Often we speak of glorifying God as the goal of our Christian lives – but what does it actually mean to do it? How can we test whether we are increasingly bringing God glory or if we need to repent for a decline?
Thomas Watson thought seriously about these questions and came up with 17 specific ways that a Christian can glorify God. Here they are below (excerpted from his Body of Divinity available online at Grace Gems).
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In how many WAYS may we glorify God?
 It is glorifying God when we AIM purely at his glory. It is one thing to advance God’s glory, another thing to aim at it. God must be the ultimate end of all actions. Thus Christ says, “I seek not my own glory—but the glory of him who sent me.” A hypocrite has a squint eye, for he looks more to his own glory than God’s. Our Savior deciphers such, and gives a caveat against them in Matthew 6:2, “When you give alms, do not sound a trumpet.” A stranger would ask, “What means the noise of this trumpet?” It was answered, “They are going to give to the poor.” And so they did not give alms—but sell them for honor and applause, that they might have glory of men. The breath of men was the wind which blew the sails of their charity! “Truly they have their reward.” The hypocrite may take his bill and write, “received in full payment.” Chrysostom calls vain-glory one of the devil’s great nets to catch men. And Cyprian says, “Whom Satan cannot prevail against by intemperance, those he prevails against by pride and vainglory.” Oh let us take heed of self-worshiping! Aim purely at God’s glory. We do this,
(1.) When we prefer God’s glory above all other things; above credit, estate, relations; when the glory of God comes in competition with them—we must prefer his glory before them. If relations lie in our way to heaven, we must either leap over them, or tread upon them. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me!” Matthew 10:37. A child must unchild himself, and forget he is a child; he must know neither father nor mother in God’s cause. “Who said unto his father and mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren.” This is to aim at God’s glory.
(2.) We aim at God’s glory, when we are content that God’s will should take place, though it may cross ours. “Lord, I am content to be a loser—if you be a gainer. I am content to have less health—if I have more grace, and you more glory. Let it be food or bitter medicine—if only you give it me. Lord, I desire that which may be most for your glory!” Our blessed Savior said, “Not as I will—but as you will.” Matt 26:69. If God might have more glory by his sufferings, he was content to suffer. “Father, glorify your name.”
(3.) We aim at God’s glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem—so that his glory may be increased. A man who has God in his heart, and God’s glory in his eye, desires that God should be exalted; and if this be effected, let whoever will be the instrument, he rejoices. “Some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely. But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice.” They preached Christ out of envy, they envied Paul that throng of people, and they preached that they might outshine him in gifts, and get away some of his hearers. “Well,” says Paul, “So long as Christ is preached, and God is likely to have the glory, I will rejoice. Let my candle go out, if the Sun of Righteousness may but shine!”
 We glorify God by a sincere CONFESSION of sin. The thief on the cross had dishonored God in his life—but at his death he brought glory to God by confession of sin. Luke 23:3I. “We indeed suffer justly.” He acknowledged he deserved not only crucifixion—but damnation. “My son, give, I beg you, give glory to God, and make confession unto him.” A humble confession exalts God. How is God’s free grace magnified, in crowning those who deserve to be condemned! The excusing and mincing of sin casts a reproach upon God. Adam denied not that he tasted the forbidden fruit—but, instead of a full confession, he blamed God. Gen 3:32. “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” “If you had not given me the woman to be a tempter—I would not have sinned.” Confession glorifies God, because it clears him; it acknowledges that he is holy and righteous, whatever he does. Nehemiah vindicates God’s righteousness; chap 9:93. “You are just in all that is brought upon us.” A confession is sincere, when it is free, not forced. Luke 15:58. “I have sinned against heaven and before you.” The prodigal charged himself with sin, before his father charged him with it.
 We glorify God by BELIEVING. “Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Unbelief affronts God, it gives him the lie; “he who believes not, makes God a liar.” But faith brings glory to God; it sets its seal, that God is true. He who believes flies to God’s mercy and truth, as to an altar of refuge; he engarrisons himself in the promises, and trusts all he has with God. “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This is a great way of bringing glory to God. God honors faith—because faith honors him. It is a great honor we do to a man when we trust him with all we have; when we put our lives and estates into his hand—it is a sign we have a good opinion of him. The three Hebrew children glorified God by believing. “The God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and will deliver us.” Faith knows there are no impossibilities with God, and will trust his loving heart, where it cannot trace his mysterious providential hand.
 We glorify God, by being tender of his glory. God’s glory is as dear to him as the pupil of his eye. An sincere child weeps to see a disgrace done to his father. Psalm 69:9. “The reproaches of those who reproached you are fallen upon me.” When we hear God reproached, it is as if we were reproached; when God’s glory suffers, it is as if we suffered. This is to be tender of God’s glory.
