Has anyone here ever had a moment when courageous action was needed, and you became a brave leader in an instant? Maybe there was a crisis and you happened to be in the right place at the right time. You weren’t planning on being a hero, but something happened and you were there and felt compelled to act.
A 15-year-old boy in Michigan had that moment last year when his grandfather who had been working on his car found himself trapped under a 1991 Buick which had been propped up on cinder blocks. The grandfather was crushed and trapped when the car came off of the blocks. For the 15 year-old grandson there wasn’t time to think about what he should do. There wasn’t time to call 911. There was no one else who could help. The grandfather needed immediate rescue, and something had to be done. 15 year-old Austin acted instinctively and lifted the front end of the 2000-pound car just enough so his grandpa could squeeze out from under it.
Most of us won’t likely face a life or death situation that calls for heroic action, but we face opportunities every day to be leaders, to be courageous, to bring rescue to others in a way that will help people live their best possible life. In many ways, the Boy Scouts with us are learning a lot about being ready for moments which call for bravery and action.
I love the Boy Scout Motto: It is two words, but is packed with meaning: “BE PREPARED” is the simple motto which means Scouts are taught to always in a state of readiness in mind and body to “do their DUTY.”
They are taught to Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined themselves to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so they know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
They are also taught to Be Prepared in Body by making themselves strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.
This motto is very biblical for God’s Word admonishes us in II Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” In other words, we are to be prepared at all times to speak what is true, to be able to deliver God’s Words in any situation so that we will say and do the right thing.
We also told in 1 Peter 3:15 to be prepared as we read, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” If there is anything people in our world need today it is hope. We are to be ready at a moment’s notice to offer people hope as we share about our personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Being in a state of readiness is so important because we don’t know what tomorrow holds. We don’t know what will be required of us. We don’t know who will need our help. There is a woman in the Bible who had a great challenge before her. She was in the right place at the right time. The call for courage came. Would she answer it?
Her name was Esther. She was a Jew but she had been living in the Persian Empire under the reign of King Xerxes. He had banished his Queen for disobedience. You just didn’t say “no” to the King for any reason, and his first Queen learned the hard way. So, in the search for a new Queen, a beautiful Jewish girl named Esther was chosen. No one knew she was Jewish. She had been instructed by her cousin Mordecai to keep that a secret.
Esther didn’t have the best of starts early in her life. Both of her parents died, and she was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. Becoming Queen wasn’t something she had aspired to. It was something she was sort of drafted for. I am sure she felt unprepared on several levels.
And during her time as Queen, her cousin that raised her, Mordecai, learned of a plot to assassinate the King. He told Esther, and Esther told the King. The King’s life was saved and Esther made sure the King knew it was Mordecai who was really to thank. Mordecai didn’t even get a “thank you” from the King.
Instead, after Mordecai foiled the assassination of the King, one of the King’s officials, a man named Haman got promoted. Listen, you can do the right and good thing, but you may not always get the credit. Don’t let that stop you from doing the right thing! Haman, a proud man who loved the spotlight somehow managed to get the King to issue a decree that people should bow down to him, Haman. Haman, found out that Mordecai wasn’t bowing down to him when he passed through the gate. He didn’t like that very well.
You see, Haman was an Amalekite, one of the worst enemies of the Jewish people. Mordecai wasn’t going to show him any honor by bowing in front of him. When questioned why he wouldn’t bow, Mordecai told the truth. The secret was out. He was Jewish.
Well, Haman decided to retaliate on a grand scale. He was going to plot to kill all of the Jews. Mordecai found out about the plan and told Esther all of the details and told Esther she needed to go tell the King about the plan. We pick up the story in Esther 4:10-16:
10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” 12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
Wow! Esther was faced with a big dilemma, one that could cost her, her life. What steps do you take when faced with such a big challenge? What do you do first? I see in this passage that the first step Esther took was a STEP BACK.
Until she knew what God wanted her to do she wasn’t going to do anything. Verse 16 tells us that Esther and the Jews in the area all fasted. They didn’t eat for three days or nights. They went without food in order to seek God. Fasting is a way to clear our minds of clutter, and it heightens our awareness of God’s presence as we seek His plans for our lives.
We are getting ready to move through the season of Lent, the 40 days prior to Easter Sunday. It begins this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. The Lenten season is supposed to parallel Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. For Jesus, as He fasted for 40 days, it was a time of preparation for His earthly ministry. It was a season in which Jesus overcame great temptation by Satan in the desert. He started His ministry with the confidence that He could go toe to toe with the devil and win.
Fasting is one of those spiritual disciplines we don’t hear about as much as we do prayer or Bible reading. Maybe you have some questions about fasting. Take a look at this video on fasting. Perhaps it will answer some of your questions:
SHOW VIDEO (http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/17192/The-Skinny-On-Fasting)
OK, so it didn’t answer a whole lot of questions. J Let me attempt to explain. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that enables us to be spiritually prepared for a word from God and/or a work of God. Giving up something on purpose for the purpose of seeking God tells God we are serious and that He has our full attention. I hope you will join me in choosing to give up some food you enjoy or give up a certain number of meals each week for the purpose of prayer and drawing closer to Jesus. If not food, then give up Facebook or your Ipod or TV or something else that would be a sacrifice to you.
