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March 22, 2020

You Thought It Was Over

Today it seems that problems come at us from all directions. How we face them can make the difference! Listen or read to find ways to face these problems.

Mike Gerhardt, 03-22-20, Esther 8:1-17, You Thought it was Over. Problems! You got um! I’ve got um! All of God’s children got problems! Some problems are small and quickly solved. Others are big. Computers crash, bills go unpaid, schedules conflict, to a pandemic that changes everything. Problems can overwhelm us. But if you think about it, problems give meaning to life. A problem for a powerboat is to overcome the water resistance against the propeller. But if it wasn’t for the resistance the boat wouldn’t move! Ignorance gives meaning to education. Health problems give meaning to medications and exercise. Social disorder gives meaning to the government or as some say the government gives meaning to social disorder. Problems give life its creative tension! Some Psalms are written out of great difficulty. Most of the N.T. was written from captivity. Leaders are born from struggle. Freeze a person in the snows of Valley Forge and you get George Washington. Raise one in poverty, you get Abraham Lincoln. Strike another with infant paralysis, you get Franklin D. Roosevelt. Have him born black in a bigoted world and you get Booker T Washington, George Washington Carver, or Martin Luther King Jr. Call him a slow learner and you get Albert Einstein. Most want to run from their problems yet end up running from life itself! The idea isn’t to run from your problems but to embrace and learn from them. Mordecai, Esther, and King Xerxes have a seemingly insurmountable problem. Esther revealed she was a Jew. Haman, the king's right-hand man, has been skewered on his own gallows for his plot to kill the entire Jewish race. Though Haman is dead, the Jews aren’t in the clear. Haman with Xerxes ring made a decree to exterminate them! The Law of the Medes and the Persians can’t be broken. Eisenhower told Kennedy: You’ll find no easy problems ever come to the President of the United States. If they’re easy to solve, somebody else has already solved them. How would you go about to solve the problems of the world, of the coronavirus? How do you solve the problems in your own life? I don’t know what problems you’re facing today, but I know if God could solve Esther’s problem, He can help you with yours. Let’s look at 3 steps: Take responsibility. We need to accept any personal responsibility. The book of Esther is the story of a young woman and an old man, who took responsibility for a huge problem, one that threatened their very existence and the lives of others. At one point, Esther as queen could say, What problem? In her pretend world she felt immune, but Mordecai brought her back to reality. She took responsibility. Her people’s problem became her problem. She responded with courage. Our responsibility is to love others as we love ourselves. Most problems can be solved if each of us took our responsibility seriously. There are no easy answers, but we can do something to help someone in this crisis, even just a phone call. God wants us also to take responsibility for ourselves. We often wait around praying for God to intervene when God desires us to act. I am not just speaking about COVID-19. Couples wait around asking God to change their spouse when they need to take responsibility for their part and fix what they can. Parents helplessly stand by, allowing their kids to walk over them waiting for God to change their children when God wants them to be the parents they're called to be! If you know me, you know I’m not downplaying the role of prayer, patience or waiting upon God. I’m just saying that, all too often, in the name of waiting on God, we fail to take responsibility for our actions. We want God to just ZAP a situation and solve it for us! If you’re not happy with the way your life is going, you first must take responsibility. Jack Paar, the first host of the tonight show said: Looking back, my life seems to be one long obstacle course, with me as the chief obstacle. Be responsible for you. Be responsible for what you received from the Lord. Luke 12:48 For each person who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Be responsible for what you can do. It’s like the guy who complained, I’d like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice when He could do something about it. But I’m afraid God might ask me the same question! The ability to solve problems comes from the experience of facing and overcoming them. Every time you do that, you get a little better at it. But if you never try, you’ll never succeed. One difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is that successful people have learned from their failures. Second: Seek wisdom. When faced with the fact that Haman was trying to kill the Jewish race, Xerxes reacted just like us: he got angry! He blew up! Then he did something smart. Esther 7:7, The king was very angry, so he got up, left his wine, and went out into the palace garden. I don’t know about you but my first reaction to a problem is usually emotional and it’s usually wrong. If you’re upset and you sit down to send an angry e-mail, post a shameful response, or text a string of irate emojis, 9 times out of 10 it’ll be the wrong thing to do!  Xerxes was angry but instead of acting out his anger, he left his wine and went out into his gardens, maybe to clear his head to get perspective, get some wisdom. Prov.14:17 A quick-tempered man does foolish things. Prov.14:29 A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. Who do you go to when you have a problem? 56% of people surveyed go to family members, 43% go to friends, 38% go to the bible, 22% go to other books, and 16% go to a priest or minister. (ouch!) Some make things worse by going to the WRONG person for advice. Whether family, friends or a pastor, at times your closest friend is not the one to ask. 
It’s like the councilman who was just elected as mayor. He discovered that his predecessor left him 3 envelopes to be opened only in an emergency. Before long he was in trouble with the press, so he opened the 1st envelope. It said: Blame your predecessor, so that’s what he did. Things went well until he was in trouble again. So, he opened the 2nd envelope. It said: Reorganize. So that’s what he did. That bought him a few more months, but things began to unravel again and so in he opened the last envelope, the note inside reading: Time to prepare 3 envelopes. Third, Decide expediently (timely). Many have heard me speak about knowing God’s Will. I sometimes make the simple statement that God wants us to make wise, spiritually expedient decisions that will bring us peace no matter what the results. P.E.A.C.E. stands for: pinpoint the problem, examine options, advice taken, create solutions, execute wise action. Remember to listen with an open heart. Get advice from people free of vindictive attitudes, who are loyal to God, and have handled life successfully. Xerxes was assured that Esther and Mordecai would speak truth to him. They proved it. There’s a myth going around about solving problems in a godly way. Most think that having faith means that we just stand idly by, while God solves all our problems. Nothing could be further from the truth! I’ve seen people hurt as they wait around for God to do something. God desires us to have an ACTIVE FAITH, a faith that stretches us, moves us out of our comfort zones. Waiting on the Lord does not mean turn off your brain and live like a Christian zombie! We do wait for God’s wisdom & power. In other words, we do everything possible and then leave what we CAN’T do to God! God is like a rudder. He can help us better when we are moving than when we are sitting around tribulating! He has an answer to our problem, but He wants us to actively pursue it. Chinese proverb: Man who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt man who is doing it! Everything is possible with God! Xerxes gave authority for Esther and Mordecai to solve the problem of reversing an irreversible law. So, they wrote a new law! Even though the Persians were still given permission to kill Jews, the new law gave Jews permission to defend themselves. God has an answer to your unanswerable problem, but He wants to use you to discover it. Grow in grace through your problems with help from Jesus and do not avoid them.