(Republished with permission from Press Service International, for Christian Today Australia)
Instructional videos are everywhere. You can search the internet for DIYs and tutorials on almost anything nowadays; cooking, sewing, workout routines, painting. Some people follow the instructions meticulously, while others make their own adjustments to alter the finished product. New skills are learnt, ideas are shared and people have the opportunity both to learn, and also to teach.
I recently joined some friends in painting along with a Bob Ross tutorial. He used oil paints and a square canvas. We all started with different sized canvases, and used acrylic paint. The finished products, while all based upon the same concept, were distinct in style and colours. The experience reminded me of how God leads us through life.
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Different Palettes, Same Spirit
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians chapter 12, verses 5-6)
When we look at the stories in the Bible, we see God use people from different backgrounds, with different personalities, different strengths and different weaknesses. Everyone has a testimony; everyone has a purpose and a mission that no one else can fulfill. God made us each individual and unique, each with a purpose and a plan for life, each wonderfully made in His image and fully equipped to do what He has called us to do.
The same God who creates indescribable beauty in nature can paint His redeeming nature on our hearts. We might think we are small or not talented enough, but when we give God the blank canvas of a fully submitted life, He can do amazing things. Whatever we have, whatever we offer up to Him will be transformed in His glory, and for His kingdom.
Are we willing to hand over our canvas and our paints to let God create as only He can?
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More than a Mountain
After painting the background sky, the tutorial took us through creating a few mountain peaks. This was one of the most satisfying things to paint. The mountain looked beautiful, floating in the middle of the blended sky colours with its shadows and highlights, but the painting was not yet done. I would have been happy stopping at this point; that mountain and sky seemed like a finished picture to me. However, if I had stopped then, I would have missed out of the forest, the leaves, the bushes, the stream, the fuller and even more beautiful scene that lay ahead.
Sometimes, we allow God to take us to a certain point and we think the work is done. Yet God always has more in store for us. The vastness of His beauty and of who He is cannot be fully uncovered on earth, but it is a constant discovery. The forest is ever expanding, and the stream flows on into eternity. God has more than a mountain to show us; He has streams of living water, an overflowing river of love, an expanse of glory still to reveal if we will keep following and seeking Him.
“…’If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” (John chapter 7, verses 37-38)
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The Master Painter
We finally made it to the last minute of the tutorial. How much more could there be to paint? Bob Ross described the last feature of his painting; three to four large trees reaching from the bottom to the top of the canvas. After all the work we had done on the paintings, this task seemed daunting. Small details are easily covered up, but such large marks across the canvas would be hard to erase if they turned out badly.
Having made it this far, however, I felt I could trust the instructions being given. Each step had led to something beautiful, and it would have been strange for our instructor to now give us a task that could ruin the whole picture. Moreover, he had spent the whole tutorial reminding us that painting should be an enjoyable task. So with confidence that this man on the screen knew what he was doing, I painted on those foreground trees. They turned out to be one of my favourite features of the finished painting, adding a depth to the picture I had not envisioned myself.
God, our master painter, will never act out of character. His ways are always good, even when we doubt the outcome we cannot yet see. All we need do is lift up our hands to obey and follow Him joyfully.
“For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.”
(Psalm chapter 18, verses 29-30)
Are we willing to trust the master painter?