Do All to the Glory of God

The unifying principle for all of life, including our spirituality, is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31—“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is the sun around which every spiritual practice, every decision, every prayer, and everything else—including our efforts at simplifying—should revolve.

Concern for the glory of God in all things was the heartbeat of God’s Son, Jesus. When only one of ten lepers (and he a Samaritan) whom Jesus had cleansed returned to thank Him, Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return to give praise [i.e., glory] to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18). Jesus wasn’t indignant because He received so little thanks for healing these men. He wasn’t thinking of Himself; rather He was jealous over the lack of glory God received for this wonderful miracle.

According to John 12:27-28, Jesus had realized that the time for His arrest and crucifixion is at hand. Knowing He will soon die under the wrath of God, listen to His primary concern: “Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name” (emphasis added, here and below).

A short time later, just hours before He was taken into custody, Jesus taught us to ask in His name when we pray. Notice the reason why He promises such prayers will be answered: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”(John 14:13). The passion that propelled the entire life and ministry of Jesus Christ was His zeal for the glory of God.

From matters as crucial as the death of Jesus, to those as mundane as eating and drinking, the Bible presents the glory of God as the ultimate priority and the definitive criterion by which we should evaluate everything.

So when faced with choices about your spiritual life, ask first, “Which choice(s) will bring the most glory to God?” Choose and live in such a way “that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11).


Taken from Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), pages 45-46.

Pray Without Filler

“And Father, we, um, just want to thank You for Your blessings. And, uh, we just, Lord, want to, uh, just thank You, Lord, for just, really just being so good to us, Father. And Father, we just ask that You just forgive us of our sins, Father. And, um, just bless us now, Father, and just lead, guide, and direct us, Lord. And we just ask all this in Jesus’ name, Father, amen.”

Although there are several problems with praying such soul-deadening prayers, I want to point out two. Both have to do with using words purposelessly.

First, recall that in the Third Commandment, God tells us, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). The original Hebrew here means that we should not use the Lord’s name emptily or without purpose. When we use God’s name like filler for our prayers, or when we address Him again and again without any real purpose in doing so, we take His name in vain.​

Second, repeatedly using the name of the Lord or “um,” “uh,” “just,” and the like, typically reflects thoughtless prayer. The person launches out into prayer, but drifts aimlessly from one random thought to another. He’s “just praying,” and not praying about much of anything in particular.

This pattern tends toward heartless prayer as well. The words sound hollow. They convey no sense of urgency or importance about the prayer. And if our prayers do not even move us, how do we expect them to move God? None of the prayers in the Bible sound so pointless or flat. Instead we read of men like Elijah who “prayed fervently” (James 5:17).

Removing needless and meaningless verbal filler makes our prayers clearer, stronger, and more like a purposeful conversation with God.

This material originally appeared in Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), 86.

Go to the Scriptures for Endurance, Encouragement, & Hope

On most mornings I turn to the Scriptures as much out of a good, lifelong habit as anything else. On some mornings I approach God’s Word with a more keen sense of purpose. And sometimes I come with a real desire to meet God.

But on many occasions—often outside my daily routine of Bible intake—I turn to the Word of God out of an acute awareness of need. The world’s increasing complexity may have tensed my anxiety and frustration levels close to the snapping point. Or suffering, finances, or circumstances may have drained all my courage, endurance, or heart.

At such times we should go to the Bible and ask the Lord to give us patience, comfort, and hope through His Word.

We can do so with confidence, because the Bible expressly says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that we through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

When the apostle Paul spoke of things “written in former days” he was referring to what we now call the Old Testament. Today we can affirm that “whatever was written in former days” applies to the New Testament as well. The whole Bible was written “for our instruction,” that is, to instruct us—chiefly about God and His glory, and His work through Jesus Christ. And through these Scriptures, God gives real “endurance and . . . encouragement . . . [and] hope.”

Every now and then my heart is so broken, or my grief so deep, or my burden so heavy that I drop down in my desk chair, open the Bible, put my head in my hands and cry out, “Father, please encourage me through Your Word.” Or, “Lord, I’m so discouraged. I don’t know if I can go on. Give me hope!”

How does He answer? Sometimes it’s through promises, such as, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Or He answers through the assurances of doctrinal passages like Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth  comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Or He may reply through the comfort of psalms penned by writers with the same passions coursing through my soul: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

Overall, I think God means for us to draw endurance, encouragement, and hope from the Scriptures by seeing there how He has always accomplished His purposes throughout the world and at all times, and then believing that He will accomplish them in our lives. I can read the Old Testament, and then see how God fulfilled it later in Jesus Christ and the church. I can read in the New Testament of both the power of Christ and His tender mercies toward His own. Then I encounter the repeated promises that Jesus will return for His people and take us to an eternal home of joy more glorious than all the sunsets in the history of the world combined.

Through these holy, historic, and living words God grants endurance  regarding His timing and providence in my life. Through these God-breathed lines I experience the encouragement of His presence and precious promises. And in the pages of Scripture He gives me the hope of a better world that is one day closer.

