Humans love to be mesmerized. We yearn to stand in awe. We’ll pay money and travel long distances for the opportunity to behold great beauty. We take family trips to the Grand Canyon to stand on its edge in amazement. We’ll spend hours on a plane and hike through a luscious green Hawaiian forest to feel the sensations of the refreshing waterfall pour over us. Whether it’s a documentary that dives into the depths of the ocean with its unique sea creatures, or one that highlights the vast greatness of space with all its mysteriousness, we’ll spend hours glued to the TV feasting on the amazement it produces in us.
It’s not surprising that creation can evoke such awe in us. These things were created by God himself and he is the source of all that is beautiful and awe-inspiring. The awe we sense in creation is just a shadow of what we experience in God’s presence. As we interact with such beauty in creation, it is intended to point us back to our amazing Creator. We were designed to yearn for a sense of awe so that we would continually return to the source himself for intimate fellowship.
Gazing Upon the Lord
We see the worshipper’s longing to feast upon the glory of God all throughout Scripture. In Psalm 27, for example, the Psalmist cries out:
One thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple (v. 4).
The Psalmist recognizes that there is no greater glory that leaves us in awe but God himself, everything else is just a lesser imitation. Thus, he declares that the one thing he will pursue all his life is the opportunity to gaze upon the Lord’s beauty and continually stand in awe of him.
Recognizing such awe may sound idealistic, but it’s actually very practical. As we regularly gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and behold his glory, it transforms us and affects all that we do.
Paul Tripp argues that awe of God should be the motivation of all we do:
Awe of God should be the reason I do what I do with my thoughts. It should be the reason I desire what I desire. Awe of God should be the reason I treat my wife the way I do and parent my children in the manner I do. It should be the reason I function the way I do at my job or handle my finances the way I do. It should structure the way I think about physical possessions and personal position and power. Awe of God should shape and motivate my relationship with my extended family and neighbors. Awe of God should give direction to the way I live as a citizen of the wider community. It should form the way that I think about myself and my expectations of others. Awe of God should lift me out of my darkest moments of discouragement and be the source of my most exuberant celebrations. Awe of God should make me more self-aware and more mournful of my sin while it makes me more patient with and tender toward the weakness of others. It should give me courage I would have no other way and wisdom to know when I am out of my league. Awe of God is meant to rule every domain of my existence.1
In Pursuit of Glory
Whether we know it or not, everyday we chase after glory that will leave us in awe…the question is where will we seek it? Unfortunately, we don’t always fill our longing for awe with the beauty and glory of God. Far too often, we seek such awe in something or someone else. As C.S. Lewis said, we settle for making mud pies in the slums because we can’t imagine the offer of a vacation at the beach.
Instead of being overcome and fulfilled by awe of God, we turn to people to satisfy us. Rather than feasting on the glory of Christ, we long for the glory of a successful career, a large bank account, or any number of other idols that distract us from the One who is most glorious. We think accomplishing these things will overwhelm us with glory and awe, but even when we obtain them we discover they simply don’t satisfy.
Every day, you are fighting a battle in your heart to stand in awe of God or a million other alternatives. We are all tempted to trade the glory of God for lesser glories that won’t satisfy. We are surrounded by people who are hurt, confused, and feeling hopeless because the glories they have been chasing continue to leave them empty.
If the message of Christianity is true, if God is real and present in our lives, then shouldn’t it be obvious in the believer’s life? When unbelievers look at the church, do they see a people unconcerned with the glories of this world because we are so amazed with God himself? Are those around us curious about what has so entranced us?
Let us, like the Psalmist, get to the point where we can truthfully say that the one thing we desire above all else is to dwell with the Lord all the days of our life and gaze upon his beauty. May the cry of our heart spring honestly through our lips when we sing:
And I stand, I stand in awe of You.
I stand, I stand in awe of You.
Holy God, to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of You.
New Blog Series
I intend on beginning a blog series entitled Driven By Awe that takes this idea and applies it to specific areas of our lives. How does a properly placed awe of God give us a healthy confidence? Does it affect our identity, give us humility, or help us overcome fear? Can enjoying the glory of God regularly help me fight sin or minister to others?
I hope to spend a few weeks working through these questions and I pray it’ll be an encouragement to us all.
For now, I would encourage you to spend time basking in the glory of Christ. Fight hard against the natural pull to find glory elsewhere and ask the Holy Spirit to overwhelm you with his presence. Search your heart and evaluate where you are seeking a glory and sense of awe apart from Christ. May we not settle for playing in the mud when God offers us infinite amazement as we dwell in his presence now and forevermore.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust (Isaiah 40:12-15).
- Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp pg. 117. The idea for this blog series came from this helpful resource. ↩︎