Esther wouldn’t step forward without taking a step back, without asking God, “What do YOU want me to do in this situation?”
When you are faced with something risky, faced with something dangerous, faced with something difficult what do you do? I see even in Esther’s response that it is easy to talk big! Talking big is easy, but to walk big is something entirely different. Esther had all of the words. She talked big. She said in verse 16, “If I perish, I perish.” She said she was going to go through with things no matter what and if it cost her, her life, well so be it. That sounded tough and brave, right? I believe it was during the fast where she received the inner strength, wisdom, and courage to actually follow through with those words.
Do you remember tough-talking Peter in Matthew 26? He sounded big and brave. He sounded courageous when he told Jesus he would never desert Him. He bragged about how he would even die for Jesus if necessary. But talk is cheap. In just a few short hours, Peter was as cowardly as all the rest. He denied he ever knew Jesus. The bottom line? Peter wasn’t prepared. He knew what to say, but he wasn’t prepared. He wasn’t spiritually ready for the task of following Jesus all the way to the cross.
Esther may have been impulsive with her bold words, but she was smart enough to know she could never back up her words without backing up long enough to seek God through prayer and fasting.
Only after she stepped back could she STEP UP. During those three days of prayer and fasting, rather than seek God, Esther could have made lists of pros and cons. She could have gone to all of her friends to get their opinions about what she should do. She could have talked herself out of following through. I believe it was the fast that helped her hold fast to her vow to be courageous. If you are faced with a situation requiring courage and faith, don’t look for a way out of it, look to God to see you through it. Esther did.
She had to have God leading the way. You see, people who went to see the King without him calling them into his presence got their heads cut off. Esther had a lot at stake. She could lose her life by exposing Hamans’ plot. But listen, more than her life was the lives of all of the Jews living in the Persian Empire if she didn’t step up.
Mordecai told his cousin something very interesting in verse 14 of chapter 4. Whether Esther stepped up or not, God was still going to deliver His people. He had made a covenant with Israel and no one was going to annihilate God’s people. In other words, with or without us, God will always accomplish His work. But while God is not limited to your obedience or mine, He gives us an opportunity to be used of Him and to partner with Him through our faith and obedience which will be the catalyst for great things if we are willing.
Mordecai told Esther, “You are the Queen not by chance and not even by choice, but by God’s design for such a time as this! This is your moment, Esther. Don’t miss your moment! Everything that you have endured and encountered has prepared you to be in this position at this time, don’t miss your moment, Esther!” God has placed you here to play a part, to make a difference, and to bring deliverance to the people around you. Don’t miss your moment!
In Luke 10 we read the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man had gotten mugged by a band of robbers and was left for dead. A priest passed by and did nothing to help the man. A Levite passed by and did nothing to help the man. They missed their moment. But a Samaritan, someone who was culturally an enemy of the half-dead man, took time to check him out and help him out. He put oil and wine on his wounds, put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn where the man could recover. He even paid the man’s bill himself. What a hero! Who knows how much longer the injured man could have lain there without dying? Nightfall would have come. Eventually no one would be traveling that way.
If you live a life of missed moments you will one day start to think of all the people you should have helped, should have had time for, and should have sacrificed to save, and you will experience deep regret.
Esther followed through with a plan developed out of prayer and fasting and with great courage and determination. She exposed Haman’s plot to kill the Jews and cleverly turned the tables on him. The King executed Haman, and the Jews were spared.
Edward Everett Hale said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Never underestimate what one person can accomplish when God is leading them!
Esther was just one woman, but it just took the courage of one to save the lives of many. In addition, there was blessing for Esther, Mordecai and her people. Esther was the recipient of all of Haman’s assets following his execution. Mordecai was given the King’s signet ring and made the prime minister. Now with a Jewish Queen as the Queen of Persia and a Jewish man as the Prime Minister of Persia, the Jews in the empire were in a better political position than ever before. Talk about a turn of events! The whole Jewish population went from annihilation to elevation!
When you step up into the moments God has for you, you will be promoted and others will be elevated along with you.
As Christians we have to think seriously about the moments that stand in front of us. Yes, we always have a choice to step up or step away, but while we have a choice, if we are in Christ, we no longer have the option of not stepping up. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). If you are a Christian, missing your moment is sin against God. Christians, we no longer live for ourselves. We don’t pick and choose which moments to accept and which to shy away from. We live for God with the recognition that if we are strategically placed in a situation that needs addressed then God must have a plan to use us to make a difference.
For too long the church has buried its head in the sand. We have ignored the cries of the hurting. We have walked past the addicted and afflicted lying by the side of the road. We have been afraid to have the necessary conversations that challenge the status quo. We have preserved ourselves rather than penetrated the enemy lines and exposed the plans of Satan. Edmond Burke has said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
The truth is that while God has a plan for our lives, so does the devil. He wants all of us to be depressed and defeated and dislocated from a relationship with God. Where are the believers who will do more than talk? Where are the believers who will step back and join me in fasting in order to find out what God has to say about what is ahead? Where are the believers who will step up to confront the powers of darkness so that more and more people can be free? Who will join me today in taking the necessary steps to seize the moments God puts in front of us?