Over the years, I’ve watched with amazement as my wife has patiently transformed jumbled piles of jigsaw puzzle pieces into beautiful pictures. She inherited her love of puzzles from her mom; I, on the other hand…well, I’ve always struggled with them, partly because of my red-green colorblindness (or at least that’s the excuse I like to use). As I’ve watched over her shoulder, I’ve realized there are some clear strategies that successful puzzlers use.
Learning to enjoy the Bible is in many ways like learning how to put together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; there are proper methodologies that can keep us from getting lost in the pieces. In the same way that a puzzle’s individual pieces are part of a much bigger picture, the individual verses and separate sections of the Bible need to be properly joined together so that we can see the full picture.
Can you imagine how hard it would be to put together a jigsaw puzzle if you had no idea what the completed picture was supposed to look like? Thankfully, every jigsaw puzzle comes with a clear picture on the top of the box, which every successful puzzle maker knows is the most important reference tool. Similarly, the overarching message of the Bible is a picture that we must know in order to properly fit together the various characters, stories, poems, prophetic references, and more.
When we open a puzzle box and dump all the contents out on the table, we are faced with a disjointed, jumbled mess. The best way to approach this pile of pieces is to have a strategy, a systematic way of sorting them before we even begin to fit them together. Most puzzlers know that you start with the edge and corner pieces, the borders of the picture, which then serve as the framework in which the rest of the pieces come together. It is also helpful to sort pieces that make up the subthemes—pictures or shapes within the overall picture, like the cows, ducks, horses, and chickens that are part of a puzzle of a farm. With both the Bible and a puzzle, as we begin to understand the subthemes and how they all fit properly together, we then begin to see the beauty of the picture they portray.
Unfortunately, many people become frustrated when they first attempt to read the Bible because they don’t really have a clear sense about the picture on the box, so to speak. A big step in learning to enjoy the Bible lies in developing an understanding of how to fit the pieces together, and as we do this we will see a masterpiece unfold before our eyes. But before we get into deeper discussion on the particulars of the Bible, let’s first lay the foundation of why we should even bother learning to enjoy the Bible.
Why read the Bible?
Most all religions have some form of a sacred text; Hinduism has the Shruti, Islam has the Qur’an, Mormonism has the Book of Mormon, and so on. The Bible is the Holy Book of Christianity, and besides being the #1 bestselling book of all time, it has been a source of inspiration and strength for millions of people throughout the ages.
For the Christian, the Bible is considered to be God’s instructions for mankind regarding how to live rightly. It’s a source of wisdom concerning relationships, money, parenting, and other matters of fruitful living. Many have reported that regularly reading the Bible has provided them a sense of peace, clarity, and direction for their lives. One thing that reading the Bible makes clear is that there is a right way and a wrong way to live. It’s filled with stories of real people, some who did good and some who suffered the consequences of doing wrong. One benefit of reading the Bible is that we can learn from the mistakes and successes of others, and then apply those lessons directly to ourselves and our life situations.
The Bible says that within its pages God has given us everything that we need in order to live the way He intends us to. It also says that the words it contains were recorded by men as God instructed them. This is why the Bible declares itself to be the “Word of God.”
A Jewish king named David recorded one of the main reasons why we should desire to read and understand the Bible. He said, “I have hidden your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). If we truly want to grow closer to God, understand what He wants for us, and know how best to live lives that are pleasing to Him, we need to know His instructions; and just as King David said, knowing God’s Word helps us to do that. The Bible gives people instruction, encouragement, peace, and inner strength, and learning to enjoy it can change your life. The famous Christian author A.W. Tozer wrote:
“The Word of God, well understood and religiously obeyed, is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”
(This article was taken from Dan Gallagher’s book “Learning to Enjoy the Bible“)