In the last post we looked at the amount of time Christ spent preparing for ministry. Now let’s look at how Christ prepared for his ministry in the 30 years before he “went public.”
Jesus was fully human in addition to being fully God. While we will never comprehend exactly how God accomplished this seemingly contradictory union, we can know that in the human realm Jesus grew up much as every other human does.
He grew physically and emotionally from a baby to a man. While he could have skipped the human timetable of maturity and started speaking, walking, and working earlier than most humans simply because he was God, he did not. Jesus waited patiently as his body matured. He played, went to school, and learned the skills of a carpenter, which at that time referred to the construction of whole homes, not just wood working. He honed his craft. By the time he was thirty and ready to go into ministry he probably could have taken over his father’s business.
As worship musicians and leaders we must spend time honing our craft, whether that is singing or playing an instrument. We do not arrive at proficiency overnight; we have to work at it. Whether we are already highly proficient or just beginning we should all be continuously developing our gifts.
Last night I was speaking with Dave, a drummer, and he was talking about how enthused he was to have discovered a new instructional DVD. Over the past two weeks Dave has been implementing the exercises he has found on this DVD and he is already seeing results. Dave is a good drummer, but he sees an opportunity to grow and he is seizing it. Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have been given; if you think you can do better in some area you need to find a way to grow. We need to bring our best to God, not our “good enough.”
As he grew Jesus learned how to set aside time to pray and speak with his father. Jesus did not enter ministry at age thirty and suddenly know that he needed to recharge spiritually by spending time alone with God. His practice of spending time alone with God was, most likely, commonplace for him by the time he entered his ministry. Even though he was fully God, he was also fully human, and humans must spend time with God in order to have the power to confront and overcome life.
Do you spend time each day speaking with and listening to God through prayer and reading or listening to the Scripture? If we want to hear God on a Sunday morning when the guitars are cranking and the drums are pounding, we need to be able to speak with and hear from God when we are alone, silent, and still.
When he was thirty, and before John baptized him, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan. These 40 days were hard, brutal times. Hebrews says, “We have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15b, NIV 1984) Satan tempted Jesus to turn the rocks into bread, and I would not be surprised if Jesus was tempted later in life to turn rocks into bread when he and his companions had been traveling and were very hungry. Satan tempted Christ with power over all of the kingdoms of the earth without having to suffer the cross; all Jesus had to do was worship Satan. Later in life Jesus was tempted to turn his back God’s plan for his life and allow the crowds to crown him king.
Jesus’ answers to Satan’s temptations all came from Scripture. We will face many temptations and challenges in ministry. The best preparation for temptations and challenges is time spent alone with God. Then when you are tempted or challenged God will bring his word to your mind so that you can overcome the situation. We have no substitute for time spent reading the Scripture and speaking with God.
Luke 2:52 (NIV 1984) tells us that “Jesus grew . . . in favor with God and man.” People began to think highly of him, which means he grew to a point where people respected and would listen to him. Jesus did not at some point say, “I am God, so now everyone will respect and follow me.” Sounds like Dilbert. No, Jesus earned respect and the right to lead as every human must.
As leaders we must earn the respect of our employers, employees, peers, and volunteers. Respect and the permission to lead are earned over time through interactions with people, not through imperial decree. Several years ago I became the Interim Music Director at Lakeshore Community Church in Rochester, NY, at a time when they desperately needed someone to step in and help shoulder the load. As a result one week I was a guest musician and the next week I was in charge of the entire music program. A volunteer said later that she followed my leadership at that time not because she wanted to follow me but because my boss asked her and the others on the team to follow me. As the year went on, however, I was slowly able to earn the respect of the music team as well as the permission to lead them.
What jumps out at you about Jesus’ way of honing his craft, learning to lean spiritually on his father, or earning the “favor of God and man?”