Work, Joy, and the Glory of God

This article was written by Caleb Glafenhein and published by Faith Driven Entrepreneur


What is the Chief end of man? The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines it this way:

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. 

I believe that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. And I also believe that if we were to examine our hearts and minds, we would find we spend a lot of time and energy often seeking ways to be satisfied (outside of Jesus), looking to things on this earth for fulfillment, and searching for purpose and meaning to all our work and toil—and all our activities. We are told, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?[1] That is a sobering thought—that we could work our entire lives, even towards good things, and yet forfeit our souls. How does one work in a way as to not lose his/her soul? Paul writes to the Corinthian church and tells them, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory God.”[2] This gives a motive and a goal, a chief end for our work— namely, the glory of God.

If the chief end of man is God’s glory, how does my joy factor into this equation when I consider that there may be a lot of work that I don’t enjoy? Maybe for some, work in general is a chore, a building block to something more joyful and fun than the grind of work? Maybe we work now so that we don’t have to work someday, striving for retirement, free time, fame, or a legacy. Maybe we work just to survive, to put food on the table, and to provide for our families. Maybe we work because we love it—we love creating, solving problems, and coming up with solutions. But whatever our aspirations in life and work, we ought to consider what our Creator thinks about work and His desire for us. Paul both warns and instructs Timothy about what God gives us, that we are “not to set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”[3] God desires that we enjoy His blessings— work included—and that we recognize Him as the giver. We should acknowledge Him and give Him thanks, and in this, He is glorified.[4] God is glorified when we give Him thanks.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”[5] My desire in this paper is to point [us] to the work that leads to joy, life, and the glory of God, which might prevent us from striving after a work that leads to death. Jesus instructs us: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” And if you are like the crowd who followed Jesus, you might ask like them, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[6]

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”[7]

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”[8] This statement is foundational for everything I will write. Another foundational belief is this: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[9] Jesus, the Word, became flesh.

In 2020, COVID-19 became a global pandemic which shook the world of its fragile foundations. We have been reminded of our frailty, that death is a reality we all must face. Our days on earth are short, like a mist.[10] As Christians, Jesus is our foundation; therefore, let us work and build on Him, the cornerstone, the rock and joy of our salvation. “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is already laid, which is Christ Jesus.”[11]

The work God gives us to do—what is it?

Believe in Jesus Christ.[12]

This may sound really simple, or maybe even abstract, but this requires faith (believing without seeing) in something other than ourselves—and not just in anything, but in Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God, our Maker. If believing in Christ is the work God has for me [us] to do, how does that apply to my everyday life? And how does that apply to my attainment of joy, my purpose, and my meaning in life? And how does believing in Christ bring glory to God? And then, how do we get this faith to believe?

Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.[13]

Let us go on a quick journey, looking at the life of Jesus and His sayings as our example of what living a life that glorifies God looks like. We will look at the work He accomplished, that was given to Him by God. Jesus is our example, and He not only bids us to “repent and believe,”[14] but He also says to, “Follow me,”[15] and to, “Come to me… and learn from me.”[16] Therefore, we will look to Him and seek to walk in His paths, by the help of His Holy Spirit, in the work of believing and finding joy in Him.

This list below is not comprehensive but is a helpful start as we look to Jesus.

  1. Jesus was in relationship with God the Father. He was with God in the beginning.[17] [18] Jesus knew God, and He made Him known.[19] This our work as well, to know God and to make Him known.

  2.  Jesus created with God the Father. All things were created through Him and for Him.[20] We create, innovate, solve problems, restore, serve, steward, and love because of Him, by Him, and “for Him”—“by the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything, God may be glorifed through Jesus Christ.”[21]

  3. Jesus obeyed God the Father. This is a huge point; so, we will look at some references to get a better picture of this humility, this willful obedience, acting in perfect submission to the Father. Although equal with the Father, as the Son, Jesus submitted to the will of the Father—“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me,”[22] and, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”[23]

  4. Jesus fulfilled the Scripture. Consider Isaiah’s prophecy in the Old Testament: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[24] This is really good news and is our call as believers, to proclaim that Jesus sets the captive free. And this freedom is not a political freedom but a freedom of the heart. We are no longer enslaved to sin; sin is no longer our master.

  5. Jesus came as a “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”[25] We are to be servants, just as Christ was for us. Consider Paul’s charge to the Corinthians, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”[26]

  6. Jesus came to call and save He said, “Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”[27] In John, we read, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”[28] And Paul writes to Timothy and tells him, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”[29]

  7. Jesus spoke to us that we may have His joy fulfilled in us. Jesus says, “…These things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”[30] And again, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”[31] One of the ways we get this joy is by abiding in God’s word—reading, meditating, praying, and knowing Jesus. David tells us in the Psalms that God “makes known to me the paths of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[32] Therefore, let us seek the presence of the Lord, and find joy.

  8. Jesus came to be light. John refers to Jesus as light saying, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”[33] And Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [34]

  9. Jesus bore witness to the Pilate said to Jesus, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”[35] Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” Jesus prays to God the Father for us, “Sanctify them in truth, your word is truth.”[36]

  10. Jesus is the door to God the Father in heaven. Jesus says, “I am the door of the sheep,”[37] And “To him [the shepherd] the gatekeeper opens,”[38] meaning that no sheep enters in the field (heaven) unless through the door (Jesus). This is said another way by Jesus later in the book of John when He states, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[39]

I could add many more words to describe the way of Jesus, but in summary, as we consider our work of believing and the joy that comes from following and obeying Jesus, let us consider the words of Solomon, who spent a lifetime chasing all kinds of pleasures in this world, searching for satisfaction and fulfillment. He writes of his experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes and concludes with these words: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”[40]

And lastly, Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….”[41] Oh, let us remember the immeasurable riches of God’s grace towards us who believe: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”[42]

What is the work God gives us to do? It is to believe in Christ and to walk in His good works.