Take Risks for the Glory of the King
Esther 4:13 to 17, “Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. 14For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?’
15Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16‘Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.’ 17So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him.”
The title of our sermon this morning is, “Take Risks for the Glory of the King!”, and our proposition is, God providentially preserves His people, even in the midst of the mess, so take risks for His glory. As we look at the story of Esther and the events that surround this turning point for the Jewish people in Persia, we will see one fact and one action in this passage. 1) Your LIFE is the Lord’s in verses 13 to 14, so 2) Spend it for His GLORY in verses 15 to 16.
Good morning, my name is Patrick—I’m a pastor/elder here if we haven’t yet met, and I am usually up here with this wonderful music team, leading you all to worship. And you may also know me from such famous projects as the FBC Old Testament videos—which will all be available this week on a YouTube Playlist. Hasn’t this journey through the Old Testament been edifying? Hopefully you have a better picture of the Old Testament and you love your Bible more and have a magnified view of our King, who is a faithful God—the same yesterday, today, and forever! Today we are making one more stop in the book of Esther.
Let me ask you–have you lost heart in doing good? Is your spirit heavy in the darkness of your workplace, school environment, maybe your own home? Esther will help you persevere, reminding you that God is at work, even when we can’t detect it. Have you become complacent, unwilling to take godly risks for Christ? Let this story stretch you to trust your God and be bold in living for Him.
We said that our proposition this morning is that God providentially preserves His people, even in the midst of the mess, so FBC, our application will be–let’s take risks for His glory! We only have four verses and two main points–but first I want to set the stage.
This map will show the geography of the area we are in—the Jews are no longer in the Promised Land, but east in the center of the Persian Empire, in the capitol city of Susa (not Rob’s family). As our video introduced, Esther shows us Jews that have not returned from captivity (and there are many). We’re in the late 480s BC, after the return from Babylon—the Temple has been rebuilt, but there are Jews out here still under the rule of Persia. It’s dark, the leadership is volatile, there is immorality, and the Jews are facing annihilation. But here’s the beauty of the book of Esther–God is seemingly unseen (His name is not mentioned once), and yet His providence is apparent in every detail.
So let’s meet the players—there are four main characters. Esther and Mordecai are Jewish–their parents were in the Babylonian captivity, she’s an orphan now, and he’s the older cousin who adopts her and raises her like an uncle. Next, the Persian ruler, Ahasuerus–or as he’s famously known in history, Xerxes. He is arrogant, rage-filled, a drunken king who in God’s providence falls in love (if you can call it that) with Esther and makes her his queen, unknowingly bringing a Jew into the royal Persian palace. And last the villain, Haman (BOO!)—a power-hungry, high-ranking official who gets disrespected by Mordecai (who is unwilling to bow to him) and convinces the king to decree the slaughter of not only Mordecai, but every Jew in the land ( which sets up the conflict).
Now, to understand the history behind this, Mordecai is a Benjamite, a descendent of Saul. Haman (chapter 3) is an Agagite–his lineage is an Amalekite. If you remember Nige’s message, God pronounced a curse on them when Saul was supposed to destroy them but disobeyed and takes the Amalekite King Agag captive. Then the gritty scene in 1 Samuel 15, when Samuel rights Saul’s wrong, and hacks Agag to pieces. That’s the family tree behind Mordecai and Haman. (“My name is Haman the Agagite, you hacked my great grandfather to pieces, prepare to die!”–like Inigo Montoya.)
It seems like Haman is going to get his way—the king says, “Sure! Kill all the Jews!” Done deal, Satan takes another stab at God’s Messianic plan. But what we’ll see is that God providentially preserves His people, and nothing can get in the way of that–which brings us to chapter 4 and a conversation (via messenger) between Mordecai and Esther.
Mordecai begs Esther to plead with the king for her people, and Esther has just replied that if she goes into the presence of the king uninvited, there’s only one outcome–death. Read along as I read aloud Esther 4:13 to 16, “Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. 14For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?’
15Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16‘Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.’”
As a kid, I was never a big risk-taker. I was the 10-year-old who had to be bribed with money to try rollercoasters. But risk is just a part of our existence as human beings, because we do not know the future–what college to go to, what job to pursue, should I marry this person, should I invest in this business? And there’s risk because we don’t know the outcome. God, however, does–and when you are His, while those risks can be costly, their impact is ultimately minimized in light of the fact that He has promised to eternally preserve us.
It doesn’t mean every risk is goo–some of the ways I’ve seen Christians live “radical” lack wisdom and purpose. But here’s a little perspective–we take risks, even putting our lives in danger, for fun and personal pleasure (you skydivers). How much more should we be willing to take risks for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom? This is the kind of risk Esther takes, putting her life on the line.
