Puzzling over Faith

This week, with Puzzle Day, I got to thinking about how we as Christ’s disciples approach our faith using the analogy of how people sometimes try to solve puzzles. Silly, I know, but I had fun thinking about it, and I thought you might enjoy pondering along with me.

When solving a puzzle do you:

Look at the back of the book for the solution when you’re stuck?

Hammer in the puzzle piece even though you know it doesn’t really fit?

Put together a huge puzzle only to find that you’re actually missing a few pieces?

Work and struggle until you solve it perfectly only to fill empty with a headache when it’s done?

Do the crossword puzzle or sudoku in ink?

I’m sure there are other options, but these are the ones I thought of. How do these relate to our faith? Well, let me share.

  • Some believers, when their stuck and discouraged look at the back of the book. We remind ourselves that God is in control and that His will must prevail. We remind ourselves that He works all things together for our good because we love Him. (Proverbs 19:21, Romans 8:28). So, when it comes to faith, God has gladly given us the key with all the answers we need. However, too many of us struggle along without ever truly reading and learning all that is in the Book. In faith, looking in the back of the Book is not cheating. It’s necessary. The puzzle of life is too hard for any of us to figure out without God’s wisdom and encouragement (Romans 11:33, 1 Corinthians 1:25, James 3:13).
  • Some believers (and unbelievers) hammer and push their ideas trying to fit them into God’s plan and into His Word. It may make them feel better at the moment to pretend they’ve got it all put together, only to find out it’s all a lie. We have to watch ourselves. Do we often say, “Well, I think…” or “I know it says…but…” We may be hammering in pieces or “doing what seems right in our own eyes” as the Israelites did in the days of the Judges. (Judges 17:6, 21:25)
  • This one is the scariest one to me. We don’t want to be “believers” who go through life trying to put the puzzle together correctly only to find we’re missing some key pieces. I’m sure we all are missing a few pieces in our understanding of God and His plan. I mean, look at the Disciples who walked with Jesus every day. They messed up in their understanding more than once. However, we need to make sure the key pieces are in place—that our faith is genuine, that we are surrendered to Christ as our Lord and Savior, that we are walking with Him in obedience and humility, and that we know what the Bible says. Some of the most sobering verses in the Bible are Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ (NLT)

  • Some of us strive and work so hard in our faith. We try to solve all the world’s problems and all our problems in our own strength. We are exhausted and have lost our joy because we have a works mentality even though we say we walk by faith. (Yeah, I’ve been there, done that). I am so thankful this is not God’s will. Puzzles should be fun, but more importantly, living the Christian life should be filled with abundant joy even when life isn’t fun. Do you hear Jesus saying, “Where is your faith?” or “Will you return to your first love?” or “Where is your joy.” Or maybe you hear Him calling, “Come to me, all

you who are weary…” Whatever He is whispering to your heart, He is calling you to faith, to joy, to grace. (Matthew 11:28; Luke 8:25; Romans 1:17, 3:27; Galatians 4:8-15; Rev. 2:4-5)

  • I love this one when it is handled correctly. Those who use ink to do puzzles are sure they can figure it out. They have confidence and don’t doubt. They have faith in their abilities. We too can have confidence and faith in Jesus. What He began in us, He will complete (Philippians 1:6). There is comfort and confidence in knowing that. However, it is easy to go from confidence and faith to pride and arrogance when one uses ink on crossword puzzles. We, too, can lose sight of what our Christian walk should be, carrying our cross daily and following Christ humbly (Luke 9:23), and we can take up our signs of protest and judgment or start taking our relationship with Christ for granted and not continue to grow in our faith. Pride is always trying to trip us up. We must guard against it always. And God’s grace is a sure thing—we can walk in faith and confidence, not in ourselves, but in Him. He is faithful. He is loving. He is truth. (Proverbs 4:23, 11:12; 1 John 2:16, 2 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 4:8; John 14:6).

I don’t know about you, but as a believer and disciple I’ve often struggled with the right place to live between faith and planning or faith and works. Some people think the Bible teaches “God helps those who help themselves.” Of course, that wasn’t God speaking, but Benjamin Franklin, a very practical man who had lots of good words of wisdom.

I’m a person who has stepped out in faith several times like jumping out of an airplane with an umbrella—well, it felt that way at times. Of course, having faith in God made it more of a sure thing, like Peter walking on water with his eyes on Jesus.

However, even though these steps of faith enabled me to experience some amazing times and people, I never wanted to assume or demand God to make everything work out. My theory and theology is that if we sense a call from God, we must follow it or we are in disobedience. The hard part is making sure we are following God’s calling and not our own “great idea.”

Life may be full of questions, dilemmas, and puzzles, but when our lives are firmly planted on the foundation of faith in Christ, we can step up to the challenge and walk in confident faith filled with His wisdom, the knowledge of His word, and the help of His Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-26).

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