I recently read a fascinating article in The Atlantic on the state of Christian music today. The essay reminds us of an era when Christians such as Bach, Beethoven and Tolkien shaped and dominated the arts. It notes theologian N. T. Wright’s call for believers “to be at the leading edge of the whole culture.”
Excellence to the glory of God is our Lord’s expectation. (Tweet this) When God called the craftsman who would construct the first sanctuary, he “filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship” (Exodus 35:31). From that day to this, our Lord deserves and seeks our very best service and worship, our “utmost for his highest,” as Oswald Chambers famously noted.
But here’s the challenge: I so often fail to be all I can be and do all I can do. Like Dwight Moody, I am a leaky bucket needing often to be refilled. I need every day what this day in Holy Week offers us all.
On Silent Wednesday, Jesus apparently stayed in Bethany, a village two miles east of Jerusalem, at the home of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Away from the crowds, he spent the day preparing for all that was to come. Such solitude with God the Father was Jesus’ consistent pattern:
- “Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
- “After he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matt. 14:23).
- “In these days he went out to a mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).
- “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray'” (Matt. 26:36).
Clearly, Jesus knew he needed what only his Father could supply. By contrast, self-sufficiency is the great deception of our day. (Tweet this) Our churches reward what we do for God, not who we are with him.
This statement by Leonard Ravenhill has long convicted me: “No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, but few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.” He adds: “If we displease God, does it matter whom we please? If we please Him does it matter whom we displease?”
God is pleased when we make time to be alone with him. He empowers us to be our best when we seek and serve him in the power of his Spirit. If Jesus needed solitude with his Father, how much more do we?