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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mike Novotny » Mike Novotny - Trying to Find My Purpose

Mike Novotny - Trying to Find My Purpose

Mike Novotny - Trying to Find My Purpose
TOPICS: What's the Point?, Purpose, Meaning of Life, Esther

Now, as we kick things off today with week number one, I want to ask you, it's a really simple, honest question, the question is, as you look back on your life or think about the spot where you're in life right now, have you ever felt as you looked around like it was kind of pointless? You ever had a chapter in your story where whether it was, like, the relationship that you were in, the class that you had to take for school, or something you were dealing with with your health, that you couldn't see some great reason for all of this happening. You didn't see God's explicit plan. There was nothing that so inspiring that you jumped out of bed and said, "Yes, my life matters". But instead, you looked around and thought, "What's the point of this"?

Some of us feel that for the first time when we're forced to take that required class in high school, or college. You know, the Gen Ed. And you think to yourself, as you're studying late into the night, "I am never in my entire life going to use this". Memorize the periodic table. Who needs to know all 50 capitals? So, you want to say to your teacher, "That's what Google is for". Right? But they make you memorize it. And so, you study the facts of history and you're learning like one year of Spanish even though you're never going to take Spanish, and you think to yourself, "I'm pouring out all of this effort, I'm wasting all of this time. This is pointless". Or maybe you felt that way when you had that job that wasn't exactly changing the world.

You know, you're not feeding starving children, you're not bringing the gospel to new communities and cultures. You're like, you're grinding it out. It's another overnight shift of nursing. It's another day changing tires. Just another day doing whatever you do. And it's, like, just about the paycheck, because there's no... you don't like the people. You don't love your boss. You don't even come close to liking your job. What's the, God, what is the point of this? Or this happens to some people when they become new moms. Right? You just wanted to get four things done on the list, and maybe your husband comes home, and he says, "How was your day"? And none of the boxes are checked and two new ones are added, and you feel like, "I didn't get anything done. Just running around changing diapers, putting... The kids are all alive. That's the only victory of today".

And it just feels like you're stuck. But, you know, before kids, you used to do so many things and you used to make such a difference, you used to volunteer, you used to help people, you used to have time for people, and now... If you're watching at home or you're sitting here live, grab your pen because here's the big idea we're going to learn from the Book of Esther. Esther's going to teach us that, "You are put in place for a purpose". And I mean every word of that sentence. You, not just him or her, or them, people with the different jobs, or different stories. No, you, singular, you are put in place, meaning this place, this year, this day, this time, this country, this culture, that family, that job, you specifically are put in that specific place for a purpose. There is a plan. There is a reason for everything that God does. There's something great in God's mind that if you could just see it for a second, you would jump out of bed and say, "This is the day that God has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it".

Today, my hope is to fill your heart with hope, to give you a reason to get up, a reason to live. I want to talk some of you off the edge of suicide and I want to put wind back in the sails of many others of you as I try to prove this point from the Book of Esther that you are put in place for a purpose. We're actually going to learn that through two separate stories, from two cousins who lived 2500 years ago. Let's meet Esther and Mordecai from the Book of Esther 1,2. So, here's how the Book of Esther begins, "This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign..."

We think that's 483 B.C., "Xerxes gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present. For a full," circle this in your bible, "180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. Queen Vashti, his wife, also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes. On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine," a.k.a. buzzed, "He commanded the seven eunuchs who served him to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. But when the attendants delivered the king's command, Queen Vashti refused to come". "Hey, you guys," Xerxes slurred, "You guys, see my hot wife".

Some Jewish scholars actually think the Hebrew of this verse means that he wanted her to walk into the party wearing only her royal crown for she was lovely to look at. And Queen Vashti with courage and character says, "Honey, uh uh. Hard pass". And she keeps partying with her female friends, which made the men freak out. I mean, King Xerxes is mighty Xerxes. He rules 127 providences, but what happens if the word gets out that even though he rules continents from India to Africa, he cannot keep control of this one woman that he's married to? He's embarrassed, furious. And the men of his Royal court start to panic. Here's what they think. If word gets out that a woman can say "no" even to the king, what do you think our women are going to do? Right? In their chauvinism, they could hear, already a million Persian wives saying to their husbands, "Listen honey, King Xerxes doesn't get everything that he wants, and you're no Xerxes".

And so, they come up with, it's bad. Bible records it, doesn't endorse it, a very, very sexist, sexist solution. They say to King Xerxes, "Punish her, make an example out of Vashti. Kick her off the throne. Rip the crown from her head. Never let her eyes even see you again. And then, publish a decree in every language of all 127 provinces that women must submit to their husbands. That men rule in their homes. Let Vashti be the example that gives us control today and forevermore". And Xerxes, because he's a bad man, agrees. Vashti gets the boot. All the women are told to sit down and be quiet, and that's the end of Esther 1. Fast forward four years. When Esther 2 begins, Xerxes has already tried to avenge his father in Greece. He's lost to the 300, and he's come back home with his tail between his legs. His mighty party of military power did not work. And he actually sees Vashti's empty throne and gets all these feelings.

