There was once a famous actor who was invited to speak at the church of his childhood, of which his old friend was now the pastor. For his contribution to the service he chose to recite Psalm 23, and did so with all the perfection of a professional orator with all the proper gesticulations and intonations and so on. When he was done, the people all applauded. “Great!” “Wonderful!” “Hurrah!”
Then the pastor arose and said, “If you will pardon me, I know you all enjoyed that, but I would like to recite the psalm my way now.” So he began to recite the psalm, and by the time he was done the people were in tears—moved emotionally. They enjoyed the actor and applauded him for his rhetorical skill and eloquence, but by the time the preacher finished, they weren’t thinking about the preacher but the Lord.
Watch performers and you will see the difference between the truly great and the mere perfectionists. The major difference is that the perfectionists—those who have great voices or other great talents but are more interested in their performance and more conscious of how they are looking or sounding—are only interested in themselves. It falls flat. It’s nothing but an egotistical display of self.
Whereas the truly great performers make you forget they’re performing. They get you so carried away with the emotion of their message, what they’re singing about or saying or portraying, that you forget about them. They almost fade out of the picture, and you get the message loud and clear. These are the truly great!
What do you think makes these articles from me? Me? No! If you met me personally, you would probably be disillusioned by my bodily presence. It’s the Spirit. You’re not thinking about me; you’re thinking about the Lord and the truth of what is being said.
The greatest stars are those who don’t know they’re stars. The greatest men have been those who didn’t know they were great, or at least they didn’t feel great. What makes a person really great is the greatness God gives—the Spirit, the inspiration.
What a difference the Spirit makes! That’s what really counts, not technical perfection. If you want to draw people to the Lord, you have to be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. When you are, you flow with it and ride the crest of inspiration, but you have to remember that it’s the Holy Spirit and not you—it’s something divine. People aren’t seeing you—they’re seeing the Lord.
We’re showing God to the world. They don’t know what He’s like. The only way they’re going to know is by seeing God in you, and that’s not you. If they only see you—ugh! But if in seeing you they see the Lord, you’ve succeeded. That’s the difference!
The world today calls it charisma—a kind of mystical charm, a supernatural fascination. Every truly great musician, singer, speaker, or performer must have that. In the Lord’s service, it’s the divine anointing of the Holy Spirit, which goes far beyond worldly charisma. It erases you as the performer to a large extent and makes people think about God, the greater One behind what they are seeing, not the mere instrument.
When you’re watching a movie, do you think of the actor as himself, by his own name? Not if it’s great acting. He becomes the part he’s playing, and you forget who he really is.
Who am I? Look at me—an old hunk of clay, ugly, old, pretty dumb, and a little crazy! It’s like what Paul said others said about him: “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Corinthians 10:10). Being personally acquainted in the flesh can be a letdown. What turns people on?—It’s the spirit!
God said to Saul, “I will make you another man” (1 Samuel 10:6,9), and to David too—God made him another man. He turned him into something he wasn’t. It’s almost like playing a role. When God has given you a role to play and you can play it with divine anointing and real inspiration of the Lord and by the power of His Spirit, you become that creation of God!
When witnessing, singing, writing, or whatever, it’s got to be God. But you have to have the faith to play the role God has given you to play. If you’re willing to be what God wants you to be—not what you are but what God wants you to be—then He can mightily use you.
You might be able to relax and be what you are in private, but when you’re facing your public you’ve got to be what God has made you to be. It’s like they say of the pope: He is expected to have divine wisdom and speak with authority as long as he’s serving in his official role, ex cathedra, but he’s a mere man in private.
God makes the difference between lifeless clay and the alive, pulsating, energetic body of a human being! It’s the breath of God that gives life. It’s the anointing and power of God that makes the difference—and don’t you forget it!
Without Him you’re nothing! You’ll fall flat as a flounder! The saddest, most pitiful cases in all history are those who went astray and began to exalt themselves instead of giving God the glory, so God removed their anointing.
I don’t doubt God inspired Herod that day when he spoke as ruler of the people: They said, “It is the voice of a god!” Now there was nothing wrong with him speaking that way, but when he forgot to give God the glory and rebuke the people for giving him the credit, suddenly he was eaten with worms! He fell ill and died! God smote him because he didn’t give God the credit (Acts 12:21-23).
One of the greatest dangers is to begin thinking it’s you. It’s God’s anointing. If He withdraws it, you’re just as flat as ever, dead as a doornail if you lack His power, that mysterious supernatural power that gets through to people’s spirits.
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Without the Spirit, you’re like a furnace with no fire. What good is a furnace when its fire has gone out? It’s still all there, but it’s cold and dark and useless with no fire. Let the furnace go dead and the whole house grows cold.
