Playing the Sunset


Friday Morning, March 9, 2001

Question: Do you remember the redheaded girl who played clarinet in the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus (an edited version)? I heard that you’ve expressed a Truth through that analogy in another city, and I wondered if you could relay again what the difference is, spiritually, between “playing the sunset” versus just reading notes on a page?

Doing Everything “Right”?

Something I’ve always liked about golf is that there are so many spiritual analogies in it. One of those things is called tempo, which is incredibly elusive. You can be in all the right positions, and do everything technically right, but something about it still be erratic. Your grip can be right, your swing plane can be perfect, your ball position can be right, and something still be “off.” You can go through a pre-shot routine, do all the things you have to do to be a great golfer, and your swing can even look pretty! But for some reason the ball sprays everywhere and has no consistency about it. And forget scoring well; it’s impossible. This elusive quality—tempo—binds everything together. You’re better off having good tempo and bad mechanics than you are having perfect mechanics and bad tempo.

It’s the same principle with the spirit and the law. You can do everything exactly right—you know everything you could know, you can say everything there is to say, you have the right answers memorized for every possible issue that would come up—yet, something about your life doesn’t SING! You even know all the verses and you live like the rich young ruler—living a great perfect life since the time you were a youth. You’d never do any of the “bad” things. You can do all the right stuff, but if you’re not living in the Spirit of Christ, in a relationship of life and love and fellowship with HIM, then you are a clanging gong. If the tempo isn’t there, if the life of fellowship and relatedness in the unseen world isn’t there, then there is nothing to it. You need to “taste the powers of the coming age” where you can say, “Yeah, I know what that means. I can’t necessarily describe it to you, but absolutely, I know exactly what that means. That is the best part of my life. I couldn’t describe it to you for a million dollars, but yeah.” If you don’t have that part—the Life, the Spirit, and the Anointing that is real and not counterfeit—then all the other stuff ends up being junk. Your elbow in the right position and the perfect follow-through doesn’t amount to much if the ball just sprays 40 yards off to the right.

I think that’s one of the ways God frustrates us out of the rich-young-ruler-syndrome of doing everything “right,” and of knowing everything and even being humble enough to fall at Jesus’ feet. “Look, I’m humble. I’m willing to sacrifice my great position, my great wealth and my great status to fall at a poor carpenter’s feet. Aren’t I spiritual?” Yet, something on the inside never lets go. And that refusal to let go kept the Life and the Spirit of God and the Love of God from filling the rich young ruler’s pores and emanating outwards. The rich young ruler kept that from happening in his life because he never let go. He was living by all the “right” externals, and the fundamentals were all there, yet he never really opened his heart so the tap could flow.

Cups of Water or RIVERS of Water?

It wasn’t a river of living water that he was drawing from, but little cups of living water that he kept dumping into his life. He was missing that unlimited flow, because the pool he was dipping from was too shallow. At the end of the day, do you run out of strength and steam? You can’t think anymore. All the things you had accumulated for yourself spiritually, and all the fundamental things that you had been doing “right,” seem to dissipate. All it takes is one bad mood and all of a sudden you’re a lazy slob again, totally disconnected and not caring about anything. You don’t necessarily even believe in God anymore. We can get ourselves all jumbled up in this messy world of externals if we are living by a cup of water, rather than the RIVERS of living water that have no limit. There’s no beginning and no end. It just flows and flows and flows. There is no tap on it and no end to it. That’s the miracle and that’s the thing we ask God for.

So the rich young ruler did all these things—that’s great. Jesus didn’t say, “I don’t believe you,” to the rich young ruler. He looked at him and loved him. He did believe him. But Jesus saw something missing that was way down deep inside. It wasn’t necessarily about what the young ruler did or didn’t do. I suspect he had enough self-confidence that if he gave away all his money, he could probably earn another fortune, because he’s a “pretty shrewd guy.” He’s got the “connections.” He’s got the “brain power.” “Yeah, I think I could start all over again. I could take that as a challenge. I’ll go down to zero and I bet I could have all this wealth all over again.” He probably could have, but he knew that wasn’t what Jesus was getting at. He was getting at the heart of the matter. The valve on the young ruler’s heart kept his heart from being a river. Jesus knew that if he did and said all the right fundamentals, but didn’t have the Life and the Love of the Spirit in his pores, then the man’s life was just a wasted effort in some sort of higher form of religion. That’s worthless.

Not Every Man LIVES

Jesus was saying, there’s something in your heart that you’ve got to let go of. Let go of your right to even make another fortune. You’ve gotta let go of valuing this stuff. You’ve gotta let go of caring about it. If you really want ME to fill your heart instead, you’ve gotta let go of the stuff of you in your heart. I’m not content to just have your actions, your knowledge, your commitment and all that other nonsense. I want to transform you into a walking miracle. I want you to be a miracle! I want you to have my Spirit inside of you, making its home there. I want you walking around on two legs with My Spirit, My anointing, My life, My love, My power, and wisdom that you know not of. I want you to have things that you never thought of before, flowing through you—things that you could never have said for a million dollars. You didn’t even know of them and you never studied them. “How could this man have such great learning without having studied?”

That’s the Jesus that lives inside of us! This One that’s full of surprises, the creative ideas, and the wild stuff. The One born of the Spirit is like the wind—He’s a wild thing. He can’t be controlled or predicted. He’s always going to say something different than what you think. Just when you think you’ve got Him figured out, something different is going to come out and just shatter your world. That’s the nature of the Life of the Spirit of God, and that’s a miracle! And we’ve got to be willing to let go of everything so that the miracle can happen.