Let’s walk through our passage seeing God providentially preserve His people, even in the midst of the mess, and drive toward that application question–will we, like Esther, be willing to take risks for His glory? In these four verses, I’ll point out one fact and one action. Fact–your Life is the Lord’s in verses 13 and 14. And action–spend it for His glory in verses 15 and 16.
ONE Your Life is the Lord’s Verses 13 to 14
This is the truth Esther needed to hear–her life is the Lord’s. And the life of every Jew in that empire is the Lord’s. May we never forget and never take for granted, our lives are in His hands–the best place to be. In verses 13 to 14, we see three aspects of God’s sovereign control that Mordecai reminds Esther of (and we need to remember).
A. God is in control of your circumstances Verse 13
“Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews.’” Esther has been sovereignly placed into the palace, and her Jewish nationality may not yet be discovered. But she is a Jew, and the edict says all Jews must be destroyed. Mordecai doesn’t want Esther to be under the impression that she’ll just always fly under the radar. She’s living in the midst of very volatile circumstances.
For example, the circumstances that bring about Esther’s being crowned as queen. The previous queen, Vashti, refuses to flaunt her beauty at a party that Xerxes throws, and in a rage, the king deposes her and goes on a year-long spree to replace her. He parades thousands of women before himself, like a perverted beauty pageant–not a guy-meets-girl love story. It’s disgusting.
But who is at work in that disgusting mess? Our faithful King. Out of thousands of women, Xerxes sees Esther and goes, “WOW!” And that is the supernatural providence of God (even in that yuck).
Do you sometimes decide for God that your circumstances are not conducive to His work in you? It’s like we look at Romans 8:28 (“God works ALL things together for GOOD”), and the minute we face difficult life circumstances, we immediately question God’s goodness.
On our Beach Baptism Day, my wife and kids ended up on the side of the 15 freeway with a flat tire. Do you know where I was? Here. We were about to sing our final song in third service when I got the text. Immediately, I want the reins–but I’m helpless! I cannot perfectly guaranty my family’s safety, I must entrust them to the Lord. And He had a plan–it was the Hunters. As they drove by, Sara spotted my family, Chris turned around, changed the tire like a boss, and they were on their way. That one should have been easy–and yet.
What life circumstances are you struggling to trust Him with? Loss of a job, loss of a friend, uncaring kids, financial hardship, failing marriage, oppressive unbelieving co-workers? If you are in Christ, God is actively preserving your life (loving you, protecting you), even in the midst of that mess. So instead of desperately grabbing for control, trust your heavenly Father. Your life is the Lord’s and He is in control of your circumstances.
B. God is in control of your SALVATION Verse 14a
Mordecai says to Esther in verse 14, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish.” Mordecai stands on the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant that they would both know well. (Genesis 12:1 to 3 is God’s commitment to Abraham and his descendants to establish, bless and protect them. Mordecai loves Esther like a daughter, but greater than his confidence that she will do the right thing, is his confidence that God will do as He has purposed–deliver His people, regardless of her intervention.
Job 42:2 is Job’s declaration to God, “’I know that You can do all things and no plan of Yours can be thwarted!’” The psalmist says, “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” in Psalm 121:4. God is relentless in His covenant love for His people–no exile, no foreign king, no scheme of the devil, or even Israel’s own disobedience could deter His commitment to them.
Like a father’s love for his children. Natalie and I are walking through a difficult season with our youngest right now. She’s only three, and some days she brings us to tears. But there is no amount of disobedience, stiff-necked rebellion (or intentional eye-gouges) that could deter my care, provision, and protection for that little girl.
When the Lord saves you, He brings you into His family, He lavishes His grace on you, He makes you a “joint heir” with Christ (Romans 8:17)–and the work He starts, He says He will bring to completion (Philippians 1:6). In spite of your weaknesses, in spite of your failures, you can trust Him to perfect His work in you until the day of Christ Jesus.
Mordecai knows the covenant-keeping character of his God, and stands confident that salvation will come to his people. Your life is the Lord’s, He’s in control of your circumstances, He’s in control of your salvation and . . .
C. God is in control of your STATUS Verse 14b
At the end of verse 14, Mordecai levels that pointed question at Esther, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” This is the moment in the conversation (I’m guessing) that Esther’s heart tips toward the only real option. It’s not an easy one. She explains in verse 11 the law of the inner court–anyone who comes to the king not summoned is given death. And she adds that she’s strangely not been summoned for the last 30 days. For all she knows, the king’s affections may be waning, like they did for Vashti.
