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March 01, 2020

Courage Under Fire

How is it that we disparage the blessings of God, and focus over the one thorn so quickly? How can we defuse the bomb of discontent, anger, or emotional baggage? Listen or read to find out.

Pastor Mike Gerhardt, 03-01-20, Esther #5, Courage under Fire, Esther 5:1-14.  Introduction: Have you had one of those turning-point moments? The time when your life was going one way and then all of a sudden you were making a life-changing decision. As you look back to that time, do you feel you made the right or the wrong decision? Mordecai may have looked back at the decision not to bow down to Haman which angered him so much that he made a decree sealed by the king’s ring to destroy all the Jews in the world: men, women, and children. Mordecai was in deep mourning with all the Jews except one woman in the palace. Esther knew nothing of the decree until Mordecai let her know that she was in a place to deliver her people for such a time as this. This is intrinsic motivation. Winston Churchill said on June 18, 1940, to his leaders: Let us brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour. It’s like Patrick Henry’s: Give me liberty or give me death. It’s Nathan Hale’s: I only regret that I have one life to lose for my country. Mordecai is saying to Esther: this is your hour to stand. Esther shows her true colors. She accepts the challenge with courage. She asked: fast for me…I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish. She gave her life over to do the Lord’s will. Her decision flowed from her resolve. Do you have that kind of resolve to do whatever it takes for the Lord? Let's Read 5:1-8, again. Esther’s plan. Fast and pray (it’s implied). Jesus said when we fast do not fast like the religious hypocrites. Jesus did not say if you fast. In Jesus’ mind, it is a given to take time to fast. In any case, Esther prepared a banquet while she was fasting. That’s control. Eugene Peterson wrote: Wherever there is a people of God there are enemies of God…The moment Haman surfaced, Esther began to move from being a beauty queen to becoming a Jewish saint, ... from the busy-indolent life in the harem to the high-risk venture of speaking for and identifying with God’s people. Test the waters. On the third day, she presented herself in the court of the king. In our overpopulated world, it is easy to underestimate the significance of one. It is easy to underrate the value of you: your vote, your convictions, your action, your voice, your stand for truth. Esther could have said: what does it matter if I get involved or not? Why not let someone else do it? But God has created each of us for good works that he prepared in advance for us to do! Ephesians 2:8-10 Esther was willing to die for her convictions, how about us?

Say you want to help unwed mothers in their stress. Go to the Care Net center and volunteer. Say you want to help someone who is having a difficult time financially, help out at Urban Mission. Maybe you are broken by the immorality in our schools. Volunteer to help with Good News Clubs.

Two principles. First: until we believe one person can make a difference, will we not take a risk. Second: Until we move from our safe house into the street, we will not make a difference. You can’t change the world thinking about it in your living room. Prepare the soil. While Esther was fasting, I believe God gave her a plan. After courageously entering the king’s presence without invitation, he told her he would grant her request even if it cost him half his kingdom. If I were Esther, I’d ask to save my people right then. But Esther was patient and planned a banquet, the king’s favorite thing to do. She is testing the waters. She even asked Haman to attend, the king's best friend and drinking buddy, knowing his evil heart. Proceed with God driven courage. That took guts. She was a host to her enemy. Jesus told us to love our enemies, pray for our enemies, and to offer them our shirt if they take our jacket. That takes strength of character. Esther was full of self-restraint. After drinking wine, the king's second favorite activity, he asked again. Esther invited them to another banquet to give her request. This I believe is not cold feet but a plan. This will get the king thinking about her request. This will also get Haman thinking of himself and how great he is in Esther’s eyes (which was not true). Let's read 5:9-14. Haman’s outrage. I want you to think of the most difficult person in your life right now that you interact with. Some of you are thinking of more than one. If you are thinking of more than ten people who are difficult, then maybe you’re the one who is difficult. Just saying. In the very next scene, Haman goes from floating on cloud nine to crashing into the mud. He saw Mordecai. Haman’s pride is flattened. Haman takes a fast trip from the mountain top to the pit. Has that ever happened to you? You’re feeling great about yourself and then a difficult someone pushes your deflate button. Well, it could be false pride. The Bible states pride goes before a fall. If we let our head get too big it’s easily deflated. So, Haman began to brag to his friends. That usually helps us feel better. Remember self-aggrandizement is never satisfying. It often leads to disparaging the blessings of God which then leads to sin. When we think we don’t need what God has to offer, we start down a slope to anger, contempt, and depression. The answer comes from Haman’s wife, a delightful woman I’m sure: hang Modecai high. How high you ask: seven and a half stories. Now if you are picturing a hanging rope and trap door, change your vision. Think impaling stake and raised higher than the trees where sometimes the victim was alive for hours. This idea was soothing to Haman and he went to sleep to the sound of nails driven to make those gallows. Conclusion: Four lessons from Esther’s actions: When preparing for an unprecedented event, wait on the Lord before getting involved. As important as the event we wait for is the work God does in us while we wait. He works on us, on others, on our enemies. Take time to fast and pray. You have eternity on your side. God is in control. When dealing with an unpredictable person, count on the Lord to open hearts. Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. Count on the Lord to do his work and change hearts. God is on your side. When working through an unpleasant situation, trust the Lord for enduring patience. Esther acted in courage to approach the king but she also sensed God was unfolding a plan. Pace yourself. When standing against an unprincipled enemy, ask the Lord for invincible courage. We need the courage to stand but we need the endurance to win. Move forward, God will be with you every step of the way. God wants you to take your pride, your ego, your self-dependence, and give it to him. Jesus wants to be the Savior and the Lord of your life.