When God does something, itís not just functional, but beautiful; not arid necessity but brimming with unexpected joys.
Consider the sun. A lesser god would have stopped at making it an essential power-house. Our Lord even went far beyond making it an exquisite time-piece. His love and ingenuity soared as he fashioned a warm bath of pleasure, delighting and inspiring all humanity. It forms weather patterns, sculpts clouds, sends leaves twisting and twirling like a ballerina. Its rays donít just illuminate, they sparkle and dance, they paint rainbows and the ever-changing splendor of endless sunsets, splashing color through all the earth with unrestrained exuberance.
Everything God does displays the inexhaustible creativity and extravagant generosity of the One who invites and empowers us to imitate him.
Creative people long to be more like Father!
Discovering how our creativity and Godís creativity mesh is both exciting and critical. If we get this wrong whatever we produce, no matter how good, will be less than what God wants and, no matter how much we enjoy our involvement in it, we will still miss a large part of the greatest joys a human can experience. It is so vital that we are convinced of the principle described below, that I will quickly examine it from many different angles, not to be repetitive, but to confirm that no matter how we approach it, truth leads to the one, thrilling conclusion.
When writing my favorite book, I pleaded with God that it be all of him and none of me. That seemed spiritual and I sincerely meant it, but God did not seem interested. His revelation came only in drips, and putting it together was like trying to thread needles with spastic hands. All of God? I could not possibly have poured more of my own effort into that book, yet I knew God was there Ė powerfully.
My prayer to become Godís dictating machine fizzled because I had not counted on Godís love. He ignored my offer, just like the father in Jesusí parable ignored his prodigal sonís offer to relinquish sonship and become a hired hand (Luke 15:18,21-24).
The Almighty wants to give us the thrill and honor of genuine involvement in his magnificent purposes. Being creative is God-like and he longs for his children to know this joy. If, through his inexplicable love, Christ wants me as co-heir, he wants me as co-author not a dictating machine (see 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6.1).
From the age of four, I loved helping grandpa lay cement paths. Almost anyone could do a better job than a little child, but that was irrelevant. I was irreplaceable. I had a special place in grandpaís heart.
And you have a special place in Godís heart. Physically, the Lord is totally self-sufficient. He needs us no more than a handyman needs the services of a four-year-old. But the Fatherís joy could never be complete without your contribution.
Has ever a fatherís heart swelled with loving pride at a childís pathetic attempt to help him? Then how much more will the boundless love of your Father in heaven be stirred by your attempts Ė even your weakest attempts Ė to honor him with your service.
To strangers, your ministry may just be one of thousands. But not to someone who loves you. And you mean most to the One who willed you into existence, fashioned you, redeemed you, and longs to fulfill your every need. Expect a personal invitation to a royal command performance in the presence of his Majesty, the King of kings.
Divine love is a compelling reason for God valuing our efforts. Here is another: our raw natural abilities are as much a product of Godís creativity as anything he could ever do. Is it hard to believe the exalted Lord would like the sound of your voice or the work of your hands? Remember who created that voice and those hands. Beware: denigrating our gift comes close to denigrating the Giver. Thereís a point where humility degenerates into an insult to the One who made you and empowers you. Iíve fallen over the edge too often.
And here is something even more significant: creativity is among our God-given gifts. For our Lord to deny our (consecrated) creative efforts he would have to deny his own skill in making us.
ĎThatís good!í she gushed when he finished his song.
ĎOh, it wasnít me,í he humbly said, Ďit was the Lord.í
ĎNo, it wasnít that good!í
Some peopleís claim to divine inspiration produces such mediocrity that it seems an excuse for laziness or, more likely, a failure to see the hole in the Ďall of God, none of meí half-truth.
Self must die Ė sinful independence, pride, selfishness, and trying to earn heavenís approval. And we must yield everything to Christ, acknowledging that his ways are higher than ours. But to go so far beyond this that we renounce and denigrate our divinely-created mental and physical powers is as unchristian as gnostic heretics who taught that everything physical is of the devil.
Paulís ministry was an astounding mixture of hardship (torture, deprivation, shipwreck) and miracles (healings, earthquake, snakebite survival, blinding of Elymasí eyes). Likewise, your ministry, whether it be music, literature, art, dance, preaching, or whatever, should be a peculiar mixture of the natural (plain hard work) and the supernatural (divine intervention). The same passage of Scripture that emphasizes the prophetic (ie supernatural) side of music, also points to the existence of a training system (1 Chronicles 25:1-8, especially 7,8).
That our Lord wants us to be submissive but active partners in his work, not mindless robots, is demonstrated in the penning of Scripture. In the original language, the individual style of each human writer is very obvious. It is truly the Word of God, yet the Lord ordained it that each sentence bears the imprint of the human writer. He chose to use, rather than over-ride, the individual personalities of the writers. If this is so for Scripture, which is more God-inspired than anything we could produce, it will be true of even our most Spirit-filled efforts.
