By Daniel Tillman
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was 13. A family friend gave us their piano, and that is where I first discovered my love of music. This passion soon became my obsession and my escape.
As I grew in my skill and ability, people would comment and say encouraging things about how God had gifted me. I began to think that since God had gifted me in music, it must have been because He wanted me to pursue a life and career in music. While it is true that God gifted me for a purpose, I was mistaken in the thought that the “purpose” was mine to decide. Looking back I can see that I had the wrong view of God. I saw Him as Creator and Savior—I had that part right—but I had missed the most important part: He is also Lord.
Not once did I ever stop to ask God what He would have me do with my life. At first, it never crossed my mind to ask. But when my plans began to go awry and I realized that I probably should ask Him, I didn’t…because I was afraid. What if I didn’t like the answer? What if God wanted me to do something that I didn’t want to do? I had my agenda—my master plan. In fact, the first 25 years of my life would be defined by me and my plans. Funny thing about plans though: Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” As I made plans that didn’t quite line up with God’s, I began to run into some serious resistance. James 4:6 says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Pride is thinking that our way is better than God’s way. As it turns out, my way was not better. Eventually, through a series of events, dream after dream and pursuit after pursuit came crashing down around me. The more my plans would fail, the angrier I would get at God. Why wouldn’t He just leave me alone and let me live my life the way I wanted?! Psalm 37:4 says to “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I was doing everything backwards! I was focused on my desires all the while wondering why I felt so distant from the Lord. Finally, after nearly a decade-long struggle against God and His will for my life, I reached the end of myself.
I had been running with some people that were far from God, and my life was beginning to look more and more like theirs. I had been de-churched for a number of years when a friend invited me to check out her church. The sermon was on community, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I was the person in Proverbs 18:1: a man who isolates himself seeking his own desires, and rages against all sound wisdom. I had spent my life seeking self, ignoring the truth in the Scripture. It was no wonder that I found myself full of the same hopelessness and despair that defined the lives of my non-believing friends. The prospect of being transparent and vulnerable was absolutely terrifying, but I knew that I needed the true and authentic community that was being preached about.
In a moment of utter despair I cried out to God, submitted my life to His will and walked away from my years of struggling to make a career in the music industry. Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I knew that He created me with the gifts and talents that he did, but as long as I was trying to fulfill the desires of my own heart rather than submitting my life and will to the Lord, nothing I pursued would fulfill me. After walking away from my old life, I got plugged into community, began to serve faithfully and selflessly and the blessings that have come from that obedience are more amazing than I could have ever dreamed of.
The he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” – Luke 9:23-25