During the North African campaign of World War II, some German troops became detached from their source of supplies. With their throats parched by the intense desert sun, they were overjoyed when they found a newly constructed British waterline. Shooting it full of holes, they fell on their stomachs and began gulping furiously.

But they realized something too late—the British had been testing the pipeline with salty seawater. Within 24 hours all of the Germans were dying of thirst. Recognizing the severity of their situation, they quickly surrendered.

In a similar way, life’s painful reverses are sometimes required to break down the willful resistance of people who would reject God’s terms of surrender. Jesus’ parable in Luke 14 reminds us that misfortune can be a blessing if it makes us willing to accept God’s invitation. He said that only the poor and needy accepted the offer to attend the banquet. The rest were too self-sufficient and preoccupied.

Whether our need is salvation or development of Christlike character, adversities are often necessary to help us sort out what really counts. May we see them as God’s loving invitation to take our place at the “poor man’s banquet.”