‘For such a time as this’ may be the most famous phrase from Esther. It comes from the passage we looked at in Thursday’s chapel sermon. Taking a ‘slightly experimental’ approach to preaching, Peter told us at the beginning what the application would be, asking us to choose which was the challenge for us and to move to particular places in the room according to that. Those who needed to learn to love people more sat on the right side of the room and those who needed to learn to trust God on the left. I’ll quickly cover how Peter spoke to the ‘love’ people and spend most of my time here on the ‘trust’ people – no prizes for guessing which side of the room I was on!
Growing in love
Peter asked us to see the predicament that Esther was in. She may have been Queen but in all likelihood, she was out of favour with the King. She had not been called to him in over a month – perhaps he had found a new squeeze. And since approaching the king without his summons is a capital offense, what Mordechai asks her to do is a big deal. Yet, she’s willing to do so, even if she dies in the attempt. The love of her people compels her, like the Good Shepherd we meet in the New Testament, to lay down her life for God’s people.
We need to see more of this kind of radical love, Peter challenged us. Especially if you’re in ministry, a passionate love for people is essential. Without a willingness to love the church in all her agony and disgrace, we quickly become bitter and disillusioned. Martyrdom may not be a present reality for many in the west but certainly bearing a difficult burden or immense pain is. Peter suggested that ordination services ought to include a vow about suffering. So often we recruit on the basis of what ‘fun’ it will be to lead a youth group (for example). But we ought to be asking ‘Are you willing to suffer?’ There’s much to learn from Esther here.
Growing in trust
Even though Esther’s the Queen, she’s had no training for the situation she’s landed in. Being perfumed for a year doesn’t help in negotiating the machinations of politics! She didn’t ask to be her people’s saviour; this situation is not of her own making and comes to her from beyond her control.
It’s far from an ideal situation. Not only is she out of her depth, but her people are facing extinction and she’s out of favour with the king: how can she hope to have any influence? Yet, there’s an expectation on her, a pressure, a hope that she can deliver her people. So how should she respond?
Esther’s actions are clearly recorded for us. She asks the people to pray and fast; she does so herself; and then she chooses to take the plunge. From an uncomfortable place, she decides that whatever happens, she will trust God. And God is never even mentioned in Esther! He’s totally behind the scenes. Yet, his work is evident in some very ordinary human decisions.
Peter suggested that this is often what faith feels like. It’s not self-confidence or strength. It’s feeling weak or confused or at a loss and trusting that God can work. This is how guidance often works out. Rarely is it clear at the time but faith steps out,believing more in a God who can make good come from any situation than in conviction that we have made the ‘right’ decision.
Trusting God means trusting him not only for our salvation but in the smallest detail and opportunity. It means believing in a God who acts in both the minute and the magnificent. It means believing that God will use us even when we don’t realise it or never see it. We learn from Esther to trust God in good situations and difficult; large and small; when things are clear and when they are confusing; when we are in charge and when a situation is thrust upon us without warning.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.