Thursday, January 3, 2008

God's Providence - Esther 4

I love the game of chess. When I was growing up, I became a bit of a chess junky. I went to the tournaments, I joined the chess team, and everything. Though many consider it a dorky game played only by nerds, I loved it. The game of chess involves of lot of thinking, planning, and practice. Each side has 6 different pieces.

First, there is the pawn. The pawn is the simplest piece on the board. If you were to give it a numeric value, it would be worth just one point. You have 8 of them and they can only move forward one square at a time. Secondly, there is the rook. The rook (or castle as some call it), can go up, down, left, and right. If you were to give it a numeric value, it would be worth 5 points. Thirdly, there is knight (or horsey). The knight moves very differently than the other pieces and most struggle with how it moves and works. It is worth 3 points numerically. Next, is the bishop. It can only move diagonally. Therefore, it will always remain on the same color square. It too is worth 3 points. Next, is the Queen. The queen is considered the most important piece on the board (apart from the king), because it can move like all of the other pieces, except for the knight; up, down, left, right, diagonally, etc. It is considered to be about 8 or 9 points.

Finally, there is the king. The king can only move 1 square at a time in any direction. If your king is put into a position where it will be taken no matter what, you are in checkmate and lose. Therefore the king’s numeric value is worth infinity. For if you loose it, you loose the game.
But who cares? Very few of us will leave here and play this game for giggles and kicks. However, there is much about this game we can learn about. In the game of chess, you have two players who hold the destiny of their pieces in their hands. A good chess player knows that every piece is significant, even the pawns. One should not sacrifice his pawn, or any other piece, for nothing. Every piece is significant and should be used in order for victory. Though the pieces are used in different ways, they are all important and needed in order to win.

God is no different. Do you ever feel like you are useless? Do you feel like that because your not famous, don’t have "power," are poor, or without anything else, God cannot use you? Do you ever wonder what you have been doing your whole life? Do you think God isn’t using you and never will? Well, like this chess game, you are incredibly important to God and He will use you in order to win in the end, even if you are a pawn.

This idea is called God’s Providence. Please turn to Esther 4:7-17.

We need to define a few words first. First, we need to discuss God’s Sovereignty. Perhaps you have heard of phrases like "Sovereign country/nation," or "Sovereign King," before. What those phrases mean is that the king or nation is in complete control. What they say is done. They will do whatever they want, however they want.

Divine Sovereignty is very similar. It means that God is in complete control over His creation. No one can bind His hands, question His actions, for He is on His throne reigning to His glory. God is in control. We will not change His mind, change His will, or thwart His plan. God is aware of everything, and is in complete control. He does everything for His own glory.

Secondly, we need to define what we mean by God’s Providence. Providence carries the idea of an author writing a story. Every character is important and play a role to how the story ends. God is doing very much the same. Through His Sovereign control, God is writing a story that we are playing a part in.

Providence says that God is involved with His creation. God did not simply create everything and then set back and hope for the best. God is involved with what He has created. Providence means that history isn’t the course of time, but rather is a story written by God. He has already fulfilled it’s beginning, it’s middle, and is now preparing it’s end; and we play a role in that Divine Story.

This is where we pick up with Esther.

Before we read our passage, we must do a little bit of background on the story and explain what is going on. Esther was a Jew living under the reign of the Persian Empire. Persians, at this time, ruled the world. They conquered the Babylonians who were holding the Jews captives. Some of the Jews returned home whenever the Persians took over, while others stayed, just like Esther and Mordecai.

The Queen of Persia was banished by the King for disobeying him and so the king had a "beauty contest," to decide on his next king. He chose Esther, but Esther hid her Jewish identity. Eventually, a man named Haman, who hated the Jews, convinced the king to pass an ordinance allowing the Persian people to murder the Jews. As a result, Esther and Mordecai must do something before the Jews are slaughtered by the thousands.

This is where we pick up in Esther. Let us read our passage.

If there was one thing from this passage that we need to know and learn is that We should live under the Providential care of God and realize that He is in control, and we must submit to His will. The question, then, is how do we do that? How do we know that God is using us? Is He using us? How can I trust Him while I’m at work, at home, at school, or at church? What does it mean to live and serve under the Providential care of God?

