Famed missionary Eric Liddell is known for saying, “I believe God made me for a purpose—for China. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” I often feel the same way. Only, I would say, “I believe God made me for a purpose—for the church. But he also made me musical, and when I compose, I feel his pleasure.”
Last week I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend the Composer’s Symposium, an annual gathering of church music composers that was born through the creative genius of Joseph Martin. It was my fourth year at the CS, and by far the best in my opinion. If you are interested in composing sacred music, especially for the choral world, this is the place for you (click here to check out the next one in Austin, TX this coming October).
I could share a lot from this past week, but I want to focus on something a little more personal. God has been emphasizing to me the importance of his sovereignty in every area of my life. I came into this year’s Symposium ready to learn. My goal this year was that my growth music composition would directly benefit my local church, a church which very graciously covered my expenses and gave me the time to come.
In my daily Bible reading, I happened to be reading through Exodus last week. On the first day of the Symposium I read these words,
The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri,
son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God,
with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship,
to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze,
in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.
And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach,
of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability,
that they may make all that I have commanded you.”
God called two men, Bezalel and Oholiab, to be experts in their craft. He gifted them with ability so they could construct the tabernacle, the very place where God would meet with Moses and communicate with his people. What a privilege! And, if you read on, you will find this theme repeated over and over again through the next eight chapters. Those men were made for that moment. They must have been filled with awe at their commission, yet filled with fear and trembling at the sacredness of the calling. They really could take no credit, for it all tied back to the sovereign plan of God.
I marvel at the goodness and wisdom of God. He took that passage and drove it home to my heart this past week. Many men in church history have served as ministers of God while also writing music for the church—Martin Luther, the Wesley brothers, Isaac Watts, and closer to our time, James Montgomery Boice, Chris Anderson, Dustin Battles, Matt Merker, and others. Like Liddell, I believe God made me for a purpose—for the church. But he also made me musical, and when I compose, I feel his pleasure. It’s a beautiful marriage. And it’s all to the glory of God.
Someone once said we all need to find out God’s purpose for our lives, and then do it. I have often encountered times of discouragement along my musical journey. Just this afternoon I spent over an hour trying to get my keyboard to work with my computer software. I spent so much time on my computer I didn’t even get to write down my music. We all encounter hurdles along the way. By God’s grace they will only make us stronger, more resolved, and more dependent on God to finish what he has started in us.
Let me encourage you. If you believe God has gifted you in a certain area, and you find confirmation of that gift through those you love and trust in the church, then pursue it. Like Eric Liddell, run! For God’s glory, and for his pleasure, run with all your might.