The Hardest Instrument to Play

When I started fifth grade in Polson, Montana, I got to choose an instrument to play in band. Since my folks could not afford to buy an instrument, I got a loaner from school. I began on a baritone, but since I was vertically challenged, the horn case dragged the ground when I walked the mile to and from school (uphill both ways of course!).  So, the band director, Fred Nelson, switched me to a French horn, which just barely cleared the ground. I have been playing one ever since. Fred Nelson (no relation) was a great band director and I was sad when he transferred to Libby the next year and we had a new director, Mr. Schlaughter.  After sixth grade in Polson, my mom, who had been teaching at little rural schools in the area, got a job in—Libby!  I was excited to have Mr. Nelson back as my band director. I worked really hard, practicing faithfully, and taking some private lessons from Mr. Nelson, and by the time I reached high school, had worked my way up to play first chair. When I was a senior, we had something very unique in the Libby High School band—eight French horns and we performed a double-quartet at the district and state music festival—something which had never happened from a little school in Montana!  I made some great friends among the band members,one of whom, David Olson, was the best man at our wedding, and continues to be a great friend and brother in Christ.

     I discovered that a French horn is a difficult instrument to play since it has so many feet of tubing through which you must blow to make a sound—especially a “double horn” which has two sets of slides and plays in the keys of B flat and F.  You have to be pretty windy to play such an instrument! I guess God was preparing me for what He had in store for me later—preaching for nearly forty years!!  But, there’s an instrument much more difficult to play than a double French horn. Any guesses what it is?  ….Second fiddle!  In a band, the person from whom you take your cues and tune up your instrument, is the first-chair clarinet, but in an orchestra, it is the first chair violin (fiddle). So, to play second violin or fiddle, is to serve in a secondary role or subsidiary capacity.  Since about 1800, the term—second fiddle— became used metaphorically to refer to having to serve in any secondary role, when you wish you could be “first chair.”  Our old, sinful nature is bent toward being “numero uno.”  Often you will hear someone say, “I’m getting sick and tired of playing second fiddle to ______________________, especially when I deserve to be number one.”
    It was no different, if you will recall, with Jesus’ disciples before the Holy Spirit came to empower them and through whom Jesus could live in them. One day “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You…Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left’” (Mk. 10: 35-37).  Wow, what a bold, arrogant thing to do. It angered the other disciples, probably because they hadn’t asked first (v. 41).  In Jesus’ response, He said, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant (willing to play second fiddle), and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (vv. 42-45).   The role of a disciple (follower) of Christ  is that of a servant, even if he is in a position of leadership. In fact the more people you may have under you because of your position, the more you have to serve. Jesus demonstrated that in so many ways, like when He (the Creator) humbled Himself to become a man (Phil. 2:5-7 cf Heb. 2:14,15), like when He washed the disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:1-5), but especially when “he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2: 8).
    The Apostle Paul challenges believers, as those in whom Christ dwells, to “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Included in that exhortation is to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (vv. 3,4).  In other words, it is not all about you, what you want, what you expect; it is about Him and serving others in His name, being willing to play “second fiddle.”  Some people seem to like to have the light shining on them and make sure people recognize what they have accomplished and have become. But God’s word tells us that “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17,23,24). Don’t be like Diotrephes that John mentions in his third letter, saying: “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say” (III Jn. 1:9).  It may be difficult, but with Christ’s strength you can do it—learn to play “second fiddle.” (NOTE: It will require lots of practice,)   For every first fiddle, we need lots of “second fiddles.” 
             Forever His,
                Pastor Dave

About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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