Last week I posted a quote from ATMP that says, “The better you are at your craft, the clearer a channel the Holy Spirit has to move through your playing. Skill is a clean conduit.”
A friend of mine objected, citing 1 Corinthians 1:25-29, the famous passage that says, “God has chosen the weak things of this world to shame the wise…so that no human being may boast in the presence of God.” My friend: “I’m saying that the Holy Spirit demonstrates his power through our weakness. Our human ‘skill’ is of secondary importance when compared to the power of the Holy Spirit. We should not overestimate our importance.”
I see what he is saying. However, I want to offer a few thoughts. Because I already address this subject in the book, I won’t fully expound on it here, but there are some key concepts for minstrels to consider.
First of all, I agree with my friend that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, and that we will have no basis to boast about our works in Heaven. But let’s consider what the Scripture says regarding the subject of music:
“Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” - Psalm 33:3 (NIV)
“…the music of strings makes You glad.” - Psalm 45:8b (NIV)
“and as the minstrel hath played, the hand of Jehovah came upon (Elisha).” - 2 Kings 3:15 (Young’s Literal Translation)
We can conclude from these three verses that 1. God commands that we develop our skill, 2. Music ministers to God, and 3. Music is a conduit for His Spirit to move. Growing up in church I somehow adopted the idea that if I played well, or demonstrated a cool new riff I learned, that I was drawing attention to myself and getting in the way of God ministering to His people. I believe a lot of Christians think that way, and feel guilty for taking their craft seriously. The problem is it’s backwards. The purpose of skill is to “get out of God’s way” (or rather, to usher Him in). We must be careful that we don’t equate the development of skill with the arrogance of “look what I can do.” That is a heart issue, not a mechanical issue. Also, we must not equate humility of heart and spiritual dependence upon God (“weakness”), with laziness.
God hates laziness. If you read Proverbs for any length of time, that becomes apparent. The Christian community is notorious for confusing laziness with “depending on God in my weakness,” and it must stop. Humility, on the other hand, takes the commands of God to heart and works. One of the most terrifying passages in the Bible is the parable of the talents. (I know that a “talent” in Jesus’ time was a measurement of money, but its meaning extends beyond just currency to include any gift that God gives us stewardship over). The two servants who increased their talents were commended by God and given responsibility over more. The one servant who buried his talent and offered back to God what he had been given was called “wicked” and “lazy,” and was thrown into jail. His talent was given to the one who had been entrusted with the greatest amount.
For the minstrel, the development of skill is for the purpose of moving in any direction God is leading. It embodies the attitude of a humble servant, ready to do anything the Master wishes. The heart of the minstrel aligns with 1 Corinthians 1:25-29: playing skillfully has nothing to do with taking credit for God moving. The true minstrel offers up any glory he/she receives to back God. That is a foundational principle of the Christian life.
God is like a fire, and the minstrel’s goal is to build the best environment for the fire to grow. People don’t come for the fire stoker, they come to get warm. The sad antithesis is false humility that bumbles around, blocks the warmth, and throws a blanket on the fire for fear that they will be given credit.
I am glad my friend offered his objection. I hope this was a satisfactory answer. What we need is a new generation of minstrels who take their role seriously and direct all of the glory to the Father. They depend on Him in an attitude of humility, and put forth their best offering (see Hebrews 11:4).
These are concepts that I expound on in the book. I hope you will join the ATMPcampaing and purchase it on April 2nd at 1pm.