What If I Do....What If I Don't...
As my kids grow older, I hand them a few more ‘jobs’ to do and things to take care of. While there’s some complaining along the way, it’s exciting to teach them good stewardship, the Lord’s purposes in their work, and to recognize what they’ve been given charge of.
One goal of maturity is the ability to handle more responsibility.
As a teenager, you get your driver’s license and buy a car-more responsibility. You move away from home for post-secondary education, rent an apartment, register for classes-more responsibility. For some, you get married, maybe buy a home, find employment–more responsibility.
Obviously, this isn’t the recipe nor the mold for everyone. The point is that as we grow older, our scope of influence changes, often broadening to include different relationships and connections through our families, workplaces, and churches.
Esther teaches us about living in denial, in surrender, and in obedience as we identify our own responsibilities and response to them.
Living in Denial Of Our Responsibilities
After the proclamation of genocide goes out (Esther 4), confusion quickly turns to mourning. Lament spreads like wildfire into the homes of Jewish families; Mordecai too, donning sackcloth and ashes.
Esther discovers his condition and sends him some clothes (don’t we all just want a quick fix sometimes?). But, after his refusal, she sends a trusted servant to investigate the situation-one which she seems entirely oblivious to. Nothing could have prepared her for the devastating news…nor Mordecai’s bold directive in response: “go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of [your] people” (Est 4:8).
You may think, maybe living in denial wasn’t so bad.
It’s easy to play the ostrich, plunging our heads into the sand, when faced with arduous tasks, pivotal roles, or the weight of leadership. The Lord has entrusted people to us-our children, our colleagues, our congregation- and suddenly we feel overwhelmed, ill-prepared or insufficient to care for them, disciple them or support them.
Yet these are ordained moments, seen by the Father in advance, sustained in his hand for such a time as this, in the same way he positioned Esther as queen. Landon Dowden writes, “the places where we are, the positions we hold, and the people by whom we are surrounded have been entrusted to us for the purpose of gospel advancement.”
Denying our responsibility or his providence won’t solve our problems. Rather, as we accept what he’s given us, for this time in space, stewarding it well as a faithful servant, knowing that it’s to our Lord we will give an account.
Living When the Price Is Already Paid
What happens when reality sets in? When the truth can no longer be hidden or denied.
Esther’s first response to reality is fear. If I do this, I could die.
Mordecai’s answer: If you don’t, you’re dead anyway.
Doesn’t sound like a pair of great options.
Our journey of following the Lord Jesus will come at a price. Talking to the crowds, Jesus asks, “for which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). We are admonished to look ahead, anticipate the potential impact, and step forward in faith.
When my husband and I set out on a church planting team to East Africa, we counted the cost: Leave our family and friends, sell our country home, quit our well-paying jobs, and say goodbye to our local church. The calling lay firm on our hearts, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make. By the grace of God, he helped us take on the words of Paul, “indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8).
Staring in the face of responsibility, discerning the choices before us, we can know with confidence that although we may experience an earthly cost, our Savior has already paid it all; we’ve been bought with a price (1 Cor 7:23).
This truth gives us courage in the face weighty decisions and responsibility. Our identity confidently sealed in Christ, empowered by the Spirit, we exist as part of a body called to bring his kingdom here to earth, in our parenting, our ministry, and our workplaces. We may feel afraid and overwhelmed with a pair of undesirable choices, but we are not alone or abandoned in them, we are victorious.
Living in Confident Obedience
Mordecai’s rebuke to Esther didn’t end on a tone of desperation, but rather one of great hope; “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” (Est 4:14). While she may have a choice in the matter, one thing is certain. Deliverance will come.
Through his fasting and through his prayers, he’s learning more about his God. He’s recognizing God’s provision and providence, trusting with confidence in the chaos, and now he’s calling her out.
Being on the receiving end of truth is tough sometimes. When done in grace and love, receiving correction with humility deepens our character and grows our faith. Slowly, Esther’s head comes out of the sand. She seems strengthened with courage, declaring both a fast and her decision. She will go to the king.
I’ve never approached a celebrity or political figure with a desperate request. I know I’d certainly feel nervous, but it’s not like they would’ve had my head even if I did.
I haven’t been given any royal influence or prestige. It’s not as though the lives of my people are on the brink of eternal destruction. I’m not out to save the world…
…or am I?
“Have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:22-23).
We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), persuading others with a message of reconciliation, snatching them from the fire. It’s an eternally significant calling. We’re called to go, to share good news with the world.
You may begin in denial, but when reality sets in and the Word of truth sits heavy on your heart, perhaps through the encouragement of another, you’ll see how you are the salt and light in your world to the ones entrusted to you for the advancement of the gospel.