Written by Paul J. Bucknell on October, 07, 2019
Seeking Your Glory Alone — Psalm 115:1
Christians face many tests. Some tests search the heart—trying to detect our highest pursuits. Though the tests are often subtle, the evil one seeks our worse. The psalmist boldly zooms in on the crux of the matter—either we are living for God or for ourselves. Is it oversimplified? Maybe, but maybe not. If we do not live for God, then we make ourselves a target for diabolical forces trying to compromise our heart’s affection.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. (NASB*; See the end for other translations.)
The Test of our Heart
This psalmist identifies a kind of test that each believer faces. We typically think only of life’s testings which center on more superficial areas of our lives: our jobs, careers, family, place in the church, etc. They are there for sure. But the testing of our heart lies underneath those and therefore becomes more critical. This testing is not a once-in-our-life kind of test for God regularly tests our hearts to see our true affections. “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts” (Psalm 17:3).
Passing this heart test determines the ongoing degree of success found in our lives and ministries (those other areas mentioned above). Failure of this test, however, betrays other intentions of our heart than to follow Jesus sincerely. The Psalmist gives us the reason for this.
Even when we rightly consider that our salvation stems from Christ alone, the evil one sports with us by sending subtle temptations our way, trying to persuade us that our success is due to our wisdom and strength. I am not trying to negate our service and love for God. God produces many good works through the lives of His people (see Titus 1:6;2:7,14;3:1,8,14). Our good works are a result of our genuine Christian faith (see 1 John 2:9-10). The devil, however, desperately tries to have us detach our good deeds from our sincere motives by tempting us to leave our original devotion to God. Satan has a multitude of ways to lead us to self-worship and is an expert in this field, having himself left the worship of God to seek his glory (Isaiah 14:12-22). Isn’t this what this Psalmist suggests here?
Each of us has a flesh, a self-willed nature, which loves reveling in one’s self. So Satan, if successful, shifts our trust from God over to our own successful ways. We go from praising God on how He answered prayers to gloating that we are pretty good Christians, especially compared to others. When we forget or confuse the source of God’s work in our lives, we always get prideful.
Unbelievers never reach that point where they can trust in the Lord. They live for their own good and glory, being conscious of their supposed good works or bound to fear due to their helplessness. Believers, however, by definition, start off their Christian lives by openly stating that Jesus is their Savior and Lord. They live for God’s glory! But somewhere along the way (remember this happens regularly through our Christian lives), they forget their good works are but a result of the Lord’s gracious work within them. We must never forget the root of our success is the Lord. All the glory goes to God because he’s at the root of anything that we call success. This is the psalmist’s conclusion, “Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.”
I could be tested as a father, as an elder, as a minister of the gospel, or as another Christian faithfully serving a neighbor. The test goes back to my real motive for my actions occurring deep in the recess of my mind and heart.
The burnout syndrome often traces back to a point where we have begun to trust ourselves rather than the Lord. We started well, but at some point, we began to trust our strength and serve our glory. The Lord’s grace, then, begins to recede. He allows us to work from our energies, increasingly in frustration, desperation and begrudgingly, so that we can see that our motives have turned inward.
- Who am I doing this for?
- By whose strength (wisdom, cleverness, experience, etc.) do I accomplish this task?
- Do I remember God’s kindness by thanking Him for the extra grace?
The question is not whether God has left us, but that we have left God. We have turned from admiring His grace to wanting to receive flattering remarks. What people think of us has become more important than true concern for the Lord or others that we serve.
This struggle to continue to rely on God and give Him glory will persist in our last days on earth. We can admire the Lord’s goodness when we identify Him as the source of all good things and learn to rely on Him for all situations. We, then, join the Psalmist to not live for our purposes but for God’s honor. Our strength and resolve are not self-contrived but arise through God’s work in our lives. Any good that we do is only because of God’s gracious work within us.
The psalmist is not superficial when he states that the glory goes to God. We often do that through our words (e.g., “Praise the Lord!”) and songs, but we need to let the truth constantly resonate through our hearts and minds in faith, knowing all we do is because of God’s work in us (Phil 1:8). This mindset is accomplished by retelling God’s amazing work in our lives —in our hearts and minds—so that we link all the good we have with His grace: “Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth” (Ps 115:1).
Bible Study Questions for Psalm 115:1
- Memorize Psalm 115:1 in your favorite version (see the other page for more versions) and share the one truth that stands out most to you.
- What is the basic struggle that the psalmist identifies in this verse (Ps 115:1)?
- Why is this a struggle for all of us?
- Why does “burnout” often take place according to the author?
- Do you sometimes find it challenging to give thanks to the Lord and constantly praise Him? Try to isolate when this happens.
- Identify how the evil one tempts you to attribute your good to your self rather than the Lord?
- Consider where you are right at this moment. Are you 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% confident of God’s amazing work in your life contributing to any success you see in your life? Explain.
Psalm 115:1 Various Translations
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. (Psalm 115:1 NASB*)
Not unto us, O Jehovah, not unto us, But unto thy name give glory, For thy lovingkindness, and for thy truth’s sake. (Psalm 115:1 ASV)
Not to us, Lord, not to us— no, but to your own name give glory because of your loyal love and faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1 CEB)
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1 ESV)
Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. (Psalm 115:1 KJV)
Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1 NIV)