A question was posed to a group of people last night at the Worship Center: “What is keeping you from being transformed?” It seemed clear to everyone in attendance that they could all become what God has intended them to be if they just gave themselves over to the Word. “It is not that people don’t know what it takes to be successful; it is that only a few are willing to do it.” Apparently people were not doing what they knew to do. People were not giving themselves over to the process. But why? Why aren’t people willing to pay the cost if the reward is so much greater? What in the world is stopping them? At the end of the day, I believe it is a lack of faith. You don’t believe that the reward is (1) real and/or (2) greater than the cost and/or (3) possible of attaining and/or (4) necessary.
As I think personally about the excuses I can come up with for why I am not doing the will of God for my life, there is really only one thought that helps me push pass the lies that come into my head:
“Do not think in your heart that you will escape…”
In today’s reading we see the Jews fall into a dire situation. An official named Haman gets disgusted by Mordecai’s lack of reverence toward him, and he comes up with a plan to kill all the Jews in the region. He has the king sign off on his plan, and when the day would come that was declared, (though I have never seen the movie) I imagine that it would have been like The Purge. It would have been mass genocide against the Jews. Of course, as a Jew, this news was troubling for Esther. Esther, though, is now a queen in the palace and no one knows that she is a Jew. Her uncle soon tells her that it’s time for her to be silent no longer but to rise up and go in front of the king to plead for her people.
4 So Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther called Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs whom he had appointed to attend her, and she gave him a command concerning Mordecai, to learn what and why this was. 6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king’s gate. 7 And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries to destroy the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people. 9 So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai.
10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: 11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.” 12 So they told Mordecai Esther’s words.
13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
I believe that most of the time God allows us to go into special environments and have special blessings is for a greater purpose than we can see with our own eyes. Daniel and the three Hebrew boys were chosen to serve the king in their time and ended up being tested by fire and lions but doing an important work for the people of Israel. Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s palace as one of his own and would later flee as a wanted felon but eventually was chosen to lead the people out of bondage. And now Esther is chosen to be queen right before her people are about to be exterminated.
The task, it seems to me, is to always be humble no matter where God puts you. Whether one becomes the President of the United States or a world renown speaker or just a small town waitress, we must learn to be content in whatever state God puts us in. It is good “to know how to be abased…how to abound. Everywhere and in all things [to have learned] both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”–that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:11-13); that God has the plan for our lives, and we can trust Him; that He will give us the desires of our hearts, those desires that are purified in His blood; that we are most fulfilled in Him…
So that when the test comes, whether it be by fire or a den of lions, or in Esther’s case, a straight out death sentence, we will still hold fast to our faith. We don’t want to be like the rich young ruler who trusted in his riches so much he could not follow Christ and gain eternal life. We must beware of covetousness…For blessed is the poor in spirit but woe to the rich…
But I digress….
Esther is faced with an obstacle. Her people will die, and she doesn’t want that to happen. But what could she do? In her head, she couldn’t really do anything because if she went to the king like her uncle insists, she could be put to death. That doesn’t seem to be a viable option in her mind.
But that’s just the thing…The devil places ideas in our head that keep us from doing what needs to be done. We won’t give like we’re supposed to, or pray when we should, or help someone in need, or fast like we ought, or do anything God is calling us to do because it doesn’t seem like a viable option. It doesn’t seem comfortable. It doesn’t seem ideal. It doesn’t seem “practical”…
“Oh yea, in Acts they had all things in common–right! But that was a different time then! God wouldn’t move like that now. That’s not practical! Oh yea, the Bible does say to love God with ALL my heart and ALL my mind and ALL my soul, but that’s not practical! Oh yea, ‘love my neighbor as I do myself’! Well, who is my neighbor? God cannot possibly be talking about my actual neighbor! And He surely can’t mean my enemies! That’s not practical!
Oh, the lies the devil sneaks into our minds about what is practical and what isn’t! What we must learn to realize is that whatever God commands us to do is practical. Whatever the Holy Spirit says to us is able to be practiced. How could anything be impractical if we follow a God that does the impossible?
But I digress….
I imagine that Esther feels stuck. She doesn’t see that going before the King is a good option. But that’s when Mordecai lays down the hammer…
“Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
At the end of the day, God’s will will be done. Regardless of whether or not Esther is going to step up, God is not going to allow His people to be wiped out (“…relief and deliverance will arise from another place.”) God is always doing something greater than our individual lives. We don’t even live long enough to get a glimpse of part of the big picture. But God is giving Esther (as He does with us) an opportunity to demonstrate her faith and love in Him to the saving of her own soul. The thought that she will escape the genocide because she is in the palace is probably a thought that the devil has slipped into her mind. So perhaps she should just ride it out… There really isn’t anything feasible that she could do…Maybe if the king called her but he hasn’t the past 30 days… Her uncle puts things into proper perspective:
“Do not think in your heart that you will escape…”
SHE WILL DIE and so does her family if she doesn’t do something now. Her obstacle looks like fear but, at the root, it is a love of self and unbelief that her life (and the life of her people) depended upon her sacrificing it. Her uncle had to put her in remembrance that God is sovereign. He had to give her a word. And it had to become real to her that lives were really on the line. She would finally respond by going into a fast and having the people fast for her, which is an acknowledgment that she undeniably needs God to move on their behalf if she was going to do the wiil of God.
We as Christians need to begin to believe that lives are on the line and that it will take sacrificing our own life (denying ourselves, bearing our cross, following Jesus) in order to save our lives and the lives of our loved ones. There are no excuses that are viable. We cannot come to God with anything to try and explain our lack of effort. For God give us EVERYTHING we need to be successful. God will say to us as the lord did to the person who buried their talent: “Depart from me, you wicked and lazy servant!” Fear is a lack of faith. Excuses that have us seeking to save our own lives, to remain in our own comforts, to follow the meditations of our hearts–these things are wicked and will cause us to be destroyed.
Of course doing the will of God cannot be done in our own strength. It will be impossible for us to turn over a new leaf on our own merits. How can a man be born again? Shall he enter again a second time in his mother’s womb? We must know that what is impossible for us is not impossible for God. Yes He demands that we change, He demands the impossible, but then He empowers us to do it!
We will see that God is there every step of the way if we look to Him. He is giving us an opportunity to prove our love for Him and our faith in His Word; it is an opportunity to be blessed. He empowers us and is working in us to do according to His good pleasure. All we have to do is submit! All we have to do is desire Him! All we have to do is believe! Just believe…and according to your faith be it unto you!
Let us surround ourselves with people who can encourage us to do these. Let us start filling ourselves with His Word, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Let us lay aside these weights that we know are easily besetting us. And let us overcome and do the will of God… For our lives depend on it!