Friday, November 18, 2011

The final piece of the puzzle


10-11Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You've heard, of course, of Job's staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That's because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.
(James 5:10-11 The Message)

The very last sentence of this passage is my focus this morning.  Yet, to understand the importance of a passage, one must understand the context of that passage - so I give you the rest as a gift of "context".  James is concluding the letter to the churches.  He writes about some very practical "rules" of living that will keep us in solid relationship with Christ, build meaningful relationships with each other, and help us to exemplify Christ in all our dealings.  Now, in concluding, he reminds us of the importance of having solid examples - mentors we can look to.  For that, he points us to the prophets of the Old Testament times.  His reason - they developed a lifestyle of trust.  They went through much because they had come to know with a certainty that they could trust God with the course of their lives - the outcome was in his capable care.

The simple statement that God brought it all together in the end is often the story of our lives.  It is indeed God that does the bringing together of our lives.  We, left to our own devices, have a tendency to allow it to fall to pieces!  God, based on his intense love for us, brings the mess we call life together for us in the end.  You know, I think God is kind of like the master jigsaw puzzle champion of the entire universe!  He knows how all the pieces will fit, carefully finding just the right piece for the next step in completing the puzzle, then goes about this process until the very last piece is laid into place.  We need a "pattern" to follow in order to get a puzzle put together, but even then, we struggle to find the right pieces in the right order!

If we take time to look at how God "fits" the pieces of our lives together, the exact order he brings things into "play" within our lives, and how carefully these "pieces" all fit together to bring about the desired effect, we will be amazed at the wonder of his care.  I think that is what James had in mind here - an awareness that God cares!  Not just on the surface, but right down to the nitty-gritty details of our lives.  Not one detail escapes his care.  When James refers to the "care" of God, he is pointing us toward the protection and oversight God has taken.  He is not "slack" in his protection, nor is he "missing" any of the details from his watchfulness.

The prophets had learned to "trust" God.  Trust is a reliance upon the integrity of the one who is in control.  The integrity of God had been proven in their lives over and over again.  They came into a place of determined trust that even when the puzzle of life did not look like anything they could recognize, they would still trust the one putting the pieces in order to bring it all into a recognizable thing in the end.  We sometimes don't know how to trust God with the pieces of our lives - holding back some piece or pieces because we aren't sure what he is "fashioning" from the pieces.  When we do, the puzzle is incomplete, does not present what we can recognize as a "good outcome", and therefore, we resist the process.  

I think we are pointed to our "elders" in the faith because they had the same struggles and came to the conclusion that God could be trusted.  Sometimes we need someone to encourage us to "give over" those missing pieces into God's capable hands.  He may not be ready to "use" them right away (fit them into the puzzle), but he carefully places them in his sight until he is ready to fit them exactly into the framework of our character.  So, if you find that God is asking for some "hidden" pieces of your life today, trust him.  He will not throw away any piece.  He doesn't "trim the edges" of a piece to make it fit.  He won't damage what he has in his hands in order to accomplish the "fit".  Instead, he already sees how it fits his design perfectly and will "fit it" into the framework of our lives in just the right order, in just the right time.