Many would agree that Michelangelo’s David is among the world’s greatest artistic achievements and a true masterpiece of sculpture. What few know is that Michelangelo was not the original artist. The commission had first gone to Agostino di Duccio, but he got only as far as roughing out the shape of the legs and body before his work ceased. Antonio Rossellino soon took it up, but only for a short time, before he, too, quit. The block then sat exposed to the elements for 26 years before Michelangelo finally accepted the challenge. In just over twenty-four months he had completed the task and the sculpture was installed outside Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. It has now been thrilling and inspiring audiences for more than 500 years.
In recent weeks Grace Fellowship Church has had the privilege of baptizing several new believers. Each one has given testimony to God’s work in his or her life. Each has described a life given over to sin, a life given over to illicit pleasures, a life given over to ultimate meaninglessness. Then each has described hearing the good news of Jesus Christ, accepting and believing that gospel, and seeing the Holy Spirit at work in putting sin to death and coming alive to righteousness.
And on a recent Sunday, as I heard another one tell of the good and gracious acts of God in his life, I was struck by the beauty of God’s work in transforming and completing what others began. When Michelangelo was given his commission, he knew that others had already labored on his block of marble, but was certain he could work around their flawed attempts and make good of them. He knew that previous artists had complained that the marble was too weak, too flawed, too liable to crumble to dust, but he was confident he could work with it. He knew the other artists had wanted to portray David in a classical pose but that he had something better in mind. In his mind’s eyes he saw the sculpture that had to be gently coaxed out of the raw marble and had every confidence he could complete the task.
And just so, God sees the beautiful person within the ones he calls to himself. He knows that the world has begun to shape that person in its image, but he is certain he can instil within him the values of the kingdom of God. He knows the flesh has been drawing that person toward every carnal pleasure, but he is confident he can draw him toward higher pleasures. He knows the devil has begun to shape him in the image of hell, but he is convinced can shape him in the image of heaven. He sees far beyond what the person is and sees what he could be, what he can be, and what he will be.
God promises to continue his work on that person—that magnificent piece of art—until it is complete, until it is exactly the masterpiece he has envisioned. As Toplady said, “The work which His goodness began, / the arm of His strength will complete. / His promise is yes and amen, / And never was forfeited yet.” The God who began his good work will most certainly bring it to completion, for there are no abandoned, unfinished, or incomplete carvings in his gallery.