According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
That’s all well and good, but what does it mean to glorify God? In his book, Basic Christian Faith, Donald Cole says this:
“An ordinary dictionary may help us understand the verb to glorify: ‘to shed radiance or splendor on; to make glorious by presentation in a favorable light; to magnify in worship.’ Combined, those definitions suggest that to glorify God means to magnify the Lord by declaring what he is like.”
An article at gotquestions.org suggests,
“To glorify God is to extol His attributes, praise His works, trust His name, and obey His Word. He is holy, faithful, merciful, gracious, loving, majestic, sovereign, powerful, and omniscient—and that’s just for starters. His works are wonderful, wise, marvelous, and fearfully complex. His Word is ‘perfect… trustworthy… right… radiant… pure… firm… precious’ (Psalm 19:7-10). His salvation is astonishing, timely, and near. No matter how loudly or widely we proclaim the glory of God, He is worthy of more.”
Donald Cole suggests two primary ways in which we can glorify God. The first is to proclaim His greatness. He says, “We cannot alter his character or change the glory which he already has in himself, but we can improve or worsen his reputation.” We can see how David modeled this in his praise/prayer found in 1 Chronicles 16:
“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.
“Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[e] holiness. Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’ Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:23-34)
Any concordance search for “glory” or “glorify will give you a list of other verses speaking of proclaiming God’s glory.
But there’s a second way Pastor Cole suggests we glorify God, and that is by obeying Him. Like it or not, we who are Christ followers are God’s ambassadors on earth. When the watching world hears what we say, and sees what we do, they form opinions about God based on our actions. Jesus makes this connection when He says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
I can’t help but think of a story Philip Yancey tells in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? He tells of a prostitute who had become so desperate that she had sold her own 2-year-old child in order to buy food. When asked why she had not gone to church for help, her response was, “Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”
If we are to glorify God, we need to be willing to be a soft place for sinners who are desperate, not to condone their sin, but to give them the opportunity to break the cycle, and helping them find a different way to survive.
We need to seriously think about what Jesus would do, what Jesus would say, and be willing to act as His hands and feet to those we encounter, even if that makes us uncomfortable. That’s how we can glorify God. That will make us the kind of people who will “enjoy Him forever.”