Earlier this week I brought home a puzzle.
It’s a pretty garden scene complete with roses, butterflies, and a fountain.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the house enjoys puzzles as much as I do. It’s pretty much just been me working on it up to this point. But I don’t mind. It’s relaxing. I get to come home in the evenings, pop a CD in, and work on the puzzle before (and often after) our class.
About a month ago (oh, how time flies!) I taught a lesson about puzzles. Well, it wasn’t really about puzzles. It was actually about Paul and Silas.
It went a little something like this…
Paul and Silas were preaching in town and a demon-posessed girl started following them around, spouting off about them and God. Imagine how annoying that would be? Well, Paul finally got fed up and rebuked the demon and caused it to leave her. Great news, right? Right.
You see, there were some not-so-great people in that town who were using that girl to earn money. Or, I suppose you could say, using the demon to earn money. The demon was able to tell people fortunes, and thus, these people were making a fortune. When the bad guys found out that they wouldn’t be able to exploit this girl anymore, they got a little upset.
Well, more than a little.
Actually, they were so upset that they riled up the town and got Paul and Silas beaten and thrown in jail.
Talk about a tough day. But Paul and Silas were pretty tough, too. Their toughness wasn’t physical, though. It was spiritual. You see, they were so wrapped up in God, that even after being beaten, they spent the night praying and singing to God. Doesn’t that make sense? Isn’t that totally what you’d do after being wrongly accused, beaten, and thrown in jail? I know I would!
Well, maybe not.
But Paul & Silas, they knew how to do what’s right, come what may, and they had learned to overcome persecution and their own personal feelings with praise. They didn’t know why all that junk happened to them. But they did who who God was, and they chose to trust Him.
You see, Paul and Silas had one little puzzle piece. And they had to make a choice when they were thrown in jail:
- They could complain that they didn’t have all the pieces and the piece they had was ugly.
- They could spend the whole time trying to figure out what the picture looked like from the little piece they did have.
- They could trust that God knew the puzzle and the piece and that He’s smart enough to put it together to look even more magnificent than they could dream.
I don’t know about you, but if I only have once piece of a puzzle, there’s no way to tell what the picture will look like. It could be an ugly piece but belong to a marvelous puzzle — it’s too hard to tell with just one piece. Even with two or three pieces!
And maybe it’s just me, but if I don’t have the cover to the puzzle, I not only can’t put it together very well, but I also can’t even guess what it’ll look like. Usually, I’m way off. I’m picturing a mountain scene with a cabin and autumn colors, when it turns out that the puzzle is actually of tiger in the wilds of Africa.
But boy, it’s hard to choose option number 3.
Sure, it makes sense. Sure, it sounds good. Sure, it’s the spiritual way to go. But, dude, it’s hard.
When you choose option number 3, you are basically giving up. You’re letting go. No more worrying about your circumstances. No more stressing over the results. No more contemplating the purpose. No more control.
Oh but the freedom there is in that! You see, when you’re not worrying, stressing, contemplating and controlling, then you’re free. You’re free to pray. You’re free to sing. You’re free to worship.
It becomes less about you and more about Him.
It becomes less about knowing and more about loving.
When Paul and Silas were singing, praying; when they were focusing on God instead themselves and their circumstances and their one little puzzle piece; that’s when God did something huge. You see, right in the midst of their worship, the earth shook. Their chains fell off. They were set free.
But then the weirdest thing yet happened — they didn’t leave. They stayed where they were. Why on earth did they do that? Could it have been because that’s where God had placed them? Could it have been that they were trusting him enough to be obedient when they so easily could’ve run, could’ve saved themselves?
Followin’ Jesus will make you look like a freak sometimes, won’t it?
But the coolest thing had yet to happen; you see, Paul & Silas had a rare opportunity. They were going to see a pretty big sneak peek at the puzzle God was building.
When morning came and the jailer found them, he was pretty shocked they were still there since they weren’t bound. I’m sure this jailer had jailed a lot of criminals who would’ve jumped at the opportunity to escape. But these freaks had STAYED. If Paul and Silas had taken off, the jailer would’ve been put to death. They saved this man’s life.
The jailer was so shocked, so amazed, so impacted by their attitude and sacrifice, he could tell that what they preached was real. This man begged them to tell him how to be saved. Not only did the jailer believe, but his whole family came to salvation that day.
How awesome is that?
Now let’s look back.
What started this whole thing? An annoyance. Injustice. Pain. Suffering. An ugly piece of the puzzle.
How did Paul and Silas respond? Hope. Trust. Blind faith.
What was the result? Spiritual growth. Salvation for the lost. God’s glory. A magnificent picture.
Did Paul and Silas know what was going to happen after they were beaten and jailed? Did they know the purpose? Did they know if there even was a purpose beyond their own spiritual growth? No. But they chose to trust the Creator of the puzzle and do what they knew was right, despite how they felt, despite their lack of control. And God blessed them greatly for it. Not only did they encounter God in an incredible way while worshiping in the hardship, but they were able to see the fruit of their suffering firsthand.
Many people find puzzles frustrating. They take a lot of patience.
In each of our lives, we each have one little section of a grand puzzle that God is creating. Often, we don’t understand why we have the pieces we have; why they look the way do, why they are shaped the way they are. But we must trust the Creator.
He’s in control.
And He knows what the picture will look like when He’s finished.
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.