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Jack Graham - For Such a Time as This

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    Jack Graham - For Such a Time as This

Happy Mother's Day and welcome to Prestonwood, and this is our time now to open the Word of God and to share once again a story of fearless faith. And this time it is the story of Esther. So take your bible, turn with me to the book of Esther. The story of Esther is a story of a woman's courage. A beautiful woman chosen to be the queen of a nation, a Jewish girl, who rose to the pinnacle of power in Persia. There's something very interesting about the story of Esther as described in the bible. There is not one mention of the name of God in the story of Esther. In all ten chapters of Esther, not one mention of the name of God. There's not a divine title or pronoun that refers to God in the entire book. Amazing isn't it? And yet, though His name is never mentioned, His presence is pervasive in this story. His providence is in this story through and through.

What is providence? Providence is the invisible, invincible hand of God moving in history, moving in the destiny of nations, moving in the destinies of men and women, the hand of God. And the fingerprints of God are all over this story of Esther. It is remarkable, also the book of Esther, because it is one of two books in the bible that bears the name, the title, the name of a woman, the book of Esther and of course there is the book of Ruth. So on this Mother's Day, what a day to celebrate women of faith. And this woman in particular is a great woman of faith. The bible tells us that God chose the people of Israel to be a light to the nations. That God made a covenant with the nation of Israel. He birthed them and gave them a life and gave them a land. And this has been an eternal covenant with God. And throughout the centuries, from the beginning of Israel's history to this very day, there have been efforts to exterminate the Israelites, to kill off every Jew in the world.

It wasn't happening just with Hitler but it's been happening through the centuries. But what we've seen, throughout history, is the plan of God through His people Israel, the providence of God, preserving and protecting His people. God blesses those who bless Israel, according to the bible, and God curses those who curse Israel. And so God preserves and protects and provides for His chosen ones. And let me remind you in Christ you are chosen in Him. And you are a part of the new covenant, the everlasting covenant, so God's providence is working in your life as well as a believer, guiding and guarding you, protecting and providing for you. Providence means that there are no accidents with the Almighty. God never wakes up some morning to say "what am I going to do next. What am I going to do about this situation". No God has a plan. God has a purpose in every life, and that includes your life.

Think about it. The Lord of Heaven and earth. The God of the galaxies. The ruler of the universe. The one who governs the destiny of nations. That great God guides and guards the lives of those of us who trusts in Him. When we trust in Him we can count on the fact that His hand is moving in our lives. Life is not a series of incidents and accidents. We are not controlled by circumstances. I know right now it seems like we are shut in, shut down, locked out because of circumstances. We are not. Don't you know that in the midst of all these circumstances of the COVID 19 and all the rest, that God is working out His plan. This didn't catch God by surprise. It caught us by surprise. But God knows what He is about. And we see this principle of providence, this great truth in the bible played out in this dramatic story of Esther.

The key passage, the heart of the entire book, is found in the fourth chapter. And I am going to read this scripture but before I do, I want to set it up just a bit where, I may be catching some of you up on the story for the first time. Esther becomes the queen of Persia, and though she is Jewish, she does not identify herself as Jewish. Until the day came when her foster parent, Mordecai, a godly man, a devoted man, uncovered a plot by this hateful Haman, this horrible Haman, he uncovered this plot to destroy the Jews. So he sent word through a messenger to Esther that it was now time for her to identify herself, and to go to the king and to plead the case for the preservation and the protection of the Jews. Maybe you've heard of the laws of the Medes and the Persians, which means the law of the Medes and the Persians something is set and is forever set.

So for Esther to go before the king, who has made a decree, based on the plot of Haman, that all the Jews would be killed, she now is challenged by her relative to go into the presence of the king, and take her life at risk, her very life to identify herself as a Jew. And of course when she hears this word is frightened. We're talking about being fearless these days. And we often face fearful conditions and circumstances in life. Things that frightened us. And any human would have been frightened as she was frightened at this point. And so Esther sent back word to Mordecai and said "you don't understand exactly what you are asking here. It may be too much. I would be taking my life and putting it on the executioners block, if I do that". And so Mordecai sent word back to her, I guess if he was doing it today he would be texting her. But he sent to a messenger and here is what he said, and here is the heart of the story of Esther, are you ready?

