An ancient Arabian fable tells of three merchants who crossed the desert. In the daytime, they would pitch tents for shelter from the desert sun. When the stars came out, they would ride their camels in the cool of the night. At one point, the merchants crossed a dry riverbed under the stars.

"Halt!" said a voice from the darkness.

All three men jumped down from their camels and huddled in fear. "Who's there?" one of them said.

"Don't be afraid," said the voice in the dark. "I won't harm you if you do as I say. See those pebbles at your feet?"

By the dim starlight, the merchants saw thousands of pebbles in the riverbed.

"Each of you—pick up a pebble and put it in your pocket."

The three merchants obeyed. Each took a pebble from the riverbed.

"Now leave this place," the voice said, "and don't stop until daybreak."

The merchants mounted up. One said, "What's this all about?"

"I will only say this," the voice replied. "In the morning, you will be happy—and sad. Now, go!"

Baffled, the three merchants proceeded on their way. As they traveled, they wondered what the voice meant by saying that they would be both happy and sad.

When morning came, the merchants stopped. Each man pulled the single pebble from his own pocket and saw that it sparkled in the morning sunlight. The "pebbles" were precious gems. One man had a ruby, another an emerald, and the third a sapphire.

"Jewels!" one merchant said, his face shining with joy.

"Oh, no!" wailed the second. "There were thousands of jewels all over the riverbed! Each of us took only one! Why didn't we grab handfuls?"

"Look!" shouted the third, pointing behind them. A desert wind had whipped up, erasing their tracks. "We can never find our way back!

The voice in the desert had spoken truly. The merchants were happy and sad. They had found wealth in the desert—but they could have taken more!

This parable reminds us of the desert places that we will all go through on our way to finding God's will for our lives. God leads us out into the wilderness and invites us to fill our pockets with the riches of His wisdom and grace. Tragically, we pick up only a pebble or two. A day will come when we look back and feel happy for the riches we have found—and sad that we didn't gather more. The cross is designed to make deposits into our lives.

Brokenness Is God's Method of Making Spiritual Deposits into Our Lives

In the Old Testament we find this insightful verse: "I will give you the treasures of darkness, hidden riches in secret places, that you may know me, the Lord, Who calls you by name" (Isa 45:3). During a seven year period of adversity God made deposits into my life that resulted in a whole new direction that led to my current ministry to men and women in the marketplace. It led to the writing of TGIF Today God Is First, which is being used around the world to encourage men and women in the workplace. All of this would not have happened had God not allowed a crisis to take place in my life that created enough pain to draw me into a place of seeking Him with all my heart. These are the ways of God. At the end of the seven year period God restored all I had lost.

The Cross is the Foundation for Every Believer's Call

Every believer is called to experience the cross: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2:5-9). Jesus gave us the example of a life that is lived under the cross. You and I are called to this same life.

The Cross is a Sign of Adoption

The cross is a sign of adoption for every believer. "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love" (1 Peter 1:6-8). Many people think that suffering is a sign of God's displeasure. Certainly we can suffer because of our own sin. In fact, there are three reasons you and I may suffer adversity in our lives: