A virtuoso is defined as a person supremely skilled in music or another artistic pursuit. Many of America’s cultural and entertainment icons are virtuoso’s. These virtuoso types leave no shortage of moments that inspire. If given a little bit of time, most people could recall an inspirational performance that brought them to their feet in applause. Despite this relative truth, few of those who applaud consider that virtuoso’s necessary extraordinary sacrifice, in order to be a prodigy.
Although born with natural abilities others are not endowed with, the virtuoso still has to pay the heavy price of practice, trial and error, failure and success, isolation for their art or sport, sacrificing lesser social allowances and even human relationships to be one with their virtuosity. Many of them are asked the question after years of success “Was it worth the pain and struggle to get to where you are today?”
Over the past three weeks I have been reminded that God intends all His children in Christ to be virtuoso, to the degree of faith they are given. All of us are called to be salt and light. All are called to be holy as He is holy. All are called to be filled with all the fullness of God by the Holy Spirit. All are called to love God with all of who we are, just like Jesus, who is VIRTUOSITY. Yet there is a price to pay, for the reward of being born again from above and walking as extraordinary men and woman redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Yet is it worth the pain?
You may find that a strange question but Jesus suggests strongly that we count the cost of being His disciples. If we will be disciples of any remarkable quality at all, we must be (or as it is in Greek “be being”) filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore we must count the cost of being filled with the Holy Spirit and ask, is it worth the pain? Let us take a look at Philippians 3:10 to begin our journey.
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”.
“that I may know Him” is another way of expressing the fullness of the Holy Spirit, as the ‘know” written refers to the unity of the believer and Christ. What follower of Christ would not want to “know” Jesus Christ? Is there any better pay off in this life? The answer would be “NO”, but remember to “know” Jesus does have a steep cost. Let’s talk cost and payoff in the now. Let’s consider the virtuoso musician again.
Many have spent countless frustrating hours and lots of money to mimic the inspiring talent of their favorite virtuoso musician. Almost all fail to attain anything close to their favorites prodigious playing, because their favorite is gifted. Despite this gifting, most virtuoso’s are not born with ability to pick up and play their instrument that way the first time. In fact they spend years of hours, picking up their instrument, knowing it, failing, practicing more, succeeding, failure again and finally gaining recognition.
Consider the case of Stevie Ray Vaughn, the blues guitarist who inspired me, long before I ever picked up a guitar. When he died in a plane crash in August of 1990 I cried. I remember I was on my way to my summer job, hearing the news on my hometown rock radio station. They played the song “The Sky is Cry’in” one of his hits. I wept. This man could flat out play his guitar like no other. His first guitar “Lenny” (pictured to the right) was a Fender Stratocaster, he named after his first wife “Lenny”. He knew that guitar better than his wife. Through calluses, failures, pain and persevering unto success, he became one of the all time greats with that instrument. Stevie Ray Vaughn had to “know” his guitar “Lenny” intimately.
“That I may know Him” has a similar ring, albeit of the utmost importance to the soul of the Christian, as we are to be virtuoso Christians, inspiring others to pick up Christ. This takes more than biblical knowledge of Jesus. Although knowing about Jesus, from the bible is necessary to “know Him” as Paul prays—and is the foundation of the reforming of the mind (Romans 12:2) —and the framework for us to experience Jesus personally—alone (biblical facts about Jesus) would be like me picking “Lenny” up back in 1990. At that time I had facts about the guitar but no clue how to play one. Let’s just agree I would not have made any beautiful music.
Sadly this kind of fact knowing hinders many Christians in knowing Jesus intimately, same as the religious scholars at the time of Christ’s birth did not know God intimately. We remember when Herod wanted to know where the Christ would be born, those with the bible facts about Messiah’s birth knew the location (from Micah 5:2), but were not moved to find Him for themselves. Consider the Pharisee’s who knew all about the Messiah, yet did not accept Him because they did not “know” God (Mark 7:6-8). These men knew facts about God, but did not know God.
To know Jesus means to know Him, by interaction and handling Him.
(I John 1:1) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled concerning the word of life—
Consider once more “Lenny”, both Stevie Ray Vaughn’s first wife and guitar. He sadly divorced his wife, but never the guitar. He knew every shape and curve of the guitar and perfected his playing on it. He was able to make her squawk, squeal, sustain and growl at will. In his hands there was no division between himself and his instrument. The guitar was an extension of him. “Lenny” and Stevie were one. This helps us understand the phrase to “Know Him”. As we find in I John 1:1, the disciples had word of God knowledge of Messiah, but they knew Him by experience.
We are to know Jesus the same way by the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In this we “hear” and “see” and “look upon” and “handle”… “The Word of Life”, who is the Person of Jesus Christ. In this we “know” Him, yet this takes setting ourselves apart, like the virtuoso musician, dedicated 24/7 to our purpose. To “know” Him is also our being instruments in His hands and Him being in us as King and life conductor.
An even closer biblical analogy comes from the meaning of the Greek word for “know”, which is used to describe how a husband or wife “know” one another in the consummation of the marriage; where life can come forth in procreation. This in human terms is one soul, spirit and body (in a one flesh union). Linking “that I may know Him” with “the power of His resurrection” brings the payoff: Our partnering with Jesus in resurrection power to bring new birth in others. Who would not want to experience that? Yet Let us remember the cost is higher than that of a musician who is fixated on his instrument, and seeking the fleeting glory that comes from fame.
The cost is to daily look to the author and finisher of our faith. The cost is to separate ourselves from the world the flesh and the devil, that we would not be compromised in carnality. The cost is to be available and set apart for His direction 24/7, where we seek to isolate from the noise of normal human life, to hear His voice leading (Proverbs 3:5-7).
When we accept the cost, Jesus will pluck our lives as the Master musician, making our lives a song which brings Him glory. That is definitely worth the initial cost, yet those who find they are beginning to “know” Jesus this way will begin to experience a new cost that is indeed painful… ““That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...” in our next post we will explore the meaning of “the fellowship of His sufferings” and again ask “Is knowing Jesus worth the pain?”