This is actually a very old folk tale, but since Disney has yet to exploit it, few have heard the story and it is one of my all-time favorites.
Long ago before the discovery of petroleum and the invention automobiles, some of the richest men in the entire world lived in the deserts of Arabia. Since they did not yet have Bentleys and Rolls Royces to fill their garages, they took great pride in filling their stables with the world’s very finest horses. Only the fastest and most beautiful horses were chosen. But that is only where process began, for after the horses would come to live in the royal stable, the Sultan’s trainer would begin working with these supreme creatures. For over a year, he would nurture them and teach them; training them to be truly the finest horses on the Earth.
When the trainer was ready, there would be a great feast on the summer solstice—the longest day of the year. At sunrise, every horse in the Sultan’s stable would be put in a small pasture in the desert without shade or water. A large tent would be put 200 feet away, and another 200 feet beyond that tent, there was a great metal trough.
All day, the horses would sweat in the relentless summer sun without mercy. As evening approached, the royal family and friends would all gather in the tent to watch the event. Tonight was the night that the Sultan would choose from among all of these truly incredible horses one that would be just for himself—the Sultan’s Royal Steed.
As the sun would draw close to the horizon, the servants would arrive with large, heavy pots full to the brim. With the water thundering into the trough, the beasts would whinny and nicker and press against the fence, trying to escape that they may quench their thirst.
As the last sliver of sun passed behind the sand, the trainer would open the gate. The race was on! But just as they got to the middle of the field (and directly in full view of the Sultan), the trainer would call them back.
Most of the horses completely ignored the call, bolting onward to satisfy their intense need. Some of the horses would slow down for a moment to look back; but their thirst was too great and they would continue to follow the herd.
Every year, never more than ONE horse would stop; consider the choice and with great effort, turn back…head down… and return to the trainer. Only one horse would be obedient despite his or her great pain, great desire, great need. And only THAT horse would be chosen to be the most honored of all of the horses in the world.
In the afterlife, the honors will not go to the prettiest or fastest or richest or most powerful. God is impressed with our humility and obedience, especially when we don’t understand WHY. Yes, it is difficult. But it is only when we are tested that WE know the strength of our faith.
Do I believe that God is good? Do I believe that He loves me? Do I believe that He is very aware of my situation and my suffering? Do I believe that His timing is perfect? Do I believe that He will take care of me?
Our actions ALWAYS reflect our beliefs. So if I do believe… if I TRULY do…then I will take action based on that faith. I’m not saying that bad things will never happen to me or that I will never have to suffer. I’m simply saying that ultimately…in some way…it will be okay. Life will be good. Some parts will be awesome; but there will be struggles, too. Some parts will even be right down miserable, but God will find a way to bring an umbrella in the rain, a cup of coffee on a freezing cold morning, a helpful stranger in a time of need. He’ll get me through. But He wants ME to know that I believe in Him enough to trust Him. And I’ll never know that for sure until I’ve been tested.
In the summer of 2005, I was tested. It was horrible. By the end I was so depressed I could barely get out of bed and I was crying every day. Anyone who knows me knows how completely out of character that is for an optimist like me. But I continued in faith. I was released from part of my bondage in the autumn of 2005 and the rest, one year later. I had no idea that my life would be so incredible now… I really didn’t. I was very afraid. But though I was crushed in my spirit and was wondering if I was being punished from some unknown sin, I remained obedient to God’s will for my life and I waited on Him.
So besides the Earthly rewards I currently enjoy as a result of God’s blessing, here is my greatest reward; now I REALLY know the extent of my faith and the faithfulness of God’s love. Now when I come to a frustrating or frightening place in my life, I have peace. I have peace like I never thought possible. In the Bible, the apostle Paul talks about peace that surpasses all understanding. I have found it as the result of the testing of my faith and it was worth it.
It was worth it.
It was so amazingly, inexplicably worth it.
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