We have done several jigsaw puzzles this winter and currently have another one going. Most of the puzzles that we do we pick up at second-hand stores like Good Will or Salvation Army or our local “Achievements” store. Consequently, we are not guaranteed that all the pieces are there, which makes it very interesting and challenging, for you can look for one piece for some time, only to discover later that the piece is missing. One of the puzzles we purchased recently said on the box—“No pieces missing.” What it didn’t say was that there were three extra pieces—that made it interesting! Once we got a new puzzle in sealed box only to find that the pieces were a mixture from several different puzzles! I bet we weren’t the only ones who had that experience from that manufacturer. Someone had some fun packaging them!
When we begin working on a jigsaw puzzle, we dump all the pieces (usually 1,000-1,500 of them) out on a table and it is pretty confusing and foreboding. Where do you begin? Well, first we have to turn them all right side up and begin looking for the edge pieces and then, from them, find the four corner pieces. We use the picture on the box cover to guide us as to how the border pieces need to be located to form the framework for the puzzle. Once we have the frame built, we begin working on the interior, again using the picture on the front as a guide. Without the picture to let us know what the finished picture should look like, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible assembling the pieces.
There are some interesting spiritual parallels that come to mind—my mind at least! Everyone is working at putting together the pieces to make sense out of their lives. They have in mind what the picture should look like for themselves and are trying to find a place for each event or circumstance of their life to fit into that picture. Some don’t even have a picture in mind and are just living in “random mode,” doing whatever they want whenever they want—whatever feels good at the time, with no real goal or purpose. They just “go with the flow” and “fly by the seat of their pants,” so to speak. As we attempt to find a place for all the “pieces of the puzzle, “we are often hampered because not all of the pieces in front of us belong to the completed picture (Like when we had three extra pieces from other puzzles or a mixture of pieces from several puzzles!), We need to sort out what belongs and what doesn’t belong.
We, of course, need to start with the corner pieces and then the entire framework giving us something to build upon. Spiritually, we need to begin building our life on a solid foundation, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11). Christ must be the “cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20) upon which our life is built. We were created to have a relationship with God as the basis of our life. To substitute anything else is to be like the foolish man Jesus described: “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall” (Mt. 7:26,27).
When we trust Christ as our Savior, we now have a solid foundation (cornerstone) on which to build. Then we need to establish the framework which is made up of the basic truths (doctrine) of God’s Word, the Bible. We need to know and believe who God is, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, that we are sinners and in need of a Savior and that God the Son, Jesus Christ came and died to pay the penalty of our sin, was buried, rose again the third day and has ascended back to heaven where He intercedes for us. We need to believe that God the Holy Spirit comes to live in us at the moment of salvation, and that through Him, the Father and Son live in us. We are “new creations in Christ” (II Cor. 5:17). We need to know and believe that Christ is building His Church but will one day take the Church home to heaven and then will return with His Church to reign on earth. We need to believe that He authored the Holy Scriptures as our final authority for faith and practice. We need to believe that everyone will one day give an account before God, and that without Christ as our foundation, we would experience eternal separation from God.
Just as we have the picture on the puzzle box top to guide us in assembling the pieces of the puzzle, we have the Bible as our guide to assembling the pieces of the puzzle in our lives. We need to learn to recognize pieces that don’t fit in the overall picture—that is, events, activities, habits, or ways of thinking that do not coincide with the truths and principles of God’s Word. Those we should eliminate rather than do what we are so prone to do—try to jam them in. When we do that, we mess up the picture that is God’s purpose for our life—being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Ro. 8:29).
When we do a jigsaw puzzle, after finishing the border, we normally work on obvious areas that are the most distinguishable and then end up with the most difficult sections at the end, and often have to sort the pieces by shape. In our spiritual lives, we are able to see how some of the pieces fit in the overall picture but will undoubtedly have to wait for heaven to discover how some of the events of our lives fit into the picture of conformity to the image of Christ. That’s where faith and trust come in to play, allowing God to be sovereign in our lives and not demanding an explanation for everything that is happening to us. As the hymn says, “We’ll understand it better by and by.”