Competing Glories (in UBF)

7 competing glories. Do we think that we truly and purely live for the glory of God alone (1 Cor 10:31)? Because we are already “mature, seasoned” Christians, perhaps a leader even, do we have competing glories other than for the glory of God? What might some prominent competing glories be?

  1. The glory of human honor.
  2. The glory of being in control.
  3. The glory of human success.
  4. The glory of the size of numbers.
  5. The glory of being right.
  6. The glory of being esteemed.
  7. The glory of our own church, our own turf.

The rush of competing glories. For a couple of decades I had a rush of ecstasy because of all of these glories. I had the glory of human honor and the glory of being esteemed by being regarded as a fruitful shepherd with the most sheep. I had the glory of human success and the glory of the size of numbers by being the largest fellowship in the world mission headquarters. I loved the glory of being in control when I had the power to decide who is ready and who is not ready to be married. I also loved the glory of being right by beating up my sheep and fellowship members with the word of God and my “Dirty Harry” persona. These glories truly felt so much better and more exhilarating than the glory of God alone! To this day it is a daily agony to personally realize this and be humbled to the dust.

The problem of competing glories. The single major problem of competing glories is that it hurts and wounds people in the church. It crushes and discourages others. It does not uplift or encourage anyone because the glory of God is not magnificently and prominently displayed. How does this happen? When a person’s glory is their own honor and esteem, then they cannot but respond and react based on how they perceive they are being honored or dishonored. UBF has a strong honor culture based on Asian sensitivities and Confucianism. As a result, many younger people have been hurt when some leaders use their position and power to control others and to “put them in their place” when they feel that their own honor is not properly upheld. In this way, they lord over their sheep and members (Mk 10:42; Mt 20:25), rather than serve or embrace them. Lording over anyone is always self exaltation and of the devil (Acts 19:16). “Overpowered” is the same Greek word as “lord it over.”

What is the solution? Until the glory of God thrills my soul, competing glories will still dictate everything I say and do and decide.

How can we exalt the glory of God? Die to self. Die to human glory. Die to my human honor. Die to the glory of UBF. Focus on what Jesus, Paul and the saints through our history focused on.

What can we do to exalt the glory of God? What practical steps can be taken?


  1. Good thoughts and questions Ben. I would say resolutions and/or solutions to your questions will be found in the gospel messages. I have found five messages of the gospel so far in Scripture, based on the “gospel of” statements.

    The gospel is about Jesus, but Scripture mentions at least five specific messages: gospel of peace, gospel of salvation, gospel of grace, gospel of God’s kingdom and gospel of Christ’s glory.

    I believe it would be a healthy first step for UBF people to discuss and consider these gospel statements, starting with the message of the gospel of Christ’s glory.

    • Thanks, Brian. Yeah, for sure, centering on “What the gospel is” is always the solution to every practical Christian/church problem. I guess, for a “missional ministry” like UBF, perhaps just thinking of “gospel” might seem impractical to some, since there are no commands and no imperatives in the gospel, per se.

      Yet, I agree that it is paramount that we “come back to the gospel,” as THE way to get “back to the Bible.”

  2. Funny enough, I just had a devotion with my kids’ soccer team about competition yesterday. They glory in winning, but not in losing. I think that’s a natural human tendency. I told them that we may not win many games or we may not win every competition we are striving for, but what’s most important in life is winning our souls into heaven. I asked them how they can do that followed by the two evangelism explosion questions. Then we talked about John 3:16. It’s fun coaching and sharing about Jesus with these kids. One of them has never heard the Gospel and I pray he accepts Christ as his Lord and Savior.

    Anyway, competition began at the beginning with Cain and Abel, which resulted in murder. Talk about competing glories, eh! Paul talked about winning the race: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:14 I think having our competition horizontally can be dangerous. Our competition should be vertical, spiritually fighting the good fight of faith. How many times did I overcome temptation today? How many times did I glorify God through my circumstances? That’s victory we can celebrate. I think these are practical steps we can do personally.

    But in all honesty, if people are using their gifts then they won’t feel the need to be competitive because they will have some satisfaction. And especially, if their relationship is right vertically, then their relationships horizontally will come easier.

  3. Thanks, Lorie. I agree that “competition horizontally” is dangerous, if not devastating for any church or ministry. But this unfortunately comes with the territory of a strong 50 year honor church culture.

    I also agree that being “right vertically” is the solution to all “horizontal relationships.” (Rick Warren says, “Ventillate vertically.”) Yet, our sinful default is to ALWAYS become anthorpocentric, rather than theocentric.

    Only being overwhelmed by the glory of God in Christ by the help of the Spirit and through the Word enables any Christian to overcome “competing glories.” Each Christian needs God’s mercy to work out the practical details as to how that will look like in real time.

  4. Hi Ben,you pointed out one of UBF cultural problems, namely competitive comparison. In Olympic game the rule of competitive comparison works just fine. But in the Christian community it is not healthy way. It is the same principle with our children. As parents, we all know that we should never apply ‘competitive comparison’ rule to our children. This is no no. Whatever we do (with hard work and good fruit etc.) we have to make sure to give all the credit to God alone, not to men.

  5. Thanks, James, for affirming that competition in the Christian community is not healthy and a no no.

    In UBF, isn’t competition among UBF people and UBF chapters fueled by the competing glories of human honor (status, position, seniority, shame), human success and the size of numbers?

    I guess Lorie’s comment is about how NOT to compete when our sinful default is to spontaneously and inwardly exalt ourselves and our tribe above and over others?

  6. Timothy Ha

    A while ago I have thought that Sunday messages should change, because the application is too much task-oriented instead of worshiping God’s glody as revealed in God’s word.

    Have you ever read John Piper’s description of a sermon: “Expository exultation”? (I think it’s in here I think this description is good, and I really lack this kind of food on Sundays.

    But it is difficult to change the Sunday messages until the messengers change themselves. And they are taught and live in a way they won’t change soon.

    • Timothy Ha

      That was the answer to: “What can we do to exalt the glory of God? What practical steps can be taken?”