The fifth lesson I've learned from J.S. Bach is that it's not about where you are, or your lack of resources. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about this concept that Bach lived are Scripture stories about God's provision in seemingly insurmountable places of lack and distress. I remember the story of Isaac prospering in a time of famine (Gen. 26:1-14), of Elijah being fed by the ravens during a time of drought (I Kings 17:4), or of Jesus who fed the multitudes out in the wilderness with just five loaves of bread and two fish. (Lk. 9:12-17) Bach had read these passages. Did you know that he studied his Bible, even writing in it some of his thoughts about the passages he read? (More on that later.)
A thread of thought that weaves throughout these Biblical stories is that provision comes to those who are obedient to follow God's supernatural leadership. All of us have experienced it, we may not talk about it the same way. Some call it 'women's intuition', or others may have had a dream warning them of danger, others just have a 'knowing' that some direction is the right way to go. This is God's leadership in our lives. Some people are 'tuned in' to it, and others have become so used to ignoring it that they have become calloused to it. Nevertheless, provision comes to us when we are living our lives directed by this "still, small voice" (I Kings 19:12-13) I am convinced that Bach knew the voice of God's leadership in his life.
Another equally important concept of provision is that of thankfulness. The miracle of multiplication didn't happen until Jesus first gave thanks for what He had to work with. (Mk. 8:6) How many times do we find ourselves complaining about our lack of resources or capabilities? When we complain, we stop the miracle.
In all my reading and studying of Bach's life, I know he got angry on occasion when he believed that there was injustice in some circumstances, but the general theme of his life's demeanor was to roll up his sleeves and work with what he had. He took the initiative to train his family, students and community in the skills of making music. In the midst of misunderstandings and lack of resources, living in a fairly small city (compared to his contemporary Handel), he systematically produced a legacy of work that resounded through the generations of history.
Handel, by the way, lived in England and had just about every imaginable resource available to him. He was lauded by the masses, praised by the king. He was like a contemporary rock-star in his day. No one knew of Bach, however. Was Bach ever tempted to be jealous? I don't know. But something satisfied him that kept him going. I think it was that he knew he was where God wanted him to be. By following God and being content, at peace with himself, he then generated great works because he himself had become great in spite of his circumstances and lack.
He had learned the principle written by the Apostle Paul (whom Bach had undoubtedly read): "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:12-13)
The 5th lesson I have for you is this: don't be moved by lack, but look on the things you have with an eye of thankfulness and be truly grateful. When you begin to give thanks...that's when the miracle starts.