In His mercy, the Lord encourages us through people, circumstances, and countless other ways. But there’s no simpler, purer, or more direct means of receiving endurance, encouragement, or hope than by going to His Word and asking for it.


This material originally appeared in Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), 52-53.

Embrace a Trinitarian Spirituality

I once read an article that quoted a TV star as saying, “I consider myself a spiritual person.” Almost everyone nowadays is “into spirituality.”

Try to find someone who says, “I’m just not very spiritual.”

I saw a survey where even a majority of atheists consider themselves “spiritual” people. By this I assume they mean they often rely on intuition, consider feelings important in decision-making, and try to disassociate themselves from a merely materialistic view of life.

But spirituality is much more than learning to look within one’s soul. It goes far beyond just trying to live more by intangible values and principles. True spirituality, in contrast to the popular, self-defined spirituality of today, is above all a God-centered spirituality. Any spirituality without God is just self-worship by another name. It is the ultimate self-centeredness, and in fact, often uses terminology about “centering.” But the focus of the centering is upon oneself, not God.

The spirituality of Scripture is a Trinitarian spirituality. Biblical spirituality is centered on the triune God: God the Father who is reached through God the Son who is magnified by God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus taught us that eternal life (the ultimate in spirituality) is knowing the God who is revealed in the Bible. “And this is eternal life,” Jesus’ disciples heard Him pray, “that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). But He also explicitly maintained that the only way to the Father is through Himself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Further, Jesus said that when He returned to Heaven that the Holy Spirit would come and His role would be to magnify Jesus: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me” (John 15:26). In other words, the Spirit will call attention to Jesus and cause those whom He influences to love and obey Jesus.

Any other pseudo-spirituality is merely self-effort, self-love, and empty. It is good to have a zeal for spirituality, but if it’s a zeal “not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2), that is, the knowledge God gives through His Word, it’s a spiritual mirage.

It is good to desire a simple, uncomplicated spirituality, but a spirituality that’s simpler than that taught in the Bible is simply wrong.

So away with any spirituality without God—the one, true God. Away with any spirituality without Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Embrace a Trinitarian spirituality.

Not I, But Christ

“Not I, but Christ” is the name of an old tract that I first read in the 1970s. I’ve no idea who wrote it, nor when it was written, though I suspect it was penned many decades before it first fell into my hands.

It is a heart-searching piece that the Lord has often brought to mind to convict me of sin.

Scripture teaches that in this world it is impossible to completely “bring your ‘self-life’ to the death” (as we are urged in the last line), for if we ever reach the point where “we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ” (1 John 1:8).

But if we do not long for and fight toward the complete eradication of sin, then we have no hope of Heaven. As Romans 8:13 puts it, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

I hope you will find, as I often have, something of a”piercing sweetness” (to quote Tozer) in these words. (All that follows is from the tract.)


 Lord, bend that proud and stiffnecked “I,”

Help me to bow the neck and die,

Beholding Him on Calvary,

Who bowed His Head for me.

The following are some of the features and manifestations of the self-life. The Holy Spirit alone can interpret and apply this to your individual case. As you read, examine yourself in the very presence of God. Are you ever conscious of:

A secret spirit of pride—an exalted feeling in view of your success or position; because of your good training or appearance; because of your natural gifts and abilities. An important, independent spirit?

Love of human praise; a secret fondness to be noticed; love of supremacy, drawing attention to self in conversation; a swelling out of self when you have had a free time in speaking or praying?

The stirrings of anger or impatience, which, worst of all, you call nervousness or holy indignation; a touchy, sensitive spirit; a disposition to resent and retaliate when disapproval of or contradicted; a desire to throw sharp, heated flings at another?

Self-will; a stubborn, unteachable spirit; an arguing, talkative spirit; harsh, sarcastic expression; an unyielding, headstrong disposition; a driving, commanding spirit; a disposition to criticize and pick flaws when set aside and unnoticed; a peevish, fretful spirit; a disposition that loves to be coaxed and humored?

Carnal fear; a man-fearing spirit; a shrinking from reproach and duty; reasoning around your cross; a shrinking from doing your whole duty by those of wealth or position; a fearfulness that someone will offend and drive some prominent person away; a compromising spirit?

A jealous disposition, a secret spirit of envy shut up in your heart; an unpleasant sensation in view of the great prosperity and success of another; a disposition to speak of the faults and failings, rather than the gifts and virtues of those more talented and appreciated than yourself?

A dishonest, deceitful disposition; the evading and covering of the truth; the covering up of your real faults; leaving a better impression of yourself than is strictly true; false humility; exaggeration; straining the truth?

Unbelief; a spirit of discouragement in times of pressure and opposition; lack of quietness and confidence in God; lack of faith and trust in God; a disposition to worry and complain in the midst of pain, poverty, or at the dispensations of Divine Providence; an overanxious feeling whether everything will come out all right?

Formality and deadness; lack of concern for lost souls; dryness and indifference?

Selfishness; love of ease; love of money?

These are some of the traits which generally indicate carnality in the heart. By prayer, hold your heart open to the searchlight of God. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24).

