Bob Jones Sr., who founded Bob Jones University, a Christian university in Greenville, S.C., used to tell the story of a student from North Carolina named Dorothy. Before enrolling at B.J.U., Dorothy came from a family who wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ, and she played the fiddle in a dance hall band. When she became a Christian, though, Dorothy started thinking of her “fiddle” more as a “violin” and determined that she would play it exclusively for the Lord. She decided to attend B.J.U. because the preacher who held the revival in which she got saved was a “preacher boy” at B.J.U. Also, the school had a good music program and a reputation for having godly students and a godly staff.
Dorothy had been on campus about three months when she walked into the office of Bob Jones Sr. one day. She said, “Dr. Bob (as Jones was affectionately known), I want to talk to you. I do not have the joy I ought to have as a Christian. I wonder if you could help me find the trouble.” Jones was fairly amazed at the confession because he considered the young girl to be one of the most spiritual in the entire freshman class. But he promptly set himself to the task of figuring out what was going on with her.
He first asked Dorothy if she had any blatant, obvious sin in her life other than the momentary sins that crop up in every Christian’s life from time to time. Dorothy answered, “No, Dr. Bob, not if I know my heart.” He then moved on to the issue of Dorothy’s family, where he struck a bit of gold by learning that she hadn’t heard from them since she had arrived on campus. Her family had wanted her to attend the state school in her hometown in North Carolina, and they had warned her that if she attended the Christian B.J.U. it would result in a complete break from them. Sadly, they had been true to their word.
As bad as that was, though, Dorothy didn’t believe that being alienated from her family was her real problem. After all, she had known that the alienation was coming and had still made up her mind that B.J.U. was God’s will for her life. No, something else was gnawing at Dorothy, robbing her of her Christian joy, and Bob Jones Sr. somehow discerned that it had to do with the girl’s lack of complete surrender to the Lord.
So, he brought up the subject of Dorothy’s fiddle and asked what was going on with her playing. Dorothy said, “Don’t you know I told you I was going to play it just for the Lord? It’s is the Lord’s now.” “That’s fine,” said Jones, “your fiddle is God’s and you are going to play it for Him. But suppose that God tells you to keep your fingers off His fiddle. How about that?” Dorothy, in her shock, barely managed to get out, “You mean not play?” “Yes, I mean never play another note,” said Jones. “But Dr. Bob,” she said, “you don’t think God wants me to give up my music, do you?” Clearly, Jones had struck a nerve with this line of questioning.
It was then that he began to explain himself. He said, “Dorothy, I don’t think that God wants you to give up your music. He gives us talent to be trained and used and invested. But it may be that He wants you to lay this ‘idol’ on the altar. It may be that He knows you love music too much. It may be that He knows that music is taking His place. Suppose it is more for His glory for this instrument to be mute than to be breathing out melody? How about that, Dorothy?” Dorothy, breaking into tears, replied, “Dr. Bob, I could not live without my violin. I will use it for the Lord, but I just couldn’t give it up!” Jones concluded, “Dorothy, I think we have found your trouble.”
The following day Jones studied Dorothy as he watched the student body sing a congregational hymn in chapel. Whereas most of the students had faces that beamed like the sun, she looked thoroughly miserable. And that pattern continued in chapel for the next two days. On the third day, though, as Jones put it, “I could hardly see her face for her mouth – she was smiling all the way across. I thought, She has settled it!”
Later that day Dorothy walked into Jones’ office again, and this time she laid her cherished instrument on his desk. “Dr. Bob,” she said, “I want you to see God’s fiddle. If He wants me to play it, I will play it for His glory; but if He says, ‘Don’t touch it again; do not ever play another note,’ that is alright too. I love Him more than I love music or anything else.”
And did God ever let Dorothy play His fiddle again? Of course He did. God never wanted her to lay aside the talent He had given her and let the instrument sit silent. He only wanted her to resist the temptation to cross over into idolatry with her music. You see, whatever else God is, He is jealous. In Exodus 34:14, He even says, “My name is Jealous.” That means that He won’t allow anything to come between Himself and His servant. So, Christian, whatever your particular “fiddle” happens to be, don’t ever let it rise to a place higher than God in your life.