As an artist, it can be tempting to get caught up in self. Pride tells you that when you’re successful, it’s all because of who you are and what you did. It also lies to you and says that when your art doesn’t reach the audience, it’s because you’re fallen, broken, and sinful. But while we as artists play a part in our work, it’s ultimately up to God.

Your Calling and Purpose Aren’t up to You

The world asks, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” But you didn’t make you. God knew you from eternity before you were ever knitted together in your mother’s womb. When you want to know for what purposes a device was made, you look at the manual or talk to the designer. So also, we must look to God and His word for who we are and what we are made to do.

Many of the artists I talk to mention times of change in their life, where they were called out of what they were comfortable with into something greater. I’ve been there myself. But it’s not our place to tell God what we’re made to do. Nor does the one who is called to small and subtle works get to envy the one who is under the spotlight, nor does the one in the spotlight have a right to complain about the attention and ask for a quieter life. Now, God does make allowances for His children, as He did when Moses asked to pass off his speaking duties to Aaron. But, more often, He calls us to places we’ll have to grow to enter, even if it’s not what we would have imagined was best. And sometimes, He punishes the wicked and disciplines His beloved by granting their requests. And so, if you persist in going against His will, He may just choose to let you remain a square peg desperately trying to squeeze into a round hole until you finally give up and admit that His ways are higher than your ways and His thoughts than your thoughts.

The Results of Your Work Aren’t up to You

If God can deliver a sermon through a donkey (Numbers 22), He’s not waiting for you to get your act together before He can use you. If Paul and Barnabas can work God’s miraculous healing and inadvertently inspire the crowds to give glory to Hermes and Zeus (Acts 14), then you’re probably going to be misunderstood as well. If Jonah can bring all of Nineveh to repentance despite desperately trying not to (Jonah 3), then God’s message isn’t going to be held up by your sin or hard heart. And if the crowds turned away from Jesus preaching (John 6), don’t be surprised if they turn away from you as well.

The more I study the Scriptures, the more I’m convinced that God will work His purposes regardless of what humans choose. Much is made of human free will, and I do believe God allows us to freely choose. But God has free will as well, and history is His to command.

I’m not calling you to laziness. If physical training is of some benefit (1 Timothy 4:8), then surely there’s value in developing your artistic capacity. But while you work for God, don’t judge yourself by the standards of the world. Look to your heart and your actions and don’t worry about how everyone else is defining impact or success.

Your Art Shouldn’t Exist to Glorify You

The world lusts after money, fame, power, and accolades. The temptation for everyone is to build their kingdom, seize their crown, live their life, and claim their prize. And the art world has all sorts of temptations there, from the desire to dominate the world stage to coveting the praise at your local coffee shop.

The kingdom lifestyle turns this on its head. The last become first, the least become the greatest, and those who seek to glorify themselves will be humbled while those who humble themselves will be exalted. At the end, everything must go through the fire, and that means whatever you did for yourself will be consumed while everything you did for Christ, no matter how small, will be made eternal.

And after all, if your calling and purpose aren’t from you, but from God, and the results aren’t up to you, but up to God, isn’t it only fitting that the glory at the end goes to God, who then, after receiving your gift, lifts you up as He sees fit?

Cameron Miller, writer
Photo by mariel reiser on Unsplash

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