Many of you know that we have been working our way through a series of messages on End Time events. I had full intention of continuing in that series but then the Lord began to reveal to me that this Sunday was to be something different. I normally start out on Monday mornings preparing for Wednesday night, but at the same time thinking about Sunday. I prayed bright and early last Monday morning – “Lord, what do you want me to preach next Sunday? Should I continue with End Time Events or do you have something different?” Later that morning I received a text from Pastor Zack who was asking me if I had ever started a series of messages and then felt God guiding me to preach something different. He was referring to himself, but I took it as a confirmation that the Lord was guiding me to do the same. But what?
I thought about our Awana kids that will be singing this morning and the struggle they will have to face in the future as we grow closer and closer to the return of Christ. As I pondered over all of this, a portion of a verse of scripture kept going through my mind – “…for such a time as this.” I knew that it came from the book of Esther and so I first found the verse and read that chapter. Then I felt the Spirit calling me to the entire book of Esther to refresh my thinking. The thoughts started flowing in my mind and by Wednesday morning I was 75% done with my Sunday sermon. That’s pretty good considering that at the same time I was working on our lesson for Wednesday night. I got so caught up in it that I had to share part of it with Michelle our church secretary. Then she took the air out of my balloon. “That’s interesting” she said. “That’s the same thing our Ladies’ Sunday School class is going to be studying over the next two weeks.”
“You’re kidding me” I thought. “That can’t be. God just gave all this wonderful stuff to me.” I wasn’t sure who was teaching this week in the Ladies’ class, but I didn’t want to run ahead of them and preach at 8:30 what they were going to try to teach at 10:00. At one point I thought, “Maybe God wants both of us teaching on the same thing.” But then I thought, “So how would you feel if the situation was reversed?” And so I began to pray fervently again. “What am I supposed to do Lord?” I started considering other portions of scripture, but the more I thought and the more I prayed the more I heard this verse of scripture repeating over and over in my mind. Then the Spirit said to me – “Don’t preach the whole story of Esther. Just preach the lessons I will give you from this one verse of scripture.”
I. Lesson #1 – God Gives to Each of Us Special Assignments in Life
A. Each of Us Have Been Designed For Our Special Assignments
I shared all of this with you to help us see that God wants to guide us through life. Centuries ago the hymnist William Cowper wrote – “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.” In other words, it sometimes very hard and difficult for us to understand what God is doing and why He is doing it. But behind the peculiar ways of God is His providential hand.
Throughout life God gives to each of us many unique assignments. David wrote –
Psalm 139:1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. 4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. 5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! NLT
1. God knows everything there is to know about us
God knows more about us than we even know about ourselves. God not only knows who we are, He also knows who we can become and how He can use us for His glory – if we will allow Him to have control. Isaiah the prophet wrote – “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 CSB) Because the wisdom and knowledge of God is so much greater than ours, we sometimes have to let go and let Him be God. As the song says – “When we can’t trace His hand we must trust His heart.”
2. God has uniquely designed us
Not only does God know us, God has designed us.
Psalm 139:13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. NLT
We’re not accidents. The Bible says that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator. I have to share with you something funny. Many of you know that my grandson Hudson looks a lot like me. Actually he looks like Cindy and Cindy looks like me and I looked like my dad and who knows where this all began. The other day Cindy showed a picture to Hudson when he was a baby and he said – “a baby Pawpaw!”
3. God has special assignments for each of us to accomplish
Psalm 139:16 …Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! NLT
God, in His infinite wisdom, knows what’s going to happen in our lives. That’s not to say that He ordains or orchestrates every event. I don’t believe that we’re robots, nor do I believe that God causes evil. The story of Joseph is a perfect illustration of how God works in our lives. Joseph’s brothers became jealous of Joseph and sold him into slavery. Later in life Joseph said to them – “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good…” (Gen 50:20) The Bible says – “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them.” Rom 8:28) It doesn’t say that everything is good. It says that God is able to take everything (good things and bad things) and use them to accomplish something good.
Sometimes we look at ourselves or our life situations and wonder how God can possibly accomplish something good. One of the reasons we struggle with life is because we often look at it from only one side. Someone has said that our life is like a tapestry. Most of us know what a tapestry is. It’s a picture or design that has been produced by the weaving together of many different colored threads. Verse 14 of Psalm 139 says: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” The thought here is a piece of needlework or tapestry that has been carefully woven to produce a beautiful picture. If you look at a tapestry from the wrong side, all you see is a bunch of knots and lose threads. But if you look at it from the right side, (God’s side), you see a beautiful picture.
B. Each of Our Assignments Requires Us to Live a Life of Faith
1. Our Assignments Often Have Obstacles
Esther’s life had some major obstacles. I can’t tell you too much but I can tell you this:
a. She was an orphan raised by a relative
b. She grew up in a foreign land
c. She was chosen to be the wife of a man she didn’t really know, much less love
d. She was presented with a difficult situation that required an enormous amount of faith.