It’s not the furnace, remember—it’s the fire! A bonfire of fallen branches and leaves will do more good and give off more heat and light than the mechanical genius, the furnace, without fire! It’s marvelous, but without fire it’s not as good as the bonfire in the backyard! It’s the fiery anointing that counts!
It’s the Spirit! It’s the Spirit! I kick over the traces, shatter all the precedents, destroy the conventions, and depart from the traditions! “What in the world? What good could you do without all those?” you ask. I’ll tell you what—I’ve got the fire and it doesn’t matter if I mix everything up, as long as I’ve got the fire, people will follow the flame! My grandfather used to say, “If you’ll just get on fire for God, the world will come out to see you burn!”
I don’t care how good a musical band is, if it doesn’t have the fire, it’s just so much sounding brass and tinkling cymbals! I don’t care how much education you have, how much of an orator you are, if you haven’t got the fire, it profits nothing! (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
If you haven’t got the fire, I don’t care how “good” a witness you are, how many Bible verses you can quote, how much you understand Bible prophecy, and how well you can describe every beast in the book and hang a label on every horn. If you haven’t got the fire, it’s just cold dead icicles of facts and figures—no warmth, no heat. You’ll never set anybody on fire without the firepower of the Holy Spirit. All you’ll do is get them muddled up and turn them off.
It doesn’t matter what job you’re doing for the Lord, you need to do it in the Spirit. I think you can even be inspired and Spirit-led in driving a car. You don’t have to climb a light pole to be inspired! If you’re thinking and praying about whatever it is you’re doing and asking God for wisdom, He can inspire you. Anything you do—washing dishes, taking care of babies, or anything else, no matter what it is—you can do it in the Spirit! But if you only follow the “letter of the law” and do it out of duty alone, it will drag you down and turn others off.
If you’ve got that divine anointing, it makes every little task wonderful! “You’ve got to have a glory in the thing you do, an everlasting glory that’ll carry you through!” I’ve had some shoeshine men polish my shoes who acted like they could have spit in my face instead of on my shoes. But I’ve had others get down and sing to the rhythm as they shined my shoes with glory. It was a glory to them, and they had a special anointing for it.
It’s the same with bands, musicians, and singers for the Lord. They have to be inspired by the Holy Spirit or their performance will fall flat. You may hear glorious, beautiful, musical perfection, but you’ll wonder why it doesn’t move you.
Unless it moves you, what good is it? In preaching the Gospel, we’re in the business of moving people. We’re trying to move them from one life to another.
People may be attracted to the quality of your music or looks of the singers, but if it doesn’t touch their hearts, it’s no good! If your music doesn’t affect people, you’re just in the entertainment business! If your singing doesn’t affect people, if your witness doesn’t make them glad or mad or sad, it’s just so much hot air and a waste of time! It’s the difference between somebody that is proud of himself and his own work, and those who are filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit and just want to exalt Jesus!
People have to see more than you. They’ve got to see Jesus coming through you. If your performance stops dead with you, people will consider it a waste of time—no different from everybody else. “‘Not by your might, not by your power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
The words the Pharisees spoke were well educated, but they were flesh and they were death. Why? Because they spoke from their heads. Jesus spoke from His heart—from the Spirit. That’s the difference!
I don’t care what you do—witnessing, singing, playing, writing, dishwashing, or cooking—you’ve got to have the Spirit! I used to get inspired by the Holy Spirit while working on the engine of the car. It thrilled me, and the Lord would show me what was wrong. If you’ve got the Spirit, you can even clean toilets with an artistic finesse and be proud of the good job you did and consider it a thing of beauty!
You may be as lowly as a worm, but you can become a glowworm for God! Glowworms glow in the dark, you know. Without the Holy Spirit you’d just be an ordinary ugly little bug, but with the Holy Spirit you become a firefly, lighting up the night for God!
You’ve got to move people! Make them mad, sad, or glad! Drive them to a decision! Spur them to action! Emote them into motion by the emotion by the Spirit! “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). So is every song, every sermon, and every witness. Every task, whatever it is, without the Spirit is dead. But the Spirit can make anything glorious!
“You’ve got to have a glory in the thing you do!” The Spirit can turn it on, no matter what it is or who it is, and give it glory and glamour and life, beauty, joy, life, heat—you name it! It’s the Spirit that makes the difference.
Have you got the Spirit? Does your singing, music, or whatever you do have the power, the fire of God? If not, it’s dead works and will never set anyone else on fire either! God help you to have the firepower of God’s Spirit in all you do! Don’t try to work up glamour—pray down glory!