The Big Picture
Nina Keegan, Author, cbn.com
Have you ever tried to put together one of those giant jigsaw puzzles that has at least a thousand pieces? At first glance into the large box of tiny freeform pieces, it’s hard to imagine they will form a picture. One tiny random piece doesn’t look like much of anything on its own; but once you start putting them together, the formation of a beautiful picture begins to take shape. If even one piece is missing, the puzzle will be incomplete.
Puzzles are like life sometimes; except for one major difference, we get to see the end results of the puzzle before we begin the long toil of assembling it. The full picture of the completed puzzle is always on the box-top. We already know how it will turn out and we are not the least bit surprised by its ending. Even though one piece on its own does not look like much of anything, together with all its counterparts, a wonderful picture emerges.
I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will. (Isaiah 46:10 HCSB)
God is the creator of our great puzzle called life. Each one of us has our own unique box with an amazing picture on the top, The Big Picture — the picture God carefully designed for each of us. Only God himself knows what our finished portrait will look like. He is working diligently on our behalf, tirelessly arranging all of our puzzle pieces into a wonderful order of abundant blessings on a pathway of unspeakable joy.
When we are going through a tough time, we must remember that this is just one tiny piece of our puzzle, without it we would not be complete. We need all the pieces — good and bad, easy and difficult — to shape us and guide us on our uniquely individual paths. We may have to be uncomfortable for a bit. We may have to weather some unwelcome storms. But I guarantee you those times of difficulty are never wasted. We learn through times of uncertainty. Our faith is fortified and strengthened. We learn to relinquish control and let God take the reigns. He has the bird’s eye view. He has the miraculous ability to look down and see our entire timeline, start to finish, beginning to end and every single second in-between. He sees the whole puzzle at once. We see only the one tiny piece we seem to be stuck on right now. He sees exactly where that piece belongs.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
This Scripture tells us we were created for good works that God has already prepared for us ahead of time. So no matter where we seem to be or what issues we may be facing, they will be used for good because God has already gone before us and prepared the way. He sent His beloved son to pay the price in advance for everything we could ever need.
We must put our focus and trust in Him. Our trials build faith in our wonderfully omniscient God. If we knew what God knows, we would never change a thing. We would see the magnitude of impossibilities we could never face without God going before us to clear the way and secure our footing.
Enjoy your life piece by piece. Do not worry about tomorrow today. Let God be God!
Run to win that which has already been won for you. No matter what things may look like, a new piece of the puzzle is coming. God is already searching in the box for the perfect piece with the answer you have been praying for. God always sees The Big Picture.
We Work Best When We Work Together
Casey Stengel made a comment about the challenge of managing a professional baseball team. His observation applies to life in general. He said, “It’s easy to get good players. Getting’ em to play together, that’s the hard part.”
Each of us faces that issue. How do I blend my abilities and talents with those of other people? How do I cooperate with others so we can reach our goal? That question applies to business, to family life and certainly to our walk with God.
There are individual sports and team sports. Wrestling, boxing and golf are individual sports. You’re on your own! Basketball, baseball and football are team sports. You’re only as successful as the team is. Christianity, and life really, are team sports. The key to success is knowing how to work with others.
Pride and selfishness hinder a team from being successful. Jesus instructed everyone, even leaders, to lay aside pride and live to serve others. The Apostle Paul understood the value of working effectively with others. He emphasized teamwork because he knew that we could only reach our goals through mutual effort.
In his letter to the Philippian church, he passed on advice about successful living:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Paul pointedly addressed a destructive attitude—selfishness. Focus on ourselves and our own interests at the expense of others will ultimately leave any of us isolated and ineffective.
When Paul wrote the Philippians, he mentioned selfish ambition. It is the translation of one Greek word. It meant self-seeking that focuses on the question, “What’s in it for me?” That word was commonly used to describe the political world of that day.
Paul’s additional challenge to consider others better than yourselves wars against selfishness. That advice goes against our fallen human nature. We live in a highly competitive world. We know that winners are rewarded. No one wants to be a loser.
Yet, Paul exhorted us to focus, not on our gifts, and ourselves but on others and their gifts. That doesn’t mean that I deny what God has given me, but it does mean that I value highly what God has given others. Everyone has some skill that makes him or her better than we are at some things. No one has it all, and what God has given others is important to us. Each individual has some unique combination of gifts and personality that gives him or her great value.
Jesus wants His disciples to model unselfishness. During the 1964 Olympics, in the two-man bobsled competition, a British team driven by Tony Nash had just completed its first run and was in second place. Then they made a most disheartening discovery. They had broken a bolt on the rear axle of their sled, which would put them out of the competition.
The great Italian bobsled driver Eugenio Monti, who was in first place, heard of their plight. He removed the bolt from the rear axle of his own sled and sent it to them. The British team placed it on their sled and then raced down the mountain, winning the gold medal. Monti’s Italian team took the bronze medal for finishing in third place.