The first thing we need to do is that WE MUST REFLECT ON OUR CURRENT SITUATION. Let us begin by looking at where Esther is in this passage. First, she is the queen of Persia. She is married to the man who has passed into law, a bill that will lead to the murder of thousands of her own people. Mordecai, her uncle, learns of the threat and is deeply concerned. Remember that his very life is at danger. He therefore weeps and mourns and cries out to God for help.
Though Esther may have power and have great connections, she is essentially helpless. As we will see, Esther and king are likely in an argument and he doesn’t want to see her. And if she were to approach the king unsummoned, then her life will be taken. She is not in a great situation.

Think about where you are right now. Think about your relationship with your spouse. Maybe your struggling in your marriage. Perhaps you think your spouse has changed, continue to make you feel small, unwanted, unloved. Maybe things are getting better, things are coming to an end. Whatever. Where are you right now in your marriage?

Think about your relationship with your children and your role as parent. Perhaps you want to call it quits. You are weary of parenthood. Your children are in rebellion, you continue to make wrong decisions, can’t see eye to eye with your spouse. Maybe you are celebrating some great achievement of your child. Maybe your mourning a sad moment with your child. Where are you right now as a parent?

Think about your relationship with your employer and your other co-workers. Perhaps you can’t seem to climb the corporate ladder like you wanted. Maybe you expected to be farther up by now. Maybe the promotion has never come. Maybe you feel alone. Your boss doesn’t like you, there are no close relationships you have built. Maybe you feel like your in a rut, waiting for something else to come along. Are you struggling to pay the bills? Do you go unnoticed? Where are you at as an employee?

Next, think about where you are in the church. Maybe you want to do more, or do less. Maybe your worn out. Perhaps you feel your work goes unappreciated, no one cares, no one notices, and you want to move on. Maybe you feel abandoned by the Church. Maybe your questioning you very faith wondering where God is. Where are you in your faith?

This is where we all ask the question, what is God doing in my life? Does God care? Is He using me? Am I wanting to be used by god? Has God abandoned me? What has he given me this dead end job, this struggling marriage, rebellious children, unappreciative church, etc?

Like Esther and Mordecai in their situation, it is critical that we take the time and reflect on where we are. Think about the good, the bad, and the uncertain. Will have a fear of what tomorrow might bring, losing your job, losing your children, your spouse, your health, etc. Where are you right now?

Secondly, WE MUST NOT REGARD OURSELVES USELESS AND SUBMIT TO HIS PROVIDENTIAL CARE. Esther is stuck in a bad situation. She loves her people and wants to protect them, but if she were to approach the king unsummoned, then she will be killed. This was the law, and to disobey would mean death. Furthermore, look at verse 11. The text points out that Esther has not seen the king for some 30 days. The king was apparently mad at her for some reason, we do not know what happened, and therefore refused to see her. Esther, for 30 days now, has been walking around the palace unwanted. And if she were to go before the king, in the midst of his anger, she would certainly be put to death. So, what Esther is essentially saying is, "I can’t. The king won’t listen to me. I can’t be used in this situation. There must be someone else or some other way that we can overcome this obstacle."

ILL I remember when I was in karate as a kid how we were not allowed to say "I can’t." In fact, every time we said it, we had to do 50 pushups. Eventually, you learned not to say it. The whole purpose was to convince us that if we set our mind to it, we can accomplish it.

So many people today live in a world of "I can’t." I can’t lead anyone to Christ because I don’t know enough about the Bible. I can’t be a better father because I never knew mine. I can’t be a better friend, a better neighbor, family member, roommate, girl/boyfriend, church member, etc. b/c... I can’t be used by God because I’m a nobody. I have no connections, I have no important friends or contacts, I’m not smart, I haven’t been educated. God isn’t going to use me.

Whenever we say, "I can’t," as believers, we essentially say that God can’t. Stop living in a world of me! It isn’t about you. God will do whatever He feels like doing, and He uses us to fulfill His will. Stop saying I can’t, because when you do and believe it, you are telling God that you are useless, and God makes no mistakes.

In God’s eyes, we can. God wants to use us, is using us, and will continue to use us. We are His vessels, His cargo, His shipment, His instruments, his weapons, and His workmanship in whom He uses. We are not too small, to ignorant, unable, or unusable to God. If we want God to use us, then we must let God use us. We have to get out of this mind set that we are unable.