 We glorify God by FRUITFULNESS. “Hereby is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit.” As it is dishonoring God to be barren, so fruitfulness honors him. “Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory.” We must not be like the fig tree in the gospel, which had nothing but leaves—but like the pomecitron, which is continually either ripening or blossoming, and is never without fruit. It is not mere profession—but fruit which glorifies God. God expects to have his glory from us in this way. “Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it?” Trees in the forest may be barren—but trees in the garden are fruitful. We must bring forth the fruits of love and good works. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Faith sanctifies our works, and works testify our faith. To be doing good to others, to be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame—much glorifies God. Thus Christ glorified his Father; “he went about doing good.” Acts 10:08. By being fruitful, we are beautiful in God’s eyes. “The Lord called you a thriving olive tree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit.” And we must bear much fruit. It is muchness of fruit which glorifies God: “if you bear much fruit.” The spouse’s breasts are compared to clusters of grapes, to show how fertile she was. Though the lowest degree of grace may bring salvation to you, yet it will not bring much glory to God. It was not a spark of love, which Christ commended in Mary—but much love; “she loved much.”
 We glorify God, by being CONTENTED in that state in which Providence has placed us. We give God the glory of his wisdom, when we rest satisfied with whatever portion he carves out to us. Thus Paul glorified God. The Lord cast him into as great variety of conditions as any man, “I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-26. Yet he had learned to be content. Paul could sail either in a storm or a calm; he could be anything that God would have him; he could either lack or abound.
A good Christian argues thus: “It is God who has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased—but that might have been a snare to me. He has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition.” Surely this glorifies God much; God counts himself much honored by such a Christian. “Here,” says God, “is one after my own heart; let me do whatever I will with him—I hear no murmuring—he is content!” This shows abundance of grace. When grace is crowning, it is not so much to be content; but when grace is conflicting with inconveniences, then to be content is a glorious thing indeed. For one to be content when he is in heaven is no wonder; but to be content under severe trials, greatly glorifies God. This man must needs bring glory to God; for he shows to all the world, that though he has little meal in his barrel, yet he has enough in God to make him content! He says, as David, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.”
 We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has twisted together, his glory and our good. We glorify him by promoting our own salvation. It is a glory to God to have multitudes of converts; his design of free grace takes effect, and God has the glory of his mercy; so that, while we are endeavoring our salvation, we are honoring God. What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, “while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory!” Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, “You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mime of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away”? So, for God to say, “Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified!”
 We glorify God by living for God. “Those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them.” “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord.” The Mammonist lives for his money. The Epicure lives for his belly. The design of a sinner’s life is to gratify lust—but we glorify God when we live for God. We live to God when we live to his service, and lay ourselves out wholly for God. The Lord has sent us into the world, as a merchant sends his ambassador beyond the seas to trade for him. We live to God when we trade for his interest, and propagate his gospel. God has given every man a talent; and when a man does not hide it in a napkin—but improves it for God, he lives to God. When a master in a family, by counsel and good example, labors to bring his servants to Christ; when a minister spends himself, and is spent, that he may win souls to Christ, and make the crown flourish upon Christ’s head; when the magistrate does not wear the sword in vain—but labors to cut down sin, and to suppress vice; this is to live to God, and this is glorifying God. “That Christ might be magnified, whether by life or by death.” Paul had three wishes, and they were all about Christ; that he might be found in Christ, be with Christ, and magnify Christ.
 We glorify God by walking cheerfully. It brings glory to God, when the world sees a Christian has that within him, which can make him cheerful in the worst times; which can enable him, with the nightingale, to sing with a thorn at his bosom. The people of God have ground for cheerfulness. They are justified and adopted, and this creates inward peace; it makes music within, whatever storms are without. If we consider what Christ has wrought for us by his blood, and wrought in us by his Spirit, it is a ground of great cheerfulness, and this cheerfulness glorifies God. It reflects poorly upon a master when the servant is always drooping and sad; surely—he is kept to hard commons, his master does not give him what is fitting. Just so, when God’s people hang their heads, it looks as if they did not serve a good master, or repented of their choice, which reflects dishonor on God. The uncheerful lives of the godly bring a scandal on the gospel. “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Your serving him does not glorify him, unless it is with gladness. A Christian’s cheerful looks glorify God. True religion does not take away our joy—but refines it; it does not break our violin—but tunes it, and makes the music sweeter.
 We glorify God, by standing up for his truths. Much of God’s glory lies in his truth. God has entrusted us with his truth, as a master entrusts his servant with his purse to keep. We have not a richer jewel to trust God with—than our souls; nor has God a richer jewel to trust us with—than his truth. Truth is a beam which shines from God. Much of his glory lies in his truth. When we are advocates for truth we glorify God. “That you should contend earnestly for the truth.” The Greek word to contend signifies great contending, as one would contend for his land, and not allow his right to be taken from him; so we should contend for the truth. Were there more of this holy contention, God would have more glory. Some contend earnestly for trifles and ceremonies—but not for the truth. We should count him indiscreet that would contend more for a picture—than for his inheritance; more for a box of pennies—than for his box of title deeds.
