December 12, 2016

An Instrument in the Hands of God

But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. -Acts 9:15

Paul was chosen and commissioned by God to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul was the perfect instrument for this task due to his Jewish heritage, Roman citizenship and a classical Greek education under Gamaliel. The question is: for what purpose are we created?

In short, we can confess “to worship God and enjoy him forever” as the Westminster Catechism (short) states. But, I believe we all have a purpose and when we find our place in God’s kingdom, we resonate with that purpose.

I’ve played a trumpet for the past 35 years and here are some of the lessons I have learned about how I am much like that instrument.

Resonance is a principle of physical objects that are hollow. Perfect resonance occurs when the frequency of a vibration matches the space being filled exactly.


My trumpet has a distinct timbre. Its history is traced all the way back to the Old Testament where it was used to call people to battle and to summon them for worship. It sounds different then a French Horn or Flute or Oboe. This distinct timbre is a product of its construction, which is brass overlaid with silver plating and a large percentage of cylindrical tubing. As a result, it is used in certain ways within the groups I play: fanfares, solo lines, triumphal melodic lines. One time, we were missing a clarinet in our orchestra and I tried to play it on the trumpet. It didn’t work. The range and role of the clarinet didn’t match with the design and character of the trumpet.

I too am made with a “distinct timbre” that consists of my personality, experiences, and a set of spiritual gifts. I have found my place in the church body as a teacher and as a musician. When I have tried to pursue roles that other people are designed for, I find that it is as awkward as a trumpet playing a clarinet part.

While I find this principal to be true, I also find that God can use us outside of our giftedness at times. “His strength is perfected in weakness.”  II Corinthians 12:9


My trumpet has some weaknesses inherent in its construction. The trumpet utilizes the overtone series to execute its two-octave range (comfortably). However, these overtone series resonate at slightly different nodes, so every trumpet has some “challenges” when it comes to intonation. On my horn the second octave E and Eb are flat and the A above the staff is sharp. However, I have learned to adjust for this when I play, so that what comes out of the horn is in tune (most of the time).

God is the master musician and he too knows the flaws in my nature that are a result of the fall. He knows me intimately and can help me where I am weak. And when I yield myself to him, he can make a beautiful melody out of that which is imperfect.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness...Romans 8:26


My trumpet has no ability innate in itself to do anything. In reality, it is just a chunk of metal. It has the potential to create wonderful music, but by itself it is as useful as a rock. It requires a source of air. It requires something beyond itself to fulfill its potential.

I too have a source. I too am only a lump of metal without the breath of God breathing into me and giving me life. True life, as life beyond just physically existing, comes through His Spirit.

The Lord God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

My trumpet never gets the glory for what I have performed. I have never had a single person come up after I have played and address my trumpet to let it know how wonderfully it played. Glory is given to the source not the instrument.

I pray that God would teach me to give him all the glory for what he has done in me and through me. That he would teach me to not seek glory not for myself but only for Him.

... I will not share my glory with anyone else. Isaiah 48:11b


Finally, my trumpet has my handprint on it. Over time, the silver plating has worn off from where it has been in constant contact with my hands. Truthfully, it doesn’t look very good, but I could pick out my trumpet from a thousand other trumpets because of the marks it bears.

I want to have God’s handprint on me; to be marked as his own. I know this only comes through abiding daily, hourly, constantly in his presence through prayer and the other disciplines of the Christian Church. Then others will know that I am truly his instrument.

So, what about you? God has made you, He breathes into you and gives you life. Will you give God glory and abide with him so that you too can become God’s instrument for the work of his kingdom?

David Diehl is the Dean of the School of Music and Worship Arts at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN where he is completing his 20th year of teaching. In addition, Dr. Diehl was the instrumental coordinator (1990-2010) and worship pastor (2011-2013) at First Church of the Nazarene.