READ: Psalm 115, Habakkuk 3, John 19, 1 Thessalonians 1
NOT TO US
Not even our crucified life is about us. Jesus has to be the center of our crucifixion. Yes, we must bear our own cross (John 19:17). Yes, a crucified life has implications for our loved ones (v. 25). But in the end our crucifixion is not the main event. We are the undercard to the grandest show of history. Each of our stretched-out and pierced hands must point in one direction–to Jesus’ cross and to Jesus’ empty tomb. If a sign is to be written above our suffering, it can only be: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name be glory” (Psalm 115:1). We don’t bring much to the redemption table. As Augustus Toplady phrased it in the hymn “Rock of Ages”: Nothing in my hand I bring.
If we live a crucified life for the commendation of men (their praise or the glory that comes with having a reputation of being sacrificial), we have perverted the gospel and stolen something that only belongs to Jesus. Jesus does not permit anyone to share in His glory, and if we sense a glory hunger creeping into our spirit, it should horrify and terrify us and make us fall prostrate, begging for mercy. If family and acquaintances, admirers and disciples contribute to our propensity towards pride, they are not friends in deed, and to their siren song we must be deaf. When we are praised by men, we smile on the outside and say, “Thank you” (any other deflection just ends up inversely pompous), and on the inside whisper: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to THY name be glory.”
An antidote to the pride that comes from receiving praise is to delight in giving it. Though it is fitting and biblical to be an encourager, we must not fall into the trap of praising others that they praise us in return. Our primary praise must be reserved for Jesus, and we must make a concerted effort to ever be praising Him. The dead do not praise Him, says the Psalmist “but we will bless the Lord” (115:17-18). Habakkuk points out that the purest praise is possible when problems are the most pressing. When the fig tree does not blossom, when there is no fruit on the vine, when the labor of the olive fails, when the fields yield no food, when the flocks are cut off and there is no herd in the stall, THEN we will rejoice in the Lord and in the God of our salvation (Hab. 3:17-18). Praise is purest when it is not a rejoicing over the “labor of our hands” but in the goodness of God, when everything we have done or tried has failed. It is one thing to praise God when He has helped us succeed; it is an entirely different matter to praise Him with joy when everything we are responsible for has failed. It is good for man to periodically fail and to be disappointed; it is good to learn to praise God when we have done everything wrong. Glory given to God when we have succeeded is commendable. Glory given to God when we have failed miserably, or when others have failed us, is precious and priceless.