Enchantment overcame travelers who first saw the country from atop the mountains on its western borders. The little kingdom lay way over on the edge of the world. The sweet smell of all kinds of fruit filled it's open marketplaces while industrious men and women worked the land and enthusiastic sons and daughters studied and dreamed of their own future. The whole country burst with pride for their wise king and his majestic son. When they rode their white horses through the streets people stopped and cheered. Some even threw their baseball caps into the air (This is kind of a modern, ancient country). Sometimes though, people who liked to criticize said, 'The king's son, what has he ever done to be so admired? He was born into royalty. Why is he so respected?”
One day a soldier thundered into the capital city on a well-lathered horse. A vast army was coming against the little country! The king committed their defense into the hands of his son. The critical ones raised their eyebrows, but not for long. The invading army filled all the countryside as they crossed the borders of the happy kingdom. The king's son deployed his troops wisely against a vastly superior force. Wherever the battle raged hottest, the king's son rode at the head of the defenders, pushing back the invaders. The people dared to hope until the day the rumor ran through their army, 'The Death King, the king of the invaders, has come in person to command the final attack.”
Fear seized the defenders but their prince rallied them to resistance. The Death King unleashed all his forces and the army of the little kingdom gave ground as the blood of the two armies stained the field as never before. Soon it seemed the center of the defenders would fold and all would be lost when suddenly the prince was there on his white horse. He led a desperate charge into the center of the invading hordes and for a moment the monster shrunk back. But the weight of the invaders pushed ahead and the little army suffered severe losses. The prince refused to retreat and struck valiantly right and left with his sword until the sheer numbers overwhelmed him and he was pulled under the mass. The small army fled the field, back to their capital, to await the inevitable.
The Death King strode onto the field where the fallen prince lay on his face, sword still in his hand. The arrogant leader raised his hands towards heaven in triumph, when suddenly to everyone's surprise, the prince rose up and planted a sword stroke deep through his heart. A gasp, followed by a shriek of unbelief sprinted through the army. Leering laughs of victory faded into crying murmurs of fear. They thought their king invincible and now he lay dead. The courageous among them trembled. All of the army turned, then one after another began to run away until the only one left standing on the battlefield was the prince.
Weeks later, after burying and mourning their dead, the little kingdom celebrated. People ate, drank, and laughed. Hope was reborn. In the middle of the festivities, the king stood before his high throne, set up in the marketplace for the occasion. A silence spread over the people because everyone wanted to hear what the king had to say. 'My people ...” and the silence deepened. 'You've always honored my son because he is my son, and that's right. You valued him for what he is because of my blood that flows in his veins. But today, I command you to honor my son not only because of what he is but also because of what has done. Surely no prince has ever served his country more valiantly and sacrificially.” And the whole country burst into wild cheers and fell to their knees in loving submission, chanting the name of the prince who stood before them! ______________________________
Hmmm ... "Following Him when your heart is breaking is greater faith than praising Him when your heart is singing." (Rick Warren)