The superintendent of a large Christian school was concerned about the disarray he found in so many of the classrooms he visited. Papers were often strewn on the floor, and the students’ desks were surrounded by clutter. Feeling strongly that learning could not take place in such an untidy environment, he decided to take action.
He chose one classroom for an experiment, introduced himself to the students and with a smile made this proposition: "Your teacher, principal and I provide a well-equipped classroom for you to enjoy but we need your help in keeping your desks and the classroom orderly. Many of you have crumpled papers inside your desks with books left open and the pages bent. Often there are pencils on the floor under your desks along with other debris. I would like each of you to clean out your desk today and begin this school year resolving to keep it clean. One day I will return and inspect your desks and the person with the neatest desk will be given this $100 bill. I won’t tell you which day it will be. It will be a surprise. Not even your teacher or the principal will know the day."
The children squealed with excitement and began immediately pulling things from their desks, filling the trash baskets with crumpled papers, stacking their books neatly inside their desks, and neatly lining up their pencils and pens. Every morning for the first week, every student checked his or her desk to make sure it was in perfect condition, confident that today would be the day the superintendent returned. The next week, a few boys grew weary of the exercise and returned to their former habits. By the third week, several students remarked, "I doubt if he’ll come back at all. He just said that to make us keep our desks clean."
After two months, no one in the classrooms bothered to inspect their desks and in fact, forgot the superintendent’s promise. Except for one girl. Dutifully, she inspected her desk every morning and several times a day, making sure things were in proper order.
For months, she was teased by the other students. "He’s not coming back! Why do you keep looking for him? You look stupid believing that promise, anyway." Still, she remained quiet, kept her desk in perfect condition and waited.
Near the end of the school year, there was a knock on the door and the superintendent entered. Quickly, the students flung open their desks and began frantically to clean them. But the superintendent held up his hand for them to stop. All the students were asked to stand beside their desk at attention while the superintendent inspected each desk.
One after another, he rejected them for being unkempt. One boy tried giving excuses but to no avail. Another blamed the teacher for not reminding them. Still another blamed the superintendent for making them wait so long.
Finally, the superintendent arrived at the desk of the little girl who confidently displayed her well-kept desk while beaming at the superintendent. After inspecting her desk, he took her by the hand to the front of the classroom and awarded her the $100 bill. "Boys and girls," he said kindly, "this girl never stopped believing I would return so she kept her desk in perfect order. She didn’t need to worry about what day or even what time of day I would arrive because she was always ready. Always.
Are you still looking for Jesus to come? Do you have the expectant hope?
www.sermoncentral.com, "Be Ready" by Tim Zingale. Nov. 2007