Sunday, January 7, 2018
“For Such a Time as This”
Why are you positioned where you are? Why do you work where you work? Why do you live where you live? Why do you go to school where you go to school? Why do you go to church where you go to church? You do what you do because God has assigned you there - and here – “for such at time as this.”
Every now and then, we find ourselves at a moment in time that might be called a “pivot point” in history. In sports we call it the time for a big play - the time when the game is on the line. In the military, it’s “D-Day” – the battle that will win or lose the war. In business, it’s the sale that will put you over the top and into the black for the fiscal year.
When I think of what’s happening in our culture right now I consider that we are standing at a crossroads of our future. As I anticipate the opportunities that lie ahead for our church, I believe that we are at a strategic moment in time. You and I are here with the opportunity of a lifetime.
Where do you see FBCR in 10, 20, 30 years? Are we going to leave a strong light in this community of Roy or are we just focused on now? Are we happy with just surviving or do we really want to see God’s church thrive?
What we are going to study today became the turning point in Esther’s life.
The challenge Esther received is found in Esther 4:14 and it may very well be the challenge that our Savior has for you at this point in your life. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
In other words, God has placed you where you are, not just to enjoy the benefits of life in America, but to build His kingdom, to help His people, to fulfill His purposes.
God created you for a divine appointment - a unique role to fulfill in your life - just like Esther! There is something you can do for God that no one else can do - a God-given niche only you can fill.
I don’t know what you think of when I say the words “key player in God’s plan” - probably someone in vocational ministry - but I hope you’ll start to think of the man or woman in the mirror. Of all His millions of children, you are the one God has positioned to rescue the people around you.
Like that Jewish girl placed in a strategic spot, you’ve been placed where you are “for such a time as this.” Think with me about two big ideas today.
You are where you are for such a time as this because…
1. God’s people are in distress.
In 538 BC, the Jews who were exiled in Persia were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. But many exiles were reluctant to leave the relative security of Persia. The Persian Empire was huge, and the capital city was Susa -- located on the current borders between Iraq and Iran -- which was inhabited by thousands of Jews.
Against this backdrop, the story of Esther unfolds. The Persian King decreed that he wanted a new Queen. So, a search began. All the beautiful young girls in the Empire were eligible to be the new queen.
Now, Esther was a poor, Jewish orphan. Her older cousin, Mordecai, had become her adopted father. He raised her well. And Esther was chosen. She was named the new Queen because of her extraordinary beauty, but also because of her grace. The King genuinely loved Esther, and would do anything for her. But he didn’t learn that his new Queen was a Jew!
Meanwhile, the King’s top assistant, an evil, ego-maniac named Haman, plotted to murder every Jewish man, woman and child in all of Persia. Esther’s cousin Mordecai, the Jew who raised Esther, had refused to bow down to him one day on the steps of the King’s court. So, this power-mad leader, Haman, manipulated the king to make a royal decree to have the Jews annihilated. At stake were the lives of thousands and thousands of God’s people. God’s people are in distress. A day was set for them to die. They lived with the threat of death.
Today, in America, we aren’t living with the threat of physical death. But God’s people are in distress!
Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
People are dying for the truth. That’s why we are here – to bring life where there is death!
Today, we see the threat of death to family. We see the threat of death to morality. We see the threat of death to eternity. Wherever there is a people of God there are enemies of God.
You are where you are for such a time as this because God’s people are in distress!
2. God’s person has been discovered.
If you’ve ever experienced broken-ness in your life – if you think you’ve been dealt a tough hand, there is a beautiful lesson here for you. If you’ve been crushed by life - if you have a troubled past that is fractured, then you can learn some unforgettable truths from Esther.
Here was a little girl who must have cried her heart out longing for a mommy and a daddy. Years later, though, she would become key to the very survival of her people. She was God’s person. And in spite of her past, in spite of her broken-ness, God used her. And He can do the same for you!
Mordecai learned of the plan to kill all the Jews. He wrote a letter warning Esther. But Esther wrote back to say that she was powerless to stop the killing. Her excuse was that the law stated no one could enter the King’s chambers uninvited - even the Queen. Esther had not seen the King for a long time. She may have even wondered if she had fallen out of favor with him. To enter the throne room uninvited was to literally invite death. In essence, Esther was telling Mordecai, “I can’t do what God wants. I don’t want to break the law and be killed by the King!” Let’s read Esther 4:10-12.
Then Esther spoke to Hathach and ordered him to reply to Mordecai: "All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days." They related Esther’s words to Mordecai.
Esther didn’t feel she was the person for God’s job!
Then Mordecai sent a second message to Esther, insisting that her Jewish blood would be discovered and she too would surely die. Either as a condemned Jew or as a Queen who violated the King’s law, Esther and her people were doomed unless she acted. Look at verses 13 and 14.
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"
This has to go down as one of the most incredible “pivot points of history.” Mordecai says, “If you do nothing, don’t think you will escape death. You’ll be found out as a Jew and you will die. God’s hands aren’t tied. He will use someone else to save His people. But think how great it would be for God to use you. Could it be that this explains why you were chosen to be queen, my dear Esther—for such a time as this—for this very moment?”
