The Little Drummer Boy gave his finest gift to the infant Jesus—a steady, sure drumbeat that, as the song goes, made the baby Jesus smile. "I played my best for Him," the lyrics proclaim, and in that fictional setting, the songwriters expressed a simple truth: God smiles when we give Him our best.
Drumbeats are powerful, and when they are rhythmically correct and consistent, they command marching bands to perform with excellence and precision. Military marches to a drum-line cadence brought strength, courage, and comradery to soldiers, as they marched in unison into battle.
When a drummer fails to keep the beat, it is very difficult to salvage a musical performance. If he misses a beat or changes the tempo, everyone performing suffers. If that occurs in a marching band, the drum major must quickly adapt to the drummer’s mistakes in order to lead the band and re-establish precision. If a vocal band is performing and the drummer’s beat is off, every musician and vocalist must adjust to the new rhythm. That can be nearly impossible, and sometimes the performance must come to a complete halt and start over. It’s crucial for the drummer to do his best.
I once watched a performance of "Bolero" by the French composer Maurice Ravel. The snare drum arrangement in this piece is fifteen minutes of exactly the same pattern of notes. If the drummer skips a beat, the performance is ruined. Every orchestra player depends on the steady, unchanging beat of the snare drum, and although the music swells to a beautiful masterpiece of instrumentation, the performance is derailed if the drummer fails to give the orchestra a steady beat.
Walking with the Lord should be like a steady, slow, deliberate march, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides us through our life’s journey. The Spirit is like our drumbeat, and if we allow Him to establish the beat in our walk with Jesus, He will bring balance and precision to our walk of faith. Galatians 5:16-17 (NASU) tells us, "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another".
Our best walk with the Lord occurs when we listen to the “beat” of the Holy Spirit every day as He impresses on us what His best plan for our day would be. That plan will be a plan of peace and order, not anxiety and confusion. When those things enter our lives, we’re pounding out our own drum beat and drumming out the steady, peaceful beat of the Spirit.
As Galatians says, there is a battle between our flesh--which represents our sinful, carnal nature—and the Spirit of God. His cadence sets a tempo of peace, and when we become restless, anxious, and driven by our flesh or the demands of the world, we’re missing the Lord’s cadence for our lives. Before long, our walk of faith is not faith at all, it’s a chaotic scramble to accomplish our own agendas. Faith disappears; anxiety and fear take over.
When we’re keeping in step with the steady, sure beat of the Spirit, troubles may come, but we are not shaken, because our strength, courage, and confidence come from knowing that the Lord is with us. "Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me," Psalm 23:4 reminds us.
If the valley experience persists, the Spirit’s cadence is unchanging. It goes on and on, like the steady beat of a drummer, guiding, directing, encouraging, leading, comforting, and strengthening us to keep walking with the Lord. During times of testing, the Word says, "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary" (Isaiah 40:31).
When life gets hectic, what beat are we marching to—ours or the Spirit’s? His beat will bring peace and joy and cause us to play our best for Him. At that, God will smile.
© 2023, Chris Custer Werre