The 4th lesson that I have learned from J.S. Bach is to be diligent. "The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor." (Prov. 12:24) I know that Bach read and believed this scripture. He was the epitome of a hard worker. In today's society he would probably be known as a 'work-a-holic'.
It amazes me in America, in the 21st century, how many things have been handed to us 'on a silver platter'. Those who have grown up here, never having the opportunity to travel outside the U.S. to different parts of the world, especially third world nations that are impoverished, have a distorted view of the reality of human life. The vast majority of us live like kings and queens. We are the most prosperous nation, not only on the earth today, but that has ever been on the face of the planet in the course of human history! Then to hear some news anchor talk about how bad the economy is simply shows how far off our perception of reality has gone. Even the beggars on the streets of N.Y.C. are better fed than most people in the world.
Instead of a well-spring of thankfulness to God and to those who have gone before us, who established patterns of wealth and prosperity by their hard work and sacrifice, there has come to be an attitude in America of entitlement: "You owe me something", and it has nothing to do with the amount of wealth an individual has.
While all of this is going on, however, those who immigrate to our country from foreign lands are in awe of the plentiful opportunities that are here. They immediately roll up their sleeves and go to work, pushing through the barriers of discomfort that usually make those who have grown up here turn away, declaring, "It's too hard" or "Why is this happening to me?"
Worship in American churches, unfortunately, has also been influenced by an attitude of 'doing what's easy'. I know that simplicity of design is a virtue, but when the vast majority of what is produced and popular is typically no more than 4 chords on a guitar, it says something about our work-ethic, self-discipline, and depth of commitment.
When mega-churches use drama and pop-genre music to draw a crowd, they quickly find out that they don't have a congregation, when they start asking some commitment from their people.
Discipline, faithfulness, commitment: these are not popular words in churches today. Bach, however, demanded excellence even from his volunteers (which made up the majority of those he had to work with). There is no way he could have produced and ministered a new Cantata each week for a number of years successfully without a stiff rehearsal schedule and high expectation of his people.
He was probably familiar with this verse, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies" (I Pet. 4:10-11) He expected that even his volunteers would 'employ' their musical giftedness in the service of the local church.
My 4th lesson for you is: don't allow the mind-set of average to creep into your attitude, but expect more productivity from yourself than others do of you. Don't wait for someone else to motivate you to do something, and then do just enough to get by. Keep stretching yourself, keep motivating yourself to see and pursue new possibilities. Do you know why most ideas don't come to fruition? It's because people are afraid to work. Ideas require work, it's that simple. The reason Bach produced more music than anyone else is because he wasn't afraid to work.