But when it comes to finding favor with the king, so far she’s got a perfect record. And even though Mordecai says, “Who knows?” I don’t think he’s wondering. He’s more saying, “Don’t you see it? God has given you this status for this moment!”
For much of my life, I shied away from conversations about my acting career. It was difficult for me not to build an identity as the guy from TV that also loves Jesus, so I avoided it. Shannon Hurley (our missionary to Uganda) challenged me on a boat somewhere in the jungle, “If the Lord has given you a platform, use it for Him!”
What platform has the Lord given you, that you need to better use for His purposes? What status has He given you, “For such a time as this?” Students with athletic skill–tell your teammates about the God you love more than sports, and bring them to youth. Businessmen with connections and access to resources–funnel that money to missions. Pay off our future worship center. Online influencers–share truth. Create content that has eternal value. Moms who have the ear of other moms–give out humble, honest, biblical advice. Help each other avoid the wisdom of Instagram–open your Bibles and pray for one another.
Whatever smarts, skills, earthly fame you have–God gave you that status (He put you in that place). Make the most of it for His purposes. Esther, who would otherwise be persecuted by Persian royalty, becomes Persian royalty. And now she stands at this crossroads, with an entire race of people unknowingly depending on her for their lives. What does she do? She takes action
Fact–your life is the Lord’s, verses13 and 14. Action–spend it for His glory, verses 15 to 16. Proposition, if God is in control of all aspects of your life, and He is committed to preserving His people in all circumstances, let’s take risks for His glory. Esther counts the cost, aligns her heart with God’s, and she says: “It’s go time!” This is where we get to see an awesome example of a young woman taking God-honoring risks.
Verses 15 to 16 are the action section of our text, so look with me at three actions involved in godly risk-taking.
TWO Spend Your Life for His Glory Verses 15 to 16
A. Lean on God’s people Verses 15 to 16a
In verse 15 Esther tells Mordecai, “Assemble all the Jews in Susa”–seek the Lord together. With no cell phones, it would have been one big word-of-mouth prayer chain through the city. The Jews are already in turmoil, they just heard the decree of their death, and now there is a glimmer of hope as Esther calls all-hands-on-deck.
In the first church plant I was a part of, we launched into Hollywood, CA with a small group of believers meeting in a living room. I’ll never forget those early days—a fledgling church taking risks, hoping for God to bless. And there would be visitors from our sending church who would come. It brought such a sense of support as they joined us together in prayer.
Believers in Jesus are meant to depend on one another. Ultimately, we depend on Christ, but the Church is the context in which God equips, sanctifies, and protects us. We will not survive in this declining culture, we will not face the hardships that come with living in a broken world, and we will not successfully take risks for the glory of Christ apart from the help of the people alongside you in this room. Get more comfortable with leaning. Yes, it’s scary–people will fail you. Drop your pride, get out of your comfort zone and lean.
Notice how many studies and outreach opportunities we squeezed onto that women’s ministry flyer today? I am thankful for how well-equipped and active in service our women are. Can I urge you, if you’ve not yet benefited (but need it), go connect. And then go take some Esther-like risks for His glory.
Whatever time frames you have in whatever stage of life you’re in, there are opportunities for discipleship, women’s event-planning, evangelism, counseling–there are a ton of new needs in children’s ministry that are calling for you godly gals to go for it. Your life is the Lord’s, and if you’re going to spend it for His glory, you must lean on God’s people.
B. Submit to God in prayer Verse 16b
Esther says, “I and my maidens also will fast in the same way” (verse 16b). This fasting would inevitably have been accompanied by prayer (not mentioned, which I believe is another way the author of Esther, who we don’t know, emphasizes God at work behind the scenes). Esther asks the people to submit this to God in prayer, as she does the same.
This is a must first step in taking risks for God’s glory–we want His wisdom and His Spirit to guide. Sometimes I plow through life ministry-planning, parenting, shepherding, discipling, without a thought to pray about it. And God has been patient with me–but it is dangerous to live independent of His leading in my life.
I was at Chick-Fil-A one time, and one of my daughters wanted to go visit a friend across the restaurant—and she just took off. It was really busy, and I couldn’t see where she went. Once I found her, I stooped down to explain that it’s okay to visit a friend, but she needed to ask me first–for her safety. And as I’m giving her this instruction, her eyes are dancing off to her friends. Ever find yourself plowing forward with your plan, putting prayer on the back-burner–and God, who cares so deeply for you, is ready to direct (maybe to keep you from danger) and you’ve just got your eyes on what you want?
