We seek to be the center of attention. We want to be acknowledged as experts in our fields. We want our deeds to count, to make a difference, and to be recognized, no, acclaimed, by all. This is our life’s goal. It’s true even in the churches.
The Psalmist, however, expressed a different viewpoint. One that’s even more pertinent in our day:
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
“Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
“Our God is in the heavens;
He does all that he pleases.”
Psalm 115:1-3 English Standard Version (ESV)
Both Calvin and Spurgeon spoke about these verses. Here’s an excerpt from Spurgeon’s sermon:
There are times when this is the only plea that God’s people can use. There are other occasions when we can plead with God to bless us for this reason or for that, but, sometimes, there come dark experiences when there seems to be no reason that can suggest itself to us why God should give us deliverance, or [bestow to] us a blessing except this one—that He would be pleased to do it in order to glorify His own name…
Self-seeking is the exact opposite of the spirit of a true Christian. He would rather strip himself and say, “Not unto me, but unto You, O Lord, be all honor and glory!” He seeks no crown to put upon his own head. Twice [Christ] refused to wear it. Even if the world would press it upon him, he says, “Not unto me; not unto me.” He does not wish for honor. He [is] done with self-seeking. His one great objective, now, is to glorify God— “Unto Your name give glory, for Your mercy, and for Your truth’s sake.”
…Brothers and Sisters, this is the spirit in which to live. Has God blessed us? Do we look back upon honorable and useful lives? Has our Sunday school class brought in souls for Christ? Have we been privileged to preach the Gospel and has the Lord given us converts? Then let us be sure to stick to the text — “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.”
…There are very few men who can bear success—none can do so unless great Grace is given to them! And if, after a little success, you begin to say, “There now, I am somebody. Did I not do that well? These poor old fogies do not know how to do it—I will teach them” — you will have to go [to the back of the line], Brother, you are not yet able to endure success! It is clear that you cannot stand praise.
But if, when God gives you blessing, you give Him every atom of the glory and clear yourself of everything like boasting, then the Lord will continue to bless you because it will be safe for Him to do so…
Yes, and when the time comes for us to die, this is the spirit in which to die, for it is the beginning of Heaven. What are they doing in Heaven? If we could look in there, what would we see? There are crowns there, laid up for those that fight the good fight and finish their course—but do you see what the victors are doing with their crowns? They will not wear them! No, not they—they cast them down at Christ’s feet, crying, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.”
Brother, Sister—living, dying—let this be your continual cry! If the Lord favors you, honors you, blesses you, always say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, be the glory.”
It’s hard not to be conformed to this world. Rather, seek to be a servant, a doulos, which is a lowly and humbling calling. The way up is down; yet, it is how our Lord lived among us. How much I long to be like Him where He is.
Sinclair Ferguson: Not unto Us, O Lord: Awakening & the Glory of God, Ligonier Ministries, Published on Mar 12, 2018