Grasping For Glory
Growing up in the Outback of Australia, most of my friends had hunting dogs. For the most part, they weren’t your usual family pet. They were large brutal animals bred for rugged terrain and prey that could fight back. All of these dogs carried names that were easily conjured up with one look at the scarred skin and rippling muscles. In fact, I can only think of one friend who didn’t have a dog like all the others, his dog was named Sydney, and was the most conspicuous dog in all of Northern Australia; he owned a Sausage Dog. Sydney couldn’t hunt pigs and other large prey; Sydney could barely leap the garden edge, let alone a fallen tree while in hot pursuit. Sydney bore no battle wounds or tracking collars; he was rarely found far from the back yard. But Sydney was the best ‘snake dog’ in town. Barely a week went by without old Syd’ dragging his latest kill up onto the back landing where he would whine and howl until we came out to congratulate his daring and skill. For skill it was, being a snake hunter in Australia often carries with it a short life expectancy. Sydney never once ate his kill, his only desire was the applause of his owners, which they poured out on him liberally. Sydney hunted for praise.
This is not surprising for us though, is it? It isn’t difficult to imagine an animal hunting for praise, competing for applause, grasping for glory. It isn’t difficult because we see the same tendencies even within ourselves. I kept a special album to secure every ribbon I won at an athletics event, every trophy found its way to a prominent position on the mantle piece, every endorsement quickly retweeted. Humanity is enamoured with grasping for glory. While it good and proper to celebrate achievements, to place your young child’s artwork on the refrigerator door for all to see, there is a fine line between giving encouragement and feeding pride. If we are not careful, the free giving of honour can soon become the continual demanding of honour. Wisdom is needed here. For if we foster pride in our hearts under the guise of honour, we awaken a beast that will insatiably feed until it consumes all.
All I Have Is Christ
It is this reality Paul so powerfully surfaces in his letter to the church in Philippi. Paul reflects on his life and recalls all the ways he had grasped at glory and built confidence in the flesh. As we joyfully quote these verses now, declaring that we too have ‘counted all things as loss’, I wonder if we have adequately done our sums. Though our list will most likely be different, we must begin with Paul, we must begin with our reasons for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:4–8)
Our confidence in the flesh is the means by which we grasp at glory. All of us long for it, craving glory and hungry to capture it by whatever means we can excel at. So we build spiritual mantle pieces and albums to display our ribbons and trophies. We broadcast endorsements and construct platforms to leverage the achievements of others for our glory also. We hunt for praise. We pursue what we treasure in order that we may gain it, not realising that all the gilded trophies we accumulate are little more useful than cups to carry refuse. With Paul, we must beg of God to see with the eyes of faith that all we have is Christ. Christ is our only treasure, our only hope, and our only glory.
I’m not sure what songs we’ll sing in heaven, we are only given insight to a few, but I hope this is one of them. It is a song I sing almost every day. A song to remind me, to lift my eyes from the refuse of this world, to see my treasure in Christ.
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
O Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You
(Music and words by Jordan Kauflin. © 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Sovereign Grace Music)