David France – God’s creature – skilled on the violin.

Interviewer: j. harms

harms: Is there anything that you have learned specifically about the mercy or grace of God through your time studying, playing, and performing on the violin?

france: "He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

When God gives, He gives graciously. It is hard to swallow this deep, rich, free grace because the world we live in has not given us the atmosphere to accept such lavishness bestowed upon someone who doesn’t deserve great gifts. The fact that I am currently still able to physically play the violin is one of these “great gifts.”

About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with tendonitis in both of my wrists. This reality more than any other showed me how easily God could sovereignly decide that my violin playing days were over. For the next three and a half years I went to physical therapy and relearned how to play the violin with less tension. I now, more than ever, know that my being allowed to play the violin is a mercy.

I have a category of answered prayers that I call: The prayers I didn’t pray. About a little more than 7 years ago I would say to myself, “While I’m still young and black, I want to play violin with hip-hop.” I wanted to do this not because I liked hip-hop but because I thought it would be a fun project to see how the violin could fit musically in this genre. The answered prayer came in the spring of 2001 while walking home from the University of Minnesota when I saw through the windows of The Red Sea (how poignant) a Jewish white rapper named Casey Golden. After talking with him about my idea, we formed a friendship that eventually resulted in the recording of Peddling Medicine, Golden’s debut hip-hop album. I remember the afternoon on the bus to St. Paul to record this project in his kitchen, praying and asking God to glorify Himself. I wasn’t quite sure how He would do this. After the session, Casey just marveled how there are so many different “gifts” that people had. It was awesome. He enjoyed what was layed down in the session, but attributed the ultimate source of the talent to a giver of gifts. We probably disagree on who this giver is, but I saw his comments as God glorifying Himself to Casey that afternoon.

harms: What have you learned about trusting God for your every provision and satisfaction?

france: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). Jesus modeled to us how we should each day bank on the mercies of God for everything we receive. We can be easily tempted to think that the big impossible things are for God but the simple day-to-day things we can handle ourselves. God has been working for decades to patiently show me how He alone is sovereign over my daily provisions. When He has given me a small amount of grace to trust Him in this, I have been astounded by His mercies in this area. I can remember when living in Minneapolis and not having much funds or food one week having some friends over for breakfast with some of the last food that I had. After my friends left through the front door, I later went to the back door of my apartment that is not accessible from outside and there was a bag of bread hanging from the door. I was astonished and so grateful. Through this little gift God was showing me that He “had my back,” that I didn’t have to horde the little that I had.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).

Through a friend, I heard a quote from John Piper where he said that “Satan hates you and he hates your happiness.” In my struggle against sin I have been tempted to believe that fleeting pleasures are actually satisfying. “Stolen waters are sweet.” If it was true that stolen waters are sweet and momentary pleasures are satisfying, then why was I unhappy with my sinful pursuits?

When I heard the above quote it shed light on the state of my heart. I was being deceived and devoured by Satan whose only goal was to rob me of the satisfaction that I actually wanted. How do I now fight? I have taken stock of what I actually want. Culture told me to pursue happiness through success and my heart told me to pursue happiness through my flesh, but I realized that both of these pursuits did not have satisfaction as their end byproduct. In my struggle to trust God for my satisfaction, I try to see my former options as obstacles to my Joy.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of Joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

I am in desperate need of these “saving” promises from God’s word. Earlier this week I wrote this quote from Isaiah 35:10, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."

My fight for satisfaction in God and trust for my daily provisions is intimately tied to the degree that I know and trust the promises of God. I find that my trust and satisfaction are weak when my meditation on what God has already said is limited or seasonally non-existent.

harms: Have you seen any benefits from ever being in need? And if so, how do you fight against the temptation to despair?

france: Not so many months ago I was given short notice that I would have to leave my apartment. Here in Bermuda, finding a reasonably priced apartment is like waiting by the pool of Siloam. Trying to be the first one in when the angel comes is a daunting task. When the month was coming to a close and I had no prospects, I remember saying to my roommate that I was neither afraid nor worried.

