Leo Tolstoy is the great Russian novelist best known for his novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
Born into a wealthy, aristocratic family Tolstoy had a moral crises in the 1870’s that led to deep spiritual awakening and transformation. He became an ardent follower of the teachings of Jesus, in particular the Sermon on the Mount. He considered himself a moral anarchist and eventually renounced his wealth and privilege for the sake of Christ. He is considered by many to be the greatest novelist and writer of all time, certainly of the 19th century. His various writings and books, including A Confessions, The Kingdom of God Is Within You and Resurrection greatly influenced Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. And whether one agrees with his philosophical and political views or not one cannot deny the impact that the teachings of Jesus had on his life.
In his short story The Three Questions, the main character, the King, struggled with life’s meaning and how one would know when was the right time to make the best choices. He believed that if he alway knew the right time to begin everything, if he knew the right people to listen to and to avoid and if he always knew what the most important thing to do was that he would never fail or come up short in life. So he sought the answer, calling in the wisest of men in his kingdom to give him a sufficient answer to these questions that haunted him:
How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time?
Who will be most helpful to me and who should I avoid?
What is the most important thing for me to do at any given moment?
At the end of the day there was not an answer that satisfied the king. So he went looking for a hermit who was living in the woods known to be full of wisdom. After taking off his kingly clothes and dressing as a peasant he finds the hermit. As the story develops the two men wind up saving the life of a third man who stumbled into their presence from out of the woods, bleeding to death. The hermit never does get to answer the three questions. As the story concludes the King has not yet found his answer and is frustrated with the hermit and his seemingly futile attempt to solve his mystery. But the hermit responds to him:
Remember then: there is only one time that is important–Now!
It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!”
The most important time in life is now, not yesterday and not tomorrow. The people God puts in our path today are the most important people to be present with. In Galatians 6 Paul writes:
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially toe who belong to the family of believers.”
Learn to be present with God and with others. Maybe we can put down our cell phones for a little while and instead of talking, texting or surfing, we can just be with one another. It may be the only opportunity we have.
What do you think? How does it make you feel?