The year was 1695. It was midnight. There were no street lights or electricity. It was pitch black in the house. A ten-year-old boy is tiptoeing down the stairs with only a candle to light his way. He shields the light with his hand to keep the light from spilling all over and waking up the adults. He slowly opens the door to the study, knowing if he pushes too fast, the hinges will squeak and his adventure will be found out. He has a burning passion for music but he has been told that the music used for the church is too valuable to be used by children. He squeezes his arm through an opening in the lattice and he rolls up a piece of organ music and pulls it out. He spends the rest of the night copying the music on another piece of paper, all by candlelight. He cannot wait to play this music the next day.
This boy will grow up and become one of the most well-known music composers of all time. Who am I talking about? Johann Sebastian Bach. He was such a gifted musician that he showed up to an organ playing contest and the judge walked up to him and said, you won! Bach said, how could I have won, I didn’t even play a note. The judge said, when the other contestants heard you were competing, they stayed home. You won because no one else showed up!
When Bach began a new piece, he bowed his head and prayed. “Jesus, help me show your glory through the music I write. May it bring you joy even as it brings joy to your people.” Typically, when composers completed writing a piece of music, they would sign with their initials on the bottom of the last page, so they would get credit for it, in this case, Johann Sebastian Bach’s initials are JSB, but instead Bach wrote the letters SDG at the bottom of the page – Soli Deo Gloria, for the Glory of God Alone. He hoped that when the music was played, it would point the performers and the listeners toward God.
Today we are going to pause in our progress through Psalm 1 and talk about glory. Today we are honoring students who received all A’s or all A’s and B’s on their first quarter report card. It is a wonderful accomplishment. The question I would like us all to think about, is when I am doing my work, who do I want to get the glory for it?
At the end of this month, it will be the 500th anniversary of a pivotal event in church and world history, the Protestant Reformation. One of the main people of this event is Martin Luther. One of the most influential things he did was talk about the idea of Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be the glory. What was so revolutionary about this idea was that at the time of Luther, everyone thought that God was only glorified in a few things. He could only be glorified if you worked full time at the church or were a missionary. If you were so dedicated to God that you chose not to get married so you had more time to spend reading God’s word. Sunday was really the only day that mattered because that was when you went to church.
What was so revolutionary aboutSoli Deo Gloria, was that it proclaimed what the Bible says about God’s glory, it’s all in all. It’s everywhere and it can be in anything that you do. It doesn’t start when you walk through the doors of church and stop on Monday. It’s here on Wednesday. And Thursday. In fact, every day of the week. It isn’t just when you are praying, but it is present when you are playing. It’s not just when you are memorizing your bible verse, but when you are practicing your math facts. God and His glory are everywhere. He is in grammar. (And you thought grammar was of the devil.) Well, you are wrong, in fact, when there is perfect subject-verb agreement, it is a symphony. He is in science. In how you write your name. Finish your work. Listen to your teacher. Treat your classmates. Everything can be done to God’s glory. A well-known preacher named R.C. Sproul has said,
“right now counts forever.”
So the person that is in the back room of a restaurant washing dirty dishes has just of an important job as the missionary to a foreign country because anything you do can be done to God’s glory and that makes it something special. Today we honor those who got all A’s or A’s and B’s which are wonderful achievements but the most important thing you can do, regardless of your grades, is whatever you are called to do, you do it to God’s glory. Here is the thing though, just because you got good grades doesn’t automatically mean it was done to God’s glory. One person can get all A’s and be doing it for their own glory. Another person can work as hard as possible and get all B’s and be doing it to God’s glory and God would be more pleased with the one who made lesser grades because they are working as hard as they can and are motivated to work hard so that God gets the credit. It is also true that God does not get the glory when we are lazy or half-hearted in our work. Oh no, we must strive to do our best in all things and in all areas.
Remember right now counts forever.
We are weak and feeble and without God’s amazing grace in our lives, we really could do nothing. So when we do something well or give our best effort, we should immediately see that as a gift from God and praise Him.
I pray that we all would have the same attitude as Johann Sebastian Bach did with our work here at school. We would have a relentless passion to grow and learn and push ourselves to be better and better. Knowing that the reason we can learn and love is that God has freed our hearts and minds to know Him and because of that, He gets all the glory. Just like Bach, we should want our next report card to be signed SDG, Soli Deo Gloria, for the glory of God alone.