The Bible doesn't say if he was angry, if he felt regret, or embarrassment, or shame, but his personal attendants notice that something's wrong with the king as he's looking at that old throne, and so they come up with an idea. And the idea, in fact, the idea is so, so sexist that it makes all the other sexist ideas seem very, very not sexist. Here's what Esther 2 says, "Then the king's personal attendants proposed, 'Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.' This advice appealed to the king," shocker. "And he followed it".

You see, do you hear what they're saying? "Hey, King Xerxes, let's create a whole new branch of the government. You appoint commissioners, and their only job will be to look for very, very attractive women. From India to Africa. Every culture, dialect, tribe. We'll find all the most beautiful women the world has to offer, we'll bring them into the place, and we'll let them spend an entire year trying to go from beautiful to beautifuler. All access pass at the Royal Spa. And then, how about this King Xerxes? One by one, every night, we will bring one of these women to your bedroom, she will enter, she'll leave in the morning before breakfast, and the one that pleases the King can become the new queen". Like I said, it's like The Bachelor, but not suitable for work. He doesn't have to date them, he doesn't have to love them, he doesn't even have to know them. They just have to sexually please him for one night.

That's how you become the new queen of Persia. This advice appealed to the King. And right in the middle of that, and have you heard a more sexist, sinful, pagan, perverted story? Right in the middle of that total train wreck of a time in history, guess who steps onto the scene? Esther. Chapter 2 says this, "Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. When the king's order and edict had been proclaimed, Esther also was taken to the king's palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so".

Some of you know the story of Daniel in the lion's den or the three men in the fiery furnace. When these guys were in the exact same situation, in a pagan empire, under a pagan king, they stood up and said, "You can feed to the lion, you can throw me in the furnace, but I'm going to stand up for the God who saved my people and forgave my sins". But Esther, I mean, is she taken, trafficked? We don't know how willing she is in this process, but we do know she doesn't say anything. I mean, Esther and Mordecai don't pray about it. They don't call upon the name of God. They don't fall down and worship and ask for his wisdom and guidance. God doesn't show up. Does that tell us something about their faith? And kind of fascinating, their very names, Esther and Mordecai, seem to be connected to pagan gods.

The name Ishtar sounds like Esther, and Ishtar was a pagan goddess. The name Marduk sounds like Mordecai, he was a very popular pagan god. I mean her real name was Hadassah, a Jewish Hebrew name, why didn't use it? She wanted to cover up who she was? Was she living like the people of the world? We have so many questions about who these people are. But here's what you need to know, in the middle, maybe of their own messy spiritual situation, in the middle of this messy, pagan empire, God was up to something. Because Esther didn't just get picked to be part of the show, she got King Xerxes' single rose. Esther 2 says, "Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti".

And I think you'd agree the story is disturbing. It's messy. It's sinful. It's evil. And yet, in the midst of that, you don't know this yet unless you know the rest of Esther, God was putting her in place for a purpose. God was using, while he was not condoning, but he was using even the sins of these sinful men to work out something behind the scenes for their good. It might have seemed just like crazy odds that this Jewish girl ends up sitting next to the king on a pagan throne. It may seem crazy that she just happened to be there at the right moment as we're about to hear, maybe God has put you here for such a time as this. But God put Esther in that place for a purpose. And then, he did the same thing with Mordecai. Our second example today is much shorter. Just one paragraph, but let me read it to you.

End of Esther 2 says, "During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king". The God who controls all things put Esther in place for a purpose. The same God who controls all things put Mordecai in place for a purpose. And the same God who does not change put you in place for a purpose too. I don't know what that purpose is. I don't know why you sometimes feel stuck in a boring place or you're struggling in a very painful, I don't know why God let's the specific, hard things happen to you that have happened to you, but I do know this, that God puts people in place for a purpose.

If you're caring for an aging grandparent or parent and you just, you're not getting as much done as you used because it's so time intensive, and mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa, they forget the things they say, they might even forget your name, you might think this is pointless. God put you in that place for a purpose. You might think you're just sitting in a nursing home, or sitting in a cell and it's totally random. No, no, no. There is, I don't know it, you don't know it, but God puts you in that place, you might think it's an accident that you are here on this Sunday, but there are no accidents and there are no coincidences. There's just providence and sovereignty. There is a God who knows everything, controls all things, and determines the very times and places where people should be. And what are the odds that you would be here today?