Verse 12: "And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise from the Jews from another place". In other words, Esther, this is your opportunity. If you don't do it, don't think you are going to be protected. But the fact is God will deliver His people in another way. God uses whom He chooses. And He is chosen Esther. And he says so don't keep silent. He said, verse 14, "God will still deliver the Jews, but you and your father's house will perish". Because you see it would be discovered that she had been living a lie. That she was not in fact a Persian but a Jew. (Verse 14) "So, who knows," he said, and here it is, "who knows whether you have not come for the kingdom for such a time as this".

That's the title of this message, "For Such a Time as This". Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai. This is verse 16 now, "go gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf". She calls the nation to pray, "and to fast. And do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will fast as you do". So for three days, pray and fasting. "Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law," and then listen to these words, "if I perish, I perish". She came to a place in her life when she surrendered her will to do the will of God. She came to a place in her life to say: no matter what happens to me, I know that God has raised me up for such a time as this. God works in unexpected ways with unexpected people to do unexpected things. And that's what is happening in the story of Esther. Even though Satan was working, God was working.

Have you ever wondered why Satan hates the Jewish people so much, has always tried to destroy the Jewish people? Well, for one reason the scriptures have come from the Jewish people. The Word of God, the bible was given to us, Old Testament and most of the New Testament by Jewish authors. God gave the scriptures through the Jews. And then God gave the Savior through the Jews. Jesus is Yeshua. The Messiah of Israel. He is the one who has come to deliver all who believe in Him. This is the gospel. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God into salvation to the Jew first, and also to the Greek that is the non Jew. So the gospel came first to the Jew. And I often say to Jewish people and we have people who are Jewish who have joined us for this service right now. And maybe you are wondering, you're taking measure about the claims of Jesus, and what we claim as Christians.

Can I tell you that we who are followers of Jesus are following the Messiah. We have not, we're not asking for you to convert to our Gentile religion, but we in fact have turned to Christ and to the faith of your fathers. And this is what we believe. So God gave Jesus through the Jewish nation to the entire world, to be the Savior of the world. Thank God for the Jewish people. The scriptures, the savior and God has given us salvation through the Jews, salvation. In fact, the book of Romans tells us salvation is of the Jews. Doesn't mean that we're saved by practicing the Jewish religion, but it means the salvation story, the story of redemption, the bible from beginning to end, this great story of salvation came through and from the Jews. And so of course Satan hates the Jewish people to this very day. And yet God has His hand of providence and power upon His people.

When Esther originally balked at the idea of going before the king saying "it's too dangerous, I could be killed, it's too big a risk," Mordecai reminded her of her calling and the reason that God had raised her up. And so once she became convinced that God's hand was in this, though she could not see that's one of the problems we often have with God isn't it? That sometimes we don't see Him, we have not seen Him physically though we love Him according to Peter. But what we have seen is God's word and what we have seen is God's power and providence working in history and in our lives. But you know like Esther, we haven't seen it yet and that's where faith comes in. Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen". The physical world we can see, but the real world, the eternal world which is eternal, we cannot yet see. We see it through eyes of faith.

And so Esther had to get to the place where she saw by faith what God would do if she surrendered her life to Him. And that's the part that is so thrilling here in this story, in that she prayed along with people all across the Persian land, the Jews across the land of the Persians which is now Iran. And as she prayed, and as they fasted, she came to a place of surrender and sacrifice to the Lord. And after this time of prayer, and this time of surrender and sacrifice, she did what the New Testament tells us all to do, to pick up the cross, to die to self. She died to self and ultimately was able to say, verse 16, "I'm going to the king. I don't know what's going to happen when I stand before the king. If I die, I die. If I perish, I perish". Because the fact is when we die to self there's no fear in facing death.

When we sacrifice, doing what the scriptures says to live our lives as a living sacrifice to God. When that becomes the principle and the purpose of our lives, then death does not frighten us. The prospect of a king, or a circumstance, does not tear us apart. We say like Esther if we die, we die. But even when we die, we win because we are in the presence of the Lord. It's the incredible promise of God. The incredible promise that we are in the hands of God. And that God is working all things together for good to those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. That's Romans 8:28. And I tell you in the midst of all of this we are going through right now Romans 8:28 is right there where it's always been in the scripture. And that God is working, God is weaving constructively, creatively, continuously in your life and mine, who love him, and who are willing to fulfill His plan and purpose for our lives. God is working all things together for good.

