“The Big Picture”
There is an old saying that goes something like this; “Don’t believe everything you hear, and only half of what you see.” It is an idiom that serves as a reminder that perception can be misleading as things are not always as they might appear. This was perfectly illustrated a few years ago on an advertisement for a northern TV station that started out like this: There was a woman sitting in a car. She is casually minding her own business when a man comes out of the blue and approaches her car in a frenzy of haste. A word is never spoken as he rips the door open, grabs the woman by the arm, and pulls her roughly out of the car. It looks as though he is attacking her, and you look on in amazement imagining the terror the woman must be experiencing. Then the camera pulls back, and it can be seen that the car is actually on fire, but the woman was totally unaware. The man was not assaulting the woman; he was rescuing her. The ad finishes by saying, "You need the bigger picture. Channel 10 News gives you the bigger picture."
There are few things as challenging to our faith as when life deals us a set of circumstances that leave us wondering what God is up to. We are confused when our plans did not fall into place like we thought. We are puzzled when our prayers are answered opposite of our desires. We are overwhelmed when nothing seems to make sense and every path has no outlet. Such moments demand a perspective which rests outside our humanity. In John 13, Jesus humbled Himself and knelt to wash the feet of His disciples. He is then questioned by Peter who did not understand the full meaning of what was happening. Jesus would answer him in verse 7, “...What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” It was His way of saying, “There is a bigger picture than you realize or understand.” Just as God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours, God’s purposes are broader than our ability to fully perceive. As one stands on a beach and looks out across the ocean, there is a line where it appears the earth has fallen away. There is more, but you cannot see it. A great danger to our lives is that of putting a horizon on God. Our inability to see what is coming next does not mean that God cannot see it. Because God dwells in eternity rather than in time, there is no angle of our life of which He is unaware. Perhaps that is why Max Lucado said, “Faith is the conviction that God knows more than we do about life and He will get us through it.” While life can often be difficult to understand, there is a much bigger picture being played out than we can see.
God rules all things by Himself. In Ephesians 1:11, Paul notes that our lives are ordered “...according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” No matter how bleak the circumstances we face may appear, it is comforting to know that God still has a plan. In fact, God has an array of plans that are never exhausted by earthly problems. It is for this reason that God is never caught off-guard, disadvantaged, or checkmated. Even when the devil’s deception had stolen life and hope from man in the Garden of Eden, God revealed a plan for redemption. You will never find a scene of crisis into which our Lord stepped that He is answerless and chewing His fingernails with worry. God is in control of every particle and molecule in His universe, and they are ordered and arranged to ensure our needs are met in perfect timing. God is relentless in the pursuit to rule and overrule on behalf of our best interest. G. Campbell Morgan said, “The man who measures things by the circumstances of the hour is filled with fear; the man who sees Jehovah enthroned and governing has no panic.” God moves in ways that are often mysterious and unpredictable. But, the door of faith opens to us all of the means and possibilities of God the moment we perceive that in the backdrop of life is the throne of heaven. He is a God who knows no crisis, and glories in showing His best when we are facing our worst.
God restrains all things for Himself. In Colossians 1:17, Paul said, “And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” The word “consist” literally means “held together.” Imagine, if you will, an architect that visualizes a structure to build. As he develops the blueprints, he draws the specifications according to all federal, state, and local codes. Once construction begins, he holds all work to the standard of what he has designed. From creation to creature, God has designed a universe that is accountable to Him. He is the standard by which all things must pass. God is a law unto Himself, and He limits our experiences in life to those things that are well within the boundaries of His eternal purpose. Faith is not defined by our always getting what we want as much as it is by our accepting what God gives. His purposes are carried out by means which are for our own good and for His glory. Nineteenth-century minister William Plumer wrote, “We must not judge the Lord by any rules we would apply to men, or even to angels.” Though His work may often defy human reasoning, it always produces that which is right. All good authors are skilled at keeping their readers engaged and intrigued with loose ends of mystery. But, by the end of the story, the author pulls it all together with a surprising conclusion. God is the master of such skill. Just when we think things appear to be falling apart, they may actually be falling into place!
God reconciles all things to Himself. In Romans 8:28, Paul wrote, “And we know that all things work together for good...” The phrase “work together” is a pharmaceutical term describing mixing together all of the right ingredients. A pharmacist takes chemicals that, in and of themselves, may be harmful and he mixes them to create a medicine that brings healing. In a similar way, God is able to take every shocking, sorrowful, or shameful event of our life and turn it into glory for Himself. Make no mistake about it, not all things are good. Sin, death, and war are not good. But, God has the knowledge to work all things out for good. God alone has the ability to turn trash into treasure, trials into triumph, and tears into a testimony. There is no experience in our life that is wasted to God. During Joseph’s youth, he had a glorious vision of promise for his life. However, the events of his life seemed to produce anything but promise. But, as God brought it all together, Joseph could look back and say to his brothers, “...Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good...” The circumstances that seemed a direct contradiction of God’s plan were used to display the confirmation of His power. A.W. Pink wrote, “God is working out His eternal purpose, not only in spite of human and satanic opposition, but by means of them.” Although life may not always make sense to us, that does not mean that it does not make sense to God.
As a football game is being watched on television, the camera is focused on the twenty-two players on the field. However, what you do not see outside the screen are coaches developing strategies on the sideline, cheerleaders stirring excitement, vendors selling refreshments, and security personnel giving attention to any movement that may lead to a disruption. How easy it is to assume that if one cannot see what God is doing that He must be doing nothing. John Nelson Darby said, “God’s ways are behind the scenes, but He moves all the scenes which He is behind.” If you will refuse to panic, very soon, God will broaden your vision and allow you to see there is more going on than meets the eye.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2017 Alan Stewart