Jan Ignancy Paderewski was born in Poland in 1860, and as well as becoming his country's first Prime Minister, he is also remembered as an internationally-famous virtuoso pianist and composer. Paderewski played in the opening season of Carnegie Hall in 1891 and along with New York and many other cities, Jan Ignancy Paderewski - surely a name that only a mother and perhaps a friendly critic could love! - also came to Vancouver. As often happens with the best of pianists, Paderewski brought his grand piano with him. And at Vancouver, the last stop on the tour, after it had done yeoman concert service and been carried for many thousands of gruelling recital miles, the piano was put up for sale.
On another occasion, a young mother in some major unnamed city had a dream and a wish that her young son might someday become a concert pianist. But her encouragement for him to practice, practice, practice fell on deaf ears.
"If only he could hear and see Paderewski play," she thought. "Perhaps it would inspire him."
As fortune would have it - forgive me, but it's a turn of phrase that's always used in stories like these - Paderewski came to town and the mother bought two tickets. On the evening of the recital, she dressed her son in his concert best and off they went to see the famous man play. At the hall, distracted by the crowd, by friends and neighbors, she didn't see her son heading off to the stage, drawn to the shining piano that stood waiting to be played. He climbed onto the huge bench and began to peck out the chords of Chopsticks, familiar to anyone who has even been close to a piano. "Who's the kid?" someone yelled. "Get him off the stage!" "Who'd bring a kid here anyway?"
In his dressing room, Paderewski heard the commotion and the music. He grabbed his coat and ran towards the stage. As he stood at the edge of the curtain, he saw the young lad, pecking out that simple tune and smiled. He raced to the boy and whispered his encouragement in the boy's ear to keep going; then the Polish maestro engulfed him with his arms and improvised a spectacular accompaniment around the rhythm of Chopsticks' simple chords.
The crowd became enthralled and were silenced as they listened in awe, cheering the performance as Paderewski and the boy proudly took their bows. "Don't quit," whispered Paderewski. "Keep playing. Keep practicing. Be persistent." I don't know whether or not that young boy ever made it to the concert stage. But I suspect that Paderewski's encouragement kept him going, and opened the doors that night to a new world of musical appreciation. If nothing else at all had come from that chance encounter, it still would have been a great, great gift.
On the stage of life, the LORD has given those of us who are born of His Spirit some lessons on God and His Word; we've been granted truth, grace, knowledge, gifts and insights by the Spirit of the LORD; perhaps they are not so profound, perhaps they are deemed as of little use by those more mature in the faith. Perhaps our use of these regal resources of the King might be perceived as crude, or simplistic and disdained by the more sophisticated and intellectual members of the body.
It's one thing to receive discouragement from the world; but ought we ever to face such harassment from those who are called to be holy? Sadly, this is sometimes the case. Bravely still, we climb up onto the bench, and with what little we know, bang out the simple tune, maybe the only tune we know. We only know a little of scripture, we possess only a small portion of wisdom, our prayers are simple and halting and compared with those of others, unpolished and rough.
We may feel that we have little to offer, and because of the sounds of disdain and wry patronizing we are sorely tempted to give up. Yet our LORD hears the grumbling crowd, and He rushes in, and with the everlasting arms surround us with His almighty strength and ability. He overshadows us with the brilliance of His grace and love and bends low to whisper in our hearts:
"DON'T GIVE UP! Keep playing. Keep practicing. Be persistent!"
And then in an exquisite harmony, He doesn't play over our little tune in volumous, resounding keystrokes, nullifying our own feeble attempts; He plays in accord with our poor melody, and embellishes it in the richness of His own majesty.
Had not that little boy ever braved the stage and climbed up onto that piano bench, he would have never gained such an experience as he did; the crowds would have been mesmerized still, most certainly but not as much as they were when they witnessed the maestro using the boys simple tune and creating a duet that astounded and delighted.
Likewise we won't know or understand what God can do, if we don't make ourselves available, if we don't get on the stage of life, and brave that bench, and place our fingers on those keys, and obediently play our poor, simple tune. It is then that God shall arise, and approach and surround us with His beauty and glory and minister by His Spirit in ways we could never otherwise imagine.
DON'T QUIT IN LIFE or IN THE WAR!
Step out in faith, don't stop, keep practicing, be persistent, by God's empowering grace remain diligent and endure. Don't quit! In the battle of life, when enemy forces seem insurmountable, invincible and growing in power constantly and we want to hold out our hands in surrender and despondancy, remember these words by Winston Churchill, and apply them spiritually with our engagement against the forces of hell -
"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . . . And if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empires beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the fight, until in God's own time the new world in its power and might steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old."
Remember, God doesn't call us into this Christian life and warfare in the power of our own strength, with our own resolve or wisdom, or know-how; God commands us and then empowers us to obey that command. All we need do is step out in obedience, get on the stage or battle field, climb on that bench or stand fast in the shoes shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace and do what we can: God will intervene and assume the fulfillment of His will, through us! All to the glory of God!
The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which isnew Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
May the LORD Bless you and continually encourage and empower you! You are not in this alone! GOD is with us, in us, and will see us through everything He had ordained to come into our lives!
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.