Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
- Romans 12:1-2
“We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing— that He is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future. But as we grow in His grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the ordinary days and ways of life.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
The problem with us reading the Scripture above is that we think too much of ourselves. We think of high and lofty things when doing God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. As C. S. Lewis wrote in Letters to an American Lady, “We should mind humiliation less if we were humbler.”
When I got out of the military, I was a ‘captain.’ I became a ‘mister,’ just like everybody else. This was a difficult transition although I had never thought of myself as an Army officer – just a guy doing a job. The transition was made even more difficult when I started civilian life as a “Design Liaison Engineer” on a $200 million project and the project managers only had experience with shutdown coordination. A one-week shutdown to get some maintenance work done is a different animal than a three-year major project where the design had not yet been done completely and the project was divided into sixteen subsystems – each a major construction project of their own. It was yet another animal when the critical path was “waiting on heat exchangers to be fabricated” and having no idea what was the next most-critical path – thus no direction whatsoever.
I was the little gnat flying around the eyes of the water buffalo (not literally, but might as well have been) on three of the least important of those sixteen subsystems. All had to be completed in three years, but no one cared about what I was doing. After three years, my three subsystems were complete. Of the other 13, maybe half were almost complete, and the others were a bit further behind. It would take two more years to complete the project using ‘maintenance personnel.’ They chose me as the scapegoat as the project team disbanded, but within a year, I was offered the chance to return and fix the errors that others had made. We were in full operation about a year later (just me managing the fixes), yet the stigma of being the scapegoat remained. The old “don’t know why we dislike this guy, but …”
It was hard knowing that I could do a better job of managing the project from the onset and that I had experience in doing that kind of construction management at that kind of complexity. But that was not my path in God’s will.
But maybe, instead of that, God wanted me to clean toilets ‘for the Lord.’
No, really. You probably have a team of custodians at your church, at least one paid employee. We were members of a small congregation in Kennewick, WA in the mid-90s, a brief stay in the Great Northwest – and we loved it. One Sunday, we were presented with a key to the church and a ‘to-do’ list. That next Saturday, we went to the church and cleaned toilets, vacuumed, mopped, and straightened up the church, inside and out. The church was too small to afford a custodian. That weekend, we literally cleaned toilets for the Lord.
If you were reading my post from a couple of days ago, we did not do the windows. In our defense, it was not on the list!
Chambers speaks of glorifying God in the ordinary days and ways of life.
Think about it. We are glorifying God while we are doing things on earth, great things and ordinary things. The God who set the stars in the sky is pleased with us, meaning that He actually pays attention, when we worship in this manner, say while cleaning a toilet. God, who decided that gravity means that water flows downhill, is pleased with us when we, as we glorify God, unclog a toilet so that the water can flow downhill – in the drainpipe. If God is pleased with that, should He be downright giddy when we direct a thousand voice choir for the city’s Christmas celebration? Maybe, but maybe God is less impressed with the major accomplishment.
The major accomplishment draws attention and praise on earth, and no one noticed the guy with the plumber’s friend who unclogged the toilet just moments before the concert. Everyone would have talked more about the clogged toilet the next day than they would have talked about the beautiful harmony of the singers. Yet, the director was applauded, and the crowd ignored the plumber.
God applauded the plumber. God might have smiled at the director of the choir and said, “That’s nice.” He was pleased in both cases.
If it is your job to direct the choir, do so for God’s glory, not your own. If it is your job to unclog the toilet, do so for God’s glory. With either, we should do so for God’s glory whether we are a volunteer or if we are getting paid.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.