God is zealous for His own glory. In fact, He refuses to share His glory with any other (Isa 42:5-9). But what does it mean that God is glorious? Simply put, as a noun ‘glory’ means honor or praise. As an adjective, ‘glorious’ means having honor or praise; something that is very beautiful or delightful ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glorious). Thus, to say that God is glorious means that He (alone) is worthy of receiving honor or praise; that He (alone) is perfectly beautiful or delightful.
The Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 11 are helpful here: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways (v 33)! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (v 36) (comments about the glory of God are drawn from Tom Wells, A Vision for Missions, 114-115). Paul’s point in verse 33 is that we know little, especially when it comes to the ways of God.
In fact, His ways are beyond our understanding. We cannot figure them out. However, there are some things we do know; those things made known to us by God. Ultimately, all things serve the purpose of God. All things are for the glory of God (v 36). As Wells describes it, “Behind all else lies the glory of God. Always and everywhere, God is to shine forth. This is true in missions, as in all else. This is why God is forming His church” (A Vision for Mission, 114).
The church is formed regardless of the culture and generation for the express purpose of giving glory to God (Eph 3:21). As Jesus followers we do all that we do, even the seemingly routine, for the sole purpose of God’s glory (1 Cor 10:31). This understanding does not negate our concern for the needs of people; rather, it prioritizes those needs. People are not first; God is first. “Our first goal is ever and always the same,” Wells insists. “We seek to bring praise to God. That—above all else—is the purpose of missions” (A Vision for Missions, 114)!
Above the needs of people, as great as those needs are, is the glory of God. The purpose of missions is to gather peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation for the praise of God (Rev 5:9). David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians in the 1700s, was driven by the prospect of God’s glory among the world. What kept Brainerd, who suffered great physical illness and mental depression, on the field among the American Indians? His journal entry on August 23, 1743 reveals his motive:
“My soul was concerned, not so much for souls as such, but rather for Christ’s kingdom, that it might appear in the world, that God might be known to be God in the whole earth” (A Vision for Missions, 123).
What was first for Brainerd? “That God might be known to be God in the whole earth.” How does a man remain committed to bringing the gospel to people amidst horrible suffering? He must be convinced that God is worthy to be known simply for who He is. Why did he endure hardship in order that American Indians would come to know Jesus as Lord? He did so in order that God would be known as God. God’s glory is the motivation for missions. Proclaiming the gospel among unbelievers so that they turn in faith and repentance to Jesus is the means to the end—brining glory to God, making God known to be God among the whole earth!