I have a friend who dramatically came to Jesus while serving a prison sentence for murder. He tells a story of how the prison officials gathered a number of in-mates together in the dining room one day. They were all seated at tables of 8 and each prisoner had an envelope placed in front of him. The officials explained that they were not to communicate with one another; no talking, gesturing or signaling one another in any way. They were told that inside the envelope were puzzle parts and their task was to put their puzzles together in as short a period of time as possible. They were also instructed that some of the parts in their envelope belonged to someone else’s puzzle and that some of their puzzle parts may be in someone else’s envelope as well. Under no circumstances were they to ask anyone else for any parts that could help them complete their puzzle. As the exercise began, each prisoner started putting his own puzzle together and discovered the parts that were missing. At that point each prisoner was trying to figure out how to get their missing pieces from the others around the table.
As my friend prayed about the dilemma, he sensed God telling him to stop looking at his own puzzle and the parts he was missing and to start looking at the extra pieces he had in front of him; ‘use your extra pieces to help complete someone else’s puzzle.’ As he surveyed his extra pieces, it was readily apparent which puzzles they belonged to and he simply slid his extra pieces to the individuals that needed them. After a couple of those simple moves the others at the table caught on and began moving their extra pieces to the puzzles that needed them. Not a word, gesture, or signal was communicated but the table successfully completed the task before anyone of the other tables in the dining hall.
All too often, we as leaders of valuable and effective ministries spend the greatest part of our time looking at the pieces that we are missing; financial resources, personnel, volunteers, church support, clients, public awareness, etc. Seldom if ever do we take the time to survey our areas of abundance and then look around the community, nation, or world to see if we can help someone else by passing our “extra pieces” along to help them complete their puzzle.