I love puzzles. I love all kinds of puzzles, everything from picture puzzles to Lego kits that challenge me to put together block pieces. I even look upon playing all kinds of card games as a form of puzzles. The challenges is to solve the game’s puzzles to win. Bridge is my favorite card game, even though I seem to mess up the bidding process more times than I do it right. Puzzles. If I really wanted to be a better bridge player I would study the rules and the bidding process in order to get better.
How many of you like puzzles of some sort?
Have you ever considered one of the reasons God has created his children is to give challenges with life puzzles we are faced with in our lives?
We also must face natural events God has allowed but not designed for us personally. And then, there’s that whole reality of evil we must face.
How we face life’s reality is the challenge. Do our life as a series of puzzles to be faced or do react with anger, frustration, depression, or even surrender? The fact is there. People can face the same events as puzzles to be solved or as roadblocks to defeat them.
Some puzzles are simple like what to wear today, what to eat for breakfast, or like this morning, do we go to church or stay in bed. Each moment of every day we live by how we are going to put together life’s puzzle today.
I think of the game of bridge as a life lesson. After all, even the best bridge players can only play with the cards they get. They have to deal with what the cards they get and how their partners answer them with the cards they have in their hands.
Life puzzles are like that for each one of us. Aptitude, physical limits, and much more affect what we can do with the life we are given. The task in life is to put together your life in such a way your life comes together. I believe it’s best done with God’s plan for your life. This is the question, “How does God want me to live out my life puzzles according to his plan for my life?” The good news is our Heavenly Father has given many tools in order to deal with life’s puzzles. We are given the Word of God, the wisdom of centuries past, and the Holy Spirit, who is present in our lives. All we have to do is listen to this master of life’s puzzle.
For example, our scripture this morning is a well know story about the time when Jesus came to stay at Mary and Martha’s home. In this story there is no mention of their brother, Lazarus, but that is the very same home. When Jesus and the disciples came to worship at the Temple he often stayed there. These two sisters and one brother lived in Bethany, just a short walk from the Temple in Jerusalem.
Martha fulfills her duties as a hostess. She welcomes Jesus as n honored guest. She wants everything to be perfect for this very special guest. Meanwhile, Mary is breaking every protocol in the book. She wants to hear what Jesus has to say about how we should put the pieces of life’s puzzles together for the fulfillment of life, itself. She needs to know, she craves to know God’s will for her life.
By sitting at Jesus’ feet she has declared herself a disciple. She wants to know what he has to teach her. By sitting at Jesus’ feet she has broken the rules about women sitting at the teacher’s feet. It simply should not be done. Meanwhile, Martha has gotten increasingly frustrated Mary isn’t helping with preparing foot for their special guests. She needs her help to host such a large gathering. Martha has to feed not only the Messiah, but all the people who have come with him.
Last week Pastor Ross told us he believes God puts certain questions on his heart that helps him to build his sermon each week. His sermon, “Filled With God,” directs us to find the answers to how we can put together life’s puzzles with faith. God offers us a picture to show us how each puzzle of life is to be put together. Like a puzzle God hands us that picture through his Word, in worship and prayer, and by listening to the Holy Spirit.
This story about Mary and Martha is a lesson as to how we handle our life’s puzzles. Martha was right! Things need to get done from every day chores to tougher struggles of life. This is the thing. If we are so busy getting our daily chores done we may never pause to learn how the puzzles of life are to go together.
I remember trying to put a puzzle together only to find out some of the pieces where missing. God doesn’t do that to us. If we are obedient to our Heavenly Father’s will we will find the way. In truth, the search for answers to life’s puzzles is more important than the “getting things done” thing, even though things do need to get done.
The scriptures are loaded with clues to life’s puzzles. The most important clue is found in John 3:16 and 17, “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved by him.” In other words, Jesus Christ saves. Paul said, “If you believe upon Christ Jesus, and that he was raise, you will be saved.” Good news! When we think all is lost God is there for us not only for life eternal, but for this life as well.
Preachers, however, do not often go on. In John 3:18, Jesus teaches there is a consequence if we do not believe, “Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Hard news! The reality is there are consequences to ignore the rules of life’s puzzle. God’s love is real! God’s love is available for all. God’s love teaches us how to live, but if we ignore God’s love it can harmful.
Last week I went to a Lumber store to get some materials I wanted to finish a project in my basement. I had a list that would help me salve the puzzle of the project. Everything went just fine until I broke the rule of backing up. My car even has a camera to help me back up. I didn’t thought I knew what was back there, so I didn’t look at what the camera told. I didn’t carefully turn my head back. I faced the consequences by backing into a dumpster. No mercy! The cost of my momentary lapse is almost $1,300.
I knew better. I did not do better.
The good news is God still loves me. When I mess up. When I sin Christ still offers me a repair shop for my soul. Praise be to Christ Jesus, and the Heavenly Father who sent him.
Next time I hope I remember the lesson I experienced backing up. It will help me put together life’s puzzle for driving.
Mary was hungry even eager to collect some of the clues for how she was to live her life according to her Heavenly Father’s instructions. She wanted to learn so she won’t back up into some disaster. She wanted to know how she was to go forward into the life she was created to lead.
There is a similar story found in the book of Acts. As the church was growing the work the disciples was doing had grown so much they could no longer get it all down. They came to a decision about how to get life’s puzzle accomplished for the early church.
They said to the community of the faithful, “It is not right we should neglect the Word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select among yourself seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and Wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and serving the Word.” --Acts 6:2-5
The decision by these apostles is how the early church began the role of clergy. I’ll be honest. I sometimes we have gone too far in turning everything over pastors. I believe God does want given each of us to use our different gifts to sustain the church. After all, as the body of Christ each part of it serves a purpose. What does God call you to do as faithful follower of Christ Jesus?
The Pastor’s Nominating Committee has been charged with a puzzle. The puzzle is simple, “Who should we call for our next pastor.” I know they have spent time in prayer to discern what to do. I know they have surveyed the congregation to find what you think. I know the Wyoming Presbytery is helping us prepare to call pastor. This is one of life’s puzzles to be solved.
What we all need to understand is that when our new pastor comes everyone in the congregation will be charged with help them solve the life puzzle well be faced with each day and the days to follow.
We can look upon life in many ways. Some of the things we face are difficult, discouraging, unfair, and hard, but with God’s help we are charged with solving the puzzles we must face. I am amazed how well some people deal with what is happening in their lives. I feel for those who cannot face what is happening to them.
It comes down to how we face our life’s puzzles.
Pastor Paul Grossman