*The Sultan and Satan*
An ancient legend from the East tells of a great sultan who was a devout man of God. One morning he overslept. When the Devil saw that the hour of morning prayer was passing, he woke the sultan and urged him to get out of bed and pray.
“Who are you?” asked the startled sultan, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“Oh, it’s not important,” replied the shady figure. “The important thing is that I woke you up in time, otherwise you would have missed your prayers for the first time in ten years-and it is very good to pray, isn’t it?”
“Yes, that is true!” replied the sultan smugly. “I wouldn’t dream of missing my prayer time. Not even once! … But wait a minute! I think I recognize you. Yes, I know your face. Of course! You are Satan, and no doubt you have some evil motive for your appearance!”
“I’m not really as bad as you think!” exclaimed the intruder. “After all, I was God’s right-hand angel once.”
“That is all very well,” replied the wise old sultan, “but you are also the Deceiver; that is your business! So I demand in the name of God to know why you want me to get up and pray!”
“Well,” replied the Devil, having grown huffy and impatient with the sultan’s persistence, “if you must know, I’ll tell you. If you had slept and forgotten your prayers, you would have felt very sorry for it afterward and would have been quite penitent. That would have humbled you and brought you close to God. But if you continue on as you have for the last ten years, without missing a single prayer, then you will become so satisfied with yourself that it will be worse for you than if you had missed one prayer and had asked God for forgiveness. God loves your fault mixed with repentance much more than your virtue seasoned with pride!”
Often it is actually good for us to make some mistakes because if we didn’t, we’d most likely become so proud of ourselves and so self-confident that we’d no longer feel we needed any help from God or others. But in reality, when we feel so proud and self-satisfied, it’s because we’re not closer to God, but more full of ourselves.
Many people in the world today are taught that pride is a virtue. But God recognizes pride and self-righteousness for what they really are-sins of the heart! The Bible says that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” and that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 16:18; James 4:6).
Quite frequently God uses our mistakes to help keep our pride in check, to keep us humble and more dependent on His goodness and strength, rather than our own. The Lord blesses humility. He gives more grace to the humble, and promises to dwell “with him who has a contrite and humble spirit” (1 Peter 5:5; Isaiah 57:15).
It has been said that out of what seems like defeat come some of God’s greatest victories. “But what kind of victory is that?” you may ask. Well, God very often uses humbling experiences to make us better people-more compassionate and understanding of the errors of others, more loving and patient, when otherwise we might not have been so. The Lord wants to use our mistakes to teach us many important lessons that perhaps we wouldn’t be able to learn any other way. So isn’t it encouraging to realize that even our failures can be for our good?
Of course, in order for the Lord to bring this good to pass, we must be honest with ourselves, be willing to confess our mistakes, and attempt to rectify them. The hardest words to say in any language are, “I was wrong!” This takes humility of the kind that only God can give, because it’s human nature to want to appear perfect and faultless, and consequently be unable to confess our mistakes.
But if we want the truth and desire God’s blessing, then we’ll honestly and humbly admit our faults and failings. Then we can take comfort in knowing that we are wiser today than we were yesterday. Contrary to what some folks seem to think, an admission of error is a sign of strength rather than weakness.
Besides, God knows you’re anything but perfect. In fact, He knows you can’t be perfect and never will be. So the crux of the matter is not whether you are perfect or not, but whether you depend on the Lord and His grace, love and mercy. Do you give Him all the glory and credit for anything good that you do? Whenever you accomplish something good, you should say, “Just thank Jesus. Don’t thank me! If I have done anything good, it’s only because the Lord helped me do so.”
A good rule to follow is this: Give God all the glory for anything good you do, and yourself the blame for anything bad. That will help keep you from falling into that horrible trap of self-righteous pride, which is the basis of virtually all sin.
So whenever you make a mistake and are then tempted to get down and discouraged, just remember the sultan’s lesson: God loves your fault mixed with repentance more than your virtue seasoned with pride!
Sorrow was beautiful, but his beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the woods. His gentle light made little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss of the forest floor. And when he sang, his song was like the low, sweet calls of the nightingale, and in his eyes was the unexpectant gaze of someone who has ceased to look for coming gladness. He could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to him.
Joy was beautiful, too, but hers was the radiant beauty of a summer morning. Her eyes still held the happy laughter of childhood, and her hair glistened with the sunshine’s kiss. When she sang, her voice soared upward like a skylark’s, and her steps were the march of a conqueror who has never known defeat. She could rejoice with anyone who rejoices, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to her.
Sorrow longingly said, “We can never be united as one.” “No, never,” responded Joy, with eyes misting as she spoke, “for my path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom when I arrive, and songbirds await my coming to sing their most joyous melodies.”
“Yes, and my path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the dark forest, and moonflowers, which open only at night, will fill my hands. Yet, the sweetest of all earthly songs — the love song of the night — will be mine. So farewell, dear Joy, farewell.”
Yet even as Sorrow spoke, he and Joy became aware of someone standing beside them. In spite of the dim light, they sensed a Kingly Presence, and suddenly a great and holy awe overwhelmed them. They then sank to their knees before Him.
“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, ” for on His head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of great victory. And before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness. I now give myself to Him forever.”
“No, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “for I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of terrible agony. I also give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy I have ever known.”
Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing – 2 Corinthians : 6 : 10
“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for no one but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.” Therefore they walked hand in hand into the world, to follow Him through storms and sunshine, through winter’s severe cold and warmth of summer’s gladness, and to be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
Does Sorrow lay his hand upon your shoulders,
And walk with you in silence on life’s way,
While Joy, your bright companion once, grown colder,
Becomes to you more distant day by day?
Run not from the companionship of Sorrow,
He is the messenger of God to thee;
And you will thank Him in His great tomorrow —
For what you do not know now, you will then see;
He is God’s angel, clothed in veils of night,
With whom “we walk by faith” and “not by sight”
2 Corinthians : 5 : 7