I’d like to tell a story, followed by a brief conclusion. This story is taken from Stories for Telling, by William R. White, pp. 83-86.
Once upon a time there was a king who was genuinely concerned about the people of his small country. Unknown to them, he would often go out in disguise and mingle among them, seeking to understand and learn from their experiences of everyday life. One evening, while walking through the countryside in disguise, the king came to a simple cottage, from which came the sound of someone singing and rejoicing. The window was open, so the king looked in, and saw a robust man celebrating and enjoying a hearty meal. Knocking at the door, the king called out, “Is a guest welcome here?” “A guest is a gift from God!” cried the man from inside; “please come in and eat with me.” The king shared the simple but substantial meal, without, of course, his host knowing his true identity. “What do you do, my friend?” asked the king, and the man answered, “I am a cobbler; every day I take my tool kit and go about repairing people’s shoes. When the day is over, I spend any money I’ve made for my evening meal.” “What?” said the king in surprise; “you don’t save anything for tomorrow?” “Tomorrow is in the hands of God,” the cobbler said happily. “He will provide, and I will praise Him day by day.” The king thought about this in silence; then, before leaving, he asked if he might visit again, and his host said he’d always be most welcome.
While walking back home to his castle, the king decided to put his new friend’s faith to a test. The next day he issued a royal decree that no one could cobble shoes without a license. When he went to the cobbler’s house that evening, he asked, “What did you do today, my friend?” The cobbler answered, “When I heard of the king’s proclamation, I instead drew water from the town well and gave it to people so they wouldn’t have to take the time to draw their water themselves; with the money they gave me, I bought our meal for tonight. Come, eat.” The king asked, “But what will you do if you can no longer draw water from the well?” The cobbler answered, “Tomorrow is in the hands of God. He will provide, and I, as His servant, will praise Him day by day.”
The next day, as a further test, the king decreed that no one could draw water from the well except for his own use. That evening he found that the cobbler had therefore spent the day chopping wood and selling it. As they shared their evening meal, the king asked what would happen if the cobbler could no longer chop wood and sell it, and again the cobbler expressed his faith in God. So on the following day, the king ordered that all woodcutters in the kingdom report immediately to the castle for induction into the army. The cobbler obediently went to the castle, and he and the other woodcutters were trained as soldiers all day long. At the end of the day they were given no wages, but were allowed to take home their swords. The cobbler stopped at a pawn shop, sold the steel blade of his sword, and used the money to purchase food for the evening meal. At home he took a piece of wood, shaped it like a blade, attached it to the handle of the sword, and put it into his scabbard. When the king arrived, disguised as usual, the cobbler told him the whole story. “What if there’s a sword inspection tomorrow?” asked the king. “Tomorrow is in the hands of God,” calmly replied the cobbler. “He will provide.”
The next day, when the cobbler reported to the castle, the officer of the guard, at the secret order of the king, immediately stopped him and announced, “Today you are the official executioner—you will use your sword to behead a condemned man.” All of the cobbler’s protests were in vain, and his mind searched desperately for a solution as a crowd gathered at the place of execution. Finally an idea came to him. As the condemned prisoner was forced to kneel down before him, the cobbler prayed aloud in a strong voice: “Almighty God, You alone can judge the innocent and the guilty. If this man deserves to die, let my sword be sharp and my arms strong. If, however, he is innocent, let this sword of mine be changed into wood.” He then dramatically pulled his sword from its sheath—and everyone was amazed to see it was made of wood, not steel.
The king had been watching all this from a distance. He immediately rushed to the cobbler and, revealing his identity the cobbler’s nightly guest, said, “Now I know your faith in God is genuine and that you are the sort of man I can rely on. I desire that from this day on you live with me and advise me; you will eat at my royal table, so that I will be the host and you will be the guest. What do you say to that?” With a great smile, the cobbler answered, “What I say is, God has provided, and you and I will praise Him day after day.”
The Lord does indeed provide for those who trust in Him. This is the theme of Isaiah (55:1-3) and the Gospel of Matthew (14:13-21), in which the provision of food symbolizes God’s love for His people. Furthermore, in his Letter to the Romans (8:35, 37-39), St. Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love. Yes, we do have our worries and problems, and yes, we must do our part to find solutions to them, but the most important thing we can do is to trust in God. He provides for our deepest needs; He is very generous, and He is entirely trustworthy. Let us praise Him together, day after day; let us give Him our faith, our trust, and our devotion—and in this way be generous to Him.