Instead, believe that I can be a better parent. I can be more understanding and loving to my spouse. I can serve the church more. I can be a better employee. I can be more productive. I can overcome these obstacles and temptations. I can. I can. I can.

Or even better live in a world not saying "I can", in the sense that I can do it on my own, but rather, "God will." God will make me a better parent. God will make me more understanding and loving to my spouse. God will lead me to serve the church more. God will make me a better employee. God will make me more productive. God will help me overcome these obstacles and temptations. God will. God will. God will.

We must never live in a world that says that I am on my own. You may feel like a pawn, a rook, or a queen, but God uses us to fulfill His divine purpose. If we submit to God’s will and live for Him, we will accomplish whatever God wants us to accomplish to His glory.

Thirdly, WE MUST REALIZE THAT GOD HAS BROUGHT US THIS FAR. You are not were you are by accident. That is what Mordecai is telling Esther. Mordecai knows that God will protect his people. He also knows that God has brought forth the tools necessary for their protection. And Mordecai believes that it is Esther in whom God will use in this situation.

God is likewise using you. Sadly too many believers understand that. We think that we have to be in front of TV, in Washington DC, or in the public square in order to be used by God. In fact, God is using all of us to His own glory and for His own purpose.

God is using you as a parent, and so be a godly parent. God is using you as a student, and so be a godly student. God is using you as a coworker, and so be a godly coworker. God is using you a spouse, and so be a godly spouse.

God has brought you here. So be faithful and fulfill your role as God’s servant. We have no need to worry or be scared. Though bad times come, though we are uncertain, though we are unsure, confused, or feel abandoned, realize that God has brought you this far, and He will continue to take you where He wills.

Finally, WE MUST RESPOND IN OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WILL AND LIVE FOR HIS GLORY. If you want to be used by God, be faithful to God no matter what the circumstance or hardship your face. That is exactly what Esther does here.

CONCLUSIONS In conclusion, I must ask if anyone has ever heard of Mordecai Ham? Ham was born and raised in Kentucky as a Baptist and became an evangelists in the South. Though the revivals and evangelistic events he held were successful (some 30,000 converts in his first year), Ham remains an unknown figure in the world, church history, and even Baptist history.
The most notable of events in Ham’s lie isn’t necessarily about Ham, but who attended the revival he preached. In 1934, Ham preached a revival in Charlotte, NC. One influential person was converted through this revival. That person writes:

"In 1934, Charlotte, NC, had the reputation of being one of the leading churchgoing cities in the United States, but at the approach of Dr. Mordecai Fowler Ham, it began to tremble.

"A stately, balding man with a neatly trimmed white mustache, wearing eyeglasses that made him look like a dignified schoolteacher and sporting impeccable clothes, Ham was in fact a strong, rugged, evangelists. He had a great knowledge of the Bible and had educated himself in a number of other areas as well. He remained in the city for eleven weeks, preaching every night and every morning, except Mondays...

As soon as the evangelist started his sermon, he opened his Bible and talked straight from his text. He talked loudly, even though there was an amplifying system...I was
spellbound. In some indefinable way, he was getting through to me...

I became deeply convicted about my sinfulness and rebellion. And confused. How could this evangelist be talking to me, of all people? I had been baptized as a baby, had learned the Shorter Catechism word perfect, and had been confirmed in the
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church with the full approval of the pastor and
elders. I had gotten into mischief once in a while, but I could hardly be called
wicked. I resisted temptations to break the moral code my parents had so
strictly instilled in me...

And then it happened, sometime around my 16th birthday. On that night, Dr. Ham finished preaching and gave the invitation to accept Christ. After all his tirades against sin, he gave us a gentle reminder: "But God commendeth his love toward us, int hat while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, KJV). His song leader, Mr Ramsay, led us all in ‘Just As I Am..."

On the last verse of that second son, I responded. I walked down to the front, feeling as if I had lead weights attached to my feet, and stood in the space before the platform..."

And this person gave his life to Christ. Who was he? Infamous Evangelists Billy Graham. Mordecai Ham’s name and life has almost faded into forgotten memories. But God took this nobody, and used him in one great moment, unaware of it himself, to change the world as we know it.

The board is set, the pieces are moving. God in victory proclaims check mate by putting Christ on the cross and as ambassadors, we are his pieces. Let us be used by God and bring glory to Him in our lives.

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