For a couple of decades, my passion was playing the drums. Like many kids of my era, I dreamed of playing on the biggest stages and touring the world. During those days, my musical hero was Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist for the band Rush. I modeled everything I did after him, and his writing continues to influence my style to this day. While there are no indications Neil had a relationship with Jesus, he said and wrote many wise things that can apply to our Christian walk.
I was reminded recently of something he once said: “The real test of a musician is playing live.” In an age where there is no shortage of teaching and preaching, it is important to remember the real test of a disciple comes from how we live. As James, the brother of Jesus said, we must be doers not just hearers of the Word (James 1:22).
Our lives are a performance for our King. Every day, people will watch how we live. It is the life we choose as a disciple of Jesus. When we follow Christ, we agree to live by His standards and to be held accountable to what we say by the world at large. Our lives are no longer our own. Aspiring musicians know they will have to make great sacrifices, endure years of hardship, and live for nothing other than the dream of “making it”. Even the most committed rarely find success or fame in this life.
There is a parallel here with following Jesus. We know life on earth will often be far more trying when we live in service to Him. People will hate us, mock us, and even abuse us for His sake. It is rare for disciples of Jesus to experience comfort, wealth, and security in this world. Like musicians, very few will experience fame and prosperity, but most of us will toil in obscurity. It’s here the analogy breaks down. As followers of Christ, we know we only must endure the pain for a little while to receive the guaranteed reward of eternity with Him. If we will only do the hard work now, we will experience the peace and rest of Jesus later. That’s not a dream, it’s a certainty!
The real test of discipleship is how we live today. We dream of eternity with Christ, but are we willing to do the work He commanded us to do? Are we willing to surrender our lives to Him so that everything we think, say, and do is done in service and honor to Jesus? The real test is not what we know, but what we do. Jesus did not call us to be merely hearers of the word but to put it in action (James 1:22-25). Every day we will face the test of choosing to follow Jesus or live for ourselves. Our choice shows what is truly important to us and determines whether we will pass the real test, the only test that matters.