As a matter of fact, for all she knew she might have been killed for honoring God.
2. Our Obstacles are God’s Opportunities
Why does God allow obstacles in our lives? The Bible tells us that He does so that He might demonstrate His power and glory. Consider the Apostle Paul. The Bible tells us that Paul was specifically given a ‘thorn in the flesh.’ (2 Cor 12) Many have tried to guess what that thorn was but we’re not told. Perhaps it was physical. Perhaps it was emotional. Perhaps it was spiritual. We’re not told what it was, but we’re told why God gave it. God allowed this thorn into Paul’s life so that His chosen vessel would have to live by His grace.
Our obstacles are God’s opportunities to demonstrate His power and glory. But in order for God to do this, we have to live by faith. The Bible says: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
What is faith? Faith is believing that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. Faith is trusting God so much that we will obey Him – even when it doesn’t make sense.
Hebrews 11 tells us that it is impossible to please God without following Him in faith. God doesn’t always give us all the answers. He asks us to trust Him and to believe that He is good and that He can accomplish something good both in us and through us.
Many of you know that Hebrews 11:6 is my life verse. There’s a plague inside of this pulpit that has that verse inscribe upon it. Why did I choose this as the guiding verse for my life? I did so because God used this verse to encourage me to do three things:
1. Keep Believing
That’s what faith is. It’s believing and trusting God enough to follow Him, even when it doesn’t make sense.
2. Keep Praying
Live life one day at a time and saturate it with constant prayer.
3. Keep Pressing Forward
The Bible says – “Let us not become weary in doing what is right, for in God’s time we will reap a rewarding harvest if we do not give up.“ (See Gal 6:9 author’s translation)
II. Lesson #2 – Failure to Obey God Often Forfeits a Special Blessing
Esther 4:14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place…”
I can’t tell you a whole lot about Esther’s situation but I can tell you this – God is going to give her an assignment that can save a nation. The lives of the Jewish people are in her hands. If she blows it, it can mean disaster. But if she obeys God and does what He is telling her to do, she can not only save their lives, but also bring them a special blessing.
A. The Promise of God’s Blessings
Matthew 25 contains one of our Lord’s most important parables. It’s often called ‘The Parable of the Talents.’
Matthew 25:14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Notice – each man was given a responsibility in accordance to his ability. I don’t have to be you and you don’t have to be me. I just have to strive to be the best me possible. God knows what He created me to do and He knows what I’m capable of doing.
Jesus said: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you…Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (see John 15)
B. The Forfeiting God’s Blessings
Let’s return to our story of The Parable of the Talents.
Matthew 25:16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
Each of these two men took the opportunities their Master gave them and the did something good with it. But consider the third man.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
Why did he hide his talent? In his own words he said – “I was afraid.” (see Mt 25:25) Many of you know that the Lord first started calling me into the ministry when I was 18 and yet I didn’t begin preparing for the ministry until I was 30. Why did I delay for 12 years? Simply put – “I was afraid.” I was afraid I didn’t know what to do. (And trust me – I didn’t) I was afraid that perhaps God wasn’t calling me. I was afraid of what others might say. I was afraid of what I might miss in life. I was afraid that I would fail. I was afraid to get out of the security of the boat and therefore I missed what it was like to walk on the water.
Some of you are thinking about now – “So you’re telling me to do such and such.” I’m not telling you to do anything. The Bible says that each of us must work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is working in us both to have the desire and the ability to do what will bring Him pleasure. (see Php 2:12-13) I’m not telling you what to do, but I am telling you that if you fail to do what God is calling you to do, you will forfeit the reward of His blessing you for you obedience.
II. Lesson #3 If We Obey God, We Will Experience God
“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?” (Esther 4:14 NKJV)
Many of you know enough about the book of Esther to know that it’s a story of how God took a common ordinary girl and made her the queen of what was at that time the world’s greatest empire.
Yet Esther is not famous for being the queen. Esther is famous for taking a step of faith and trusting God and seeing God move in a marvelous way.
One of my most favorite Bible teachers is a man by the name of Henry Blackaby. Henry Blackaby is famous for a book he wrote that was later developed into a workbook called – “Experiencing God.” In his workbook, Blackaby explains how God works in and through the lives of His children. To put it in a nutshell we could say that God is always at work. God always has a plan. Throughout our lives He comes to us and invites us to become a part of His work. God’s invitation often leads to what Blackaby calls a ‘Crisis of Belief.’ We have to make a major decision as to whether or not we’re going to trust God and do what He is calling us to do. If we fail to trust God, we forfeit the blessings He has in store for us. But if we trust God and follow Him, He uses us in a powerful way to accomplish His will and bring Himself glory.
Esther had a crisis of belief. Obeying God could cost her her life. To put it in her words – “if I perish, I perish.” (see Esther 4:16) She honestly thought that she might die for doing what God wanted her to do, yet she believed obeying God and dying was better than disobeying God and living.