Healthy Puzzle Pieces
“Under his (Christ) direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:16
Intro: A pastor was just setting up his office at a new church when his secretary told him there was a man there waiting to see him. The pastor wanted to make a good first impression by having the man see that he was pastoral and caring, so he told his secretary to show the man in. At that moment, the pastor picked up the telephone and pretended to be having a compassionate conversation with a church member. The man waited patiently until the "conversation" was over. Then, the pastor put down the telephone and asked, "Can I help you?" The man shook his head and replied, "I don’t think so, I'm here to connect your telephone."
We all want to make good first impressions. You are all being so welcoming and warm and friendly. Me…, I am just trying to not put my foot in my mouth and say something so stupid that you all be talking about it over lunch today. And talking about it at dinner tonight, and still talking about it at breakfast tomorrow morning.
On the other hand I want to say something memorable. Something wise. Something that lets you know I want to be here. Something that tells you I am a good listener. Something that says I am going to learn about you and from you. Something that shows you I am willing to love you like Jesus loves you.
Ephesians 4:16 “Under his (Christ) direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly.”
John Silsbury was a mapmaker in London. Around 1767 he mounted a map on a piece of hard wood, cut around the borders of the countries and made the first jigsaw puzzle as an aide for teaching children geography. In the late 1800’s with the invention of cardboard the idea really caught on as more than just a tool for education but also an enjoyable way to have fun and pass the time.
Everyone here has put together jigsaw puzzles at one time or another. What starts out as a bunch of cut up pieces with persistence and time, with endurance and staying power, eventually comes together to form a picture. One strategy for working a puzzle is to start with the corners and the edge pieces first and work your way in. That defines the borders and the sets the framework for seeing the big picture. That creates the vision and the dream of what the finished goal looks like. Christ puts us together. Christ forms us into a holy body from an individual piece to a group of pieces who are united in purpose, mission, and love for one another and love for the Lord. The whole body fitting together, that is the kind of church I want to belong to. One that Christ is directing. A community of faith that God has brought together.
The church is just like a puzzle. When we are directed by Christ, when we are following the leadership of the Holy Spirit everything fits. Everything works when we allow Christ to join His divine life to ours. That’s when we all become “Healthy Puzzle Pieces.”
I have met a lot of healthy Christians over the years. Here are a few things that healthy Christians have in common. “They Have Turned Over Leadership to Someone Else, and have Taken On a New Leadership Role.” Think about the scripture “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow.”
You have your own special work for God. This means that you are a perfect “10” at something. Go ahead and turn to the person setting next to you and say, “You are a perfect 10 at something.”
One of the greatest things you will ever discover in life is how God wants you to serve and lead. And then do it. That is our response to knowing God’s love. Service and leadership are the results of faith.
I recognize that some of you have been faithful here for many years. You may have heard it said that 10 percent of the people do 90 percent of the work. I would like for us to think about this a little different. Conrad Hilton the founder of Hilton Hotels said that he read the essay by Helen Keller titled “Optimism.” At age 15 he said that changed and shaped his life like no other books did to him. "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement, nothing can be done without hope. Optimism is the harmony between man's spirit and the spirit of God pronouncing His works good."
I like to look at things optimistically. Instead of 10 percent of the people do 90 percent of the work. I believe “the other ninety percent are also leaders but just don’t know it yet.”
You are going to hear me talk about how we can create pathways for people to discover their talents, their gifts, their calling, so that we can work together in missions to make a difference in the world. Everyone here is a leader. The way you live. The things you do. The things you say create a picture of what's possible. People look at you and will say, "If he can do it, I can do it." “If she can overcome that struggle, that temptation, that hardship” so can I. “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow.”
John Wesley said, “Let me be employed by thee or let me be laid aside for thee.” That first part is actually easier for some than the second part. But learn this lesson: There is untapped power in laying aside a work while you stand along beside your successor.
In the church, when you successfully train yourself out of a job, then there are less empty gaps. There are fewer missing pieces. The faith is being passed on from one generation to another generation. Christian faith either flourishes of diminishes according to how well we pass down our faith to others.
Some people are at church every Sunday and every time the doors are open. You have been faithful. Without you the doors of the church would not have been able to stay open. Others are faithful through prayers. Others through tithes and offerings. I am a tither. I will encourage you to also be a tither. Giving is a way to honor the favor and blessings we have received from God. Everyone should give something even if it is “an I.O.U.” If you give a coupon for a free coffee to McDonald's we will see that someone who needs it gets it.