Corrie ten Boom (a godly woman who helped Jews escape the Nazi holocaust), once asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Esther will not put her life on the line without first employing the support of her people and the help of her God. Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
It’s not an option–your life is the Lord’s (verses 13 to 14) and He’s sovereign over all. Spend your life for His glory (verses 15 to 16)–do it by leaning on God’s people (verses 15 to 16a) and submitting to God in prayer (verse 16b). And last . . .
C. Consider yourself the LEAST Verse 16c
Esther’s final words in the conversation at the end of verse 16c, “And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” A key to risk-taking for the glory of Christ is putting God’s purposes above your own. To count your life, your comfort, your reputation least if it means God’s purposes are accomplished. Second Corinthians 5:15, “And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Esther went from a state of fearful concern for self, to a bold commitment to the interests of others. This is the Christ-like attitude Paul exhorts the Philippians to have in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves.” Because we know the self-sacrificing work of Christ to save us and God’s eternal commitment to preserve us, we are motivated to be like Him in our love and care for others.
It’s how the Apostle Paul approached ministry–he told the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 12:15, “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.” With Mordecai’s help, Esther now sees the bigger picture. The people of Israel are in danger–if I risk my life it could mean the salvation of my people. I’ll take the risk, “and if I perish, I perish.” John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends.”
Two young brothers in Illinois were playing on the sandbanks near a river when it started to rain. The boys ran onto one of the banks, but the sand isn’t solid and they begin to sink. When the brothers didn’t show up for dinner, their family and neighbors organize a search. They get to the sandbank and discover the younger brother unconscious with only his head and hands above the sand. They begin clearing the sand away and the boy wakes up. They ask him desperately, “Where’s your brother?” The boy replies, “I’m standing on his shoulders.”
The older brother counted his younger brother’s life more important than his own and risked it all to the point of death. This is how Esther was ready to sacrifice for her people, and it is how Christ perfectly sacrificed for us. This is the Gospel. “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. Jesus spent Himself for God’s glory and the salvation of His people. His perfect life lived on our behalf, His sacrificial death to pay our sin penalty, and then resurrection from the grave, making a way for the sinner who repents to be completely forgiven.
If you’ve yet to experience the faithful love of this King, you will find no other love like it (though you try). Repent of your sin, trust entirely in Christ, the only way of salvation, and you will know the peace and joy of God’s providential preservation of your life (even in the midst of the mess), now and into eternity.
You know how the story of Esther ends? With celebration! Here’s what happens–Esther goes to the king and instead of death, finds favor. In fact, he offers to grant any request she would make, up to half the kingdom. She pleads for the lives of her people, reveals her Jewish nationality, and when the king learns that Haman is the one who decreed the destruction of her people, he executes him.
Mordecai is actually moved into greater power, and makes a new decree that allows for the Jewish people to defend themselves against any enemy that would threaten their lives, so preserving God’s people. And then they party! The annual Feast of Purim is established, which is still celebrated by Jews today–a day to remember that what people like Haman intended for evil, God worked for good.
Doesn’t God’s providence in saving you and His preservation of you in the midst of dark culture and difficult trials evoke joy? It should be the natural response. It’s why I love being here to celebrate with you, to praise the One who providentially preserves us, even in the midst of the mess. To be reminded that my life is the Lord’s, and to have you pushing me to go spend my life, taking God-honoring risks for His glory.
So–what risks will you take for the glory of God? Think in terms of salvation and sanctification–this is what we build all ministry around, and it’s the right guide for risk-taking. To see people come to Christ or become like Christ. Risk your comfort. Go join the team down in Old Town to share Christ with folks on the street. If the only reason you’ve not gone on a short-term missions team is you hate travel, sign-up and book the flight with Argenbrights. Risk your reputation–have that Gospel conversation with the relative, or friend, or co-worker that you’ve built trust with, even if it forever changes the way they look at you.
Risk your money–with wisdom and much godly counsel, consider repositioning your finances more for God’s purposes. Maybe that’s putting more toward our building project, or giving more to missions, or meeting someone’s massive financial need. Risk your time–be faithful to your family, be faithful to your job, be faithful to use your gifts for service, but (for all of us) there are more hours in the day to take away from lesser things and apply them to eternal things. (Those hours are most often found in the activities of your life where the only person benefited is you.)
Risk your life–your life is not your own, it’s the Lord’s. Treat it that way. You will likely not face the risk of death like Esther, but with however many days He gives you, devote yourself to seek His will and not your own. Romans 8:35 to 39, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36Just as it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we were regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing can separate you from His eternal love. So take courage in the dark times we live in and be bold to step out and take calculated, God-honoring risks for His glory! Let’s pray.