The Spirit-led Artist: Part 4

The same Spirit who guides in the crafting of the work signals us with a release when we are done.

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In Part Three, the subject was the direct assistance of the Holy Spirit in the creative process. The emphasis was on the beginning of the process, conception, and craft. Part Four deals with the end of the creative process, finishing the work and preceding to the next one.

 

Completion: Finishing and Moving On

The third phase of the creative process is a special blessing from the Holy Spirit—He helps us know when we are done and when it is time to go to the next work Jesus has laid out for us. Letting go is so difficult for some artists that a special unction from the Lord is needed. Others of us need encouragement not to quit before the work is finished. A personal application of Scripture for me has been a verse in Colossians. Before Paul closes his letter, he has a word for a specific brother named Archippus.

Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord” (Col 4:17, NIV).

This verse has special meaning for me. I even use it as a screen saver on my laptop computer. I must be careful about drawing conclusions from it for all people everywhere, but the name Archippus is significant. The Greek word for “Arch” is “beginning” and “hippos” means “horse.” Literally, the name means “first horse.” This is precisely the role artists play in society.

As lead horses, we break new trails for others to follow; we find the new paths and lead the way into the future. But each assignment given to us must be fully carried out. That means that, with the same inner vision that attended the conception and crafting of the work, we will “see” when it is finished and when it is not yet finished. This brilliant admonition challenges both the procrastinator who keeps putting off the completion of a work and the perfectionist who cannot let one go.

Like finishing, letting go can be a challenge to the artist, especially if he has few pieces in his body of work. To many artists, works of art are like children of the soul. Each one is precious, and the artist wants to hold them close. But the Lord wants us to finish a piece and then move on. There is so much work to be done and each of us as co-creators with God has another assignment waiting for us. Just as when our children are grown (finished as it were), we must send them out into the world to do the work God intends for them to do, so must we send out works of art, graduated out of our presence into the world to do the work they were made to do.

If we struggle with letting go, perhaps we have too great a desire to hold on to our works. The answer is more works. The artist simply cannot hold one hundred works of art, no matter how personal each may be, in the same debilitating esteem that he would hold a total output of ten works. With more pieces in our body of works, each, while still precious, can be more easily sent out of our presence, making room in our hearts for our next assignment. Then many of our works will come back to us at strategic moments when we need a testimony of that time of creative praying and that experience of the Holy Spirit. But if we hoard our works, it is impossible for them to come back to us to encourage us.

Jesus came to earth with a work to do. Twice He pronounced it finished. Once in the High Priestly prayer, “’I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do’” (John 17:4-5, NKJV). Then again, when the world was dark at noon because its Creator was hanging suspended in throes of atoning death, Jesus’s words echoed through all creation: “‘It is finished!'” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30, NLT). In the same manner, we can know when we are finished with a certain job, or with a phase of our life and ministry, or with a poem, a play, a composition, or a sermon. What an important thing to know!

Apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in helping us know when we are finished is the equally important revelation that we are not. In a songwriters’ school, I heard Jimmy Owens, of the wonderful song writing team Jimmy and Carol Owens, warn the songwriter not to be an “early settler.” By that, he and Carol meant the first tune or chord sequence you write (Jimmy) or the first lyric (Carol) may not be your best. Try again. Keep composing. Do not settle for the early work. Save it, for sure, but keep on creating. Chances are something fresh and wonderful is just a few more efforts away.

Another aspect of completion has to do with time. The Incarnation did not happen at just any time. There was a “fullness” of time.

But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights (Gal 4:4-6, NET).

Part of the prophetic nature of art is its relationship with time. The Holy Spirit leads artists (as “lead horses”) to create works before the church or the world needs them. This gift of prophecy is listed as one of the nine Gifts of the Spirit [2]. The artist must be sensitive to life around him, sensing the needs of people. This discernment is also one of the nine Gifts.

When the Lord uses an artist to speak the Word into a moment in history, He must of necessity move upon the heart of the artist in advance of the moment when the work will be needed. Therefore, an artist must sense the times he observes in a special way like the “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do“ (1 Chr. 12:32, NIV).

While only a very few works of art are intended for the ages, each work speaks to a certain moment in history. Again, this emphasizes the importance of the daily devotional life of the artist. We never know how important the things we receive daily from the Holy Spirit might be to the Body of Christ tomorrow or next year or even to our descendants after we have passed from the scene.

 

Summary of Biblical Exploration

As believers in the Lord Jesus and followers of Him, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts. For the artist, this means the Helper, the Spirit of Truth, has come alongside to help him create. Each artist has a path to walk with the Lord Jesus by the power and illumination of the Holy Spirit. Along that path are works the Lord has laid out for us to do.

When we are attentive to the means of grace, our hearts will be quickened by the Holy Spirit. A work of art will begin in us as a dream or vision imparted to us by the Holy Spirit. As we are faithful in our craft, we are guided by the Holy Spirit in the formation of the implanted seed into a healthy living work of art.

The same Spirit who guides in the crafting of the work signals us with a release when we are done. We then send our art out into the world, this child of our soul, to do the Lord’s work as the power of the Holy Spirit rests upon it. Finally, with hearts pounding we await the voice of the Spirit and the next vision, the next dream, the next assignment.

 

 

 

Featured Image by Alexander Andrews

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About the Author

Full of passion for Jesus Christ, Stephen Phifer is a third-generation minister with more than three decades of experience as a pastoral artist, worship leader, and conductor.