Ezekiel 22:30 “I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall.” The wall spoken of here is not made of stones but made of faithful people. Healthy Puzzle Pieces have served in ministry. Volunteer for duty. “You fill in the blank.” Then they train someone else to do what they have been doing, so they can answer God’s call to a new ground, a new role, a new service, a greater duty for the Lord. Think about who you can train? Who can you mentor? Who can you disciple to do the job you are currently doing? Who can you guide? Who can you lead so that you can turn over what you are doing now to someone else so that there want be any gaps in the spiritual wall of the next generation. No stones missing. No pieces lost. And you can take on a new, larger leadership role. A new territory that has even greater responsibilities and even greater reward and greater blessings in the Kingdom. That is the real definition of Discipleship.
I have also noticed that Healthy Puzzle Pieces “Worship With Unabated Freedom.” Think about the scripture “the whole body is healthy”
There is nothing like a new car smell. You can go to the store and buy a little spray bottle of “new car” scented air fresheners. The olfactory system uses the sense of smell to send an encoded signal to the brain that says, “oh, that a new car smell.” Did you know that the Holy Tabernacle had an “Altar of Incense?” “Aaron will burn sweet smelling incense on the incense altar every morning when he takes care of the lamps.” Exodus 30:7 This is an image of worship. The aroma of burning incense was a call to worship. It was a reminder for the people to pray. The smell of the incense. The sight of the fire on the altar. Feel the presence of the Lord.
Over time the new begins to wear off. “New” even wears off of our faith. Just like you can be driving around in a 20 year old car and close your eyes and spray that little bottle of “new car” scent and it takes you back to that new car moment you can get back to that new faith feeling. Unabated means: “Still as real and powerful and intense as before.” What gets you back to your original passion for worship?
Finally, Healthy Puzzle Pieces “Have Led at Least One Person to a Profession of Faith in Christ and are Continuing to Disciple Others.” The text says, “the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Every person who has been in church for any length of time already knows How to be spiritually healthy. While there are tools and bibles verses and processes, and certain actions that we can do that will maintain and improve our spiritual health you already know most of what to do. But still we need to be reminded, refreshed, renewed, revived on a regular basis to stay focused.
God never lets a brokenness go unused. Just a few weeks ago I went to the bank to cash a check for my son. I had to deposit the check into my account and then withdraw the cash back out of my account. But I didn’t have a check with me and the teller said the easiest way was to use the ATM. The ATM was outside the bank in the drive thru. So I walked out, withdrew the money for the check. But when I looked at the receipt I had unintentionally taken the money out of my savings account instead of checking. I didn’t want the money taken out of my savings so I had to walk back inside explain what I had done; deposit the money back into my savings account, walk back outside to the ATM and withdraw the money out of checking. The whole time I was thinking, “Why couldn’t she just have used a counter check? Or why did I accidentally push savings instead of checking.” Just as I was leaving the ATM. Across the street from the bank is the Court House and I saw a member of my church walking down the sidewalk. When he saw me he said, “Pastor I need a hug.” We have all heard that grown men don’t cry. That’s a myth; grown men do cry we just usually do it when we are alone.
Then it dawned on me why I had to go outside to use the ATM. It understood why I had hit the savings account button instead of checking. I knew why I had to go back outside a second time to get the money. That’s the way God works! That was God’s timing. Amen? Hallelujah! God never lets a brokenness go unused. God never lets a trial be wasted. God lets no teachable moment go unused. God uses every hurt, every storm, to make us stronger.
All you have to do to win someone to Christ is to tell your testimony. Share how you have experienced God.
Talk about where you have met Jesus. Then say, “If God can do it for me. He can do it for you.” Then you talk about Jesus dyeing on an old rugged cross. And that His red blood has washed you bright as snow.
Evangelism is not rocket science. You don’t have to have a degree in theology. You just have to have had a real experience in your own life of kneeling and repenting and accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior. Then share that with someone else. Healthy Puzzle Pieces share your faith! You lead people to professions of faith by your testimony and you continue to disciple others. We are all God’s Puzzle Pieces.
Closing Invitation: You have in your hand a piece of the puzzle. On the back is a number that matches up with the MAP here on the table. This is a symbolic way we are coming together in unity. Under Christ’s direction.
Fitted together perfectly to do the work of the Lord. Each person doing your own special part to be a healthy puzzle piece yourself. To grow in your faith and to be full of love. Please come forward now as we bring our puzzle pieces together.