A couple months ago I was hit by a book idea. I say ‘hit’ because that is exactly how it felt. The source seemed external, the ideas flowed into my consciousness as if being downloaded and I worried I would not be able to get them out fast enough to keep my mind from bursting like an overfilled balloon. The result was over 17,000 words and a ‘chapter’ that may actually transform into a first book of a series when it is the right time to pick up the project again.
The “Spirit of God” Found in Creativity
My ‘experience’ is not unique to me. It was topic of a TED talk, “Your elusive creative genius,” where author Elizabeth Gilbert speaks of her thoughts after writing a book that went big and what she has learned since. She describes a “protective psychological construct” ancient people used that has been displaced with individualistic rational humanism. People of the past would attribute a “creative thing” other than themselves, which Gilbert argues was healthier and may relieve some of the anxieties felt by many creative people.
Interestingly Gilbert mentions the Greek word “daemons,” which translates as it may sound and is a spirit that possesses a person. In the Christian lexicon, the word has a rather negative connotation and is the root of demonic. Others, she claims, would chant “Allah, Allah, Allah” (translates “God, God, God”) when they caught a “glimpse of God” in the extraordinary expression of a person that could not be explained. However, Gilbert does leave out one thing and that is how the Bible testifies similarly about a creative mind that originates from God and is God.
“Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.” (Exodus 35:30-35 NIV)
In today’s age it seems even the religious do not characterize craftsmanship as a spiritual gifting and yet we see in the passage above that the “Spirit of God” is given credit for artistry. Many Christians today tend to compartmentalize their pursuits labeling some activities as ‘spiritual’ and others as ‘carnal’ or lower, but I believe this could be errant thinking. Perhaps God deserves more credit for the things we commonly attribute to human enginuity or efforts?
If we saw our work (mundane or incredible) as an expression of the glory of God within us rather than our own selves we would be freed of the fear of rejection if our work is not received well or appreciated and also of the problematic overinflated ego if we are successful. If our great thoughts, athletic talents, entrepreneurial spirit or any unique abilities are not our own it changes how we use them and should make us more apt to share them without reservation. Giving others what God gave us is the ultimate act of worship.
Child[ren] Born of God’s Spirit
In the Gospel accounts it is noteworthy that the religious critics of Jesus credited demons or the devil (Matt 12:25-28, Mark 3:22-29, Luke 11:15-19) for the miracles he performed. Jesus countered that his works were good and credited his power to perform and authority to the Spirit (or ‘finger’) of God. But this wasn’t to merely borrow divinity, it was to claim divinity and to a people who believed in a distant removed God this was blasphemy. It was in reply to a charge of blasphemy Jesus quoted Psalms 82:6:
“Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:34-38 NIV)
Jesus appeals to their own Scripture where the Psalmist describes those “to whom the word of God came” as being divine or a ‘son’ of God. But this idea of ‘sonship’ is not exclusive to Jesus alone, it is what Paul is talking about with the doing away of Scripture (the law) and becoming children of God through the faith of Jesus:
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:23-27 NIV)
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14-16 NIV)
Embracing the Gifting of the Spirit
To be a ‘follower’ of Jesus is about much more than book knowledge and desperately trying to please God through our religious devotion. No, those who share in Spirit that was in Jesus have freedom to use the gifts God gives. Many who claim to know Jesus seem not to have embraced the power promised through the Spirit. Could they be as the servant who buried his talent for fear (Matthew 25:14-30) and deceived?
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” (James 1:16-18 NIV)
Do you have a “good and perfect gift” that is left idle for fear of what others may think? If so, do not fear, be free of those who confine you with their cynicism or doubt, and embrace the gift. We are given abilities both ‘natural’ or otherwise to bring glory to the creative mind of God. So, write, sing, work, play, administer, encourage, dance, dig ditches and do everything to honor God. Stop worrying and live more fully in the Spirit.