A couple years ago I listened to a debate between an atheist and a Christian. The probing question that the Christian asked the atheist that garnered no response was, “How can you expect the future to be like the past?” He repeated this question over and over to the atheist and it bore a hole in my own heart.

God has, through many trials, shown me that while He does not guarantee my protection from harm, He is committed to my good. “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength, that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (II Corinthians 1:9). Paul’s words “but that was to make us” shows that the affliction was designed by God for a purpose.

So homelessness is from God because it is a part of the “all” in Romans 8. “All things work together for the good of them that love God who are called according to His purpose” (v. 28). It is also good because it strips me of my pride and self-reliance. If I truly believe that in Romans 8 “all” means all and “good” means good, I will have a foundation when despair creeps in. And believe me, it does creep in.

I paced back and forth in a train station in Berlin this summer worrying that I gave away too much of my zero-funds to friends in need that I met on my trip so that I couldn’t afford to leave Berlin. While pacing, I met another traveler and felt compelled to share my heart with him. I said I gave away some money a couple weeks ago to some friends and told them that I only felt comfortable giving the money away because I trust God for my own needs. I told this stranger that now I’m doubting my trust in God for my needs. He was an agnostic at best but graciously listened to the rantings of my mind. I wrestled my doubt to the ground while conversing with him and concluded that I will trust God. “Let’s leave the train station and sight-see in Berlin,” I said. He obliged. Later in the afternoon he reminded me that I wanted to make a call to see if I could secure a car ride that I saw on a German website advertising cross country travel with drivers going to various cities. The call was a success. God had acted on my behalf. The test of trust wasn’t over though. The next day when I called the driver, he had given away my seat in the car but told me to come to the meeting point anyway in case someone didn’t show up. My distrust crept back in and I reluctantly, and with a little anger, went to the meeting point. God had again shown his grace. One passenger didn’t show up and I had a seat in the car for the 6 hour trip to Cologne.

“Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

I have a long way to go in fighting despair, but God is faithful, and with His working in my heart I can believe that the future will be like the past. He will be faithful to fashion all trials for my good. Believing in God’s sovereignty in tribulation will in the future help me to fight despair.

harms: What pleasures do you know in God that are uniquely or especially known when you are laboring in your artistry?

france: The greatest pleasure in God that is uniquely known to me when laboring in the area of violin performance is being able to access a passionate, vocabulary-free means of screaming the depths and variety of emotions that exist in my soul. This nature of worship allows me to enjoy a kind of communication with God that I long to have.

harms: Can you share with us what faithfulness looks like in the stewardship of your artistic disciplines?

france: I have struggled with being faithful in the stewardship of my artistic disciplines. I think my struggle revolves around a couple areas. I have a tendency toward procrastination which is an enemy of the stewardship of artistic disciplines, and I sometimes doubt if being a musician is God’s will for my life.

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2).

I see how I differ from Christ in how I deal with the “suffering” involved in stewardship. Jesus sees the joy beyond the cross and then endures the cross. I struggle with enabling the joy beyond the difficult task of all the discipline and solitude of practice to propel me to embrace the discipline and the solitude of the work.

God though has been gracious in giving me seasons of growth and faithfulness in the areas He has gifted me. In my life, the overriding aspect of faithfulness that is the strongest is continued perseverance. The verse that is central in my Christian walk regarding perseverance is appropriate for the longevity He has given me in my artistic pursuits, “He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

The face of faithfulness in my life makes its timid appearance when I try to keep a practice journal logging what I’ve accomplished to give me insight into how to move forward in the various pieces I am working on. The other faces of faithfulness are going to concerts to enjoy, be inspired, and to grow, meditating on the pride in my heart and the humility in Christ and by the Spirit wrestling with that in my life. The last face is endeavoring to have a high standard of artistic integrity in performances so that it reaches to reflect the beauty and perfection of God’s creation.

Yes! The good work that Christ has begun in me are the first fruits of the Spirit of God in my heart, but God is deeply committed to every other good work He has started in my life for His glory. “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).


David France can be contacted at: davidfrance76@hotmail.com


© 2007 The Gaius Project