By Rudolf Illavský


There is a famous German proverb that I have known since I was a boy, “Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen,” which is to say, “No master has ever fallen from the sky.” Even the greatest soloist was not born knowing how to play his instrument. Every musician has a first lesson. The same is true in Christianity. The first lesson for the novice believer is to learn to walk in the fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 1:7:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

A music student trusts his teacher to lead him into the right techniques. He recognizes that the teacher knows more than he does; he knows who is the teacher and who is the student. It is the fear of the Lord that frames our relationship with God.

Isaiah 29:16:
Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

One of the first lessons in music training is learning to hear. The student learns to sing or play in tune. Our ears must be tuned to the voice of our teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ. We must learn to hear his voice. If the musician does not give ear to the conductor, there will be no partnership, because without listening, there is no partnership. We cannot have a relationship with our Lord if we do not listen to him. This is our responsibility as Christians.

The biblical account in 1 Samuel 3 gives us an example of how Samuel as a young boy learned to recognize the voice of the Lord. One night while he was lying in bed, he heard a voice calling out to him. Since the elderly priest Eli was the only other person around, Samuel ran to him and asked what he wanted. Eli told the boy that he had not called him and that he should go back to sleep. The same thing happened twice. Finally, after the third time, Eli perceived that it was the Lord calling Samuel. He told the boy that if he heard the voice again, to say, “Speak; for your servant hears.” God works patiently with us too, until we are sensitive to his voice – his working in us. As Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

Even with an abundance of natural ability and the very best teacher, expertise does not come overnight. Natural ability is simply the potential for greatness. Without diligence and faithfulness it is nothing.

Some music teachers are best qualified to teach beginners. Other teachers are best at teaching advanced musicians. Generally, a student will take lessons from a teacher until he thinks he can learn no more from him. As Christians, we never outgrow our teacher Jesus Christ. He wants to be our teacher for life. Even in music, no teacher wants you taking lessons from other teachers at the same time he is training you. When I was sixteen, I was forced to change my double bass teacher, since the Academy of Music in Vienna did not renew his contract. While I was taking lessons from my new teacher, I quite innocently still sought lessons from the dismissed one. But as we say in Austria, “Wände haben Ohren” – “the walls have ears.” My new teacher found out about it and dismissed me. Looking back, I understand his decision. Young students, not yet rooted in their instrument, are likely to be confused by multiple teachers. Different teachers have different doctrines. In the same way, we need one source for truth, and one teacher for truth. The Word of God must be our only score, and the Lord our only teacher. “The LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). We must separate ourselves to him.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18:
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord ... and I will receive you,
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

By our lessons we will be transformed. We allow the Lord to change us into the vessels he wants us to be.

Romans 12:2:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

2 Corinthians 3:18:
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Surely, part of our learning will be the lesson of chastisement. We only fulfill our calling to the extent that we allow ourselves to be broken by God. As a wild horse must learn to submit to its master, so we too must learn to submit to the Lord. A vivid memory from the start of my career as a double bass player in the orchestra comes to my mind. As a newcomer, I thought myself already a profound musician who knew all he needed to know. How wrong I was to think I did not need to be taught any more. My section leader was aware of my proud attitude and worked for years to temper me so that my playing would have a positive effect in the bass group. To this day I am thankful that he did that.

(Hebrews 12:5b-7, 11:
... My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Only now, knowing my place inside a bigger group, pulling on the same rope together, gives me the contentment, joy, and freedom which would have been denied me.

It is unfortunate that for many people, submission means giving up your identity. It is only the things that are of my own flesh that must be given up, so that the new creature in me, which is of God, can blossom. I know the fear we experience by exposing ourselves to this process, since we must cast off our old self in order to begin what is to us an unknown journey. Still, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). But this fear is ungrounded, because we can have trust in the God who says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). This journey will take us into a freedom we have never known.

Truly the Lord knows each of us better than we know ourselves. Similarly, the best music teachers work individually with each student and do not use the same pattern with all. Not everyone has to practice the same things, since what is difficult to one might be easy to another.

When I practice my instrument, I practice only my part of an opus, and therefore, I only see a glimpse of the entire composition. It is only in the full orchestra rehearsal where I understand how my part fits into the whole. Only there, in the full context, do I realize my impact and the composer’s desired effect. Likewise, I cannot yet see the full impact of my service for God.

1 Corinthians 13:12:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Since all the believers have a unique part in God’s score, God gives gifts to individuals to fulfill their part for the benefit of all. Therefore, we should gladly accept His choice of gifts for our lives. We are all members of Christ’s body and “those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (1 Cor. 12:22). Fingernails and toe nails may seem to be unnecessary parts of our body, but what problems we would have without them!

1 Peter 4:10:
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

In this life, we will only see a glimpse of our unique contribution to the Lord’s eternal plan. As we walk with God, we will see more clearly how our unique ministry fits within his composition.



From the January 2008 issue of The Vine & Branches