When asked about his act of sportsmanship, Eugenio Monti modestly replied, “Tony Nash did not win because I gave him a bolt. Tony Nash won because he was the best driver.”
Because of his unselfishness, Monti was given the first De Coubertin Medal for sportsmanship. The award, named after the founder of the modern Olympics, is one of the highest honors an Olympian can receive.
God honors unselfishness. It is the only attitude that will make us winners in the end. As Casey Stengel demonstrated with the New York Yankees, championships are won when individuals play together. It works for church and, what’s more, it works in everyday life. It will work for any of us.
Pray and Never Give Up
“One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” Luke 18:1 (NLT)
I was 38 years old when Barry and I were married. Because of my age, we took the business of getting pregnant very seriously, but as happens to many women, each passing month was another disappointment.
For the first time in my life, I found myself longing for a child. I prayed and prayed and prayed.
Then it happened. When I saw the positive sign on the pregnancy test, I dropped it. It lay wrong-way up on the bathroom floor, and I was afraid to pick it up in case I was wrong. Finally I had the courage to pick it up — and there was that little plus sign — we were expecting!
The first few weeks of my pregnancy were a blur of absolute joy. At our sonogram, we learned the baby was a boy. We were so happy. Then one phone call interrupted our happiness. I would be 40 years old when our baby would be born, and my doctor asked for additional tests, one being an amniocentesis. When the results came back, she asked us to come to her office.
I’ll never forget that day.
We sat on one side of her desk as she sat on the other with a brown folder in front of her. I don’t remember everything she said, but I remember this: “Your baby is incompatible with life.”
I stared at her as if she were speaking a foreign language. Barry and I sat in silence, stunned. Then she said something that snapped me back into reality. She said she recommended performing a termination the following day. “No!” I said vehemently. “Absolutely not. This little one will have every day God has planned for him to live.”
We drove home in silence. There was nothing to say.
I didn’t know how to pray. I’d asked God for this little one, and now he might be gone before I could hold him. How do you pray when it feels as if everything is going wrong? How do you pray when God gave you what you asked for, but it’s not what you hoped for? Perhaps you prayed for a husband, and now you struggle with a difficult marriage. Or you prayed for a new opportunity at work, and now you wish you could go back to where you were.
Over the next few weeks, I cried countless tears, but then one day turned the tide for me. My early-morning reading was from Luke 18 where Jesus told His friends to pray and never give up. “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1), and He shared the parable of the persistent widow.
I drove to the beach where we were living at the time. The beach was deserted; my only companions were seagulls. Taking my shoes off, I walked to the edge of the water and prayed like I’d never prayed before, out loud to the wind, the waves, the birds and to my Savior.
Dear Jesus! My heart is aching. I don’t understand this at all, but I just want to declare here and now we are in this together. I’ve always needed You, but I know right now I need You more than I ever have. I don’t know how this will end, but I’m not letting go of You for one moment. You didn’t promise me happiness, but You did promise You would never leave me.
Something shifted inside me. I had no idea how long I could carry our son, but my prayers became relentless, not for a perfect outcome but for the presence of a perfect Father. (In my 35th week of pregnancy, my doctor called to tell me she’d made a mistake. Another patient’s result went into my chart and mine into hers. So now every year on my son’s birthday, I pray and pray for the other mother who got a very different phone call.)
I don’t know what kind of battle you’re facing right now, dear sister. It may be for a child, your family, your marriage, your health or your very sanity, but I want you to know this: When we pray and refuse to give up, our circumstances might not change, but we’re changed by the love of our Father who never lets us go.
Streams in the Desert – February 10
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves (Romans 12:19).
There are seasons when to be still demands immeasurably higher strength than to act. Composure is often the highest result of power. To the vilest and most deadly charges Jesus responded with deep, unbroken silence, such as excited the wonder of the judge and the spectators. To the grossest insults, the most violent ill-treatment and mockery that might well bring indignation into the feeblest heart, He responded with voiceless complacent calmness. Those who are unjustly accused, and causelessly ill-treated know what tremendous strength is necessary to keep silence to God.
Men may misjudge thy aim,
Think they have cause to blame,
Say, thou art wrong;
Keep on thy quiet way,
Christ is the Judge, not they,
Fear not, be strong.
St. Paul said, “None of these things move me.” He did not say, none of these things hurt me. It is one thing to be hurt, and quite another to be moved. St. Paul had a very tender heart. We do not read of any apostle who cried as St. Paul did. It takes a strong man to cry. Jesus wept, and He was the manliest Man that ever lived.
So it does not say, none of these things hurt me. But the apostle had determined not to move from what he believed was right. He did not count as we are apt to count; he did not care for ease; he did not care for this mortal life. He cared for only one thing, and that was to be loyal to Christ, to have His smile. To St. Paul, more than to any other man, His work was wages, His smile was Heaven.