One of my favorite parables for personal growth is Leo Tolstoy’s The Three Questions. In the story, a king wants answers to three questions:
When is the best time to do each thing?
Who are the most important people to work with?
What is the most important thing to do at all times?
Other people keep offering different answers, so the king visits a wise hermit in a nearby village. Because the hermit meets with only common folk, the king must leave his personal guard behind and disguise himself as a peasant.
When the king arrives, the hermit is digging in his flower beds. The king asks his three questions but receives no response, so he begins digging too. After working alongside the hermit for a long time, the king tries asking again. Before the hermit can answer, a man with a severe wound appears from the woods. The king takes care of him the rest of that day and evening. The next day, the man has improved and admits he recognizes the king. He’d been on a mission to kill the king for a past grievance when he was wounded by the king’s guard. But after receiving the king’s kindness and care, the man has a change of heart and vows his allegiance.
Now when the king asks the hermit his three questions, the hermit replies that the king has already received his answers:
The most important time is now. The present is the only time over which we have power.
The most important person is whoever you are with.
The most important thing is to do good to the person you are with.
Jesus lived and breathed these answers.
- Now is the time, when the harvest is ripe. Now is the only time love happens. Now is the time to pick up your cross.
- The most important person was the woman at the well, the Pharisee who approached him at night, the tax collector in the tree, the bleeding woman, and the thief next to him on the cross.
- And the most important thing to do is good—to friends, enemies, Gentiles, Jews—thus revealing the heart and character of his Father in heaven.
Living this out is tougher than it sounds. I can’t help thinking, though, that if we all acted on these three answers, we’d see a lot more light piercing the darkness—and a lot more people coming to know Jesus. Read more about a Jesus Centered Focus for your ministry.