Seeing the Big Picture

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When I think about seeing the big picture, a story that instantly pops into my mind is from The Hobbit, by Tolkien. The lead character, Bilbo, and his companions are lost in a forest. They started out with a clear direction of where they were going, but in the forest, they became confused, disoriented, frustrated, and depressed. They are having problems and their preoccupation with those problems is an indication they have lost their way. Bilbo climbs a tree to get above the darkness they are in, and looks around. In the light, Bilbo sees his true location. From that position, he recognizes in the distance the place they are trying to get to; he knows which way to go. He climbs down and helps the others know the way. Because he has seen the big picture, he and his companions are no longer confused and lost in their problematic life.

All of us are lost in a world filled with bits and pieces everywhere.

If you have put together a jigsaw picture puzzle, you know how hard it is. This is because the picture is in pieces that are scattered, making it difficult to know what pieces fit where. Fortunately, you have a box lid showing the completed picture. It helps you see how the pieces fit together. Isn’t that how life is? All of us are lost in a world filled with bits and pieces everywhere. We are enmeshed in those pieces, some good, some bad, and we don’t know where it’s all headed or what will become of us. We think we know how to keep it all together, but along the way, we often find what we are doing is not working.

Fortunately, this is God’s world and he cares about it. Like the picture on the puzzle box, God has given us a book to show us the big picture. When we see the Bible’s message in its entirety, we can rise above the darkness of our forest and see the way to go. That is the advantage of seeing the big picture. When you capture a view of the Bible from beginning to end, you will discover two main guiding themes.

First, you will see the big picture that we are corrupted and part of a world filled with evil; and that in every generation, God is calling out a people to belong to him and be his people. In other words, he is saving people from the evils in and around them and creating them to be lights to help others see the way. It does not matter what culture or country we live in, evil surrounds us and God is calling us to himself, creating a people who will follow his ways.  Both old and new testaments have the same pattern, God calling out a people.

The second primary observation you will see is that the person of Christ Jesus is like a thread woven throughout the Bible from beginning to end. Jesus is clearly the theme of all of history, but, apart from God’s book, the world cannot see it. When you combine these two observations, you will see that there are two parallel worlds existing side by side. There is this world, caught in evil and darkness, and God’s world, which the Bible reveals as his kingdom. His kingdom is a realm where God reigns and Jesus is the benevolent Lord and King.

Jesus taught his followers to pray, “your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”. It is God’s overall plan to redeem his created world, to create a people whom he is transforming into a new kind of humanity, and to create a new heaven and a new earth to be their future home. When we enter God’s kingdom on earth and become a part of his people, people from every culture and race, we are not to withdraw into ourselves. It is tempting to want to get away from the evils of this world and seek safety, but Christ does not allow us to do that. He would have us engage the world as salt and light, so that through us, God can continue calling out a people for his name. Seeing the big picture gives us direction for our lives and we learn to see where we fit in. We are engaged in a process of becoming like Jesus, living by his love and the ethical principles of his kingdom, patiently waiting for it to come in its fullness when Jesus returns. His kingdom on earth is visible when its citizens overcome evil by doing the good works God calls his people to do (Ephesians 2:10).

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Jay Ashbaucher
Jay Ashbaucher is a native of Northwest Ohio and is currently a retired pastor and published author. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and has been a pastor and teacher in Montana for over 44 years. Jay taught grief classes in a hospital setting, and worked for twenty years as a fifth-step counselor and lecturer in an alcoholic-drug treatment center getting to know the hearts of people struggling to get well. While pastoring in Montana, he had enjoyed racquetball, hunting, fishing, and traveling the Big Sky State. Now living in Southeast Michigan, Jay enjoys his family, reading, hiking, golf, time with friends, and time with his fun-to-be-with wife. They have two happily married children and seven grandchildren.