NEEDTOBREATHE has very quickly become one of my all-time favorite bands because of how they are able to move me with such amazing and spiritual lyrics that truly reflect how I feel as a Christian. This album is all about the restoration of the band when their drummer Joe Stillwell quit, a response to the overwhelming tension brought on by touring and being thrust into the limelight with his fellow South Carolina natives and lifelong friends, Bear Rinehart, Bo Rinehart and Seth Bolt.
Their story is chronicled in the documentary film, "Prove the Poets Wrong," drawn from the lyrics of "Drive All Night." NEEDTOBREATHE is getting back to their roots with Rivers in the Wasteland, based on Isaiah 43:19 (NLT): "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." I had the great opportunity to speak with Bear Rinehart about "Difference Maker."
Please tell me the story behind the song.
This song is my story of trying to understand my role in God's plan. We were on tour with a secular artist, Taylor Swift, playing to 20,000 and even 50,000 people per night. We felt like we were doing what we were supposed to be doing. Despite our efforts, I didn't feel like we were having the impact we are called to have.
I think God was asking us at this time, "What are you doing this for? Are you doing it for Me?" And, I think that's where this song was birthed. That confusion is almost a good thing. The bridge says "I am on the fence about nearly everything I've seen." I meant that in how the whole band was going through a "we surrender to God" kind of way.
We don't need to be concerned about what happens after we've given up this gift we have to God. That was really powerful for us. We had ambition and let that take too much of a priority in things that led us down a road that wasn't good. I think that in trying to re-prioritize, God wants us to sacrifice those things, those idols in our lives. Some idols for us were wondering what the outcome was going to be, that we had the upper hand or maybe we were the best band out there, or we thought we were the most clever at it.
I feel like the beginning of the song is us asking ourselves are we really difference makers. How valuable are we, really? Towards the end of the song it comes around that God makes us a part of what He does, which is so crazy. It starts with us realizing that we don't get to make the rules. We don't control it, and we don't get to say what the timing is. It's not because of our talents. He doesn't need that. He needs our willing hearts.
Please share the personal application in the bridge.
I think it was a place to me, writing from my own perspective and looking around, it felt like in the Christian industry people often take credit for being right. It just seemed to me, that there isn't really a place for that. I meant it for myself. How dare I get arrogant about the truth? Whatever amount of truth I was able to understand or talk about certainly wasn't because of myself.
The one thing I really had was the ability to understand that I needed God. I was a sinner. The astronaut line for me was the imagery that we are sort of detached from things. As grounded as we feel, or as in control as we feel, that was the image I had in my head that we are really grasping and have a complete lack of control actually. I felt like that was a good place to be, honestly. For me, I meant it to be a little bit of a wake-up call, mostly for myself. We spend a lot of time arguing about differences in what we believe. I wonder how valuable that really is.
Which Bible verses connect with the song?
Genesis 15:6 (NLT): And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.
Romans 4:3 (NLT): For the Scriptures tell us, "Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith."
James 2:23-24 (NLT): And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: "Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith." He was even called the friend of God. So you see we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
What's the takeaway message for the song and album?
I love the idea of Abraham's righteousness, and what that really means. I always used to think that was right living, and doing a bunch of things right. Abraham's righteousness came through faith, and believing in something he couldn't see. It was not from believing in his talents. Everybody has the ability to be righteous, and believe. That's a powerful thing. We are all given that opportunity. That's such an equalizer.
The song is about our neediness and my realizing that over time. The whole band, really. It's about struggling with who we are supposed to be and the process that God wants to be a part of. Creatively, where do we fit in? How valuable is our voice in all that? How can we make a difference if we don't feel it? The song says, "He walks on up that hill, to the rock on which he stands, he looks out at the crowd, he looks down at his hand and he says I am a difference maker."
I wanted people to see that in two ways. You could say he makes the statement out of arrogance, for looking at his hands and the crowd and what he achieved. Or, you could say he made the statement out of humility. When he realized that his hands could have never gotten him to where he is. The truth is the beauty of grace is that we do not and could not understand it. I take great comfort knowing that God's plan is far greater than any success or failure of mine. That's the gift I have. Not musicianship. Not singing, but faith.
I am a difference maker. The album to me is autobiographical. That's what the wasteland is all about. There's a crack in the door filled with light, and that's all we have to start. Our ambition got in the way and our priorities got in the wrong place, and being on the road and not knowing where we are. At the end of the album, the truth is there, and we've realigned our priorities. That really is the story of what happened to the band over that year. God had a plan for this album. We needed to put our identity into the things that matter in God, rather than in the band.
Yeah, isn't it amazing how a man can find himself alone
Calling through the darkness for an answer that is never known
Yeah, isn't it amazing how God can take a broken man
And let him find a fortune and then ruin it with his own two hands
And he climbs on up the hill, on the rock on which he stands
He looks back at the crowd, he looks down at his hands and he says
I am the Difference Maker
Oh, I am the only one who speaks to Him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God
I am on the fence about nearly everything I've seen
And I have felt the fire get put out by too much gasoline
And we're all strangers passing through places one afternoon
Life is but a vision in a window that we're peeking through
Helpless conversation with a man who says he cares a lot
A passive confrontation about who might throw a punch or not
And we are all transgressors, we're all sinners, we're all astronauts
So if you're beating death then raise your hand, but shut up if you're not
No matter your situation, this band has songs that can really bring healing and reflect the cry of your heart such as their Dove Award winning songs, "Washed by the Water," "Lay 'Em Down" "Something Beautiful," "Slumber" and "Keep Your Eyes Open." As "Something Beautiful" reflects, sometimes we need to be on our knees in prayer and submission before God and cry out "Hey now, this is my desire, consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful." The band consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we are in humble submission to God and don't play it safe but take a chance and ask for God to be real in our lives. You'll never see true beauty if you don't fully submit to God.
"Difference Maker" is a gorgeous, moving and encouraging song about knowing that God's plan is far greater than any success or failure. It is about the beauty of grace and having faith. Christians are called to be difference makers and friends of God. I get choked up singing: "Isn't it amazing how God can take a broken man, and let him find a fortune and then ruin it with his own two hands, and he climbs on up the hill on the Rock on which he stands, He looks back at the crowd he looks down at his hands and he says I am a Difference Maker, I am the only one who speaks to Him, and I am the friendliest of friends of God."
One of the main messages of this song and this amazing album is that we need to set our differences aside as the body of Christ, and rely on God's grace and mercy to seek and speak the truth in love. Righteousness comes from faith in the unseen, like Abraham displayed in the Bible. That's why he is called a "Friend of God." That's the blessed hope we all share in God's Kingdom. The takeaway message of unity to the band and all of us is found in the moving refrain of the album's closing song, "Be more heart, and less attack." Amen to that!
(Watch the music video here.)
NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.