In Timothy Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor, he writes about the
story of Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as told in Peter Shaffer’s
play, Amadeus. Keller recounts how
Antonio Salieri was a court composer to the Hapsburg emperor in Vienna and wrote
many successful operas. He had wealth and position but sensed that his music
was mediocre. When he met Mozart, his underlying suspicions were confirmed and Salieri
realized that compared to the work of Mozart, his own works were very inferior.
Salieri aspired to create extraordinary music but knew that he had only been
given modest talents. He asked God to give him the ability to write music like
Mozart but soon discovered that God would not give him the desired response to
that prayer. He became angry at God and jealous of Amadeus Mozart, and worked to
destroy this man whom he saw as God’s instrument of beauty.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon
reaction. I have known men and women who pray to God for something and when
they do not receive it are bitter and angry toward God. They covet what someone
else has and become enemies of God. They feel that God should have known their
great need and should have responded if he was indeed a loving father. They
begin to see God as unjust, unkind, and unfair. I have known some who have lost
all faith in God because they demanded an answer from God and felt that his
non-responsiveness was equivalent to his non-existence.
Such behaviour is actually unfair toward
God. If God is someone from whom we can demand an answer, then he would not be
a God of faith. I might say, “God, I am really struggling with believing in
you, please prove to me that you exist.” If God, out of his love for us, must
answer this prayer and show up in some form that proves he exists, then we will
forever know that he exists. If I know, without a doubt that there is a God who
created me and will be my ultimate judge, then I must live in the manner in
which he asks me to live or suffer the consequences. In this scenario, we would
be enslaved to this God and unable to live in any fashion other than what he
says. Instead, without an unequivocal knowledge that God exists, we must live
by faith, trusting that what he has revealed to us is sufficient to allow us to
trust that he is there and he is worthy of our trust.

There is one more lesson to be learned from
the life of Salieri and Mozart and that is that we can trust God with the
person he has made us to be. The gifts people receive from God, musical or
otherwise, do not seem to be evenly distributed into all the population of the
world. There are many examples of people as young as two years of age who show great musical prowess that is simply built into them at birth.
Indeed, such prodigies are often compared to the great Amadeus Mozart. Does
this make God unfair or does this make him creative? The world would be a much
poorer place if everyone was given the same personality, the same abilities,
and the same gifts. The key to success for each of us is largely connected with
a healthy self-knowledge of who we are and who we are not. The Peter Shaffer play
has highly fictionalized the two characters of Mozart and Salieri and it is
likely that the real Salieri was much more comfortable with his musical gifts
than his character in the play. He likely had a healthy respect for Mozart. The
reality is that each of us must spend a good portion of our lives seeking to
find our way in this world and finding the places in which we fit the best. It
is no good to try to be something we are not. Instead, we seek to find our
place in the grander scheme of things.

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