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Leonard Sweet in his book I am a Follower tells the story of an old man who lived in a small village. He was the poorest man in the village, but he owned the most beautiful white stallion. And the King had offered a small fortune for it. After a terrible harsh winter, during which the old man and his family nearly starved, the townspeople came to visit.

“Old man,” they said, “you can hardly afford to feed your family. Sell the stallion, and you will be rich. If you do not, you are a fool.”

“It’s too early to tell,” replied the old man. A few months later, the old man woke up to find that the white stallion had run away.

Once again the townspeople came, and they said to the old man. “See. If you had sold the King your horse, you would be rich. Now you have nothing! You are a fool!”

“It’s too early to tell,” replied the old man.

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Two weeks later, the white stallion returned, and along with it came three other white stallions.

“Old man,” the townspeople said, “we are the fools! Now you can sell the stallion to the King and you will still have three stallions left. You are smart.”

“It’s too early to tell,” said the old man. 

The following week, the old man’s son, his only son, was breaking in one of the stallions and was thrown, crushing both his legs.

The townspeople paid a visit to the old man and they said, “Old man, if you had just sold the stallion to the King, you’d be rich, and your son would not be crippled. You are a fool.”

“It’s too early to tell,” said the old man.

Well, the next month, war broke out with the neighbouring village. All of the young men in the village were sent into the battle, and all were killed.

The townspeople came and they cried to the old man, “We have lost our sons. You are the only one who has not. If you had sold your stallion to the King, your son, too, would be dead. You are smart!”

“It’s too early to tell,” replied the old man.

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There is a curious incident that John records in his gospel, of a conversation that took place between Jesus and Peter. Jesus dons a towel and assumes the scandalous position of a house servant, and begins to perform the most basic and lowest of tasks, washing the dust off the feet of visitors, in this case, his own disciples, adding even more scandal to the moment.

Peter is horrified that not only his Rabbi and Master, but his Lord would stoop to such an act that he refuses to allow him to wash his feet. Jesus responds with the words,

“What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand” (John 13:7).

Peter, like most of us, was practicing ‘in the moment’ perspective. Right there, right then, all he could see was the humiliation of his Lord in having to wash the street dust from the feet of those who ought to have been washing his feet! Jesus however introduces him to a future meaning’ perspective.

He invites Peter into the appreciation that the value and power of some things is not seen as they transpire but only some time afterwards. That some moments carry a silent, unseen momentum, that grace at times works in disguise, portraying one message in the immediate only to unveil a very different message in the longer term. To Peter the immediate message of Jesus washing his feet is a scandal. He is embarrassed and outraged, it makes no sense and seems shameful to even allow it. Jesus says in effect, “This isn’t all there is Peter. What I do now seems to send one message, but afterwards it will reveal a very different one.”

I think I hear Jesus whisper, “It’s too early to tell…”

 

How often have we been discouraged by the immediate evidence? Those friends we’ve been praying for seem to grow more distant, those we invite get more resistant, those we serve and love, respond with increasing indifference. We feel a sense of outrage and embarrassment, yet in such times perhaps the whisper of heaven is “It’s too early to tell…”

When our work and efforts are performed on behalf of a God of surprises, who boldly assures us that all things are possible, that the goal posts are given to change, that grace always moves with momentum, that He never slumbers or loses the plot or overlooks details, we can rest assured whatever we see or fail to see is only half the story, that the main event is yet to happen. Keep praying, keep inviting, keep serving and loving, for you never know how God will use such acts of obedience.

 

Just as you’ll never understand
the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman,
So you’ll never understand
the mystery at work in all that God does.

 

Go to work in the morning
and stick to it until evening without watching the clock.
You never know from moment to moment
how your work will turn out in the end

 

Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 The Message

 

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