Mike Gerhardt, Series in Esther 7:1-10, 03-15-20, The Great Turn-Around. Have faith in the Lord even when times seem impossible, especially when facing your enemies. In 1567 King Phillip of Spain chose the Duke of Alba as governor. The duke was a bitter enemy of the Protestant Reformation. His was a reign of terror, and he led the Council of Blood, slaughtering many Protestants. One man sentenced to die managed to escape in winter. As he was being pursued, the man crossed an ice-covered lake, but as he reached the side, he heard cries for help. The pursuing soldier had fallen through the ice. At the risk of being tortured, and killed, the man went back and rescued his enemy. The love of Christ constrained him to do it. Would you do this for your enemy? Do you have enemies?
A reporter interviewed an old man on his 100th birthday. What are you most proud of? he asked. Well, I don’t have an enemy in the world, he answered. What a beautiful thought! How inspirational! said the reporter. Yep, added the old man, outlived every last one of them.
Last week we looked at 4 principles based on the phrase: things are seldom what they seem. When all seems lost, it isn't. When no one seems to notice, God does. When everything seems great, it's not. AND When nothing seems just, it will be. One day, our Lord Jesus will rule His kingdom with righteousness and peace. Until then not all people will like us, and many will see us as the enemy. As believers, we experience a wide range of emotions when it comes to enemies. These feelings are expressed in the Psalms. David prayed for his enemies, for them to turn to God. David also asked God to destroy them. He prayed for wisdom to face his enemies. David wondered how long his enemies would prosper; why he had to suffer when he was in the right. David praised the Lord for victory over his enemies, for protection, for God’s provision when he was pursued by them. It is confusing to love your enemy and harbor feelings of bitterness and anger toward them. I have prayed to remove my enemies and to love them just as Jesus said. Esther dealt with her enemy in a unique way. Identify the real enemy. Do you know who your enemies are? It would be great if they were as easy to identify as Haman. Esther agonized for days over Haman, and his wicked plot to kill all the Jews. She fasted and prayed. He loathed her people, wanted them destroyed and now sat there in her banquet, feasting at her table, not knowing she was a Jew that he despised. When you think about your enemies, two should come to mind. First, Satan is our greatest enemy. He is the thief of whom Jesus spoke, who comes to steal and to kill and to destroy. He is our adversary, the devil, who walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He is a liar, a murderer, and the great deceiver, the wicked one who wants to destroy your testimony. He wants to render you useless for God's Kingdom and is relentless in his pursuit of your heart.
We think an enemy is a person in our lives: parent, spouse, child, coworker, classmate, and business partner. Ordinary people who are mean, impatient, judgmental, and spiteful or just happen to disagree with us. Conflict and opposition can come from a neighbor, political foe or simply some acquaintance we have that causes trouble. I want you to write down the name of an enemy you have, someone who is bringing the conflict to your life. Ephesians 6:11-12. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The people we see as enemies are simply being used against us by the enemy of our soul. Your parent, spouse, boss: that’s not where the real battle is taking place. We are involved in a spiritual battle with a real enemy called Satan. I know the battle around us doesn’t remove the people causing us grief but remember, there is more to the battle than we can see.
While Satan is certainly a formidable enemy, there is another enemy, a second to identify. This enemy will give you more trouble than any other. He will keep you from enjoying your relationship with God, will keep you in turmoil, will hound you day and night, will fight you at every step, without regard to who you are, or what you do. You cannot escape this enemy or hide from him – for he is you. You are often your own worst enemy!
Paul said in Romans 7, O wretched man that I am! When I want to do good, I don’t do it and when I don’t want to sin, I do! Your enemies will come and go. You may outlive them all, but you are stuck with you. It is on this battlefield of your heart and mind that you fight the toughest battles. Will I surrender to God, obey Him, answer His call, choose purity, forgive or love as Jesus loved me? Turn your enemy over to the King. Once you identify your enemy, you have a choice to make. Nowhere do we find Esther or Mordecai trying to take issue with Haman. They didn’t argue with him or fight him. They turned him over to God. You can waste time trying to fight your enemies alone, but it’s not going to get you where you need to be. What I’m saying is not about enemies of the state. If we address international affairs, then we get into issues of national security. I’m also not advocating remaining silent on issues of morality on the national front. Let your voice be heard. Don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love! Esther knew she would need to appeal to the king. Esther arranged for these dinners, and at the right time she poured out her heart, leaving her fate in his hands. What happened next would be the work of a great God. We often don’t see the big picture. We don’t know why God allowed this enemy into our lives. Most times we don't care what the enemy is going through or where they’ve come from. All we know is we don’t want them bothering us. God alone knows those answers. God alone sees all. So, it stands to reason that we ought to allow Him to work out His will and to stay out of His way. Turn your enemies over to God. Do not fall into sin because of your enemy. The most important priority is your relationship with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. You cannot be in right fellowship with the Lord when you are filled with anger, malice, and bitterness over an enemy. You cannot want vengeance on someone and claim to be in love with the Father. You see, Jesus said But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. When you are in the right relation to the Father, you have the power to obey. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those aren’t the things we feel when in conflict with someone. That’s why it is important to maintain intimacy with the Lord. The flesh is weak and is all too willing to launch an all-out attack on someone who stands in opposition. So, turn them over to the Lord and pray for His will to be done in their lives and be patient. Remember, that justice delayed is not justice denied. Whether you see God take out your enemy is irrelevant. What is important is that you turn them over to the King and you leave them there. Do not allow Satan to work division in your relationships. Couples need to take heed. It almost always starts small. She does something he can’t stand, so he does something to get back at her. He isn’t what she thought he would be, so she begins to harbor bitterness toward him. Before long the relationship is a jousting match fought with words and feelings where there are only losers. If only they realize Satan is the real enemy. If they would turn the matter over everything to the Lord and walk the high road of obedience. Conclusion: Whether your enemy is your mother-in-law, your boss or another church member is irrelevant. We cannot allow Satan to win. The scriptures teach that the world is going to hate you when you’re really living for Christ. It is a battle between darkness and light, good and evil. Yet we can have victory over those enemies regardless of how impossible it seems. Will we always win? No. In fact, the enemy of our soul may grow in his resolve against you. Psalm 23: The Lord prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies! Perhaps today you're suffering a defeat, a setback, and you're down and discouraged, like fighting a losing battle. Maybe you feel you’re in a no-win situation. You can change that this morning. I want you to notice one last thing that made a world of difference for Esther, it was her relationship to the king. There was a time when Esther was unknown to the king and would not be granted an audience. Her relationship now allowed her to pour out her heart to him. He was there for her. We need to Know the King and Serve His Kingdom as we say at Parkside. The quickest way to the heart of the King of Heaven is by a personal relationship with our Father that can only be entered through the person of Jesus Christ. Without that relationship, the Bible tells us that we are an enemy of God. Yet the King of Heaven wasn't willing to allow you to remain in that condition. Jesus came to die and pay for your sins so that you would become family. God loved you so much He gave His only Son to bring you into His royal family. Find peace today through Jesus.