Unspoken, or Forgotten?

“So, Tim, why are you doing this?”

I was telling my Mom about some of the ideas I had for the short musical contest that I had signed up for, when she turned around to look at me to ask the question. It was a simple enough question, and yet I found it a little irritating. To me, it implied that she thought something was wrong, that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

“Well, on the one hand, I’m following the advice that another composer gave me: I need to write more often, give myself more deadlines. Also, doing this will give me experience writing a short musical in Chinese, and I’ll be able to get in contact with other people in Taiwan who are interested in musicals, so more people can find out about my work. Why are you asking?”

Mom raised her eyebrows and replied, “I just thought that the main purpose should be to glorify God.”

I flushed, slightly embarrassed that I forgot to mention something so important, but I quickly defended myself, “Oh, of course that’s the main reason! I just took it for granted that you would know it’s the unspoken reason for why I’m writing this musical, so I didn’t even bother mentioning it.”

As I turned back to work on the musical, the question continued to gnaw away at me. Was I really doing it for the glory of God? Or had I become completely focused on writing this musical for my own potential gain and benefit?

Soli Deo Gloria, S.D.G. written by Georg Friedrich Händel

A few hundred years ago, the term “Soli Deo gloria” was written by composers such as Bach and Handel on many of their music compositions. It is the Latin phrase meaning “Glory to God alone.” It was a reminder for themselves – and everyone in the future who would read their manuscripts – that the purpose of their music was to bring glory to God. I’m also discovering the importance of constantly reminding myself that the purpose of my work should be to glorify God.

Practically speaking, what does it look like when a musical is written with the purpose of glorifying God? I’m still learning, but one thing I know: often I am focused on just the final product, when God should be glorified throughout the entire process. That means constantly reminding myself and everyone I’m working with WHY we’re doing what we’re doing.

Most importantly, God should be glorified not only through the musical, but in EVERYTHING that I do.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
I Corinthians 10:31

The Right Reason

In the book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul tells us that no matter what we do we should “do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men”. (Col 3:23)  Often I find myself concerned about what other people think of me instead of what Christ’s opinion is.  Of course, this is caused by my selfishness and pride.

This past semester I started studying at home for a college degree.  Every time I sit down to study it’s important for me to remind myself for Whom I am studying.  The purpose of anything I do in my life should always be to please Christ.  By earning this degree, I am working towards something that will give me more opportunities and make me seem more successful to other people.  However, the real purpose for acquiring the degree is not so that I can have a great career or impress people.  My purpose in earning the degree is so that I will be able to serve Christ in different ways than I am able to now.

Sometimes when we do something good and right for the right reason (pleasing Jesus!) people may think we are doing it for a selfish reason and they become upset.  At other times when we do something right or wrong out of a selfish reason people will praise us.  God understands our true motivations.  “…man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)  Jesus should be the most important person and His good opinion the most treasured in our lives.

When Jesus’ opinion is my highest priority I always have a great peace.  I am free from the pressures and opinions of other people and can focus wholeheartedly on doing the best I can for Jesus’ sake.  However, this does not mean that I ignore my authorities’ wishes!  It means that when my authorities give me a task to accomplish I should see it as a personal commission from Christ and do it diligently with a cheerful attitude.  It also doesn’t mean that I can ignore other people!  It means that I should see each person as an opportunity to show Christ’s love.  Unfortunately, I don’t always do these things, but the Lord has been faithful to provide me with many opportunities to practice. 🙂 He will give you opportunities to practice in the coming year, too!

Happy New Year!

A Musical Disaster

Everything was going wrong.

I was part of a recent workshop for the pianists in my church. My assignment was simple. I just had to play a hymn, everyone would sing along, and then discuss the song together. I mean, I played the piano for worship at VOICE for years. I wrote musicals. I would of course come up with something profound for the other pianists to learn from.

But it was absolutely awful.

I sat down at the piano, and I suddenly felt my vision narrowing. I couldn’t think. I didn’t know what my fingers were doing. My rhythm was nonexistent. My introduction didn’t make any sense. I played way too fast.

I was so embarrassed.

I began to analyze my failure. I thought back to my first ever recital when I was seven years old. That was also a flop–I completely forgot my memorized piece, and I burst into tears while on stage. Was I forever doomed to bad nerves? I didn’t think I was nervous, I was confident in my abilities. So what happened?

Simple. I was focused on myself.

I wasn’t focused on learning how to better worship the Lord, I was focused on showing my own skills. I wanted everyone to see how special I was, surprise them with my musical genius. Deep down inside, I was also afraid of ruining my reputation as a pianist in front of all the other pianists in the church.

If I really believed that God was real, then should I be making music for my own glory or for His?

The right answer is pretty obvious, and yet this is a lesson I still struggle with. So often I am more concerned about what others think, forgetting what really matters to God.

Lord, please do not let me use my talents for myself, but to serve you, and to bring all honor to you.