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“Living well [the Christian life] is both a discipline and an art,” wrote Sarah Young [1] .

The discipline-part was easy enough to affirm. From experience I know: spiritual practices do enhance the joy of relationship with my Heavenly Father—behaviors like Bible study, prayer, worship, giving, and more.

But what might the art of Christian living look like? For me that was more difficult to qualify.

I turned my thoughts to artists themselves. What actions impel them toward creating art that produces beauty and meaning, and pleases the eye?

(One of our son’s recent paintings)

That question spawned another. What might I learn about producing beauty and meaning in my life that pleases God and my soul?

The following truths presented themselves:

Artists are observant, paying attention to detail. They’re constantly learning; delighting in discovery.

Imagine studying a blade of grass. Take note of the rich green color and subtle striping, its graceful curve downward and sharp, pale-yellow point. Add crystal dew drops and the sight is indeed beautiful and pleasing.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself”.

Henry Miller

But how often do we barrel through our days with no attentiveness, no reflection, no listening to God’s voice? In the middle of the bustling, niggling, babbling pother we miss God’s presence and other glorious gifts [2].

Lesson #1: The art of living well includes attentiveness to God’s beauty—in creation, in people, in words and deeds, in everything.

Artists spend time with inspiring people, including other artists.

And who is more inspiring than God?! He invites us to concentrate on staying close to him, the divine Artist [3].

Just think: God wants to spend quality time with us. He looks forward to our time together and misses us when we don’t show up. Quiet time isn’t meant to be a ritual; it’s meant to be a relationship [4].

Lesson #2: The art of living well includes the great privilege and pleasure of keeping company with God.

Artists are deep thinkers and curious about truth.

While the subject matter of the masterpiece, The Girl with a Pearl Earring is obvious enough for a child to understand, it will not yield its astonishing riches except to those who study the painting and reflect on Vermeer’s attention to light, shade, balance, color, and even the brush strokes. (Only two strokes created the pearl.)

The same is true for those of us who seek truth from God’s Word. Its basic message is clear enough for a child to understand [5]. But it will not yield its astonishing riches unless we study and reflect on its teachings (Proverbs 4:20-22).

Lesson #3: Open the treasury of the Bible and delight in its magnificent contents. 

Artists are persistent and patient.

It took Georges Seurat two years to paint A Sunday on Le Grande Jatte—with tiny dots.

Leonardo da Vinci spent about four years to get the Mona Lisa just right.

Michelangelo lay on his back the better part of five years to create the 343 figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Consider: “Even God does not make a glorious sunset in a moment. For several days He gathers the mist with which to build His beautiful palaces in the western sky”[6].

Lesson #4: Take joy in process and progress; stay the course and proceed steadily in the way God reveals (Psalm 119:1 MSG).

Artist, Robert Henri (1865-1929) observed:

“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”

Robert Henri

Such an applicable statement to the art of living well as a Christian! Our object isn’t to perform for God as much as it is to know him, love him, and desire to honor him–which makes a beautiful, God-honoring life inevitable.    


[1] Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, 193.

[2] Leslie William, Night Wrestling, quoted in Refresh My Heart, compiled by Terri Gibbs, 124.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, 73.

[5] Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our wrongful behavior. When we confess our sins, believe in Jesus as our Savior, and accept him into our lives as Lord, he bestows many blessings now, and eternal life in heaven with him to come. Millions of children have responded with simple faith to these wonderful truths. I was one of them.

[6] L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, p. 206.

Art & photo credits: J. Eric Ruegg; http://www.wikimedia.commons.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.wikimedia.commons.org (2); http://www.canva.com.

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