The Holy Spirit will enable you, by confession and faith, to bring your “self-life” to the death (see Romans 8:12-13). Do not patch over, but go to the bottom. It alone will pay.

 Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,

Oh, to be lost in Thee;

Oh, that it might be no more I,

But Christ that lives in me.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

Author Unknown

What Do YOU Pray For?

Have you ever prayed for bad things to happen to someone? No? Well, about one in ten Americans who pray ask that very thing.

That’s according to a recent survey reported by Baptist Press.  On August 7, 2014, Lifeway Research conducted an online survey sponsored by popular author and Texas pastor Max Lucado, asking 1,137 Americans about the frequency and content of their prayers.everprayedfor

Some of the results are amusing, such as the fact that 13% pray for their favorite team to win a game. That raises the interesting question of the dynamics in the spiritual realm when, say, here in Louisville some are praying for the U of L to beat Kentucky while Wildcat fans are praying just the opposite.

Some of the results are surprising. For example, 25% say that all their prayers are answered. Seriously? The best interpretation of this is that these respondents mean that each prayer is answered in the “yes, no, or wait” sense, and not that they always get what they ask for. But from the rest of the data I wouldn’t have expected this many participants to provide an answer that reflects that level of theological sophistication.


Some of the statistics, though, are downright disturbing, such as those who pray for “success in something [they] knew wouldn’t please God” and nearly twice that number who pray for “bad things to happen” to certain people.

The most useful information gleaned from this survey is what it reveals about people’s beliefs when they pray, not anything it implies about the validity of prayer. As with every such survey or “scientific study” of prayer that I’ve read, this one also does not address the most important biblical conditions for answered prayer.

Biblical Conditions for Answered Prayer

To begin with, Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6), and Hebrews 10:19 emphasizes that we “have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” Proverbs 28:9 makes clear that standing with God is not achieved by prayer, for “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” In other words, the Bible teaches that those who turn their ears from hearing God’s Word–especially when it speaks of the good news of Jesus Christ as the way to God–will find that God turns His ear from hearing their prayers. 

So just because someone says they pray doesn’t mean that God listens. God hears everything, of course, but He does not hear with a view to answering unless a person comes “in Jesus’ name” (John 14:13-14; 15:16-17; 16:23-24), that is, in Jesus’ righteousness and standing with God, not their own.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, acknowledged this when he said that many of those who responded to the survey may not have a prayer life “rooted in a relationship with God.” Dr. Stetzer is a friend and I’m certain he would never say that those without a relationship with God through Jesus Christ can expect to have their prayers answered in the same way as those who do enjoy that relationship.

whatpeopleprayforDoes God Answer Unbelievers’ Prayers?

Then what about those in this study and in our own circle of relationships who aren’t Christians but who are convinced that God has answered their prayers? I know people who claim dramatic answers to prayer, but who feel no sense of need for a savior from sin and who have no hunger for the Word of God. Nothing will convince them that the “miracle” they experienced was unrelated to their prayer.

In fact, if the “miracle” was indeed an answer to prayer, it is more likely that the prayer God answered in that situation was offered by someone else, someone who came to the Father through Jesus (John 14:6) about the matter. Or it may be that the “answered prayer” was simply what God in His providence was going to do anyway and the unbeliever’s prayer had nothing to do with it. The extremely rare cases in Scripture where God answers the prayers of unbelievers are answers, like that given to Cornelius in Acts 10, which served the plan of God in saving people.

At the very least we can say that we have no biblical basis to assure anyone outside of Christ that God will answer any of their prayers except those related to His offer of forgiveness through Christ.

Are All Prayers Created Equal?

A second problem with surveys and studies about prayer is that those who do have standing with God through Christ sometimes “ask and do not receive” because they “ask wrongly” (James 4:3). So not all prayers are of the same quality, even by those whom God welcomes for Jesus’ sake. Therefore it’s a mistake to evaluate all prayers–even those offered by God’s own people–as though they are equally acceptable.

In the end, surveys like this one which do not take into account a person’s relationship with God (or lack of one) and the biblical validity of their prayers may be interesting, but prove nothing about the efficacy of prayer.

And the reality is that no survey or study can prove that prayer “works” (or doesn’t), for the movements of the spiritual realm defy quantification. I read one study which emphasized that all participants claimed to be born again, that is, they asserted that they had a relationship with God through Christ. But Jesus said that many who claim to know Him actually do not (Matthew 7:21-23). So the best that research could affirm is that all participants were professing Christians, and on that basis alone (though there were others) the findings of the entire enterprise were invalidated.

Science simply cannot develop an MRI capable of determining the state of a heart before God or the acceptability of a prayer to God.






“Dad, you always have lots to do, but you’ve always got time for us.”

“Dad, you always have lots to do, but you’ve always got time for us.”

That’s what Tim Challies’ young son recently said to him. When a boy will say that to his dad, then I’m interested when the dad starts a new series on his blog called “How to Get Things Done.”

I know I’m going to be following that series.

Along the same lines, check out Matt Perman’s recent release, What’s Best Next.  book_whats_best_next