“Playing the sunset” means that you’re letting go of the notes on the page. The notes are still there; you’re still obeying the rules. But you’re not making up your own song, which is what a lot of the religious and emotional world does. They make up their own song as they go along, and they call that “playing the sunset.” No, that’s not right; there are still notes on a page that can’t be ignored. There’s still the Word of God. There are still truths that Jesus taught. He said that if you really love Me, you’ll obey My commands. He didn’t say that you’ll do whatever you please and just “feel” like you love Me. He said the proof that you do love Me is that you’ll do the things I’ve told you that you’ll one day be judged by (Jn. 12:48). You’ll love to obey those things. You function in them. So, the notes on the page are real and it’s still 4/4 time, and a half note is still two beats. All the things are still true. But keep in mind that you can play all the notes and never play the song.

Go back to the golf analogy for a minute. Let’s say you start thinking about the many things you’re supposed to do right. The more you contemplate what you have “to do” and “not do,” the less likely it is that you’ll ever have good tempo and ever hit the ball well. However, you can’t violate all the principles of golf. You can’t let the right elbow fly, and you can’t put the ball anywhere you want in your stance. You can’t grip it any way you please, differently every time you grab the club. You can’t do that. You can’t violate all the truths and think that you’ll ever have a golf game. But after you’ve learned all the truths, you have to close your eyes and play the song!

“Every man dies,” as that poster says, “but not every man really lives.” That’s the essence of the nature of the life of Christ. It’s a life that really LIVES. There might be suffering—there will be suffering. There might be scandal and embarrassment. You will be accused by satan. You will be entrapped as Jesus was. You will be lied about. It’s not that this LIFE is without pain, but you have something that can never be taken away from you. As a favorite song of ours says, “When I fail, when I succeed, I can press on because I’m free. No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my destiny. Because the greatest love of all lives inside of me.” And that can’t be taken away. Nobody can take that away—even if I make mistakes. When I fail, or when I succeed, it doesn’t make any difference. Those are both the same thing. One is not better than the other. They’re both rubbish, because the only real thing is what’s inside of me and that can’t be taken away. Not everyone can say that. “Every man dies, but not every man really LIVES.”

Close Your Eyes and Let Go

Some people don’t care at all about the notes on the page and those people are in BIG trouble. Other people know and do care about all the notes on the page. Like the rich young ruler, they know all the right answers and are committed to the process. Remember that part of Mr. Holland’s Opus, when the teacher is trying to help the struggling music student? “Do you ever practice?” And she says, “Yeah, I practice everyday.” And he says “Oh, no!” He was thinking she never practiced, but the problem was that she practiced all the time and the music still came out sounding bad! The problem was inside of her. The problem wasn’t in her brain and it wasn’t in her fingers. It was inside of her heart. She didn’t close her eyes, and she didn’t “play the sunset.” Therefore, she had never really played the song.

In that movie, the teacher asked the young girl what she liked about herself when she looked in the mirror. She answered him by saying, “My father always says that my hair reminds him of a sunset.” Mr. Holland said, “Play the sunset then.” She loved what brought her father pleasure, not what qualities she thought were best, or what she thought was good or desirable or pretty. She never made mention of what she liked—she only remembered what pleased her father. So, with a smile on her face, she could play pleasure to her father because it brought her pleasure to please him. What pleases my Father?! That’s the song I want to play! The song that flows from His Heart, to my quiet and listening and courageous heart, and back to Him as my gift to Him.

Commitment or ANOINTING

Closing your eyes and playing the song is a very difficult thing for some. It involves a trust factor that is just very difficult for intelligent people to do. That’s why the little children get most of the good stuff. : ) It’s not that it can’t be done. Paul had an immense intellect. John Wesley, Charles Finney—immense intellects. It’s not that it can’t be done, but it’s harder when you’re pretty intelligent and skilled. “Not MANY of you are wise by human standards.” Paul didn’t say, “Not ANY of you,” but he said, “not many of you.” This is because it’s harder for the immensely intelligent. The more you know, the more tempted you are to think about yourself and what you know, rather than (as Jesus said in Matthew 10:20), “Don’t consider what to say or how to say it. My father will speak through you.” “But I thought I was supposed to just say and teach the things you taught” “True, once you’ve sown the seed and you’ve let go of everything on the inside. Then, you can trust Me to work through you.”

There’s that trust factor, and that is the difference between commitment and anointing. Not many people are committed. They want to do it their own way. They don’t even want to play the notes on the page. It’s too limiting, too confining, too “legalistic.” They don’t even want to play the notes on the page. But even amongst the few who DO want to play the notes on the page and ARE committed to them, there’s fewer still who are willing to be absolutely abandoned to Him. There are very few who will close their eyes and trust once they’re committed to the notes on the page. That’s the difference between committed and anointed. We are invited to go to that level of existence and taste the powers of the coming age. We’re invited to not just study about true thoughts and be committed to true thoughts, but to taste it with our own taste buds and experience it and help others to do that, too. Anointing—that’s the invitation for all of us!

Playing the Sunset?! That girl, like so many Spiritually, could read the music notes, but couldn’t play the SONG. She could read the notes on the page, but she couldn’t make the MUSIC within the notes come alive. She needed help to “play the sunset” and make the music leap off the page and come to life like that beautiful sunset. THAT is what is meant by, “As many as are led by the Spirit, are SONS OF GOD!”
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