A man and a woman in love long for a union, the natural result of which is offspring that are neither entirely the manís, nor the womanís, but bear the unmistakable marks of both. That union, Scripture boldly declares, has a spiritual parallel (Ephesians 5:31-32). Though this initially shocks our impure minds, it rings true. The human desire to express love in this manner was placed within us by the One who fashioned us in his image. The inexhaustible creativity of God longs, through our union with him, to birth within us unique and wondrous things, bearing the image, not just of one partner, but of both him and us.
A musician and an instrument unite to produce sounds which neither would produce without the other. We are living instruments fashioned by the divine Instrument Maker with greater sophistication than any man-made instrument, having our own creativity. Like an instrument maker with his cherished instrument, our Maker longs to blend his ability with ours to produce unique sounds to bless the world.
So, both to express his unfathomable love for us and to display his own genius in creating us, the omnipotent Lord treasures our contribution. But because that same love yearns for intimacy with us and that same creativity forever craves new expression, the Almighty longs to couple his supernatural ability with our natural effort to birth something as unique and as precious as is a child to its loving parents. The product of this supernatural union will be in one sense human, in another sense divine; an earthly art glowing with heavenly glory.
Letís clarify the often misunderstood role of human effort. As a proud attempt to earn salvation, good works are abhorrent. Wrong attitudes turn good works sour. As an expression of loving submission to God, however, sweat is beautiful. For the Spirit-filled Christian in divine submission, human exertion and divine enabling are not opponents but allies. View inspiration and effort not as an incompatible mix of oil and water but as bricks and mortar. They merge to build a monument of love for the glory of God Ė glory that his father-heart longs to share with us.
Those who are called to minister in music, art, dancing, acting, preaching, or whatever, will seek to refine their gift. If we are ever hesitant, the parable of the talents is sufficient to seal the matter for us (Matthew 25:14-30). Yet as we grow in Christ, our motivation intensifies. Our love for God fills us with a longing to develop the abilities he had graciously bestowed upon us. We treasure the gift because we adore the Giver.
A man takes from the earth a precious diamond and spends hours studying and cutting it, desiring to reveal to the fullest the beauty God has placed within it. In like manner, we labor to display the beauty resident within our gift, that the Giver might be glorified. Longing to see our Lordís eyes sparkle with joy, we polish his gift till it gleams. We want it to shine so brightly that he can see his face in it. Then we want the whole world to see that face.
For the secular artist, training and practice are simply a matter of common sense. Our motivation is much deeper and sweeter. Yet sometimes practice and training seem at odds with ministering in the Spiritís power.
A lady I admire was very much used of God until she started taking singing lessons. Formerly, when she was in church worshipping her Lord, God would often suddenly give her an entirely new song. There was no time for rehearsals. The song was divinely created for that specific occasion. The moment there was a pause in the service, she would share that beautiful song with the congregation. With remarkable consistency, her songs would blend in with the rest of the service in ways beyond human control. Since commencing singing lessons, however, her training seemed to be hindering her ministry.
My guess is that her lessons had simply made her more self-conscious, causing her to focus upon correct voice production, rather than focusing upon her Savior. Such a change of focus would probably have an adverse affect upon any ministry, let alone one so dependent upon hearing from God that very moment.
The solution, it would seem, is not less practice, but more. Eventually, such things as correct breathing should become almost second nature. Then she will be able to concentrate upon the Lord and sing correctly as well. The result will surely be an even more effective ministry.
Souls are Godís responsibility, sounds are our responsibility. Thatís the way many Christian musicians view it. God wants us to do our best, but they imagine thatís about the limit of his interest in our art. The Lord is expected to take the back seat, politely applauding the finished performance, but basically leaving us to our own devices, artistically.
We now know differently. Creator God longs to be involved in our art Ė guiding, inspiring, tutoring, and at times actually creating and physically expressing himself through us. Our loving Lord wants partnership, not dictatorship, nor disinterest, in every area of our lives.
ĎOpen my lips,í prayed the psalmist, Ďand my mouth will show forth your praiseí (Psalm 51:15). ĎTake my lips and speak through them, take my mind and think through it,í became one of Frances Ridley Havergalís favorite prayers.
Letís never forget that creativity has its ultimate Source in God, not man. The further one goes from the source the more polluted the water. Forget about following the world; you will lead it, if you draw close enough to the true Source of creativity.
Be not quick to assume God is not in your creativity just because it didnít come in a technicolor vision or arrive at supersonic speed. God assists and inspires us in a thousand ways.
The Spirit of the Almighty resides within us. Every day we speak with God. Every day weíre seated in heavenly places. To us, the supernatural is commonplace. It would hardly be surprising if our efforts are more divinely inspired than we realize. Yet each of us could probably develop still further our ability to receive from heaven. My passion is to inspire you to enter into an ever-deepening partnership with the Creator, the One who Ďgives songs in the night,í the Origin of Ďevery good and perfect gift,í the Lord of sound and time, who is constantly worthy of a new song. Seek him. Yield to him. Harmonize with him. The result will last for eternity.