“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” Romans 2:7
I’ve always been intrigued by this verse. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Rome, says that it’s a good thing for us to seek glory, honor and immortality! My first reaction to that is that it’s wrong and selfish for us to seek after such things. Do not these things belong to God alone? This MUST mean that we should seek glory and honor for God, not ourselves!
Images come to mind of the athlete who is driven towards personal achievement because of the glory, honor and immortality it will give him. He’ll stop at nothing to make himself better because his own sense of personal worth is found in his success. The same principle is what drives so many people, whether it be in the arena of sports, business or entertainment.
It seems we’re somehow wired to pursue glory, honor and immortality, not just for God, but for ourselves.
In this context I can’t help but think of what C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Perhaps our problem isn’t that we desire glory and honor for ourselves, but rather that we seek to fulfill that desire in the wrong ways. This is consistent with what Paul says in the verse from Romans following the one quoted above, “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” We aren’t to seek glory, honor and immortality in “drink, sex and ambition,” but “by persistence in doing good.”
The Scriptures are clear that the glory God gives surpasses anything that this world can offer. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of an “eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). The glory and honor that we’ll receive from God is far greater than any glory we can achieve here on earth. It’s greater in at least three ways:
First, it’s a greater glory in its ability to satisfy. Those who have achieved the glory they so diligently pursued through selfish pursuits almost unanimously testify that it didn’t really do for them what they thought it would do. Many of these people “crash and burn” after achieving the very thing they worked so hard for. Part of the reason for that is they still have to live with themselves! Their circumstances have changed, but they haven’t. The glory God promises us is greater because it will involve a change in our very selves, an inward moral transformation. This is what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
Second, it’s a greater glory in how long it lasts. The glory of our personal accomplishments is a fading glory; it comes and goes. We’re like an alcoholic who has a greater and greater tolerance to alcohol and needs increasingly more to be satisfied. Yet, Paul speaks of the “eternal weight of glory.” The glory that God will give us will never fade. It will never run out. It will endlessly satisfy.
Third, it’s a greater glory in what it took to achieve it. I think of the blood, sweat and tears people are willing to endure to find some kind of glory here on earth. There’s the blood-smeared boxer emerging victorious to win the title he dreamed about as a boy, or the scientist who has worked a lifetime in obscurity, finally winning a Nobel Prize. These are impressive achievements because of the sacrifice and dedication it took to achieve them. Yet, the glory God offers was earned through far greater sacrifice and dedication than we can imagine. The Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, offered himself to be nailed in humiliation to a Roman cross, so that we might share in his glory, honor and immortality!
In The Lord of the Rings, all members of the Fellowship of the Ring stake their lives on a future realization of the glory beyond the bounds of the world. Their devotion to their quest to destroy a magical yet seductive ring doesn’t depend on any certainty about their own success. Near the end of their journey Frodo and Sam are alone, deep within Mordor crawling like insects across the wilderness. All their efforts seem to have failed. Even if they succeed in destroying the Ring, there’s no likelihood they’ll survive, or that anyone will ever hear of their courageous deed. They seem doomed to oblivion. Yet amidst such apparent hopelessness, Sam sees a single star shimmering above the dark clouds of Mordor. The glory of it smote his heart and faith returned to him. He realized that in the end the darkness was only a small and passing thing: there was light and glory forever beyond its reach. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. Sam has never before allowed himself to sleep because he felt he was responsible for Frodo’s safety, but now he crawled back into the brambles and fell into a deep sleep; a sign of faith that their ultimate well-being lay beyond any evil that Gollum or Sauron could inflict on them. Sam has found faith in a glorious future that will last.
Sam’s faith reminds me of Abraham of whom it was said, “He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). This is the call of every Christ-follower: to seek glory, honor and immortality for ourselves, not through the trivial pursuits of this world, but by faith investing our lives in that which will last.