This was the testing of Esther’s character. She was beautiful on the outside. But was she beautiful on the inside?
I believe these verses go on to teach us that she was incredibly more beautiful on the inside.
I Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
What did He see when He saw Esther’s heart? What does He desire to see in your heart and in mine? What is God looking for in your heart?
God is looking for a teachable heart.
Esther 4 is basically a record of messages back and forth between Mordecai and Esther. Look again at a couple of phrases in Esther 4:12, 13, “They related Esther’s words to Mordecai. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther…”
Yes, Mordecai raised her and trained her. But she’s now on her own. She’s the queen of Persia – the most powerful woman in the world! She could have said, “Look! I’m a VIP now. You should be listening to me.” Yet she didn’t. She’s still listening to this man of God. She allows herself to be influenced. A teachable heart.
When God looks at your heart, does He see a teachable heart?
Proverbs 9:9 “Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.”
God issues His challenges, His teachings to us in many ways. He does it though His Word. He does it through His pastors. He does it through His church. He does it through family members or friends or bosses or co-workers or fellow students.
I want to encourage you to let God teach you this week. He’ll speak! It may be through your reading of the Bible. It may be through a talk you hear on the radio or on tape. He’ll speak. Are you teachable?
God is looking for a teachable heart.
God is looking for a prayerful heart.
Now, the word “pray” is not used in this passage. But a word is used twice that strongly implies that Esther had a prayerful heart. See if you can find it.
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, "Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus, I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law…”
What’s the word? “Fast.” Esther called for a fast! In the Bible, we often see fasting and prayer together.
In Daniel 9:3, we read, “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting…” Fasting is a reminder to us and to God that we mean business.
When Esther knew in her heart that God was calling her, she took action. She told Mordecai to have her people begin praying and fasting on her behalf. Esther knew that if she was going to fulfill her divine appointment, she couldn’t do it relying on her own resources or clever schemes. Through prayer and fasting, she relied on God’s thoughts to be her thoughts. She asked for God’s wisdom and power for her every move.
Listen, we are not the source of power to fulfill our divine appointment for such a time as this. God is the source! Through the Holy Spirit, God will faithfully empower us to take the actions we need to take “for such a time as this.”
This week, would you consider fasting for a meal or for a day or for several days if it’s OK with your physician? Seek God’s will for your life! What does He want you to do in such a time as this? What’s that distressing situation that really causes you concern? Miss a meal. Hit your knees. Lift the concerns of your life and your church up to God in prayer.
God is looking for a prayerful heart.
God is looking for a sacrificial heart – giving time, talent and treasure.
Notice how verse 16 ends.
Esther 4:16b “…and if I perish, I perish."
If Esther obeyed Mordecai, she stood to risk everything, including her life. Although the king was her husband, she couldn’t just stroll into his office and casually unload what was on her mind. Things didn’t work like that in ancient Persia. He had to send for her.
Put yourself in her place. “No one knows I’m a Jew. If I don’t say anything, I’m still the queen. I can keep all this wealth and fame intact. People will still continue to serve me. But if I go before the king in defense of my people, then I could lose my life. Or I could lose my royal status, my wealth, my honor.” You have to think that she weighed her options carefully. She understood the implications of her decision. She decided, “I’m willing to sacrifice it all because God’s people are in distress. If I perish, I perish!”
Scholars say that people weren’t allowed into the king’s presence without an invitation because it may have been a safety precaution designed to protect the king’s life. Men stood around the throne with axes to punish any who approached the throne without being invited.
She’s thinking, “If a guard drives a sword through my body, I die doing the right thing.” She has changed from concern for her own safety to concern for her people’s survival. She has reached her own personal hour of decision and has not been found wanting.
God challenges our values, doesn’t He? What is most important to you? In order for us to fulfill our divine appointment in such a time as this, we must be willing to let go of the selfishness. We’ve got to let go of our need to be in control. We’ve got to let go of our telling God when it is convenient in our schedules to serve Him. We’ve got to sacrifice our time, our talent, and our treasure.
God is looking for a sacrificial heart. What does God see when He sees your heart?
II Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.”
“Enough of the easy life,” said Esther. “It’s time to put my life on the line. I am Jewish and I believe in the living God. I’m ready to stand up for my people. And if I perish, I perish.”
What does it matter if you get involved or not? It matters greatly because it shows what’s in your heart. Yes, it’s true that God has other ways to accomplish His objectives. He has other people He can use. He isn’t frustrated or restrained because you and I may be indifferent. But when that happens, we are the losers. When are called “for such a time as this,” how tragic if we do not have what it takes to stand when invited.
There won’t be some celestial shout urging you to take a stand. No flash of lightning will wake us up. It doesn’t work like that, so don’t sit around waiting passively. A tremendous opportunity is before us as a church family. This is the time to stand up and be counted. So let me ask you: What are you doing to stand up, to stand alone, to answer the call of God in this hour?