We have heard this from our catechism: the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. We have heard this from our hymnal: riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou my inheritance through all my days; Thou, and Thou only, the first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art!
As Thomas Watson has said, “To glorify God is to set God highest in our thoughts, and to have a venerable esteem of Him.”
Someone will ask, ‘Why must we glorify God?’ I answer with the simple words of Scripture, because “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves”(Ps. 100:3). It is God alone who “gives to all life and breath and all things”(Acts 17:25).
And it’s not simply that we owe God endless praise, but we were designed to do this. God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, explains why we were created when He says, “Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory”(Isa. 43:7).
We were made for God. We were created in order to glorify Him.
The mistake most people make, the mistake even most Christians make, is we believe that gaining fulfillment and glorifying God are mutually exclusive. We think that every minute spent working for God’s glory is a minute compromised in our pursuit of happiness.
But this is altogether false. God, in His infinite wisdom, has twisted together His glory and our good. That is why we can rightly say that our chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It is not chief aims, but aim. When we prefer God’s honour above all other things, He is glorified and our longing for joy is satisfied.
I recently read about a musician who was performing for a very large audience. At the end of the performance, the audience gave a lengthy standing ovation in the hope of getting an encore. The musician, however, remained backstage while still looking on at the cheering crowd.
'Why won't you play one more piece?’, someone asked. ‘Can't you see how pleased they all are with your performance? They’re all standing.'
‘They’re not all standing. Look in the balcony; three rows from the back; the old man, sitting.’
‘Oh, never mind him, he obviously knows nothing about music.’
‘Oh no, that man knows his music. That’s my teacher . . . If that man was standing and everyone else was sitting, I’d play an encore. But he’s sitting.’
Friends, this must be our attitude towards Christian living. It should not matter how much praise and honour you receive from human beings, if God does not approve. As a Christian, we live our lives before an audience of One. And it does not matter if the entire world is scorning, if God is applauding. Glorifying God means living for His approval rather than for the world’s applause.
I implore you to seek God’s glory, first of all, in your religious activities. We must pray, sing, and be attentive to God’s Word for God's glory. We cannot please God with our religious activity unless we make Him our chief end. As you continue to worship this morning, be mindful of the fact that you are not the audience here—God is.
Secondly, seek God’s glory in your natural actions—when you are eating, sleeping, and talking. Do not sit or rise from the dinner table without acknowledging God’s hand in providing you with such abundance. As you spend time with your family this week, seek to honour God in every conversation.
Thirdly, seek to glorify God in your civil actions—when you are at work; when you are buying or selling. Friends, this is where you have the most contact with the nonChristian world. The way in which you treat the bank teller, or the waitress who is serving you, is no insignificant matter. These are opportunities to, as Jesus has said, “let your light shine . . . in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”(Mt. 5:16).
The exhortation to walk in a manner worthy of our calling requires that we seek God’s glory in every activity, and in every context.
Yet, we must remember that it is impossible to please God if we serve Him simply out of a sense of duty. Remember, glorifying God goes hand in hand with enjoying God. As we sing, ‘Thou and Thou only, the first in my heart’, may it also be true for you to sing, ‘High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art!’ Amen.