FeatureMissionary Life

How Missionaries ‘Photobomb’ God

We rob God of his glory in ministry when we insert our egos and agendas into the picture.

We all know one. They lurk among us waiting to strike. With precision timing, they lunge from the shadows just before the camera’s flash. Not content to stay on the sidelines, they want to draw attention to themselves.

The infamous photobomber.

​Most photobombers are just extending their childhood role as class clown, and everyone gets a laugh—the first time. But then you get those persistent photobombers—you know, the ones who just won’t quit. You want a nice photo, but they keep getting in the way. After a few ruined photos, you look directly at them and say: “Stop photobombing!”

I think God feels like this every day.

Just like a photobomber steals the spotlight from the subject of the photo, we in our pride are often guilty of stealing the spotlight from God. He puts his glory on display for the world to see, and we get in the way. Day after day, we steal the attention from him, here and there. We want others to notice us and what we do. We keep God in the frame, but the picture is tainted.

And God isn’t laughing.

Previously I wrote about how God is searching for servants after his own heart. To become this kind of servant, we must know his desires.

To help us understand his heart and desires, there are two questions we should ask ourselves: (1) “Why does God hate it when we ‘photobomb’ him?”, and (2) “How do we ‘photobomb’ God?”

​Why does God hate it when we photobomb him?

When we photobomb God, we are going against his ultimate goal of putting his glory on display.

“For my own sake, for my own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11).

God’s glory is the reason behind everything he does. The Bible mentions other goals, but they are secondary goals that are a means to glorify Himself.

  • We were created for his glory (Isaiah 43:7).
  • God redeemed Israel for his glory (Isaiah 44:23, Psalm 106:8).
  • God predestined us for his glory (Ephesians 1:5-6).
  • The wicked are judged for his glory (Exodus 9:16).
  • Even God’s goal of acting for love of man is a secondary goal (Romans 11:36).
  • Salvation is for the glory of God (Psalm 79:9).
  • Christ died for God’s glory (John 12:27, 28a).
  • And Christ will return for his glory (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

​Everything God does is done to reveal more of who he is—he is the most God-centered being in the universe. And he is worthy of our worship: “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us that, in all we do, we are to do it for God’s glory—“Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.”

In fact, if we do not do something for God’s glory, we are guilty of idolatry.

How do we photobomb God?

Our purpose in life is to help others see His glory. But when we shift the focus from God to ourselves, we get in the way of his glory being seen.

If we do not do something for God’s glory, we are guilty of idolatry.

When we photobomb God, we are embezzling—stealing—the glory he deserves. We do this many ways…

  • Hoping someone notices when we help someone or do something good
  • Seeking attention on social media
  • Sprinkling comments in our conversations to draw attention to our knowledge, appearance, possessions, abilities, actions, etc.
  • Using sarcasm, criticism or making fun of people to show their foolishness and make us look better

To make things worse, we put on a good face while we do it. While serving God day-by-day, yet taking the glory and recognition for ourselves. We steal the honor, recognition or glory from God through the very acts that are supposed to give him glory. Sure, maybe we don’t steal all of it—but none of is ours to take in the first place.

We are driven by our pride. It is like our own personal fan club. Pride leads us to seek our own glory rather than God’s. It watches our every move and cheers us on, validating our perceived greatness. And it watches others, too, to see if they notice our greatness and join our personal fan club.

But maybe this isn’t you. Maybe instead, you are consumed with thoughts of your inadequacy or sacrifice for God. Pride can also lead us to seek attention from others for our weakness, struggles, busyness, or sacrifice.

Here, pride throws us a personal pity party. And while seeking support and encouragement isn’t wrong—we are told to encourage one another, after all—inviting others to join our personal pity party is deeply rooted in self-centered pride.

Do you remember when God downsized Gideon’s army to a small band of men? He did it so there would be no question of whose power saved Israel: “The LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me”’” (Judges 7:2).

God’s goal hasn’t changed. He is still putting his glory on display and is looking for servants who aren’t seeking to be seen (Isaiah 66:2). Only when we stop seeking to be seen can we truly serve God.

Pursuing Humility

Throughout my ministry, I have had the goal of making much of God. Yet I am amazed at how many times I have photobombed God by hoping to be seen or recognized for my actions (even just a little). I know in my head that I don’t deserve a drop of recognition, but my sinful heart still savors the “good job, Kyle.”

Only when we stop seeking to be seen can we truly serve God.

It can be a difficult balance to point others to what God is doing through us. We do need to share the incredible things God is doing, but we also need to guard our hearts against the desire to be seen by others. The temptation can be to take a little of that glory for ourselves.

We need to daily remind ourselves that everything we are and have is a gift. We do not deserve any recognition. This is why God speaks so much against pride, and why he warns us of the prideful man’s demise.

“The pride of man will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be abased, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:17).

Pride hinders our usefulness in ministry, because God opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5). But if we are amazed by God, we will be focused on him and his glory, not on trying to get others to see our good deeds.

God often employs the weak and lowly for his work, because he desires servants who won’t get in the way of his glory. They believe wholeheartedly the truth that they are nothing apart from God. They gladly step back and allow God to be seen in his full glory. They will not photobomb him. They will not jump in his way.

If we desire to be used by God as a servant after God’s own heart, we must battle the pride within. For if God’s ultimate goal is to show his glory, why would he set his big tasks before servants that are too busy seeking their own?

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1).

About the Author

Kyle serves as an ABWE Regional Director over Western Europe. He and his wife Heather previously served in Tanzania. Kyle has a Master of Ministry in Organizational Leadership from Clarks Summit University and a B.S. in Bible from Lancaster Bible College. Support the Farrans’ ministry.

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