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Not All Glory Is Fleeting

In ancient Rome, a victorious general or emperor returning from his conquests was celebrated with a grand parade.  Throngs of people lined the streets of Rome to see their glorious champion.  In the procession marched columns of Roman soldiers, trumpeters, slaves, and captive enemy warriors in chains.  Wagons loaded with the spoils of war – plunder, treasure, weapons – along with strange animals from the vanquished lands exhibited the hero’s great trophies.  At the rear of the procession, the conqueror rode in a gilded chariot led by white horses.  Often the conqueror’s children, robed in white, rode with him in the chariot, or else they rode the trace-horses before the chariot.  The conqueror himself was clothed in a purple toga embroidered with stars over a purple tunic embroidered with palms.  To signify his victory, his head was crowned with a laurel wreath.

In the midst of this grand scene was one carefully placed reminder for the returning hero.  In the chariot with the conqueror was a slave whose sole purpose was to temper the conqueror’s pride lest he be consumed by it.  The slave held a golden crown above the conqueror’s head and repeated the Latin phrase, “'Sic transit gloria.”  The literal translation of this phrase is, “Thus passes glory,” but it is best understood as, “Glory is fleeting.”

Indeed, the glory of this world is fleeting.  Glory-seekers throughout time have been unable to find any lasting glory that can be preserved for more than a moment in history.  Through the ages, kings, queens, and warriors have achieved great glory, but other kings, queens, and warriors as well as time, age, and death eventually eclipsed them all.  In our time, movie stars, musicians, athletes, and politicians seek and obtain glory from the public, but it soon slips away from all of them, and most are soon forgotten.

Worldly glory is fleeting because this world is fleeting.  John wrote that “the world is passing away, and also its lusts” (1John 2:17).  Peter was very descriptive of this world’s end when he wrote that “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will burned up” (2Pet. 3:10).  Nothing in the material realm exceeds the glory of the heavens – the sun, the moon, and the stars – or the glory of the earth.  Yet these things are all fleeting – they are passing away.  If glorious heavenly bodies such as these are passing away, then what chance do men have for enduring glory?

In this world, there is no lasting glory, but we have a chance to achieve an unworldly glory that lasts forever.  This glory lasts forever because it comes from the eternal God rather than the temporal world.  It is this glory that Jesus received, for He said, “I do not receive glory from men” (John 5:41).  Moreover, He rebuked the Jews in John 5:44, saying, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”  It is glory from God that is worth seeking, for it transcends this world and lasts forever.

We can secure enduring glory from God by elevating spirituality above carnality regardless of the temporal consequences.  Consider the attitude of Paul, who suffered tremendously for the sake of spirituality and glory in Christ.  In 2Corinthians 4:17-18, he wrote, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  All Christians, like Paul, have the opportunity for this “eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”  Notice these passages:

Romans 2:7 – “…to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life”

Romans 2:10 – “…but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Romans 8:18 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

2Timothy 2:10 – “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”

The irony of it all is that the only way to achieve true, lasting glory of God is to shun the fleeting, temporary glory of this world.  The Lord taught this lesson of humility to His disciples when they argued over which of them was the greatest.  He said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  The world does not celebrate humility and servitude, but God honors those who thus seek His glory.  There will be no parades for those who do that which the world considers inglorious – putting spiritual things first, doing good, being servants to others – but such spiritually-minded persons will receive the one true glory that is not fleeting.
Stacey E. Durham



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