 We glorify God, by praising him. Doxology, or praise, is a God-exalting work. “Whoever offers praise, glorifies me.” The Hebrew word Bara, to create; and Barak, to praise; are little different, because the end of creation is to praise God. David was called the sweet singer of Israel, and his praising God was called glorifying God. “I will praise you, O Lord my God, and I will glorify your name.” Though nothing can add to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread his fame and renown, we display the trophies of his excellency. In this manner the angels glorify him; they are the choristers of heaven, and trumpet forth his praise. Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of true religion. In prayer we act like men; but in praise we act like angels! Believers are called “temples of God.” When our tongues praise, then the organs in God’s spiritual temple are sounding. How sad is it that God has no more glory from us in this way! Many are full of murmuring and discontent—but seldom bring glory to God, by giving him the praise due to his name. We read of the saints having harps in their hands, the emblems of praise. Many have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouth—but few have harps in their hand, blessing and glorifying God. Let us honor God this way. Praise is the rent we pay to God; while God renews our lease, we must renew our rent.
 We glorify God, by being zealous for his name. “Phinehas has turned my wrath away, while he was zealous for my sake.” Zeal is a mixed affection, a compound of love and anger; it carries forth our love to God, and our anger against sin in an intense degree. Zeal is impatient of God’s dishonor; a Christian fired with zeal, takes a dishonor done to God, worse than an injury done to himself! “You cannot bear those who are evil.” Our Savior Christ thus glorified his Father; he, being baptized with a spirit of zeal, drove the money-changers out of the temple. “Zeal for your house has consumed me.”
 We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in our natural and in our civil actions. In our natural actions; in eating and drinking. “Whether therefore you eat or drink—do all to the glory of God.” A gracious person holds the golden bridle of temperance; he takes his food as a medicine to heal the decays of nature, that he may be the fitter, by the strength he receives, for the service of God; he makes his food, not fuel for lust—but help to duty.
In buying and selling, we do all to the glory of God. The wicked live upon unjust gain, by falsifying the balances, “The balances of deceit are in his hands;” and thus while men make their weights lighter, they make their sins heavier, when by exacting more than the commodity is worth. We buy and sell to the glory of God, when we observe that golden maxim, “To do to others as we would have them do to us;” so that when we sell our commodities, we do not sell our consciences also. “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men.” We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in all our civil and natural actions, and do nothing that may reflect any blemish on true religion.
 We glorify God by laboring to draw others to God. By seeking to convert others, and so make them instruments of glorifying God. We should be both diamonds and magnets; diamonds for the luster of grace, and magnets for attractive virtue in drawing others to Christ. Gal 4:19. “My little children, of whom I travail,” It is a great way of glorifying God, when we break open the devil’s prison, and turn men from the power of Satan to God.
 We glorify God in a high degree when we suffer for God, and seal the gospel with our blood. “When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” God’s glory shines in the ashes of his martyrs. “Glorify the Lord in the fires.” Micaiah was in the prison, Isaiah was sawn asunder, Paul was beheaded, Luke was hanged on an olive tree; thus did they, by their death, glorify God. The sufferings of the primitive saints did honor to God, and made the gospel famous in the world. What would others say? See what a good master they serve, and how they love him, that they will venture the loss of all, in his service. The glory of Christ’s kingdom does not stand in worldly pomp and grandeur, as other kings”; but it is seen in the cheerful sufferings of his people. The saints of old “loved not their lives to the death.” They embraced torments as so many crowns. God grant we may thus glorify him—if he calls us to it. Many pray, “Let this cup of suffering pass away!” Few pray, “May your will be done!”
 We glorify God, when we give God the glory of all that we do. When Herod had made an oration, and the people gave a shout, saying, “It is the voice of a God, and not of a man,” he took the glory to himself. “Immediately, because Herod did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” We glorify God, when we sacrifice the praise and glory of all we do—to God. “I have worked harder than all the other apostles,” is a speech, one would think, which savored of pride. But the apostle pulls the crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of free grace! “Yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” As Joab, when he fought against Rabbah, sent for King David, that David might carry away the crown of the victory; so a Christian, when he has gotten power over any corruption or temptation, sends for Christ, that he may carry away the crown of the victory. As the silkworm, when she weaves her curious work, hides herself under the silk, and is not seen; so when we have done anything praiseworthy, we must hide ourselves under the veil of humility, and transfer the glory of all we have done to God. As one used to write the name of Christ over his door—so should we write the name of Christ over our duties. Let him wear the garland of praise!
 We glorify God by a holy life. A bad life dishonors God. “You are a holy nation, that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you.” The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” Epiphanius says, “That the looseness of some Christians in his time made many of the heathens shun their company, and would not be drawn to hear their sermons.” By our exact Bible-lives, we glorify God. Though the main work of true religion lies in the heart, yet our light must so shine that others may behold it. The safety of a building is the foundation—but the glory of it is in the frontispiece. Just so, the beauty of faith is in the godly life. When the saints, who are called jewels, cast a sparkling luster of holiness in the eyes of the world, then they “walk as Christ walked.” When they live as if they had seen the Lord with bodily eyes, and been with him upon the mount—they adorn true religion, and bring revenues of glory to the crown of heaven!