You are where you are today by divine providence, by divine appointment. You're not an accident. You were knitted together in your mother's womb. Your life is a plan of God. And it is your purpose, therefore in life, to passionately pursue God's plan for your life. There are three essential days in our lives. The three most important days in our lives, if you will. One, the day you were born. And when you were born, your mother held you and celebrated your life and it was a great day: when you were born. And God knows the day that you were born, and again I say He planned it all along. You were knitted together in your mother's womb. So that's the big day, when you were born. We celebrate our birthdays. The second most important day or the second in this series of three important days, is the day you were born again. Because by our first birth, we sin, we break God's commandment, we are straying from God, we are separated from God. But when we are born again, and as Jesus said "you must be born again," then we have new life in Christ.

Have you been born again? You have been born physically. Have you been born spiritually? So, that day, that spiritual birthday in your life, when you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. So the day you were born, the day you were born again. But here it is. The third day that I want to talk about is the day you discovered why you were born, and why you were born again. When the Apostle Paul was converted, he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. He was on his way to kill Christians actually, imprison them and kill them. And he met the risen Christ. And when he saw Christ in all His glory, he was blinded by the light. And he cried out "who are you Lord"? And the Lord revealed himself. The risen Christ revealed himself to Saul of Tarsus, who became the great Paul the Apostle. But then Paul later asked another question, once He answered that question "who are you"? And he confessed Jesus as Lord, then he said "Lord, what do you want me to do"?

And that's the question every one of us needs to ask and answer today. What is God calling me to do? What is God's will for my life? That day came for Esther, when she discovered her purpose and God's plan for her life. And no wonder then she responds in courage and fearless faith. She determined, if necessary, to die for the safety and the security of her people. And so again I say, the call to follow Jesus is a call to sacrifice. It is a call to lay down our lives, to die to self. And to live in the spirit. To be alive to God. And have you come to that place in your life where you have said, "God, your plan, your purpose for me. Your will in my life, anywhere, anytime, any cost". Have you said that? "Lord, your will, your plan, your purpose for me: anywhere, anytime, any cost". And God will use you and He has a plan to use you regardless of your background, or your pedigree or lack of pedigree, your heritage, your history, your status, all of that. God's ways are not our ways. God chose an orphan Jewish girl and raised her up to save a nation. His hand was moving all along behind the scenes.

When I was in high school, I was involved. Not only was I a high school baseball player, and I loved being a high school and college athlete, but I also loved drama. So in the fall when we weren't playing baseball, I would, I would always try out for one of the school plays. And typically I would get a part and I learned to love drama and the whole thing, the scene, the staging. And to this very day I love seeing, you know, a stage play or a musical. And one of the things I often think about when you see that curtain close at intermission, maybe after the first act there's a first act, there's a second act, and then the curtain closes and there is going to be a final act. And we're all getting refreshments, or just taking a break and waiting. And while the curtain is closed and yet behind that curtain it's not quiet. I've been behind the curtain and it's typically a lot of people running around and talking and reviewing, and refreshing their lines, and staging the lighting, and staging the furniture while we're just kind of sitting out in the audience or getting refreshments.

Behind the scenes, behind the curtain on the stage, there is a lot of movement, a lot of activity in order to get ready for the big finish. Well can I tell you, that when God pulls the curtain and there's a pause in the action, that doesn't mean that God isn't working. Just because you can't see His hand, just because you're not seeing it happen right now, doesn't mean that there's not movement by the hand of God, working in your behalf, working for your family, working for your children, doing what only God can do. But here's the point. There comes a time when the curtain parts and you're on stage and it's time for you to act. It's time for you to do something. And that was the moment for Esther. She came to the kingdom of God for a certain time, a certain place, a certain thing. And she was willing to take the risk and do what God had called her and commanded her to do.

The question is, will you? Will you take advantage of this time maybe when it seems in some ways God's closed the curtain and shut down a lot of things. And yet His hand, alive and working. Be ready for the curtain to rise, and when it does, to play your part. His governance in my life. So you see it here don't you? You see divine sovereignty, God's sovereignty, and human responsibility, working together to change the world. This is your moment. This could happen to you.

The reason that God gave you life is upon you right now. I hope you're using this time in your life to get ready for what God wants to do next. You're a mom, a grandma, and God's purpose for your life is being fulfilled. And you're a chosen woman and you're called. And God has given you love and yes leadership through your life to make a difference. It may be something small. You may not save a nation, but you can save a child's life. You can nurture a child to love and serve God who might go on to change the world. It all happens when we say "if I perish, I perish. Lord, whatever happens to me I'd do it all for you". Ask yourself how can I use my life these days to glorify God and to share Christ. To stand like light in the darkness. To stand as a beautiful star, shining in the darkness to the glory of God. To be bold. To be brave. To rise to the challenge of this day. And like Esther the shining star, that you would shine forever and ever.
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