Step Back to See the Big Picture

by Kathy Howard

Yet he gave [Abraham] no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. Acts 7:5 ESV

Mosaics grace the ceilings, walls, and floors of cathedrals, homes, and buildings all over the world. Skillful artists create them by arranging small bits of colored tiles, glass, or other material into patterns or images. The oldest known mosaics, discovered in a temple in Mesopotamia, date back to the 3rd millennium BCE.

In the 1990s, photo mosaics developed as a modern twist on this beautiful ancient artform. In a traditional mosaic, one large image is created by combining small colorful pieces. But in a photo mosaic, these small colorful pieces are also individual images. Many small photos join together to form one big picture.

Stephen, a deacon in the first-century church, tried to help the Jewish leaders who arrested him see God’s big story of salvation. In Acts chapter seven, Stephen responded to the Sanhedrin’s charges against him with a mosaic-type narrative. He skillfully combined individual stories of Israel’s history to tell them one big story. Reciting Israel’s history to make a point was a common practice, but Stephen used it to encourage his accusers to pull back from their micro-focus and see God’s greater plans and purposes for Israel.

Accusations of false witnesses reflected the Jewish leaders’ small-picture thinking. According to their testimony, Stephen claimed Jesus would destroy the temple and change the customs of Moses. The council would have considered this particularly blasphemous. In their minds, God resided in the temple and His salvation came through the Mosaic Law. Everything they held dear and hoped for revolved around these two things. But their narrow focus caused them to miss the big, glorious truth of God’s eternal redemption.

So, Stephen took them back to the beginning. He reminded them of their calling through Abraham. He recounted God’s faithfulness to keep His promises. He illustrated God’s power and sovereignty through the life of Joseph. And Stephen highlighted God’s presence with His people – inside and outside the Promised Land. He showed them how the pieces fit together to form the big picture. They’d seen the colorful pieces but they’d missed the glorious beauty of the complete redemption picture. They’d missed Jesus.

Like the Jews who saw the colorful pieces of God’s salvation story but missed the Savior, we sometimes get stuck on the smaller pieces in our own story. The tiny piece that has captured our attention may be a past failure, a difficult trial, or even a victory. But God is working through every event and experience in our lives, arranging them into a work of art. Step back to see how the small pieces fit into God’s eternal plans and purposes. Don’t miss the beautiful, big picture.

Father, I know that sometimes my focus gets stuck on one event or problem. Help me to see the bigger picture of the ways you are working. Show me how I can best cooperate with what You’re doing in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post is adapted from “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts.”

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at

Deep Rooted: Growing Through the Book of Acts: A 50-Day Devotional Journey by [Kathy Howard]

Here’s more about “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts”: Pack your bags and join Kathy Howard for the journey of a lifetime. You’ll experience the powerful arrival of the Holy Spirit, witness the birth of the church, and walk the dusty roads alongside those first missionaries as they boldly share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. 

Join the conversation:  Have you ever tried to remember specific moments that you now know God would work together to move you into the person you are today?


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