Out of all the Sundays, all the churches, all the places you could be, all the weekends you could come or not come, what are the odds that you and I are sitting in this space together? But God puts people in place for a purpose. Before you get mad at God, before you question him, before you throw up your hands, before you walk away, believe what the Book of Esther is teaching us that God puts us in place for a purpose. There's a passage I want all of you to memorize as your homework for this week. My pastor made me memorize this as a kid, and I'm glad he did. It's just a one verse summary, I think, of the whole book of Esther, this thrilling 10 chapter story distilled down into a single verse.

Here's what it says, Romans 8:28, says, "And we know," Right? I got this up here in my head, in my heart. "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose". In all things, believe that God is working for the good, for your good. Now, here's the deal, I'm not a prophet. I don't know, I won't claim to know, you know, why didn't God step in when you were a kid and those things were happening to you? Why did God let the marriage fall apart? Why did someone you love die too young? Why are you battling cancer? Why does your kid have special needs? Like, there's no specific answer in the Bible that I could relate to you today.

But there are three categories I want you to think about that maybe this is my purpose. I want you to think about protection, I want you to think about prayer, And I want you to think about people. Right? Maybe you're going through this right now, maybe you're in that stage where you feel stuck because of protection, or prayer, or people. Let's talk about protection. Maybe you're stuck in this, like, boring, not exciting place because God is trying to protect you from something that you could not have handled. Right? Maybe God knew if you would've stayed on, like, the interstate of success, you would have smashed into some temptation that would have messed you up bad. And so, he put up the construction barriers and he took you on the detour.

Now, you're stuck just staring at the red lights and you think, "I wish I could be back there". Maybe God is protecting you. Some of you know this. When I was second grade, going to school up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I prayed passionately almost every day for a girlfriend. And in second grade, I did not get a girlfriend. So, I repeated the prayer in the third grade, and the fourth, and the fifth, and I graduated from grade school with a sum total of zero girlfriends. Middle school, that was a fresh start, right? New me, new wardrobe, new school. So, I kept praying. Sixth grade, "God, I'm even going to suggest a couple of names for you to consider". And I got through sixth grade without ever holding a girl's hand. And then, I got through seventh grade without ever kissing a girl. Then, I got through eighth grade without ever going on a date with a girl. But then, high school, right, high school's a different story. Boys get more interested in girls, girls get more interested in boys. This is my time, right?

So, I get to 9th grade and there's no girlfriend, and then 10th grade, and there's no girlfriend. And then 11th grade and there's no girlfriend. And then I become one of those really inspiring super cool dudes who plays tennis and soccer and has never held a girl's hand, and never gone on a date, never kissed a single girl. And it's funny looking back, right? I mean, I'm happily married, 19 years in. There's a happy ending to that story. But here's what I think about. I know from my own, you know, personal struggle with pornography for a lot of years, that resisting sexual temptation was not my strength. What would have happened if a spiritually less mature Mike had had a girlfriend? And the woman that I first fell in love with, Kim, who became my wife, was so strong in her faith, with such good boundaries for the will of God, that, we weren't going to cross that line as a couple.

What if I was with someone that didn't have those boundaries? Like, I don't want to be the dude, did you know this? My senior prom while everyone was dancing with their girlfriends, I was watching Star Wars with my friend. Super cool. Wow. That's awesome. Right? I mean, was God protecting me from something? Would I be here as a pastor? Would I have been with a girl, gotten her pregnant, gone down a different direction? I don't know. But I know it's very, very possible that God had me in that place for a purpose. He was protecting from myself and is it possible he's doing the same for you? You wish you had the job. You wish the cancer would just be gone. You wish you'd get back to life. You wish whatever. What if God who sees it and just knows and He's saying to you, "No, I love you. I don't want that to happen to you. You're my son. You're my daughter. I'm going to protect you, and so you can't hear my voice but I'm saying 'No' to this for your best interest".

Protection. Or maybe it's prayer. One of the most powerful things according to the Bible that you and I could ever do is pray. When we pray in Jesus' name, mountains move and God works miracles. But do you know the one thing that busy, successful, and happy people often don't find time to do? Pray. That's my struggle, right? You're just running. You have so much stuff. You're running at work. You're connecting with friends. You're playing sports. You're running the kids to 7000 different sports things. It's not that you don't love prayer, just that, man, when you get to bed at night, your eyes are closing before your head even hits the pillow. What if God sometimes put us in places, slower, less successful places, so we would have time and space to pray?

What if the most good happens in the world not because movers, and shakers, and rich, and powerful people, but people who are stuck in a nursing home or on disability at home, struggling with a job, who have way more time than the rest of us, and they take that time, they leverage that time to pray for the church in Jesus' name? What if God is clearing out your schedule for the purpose of prayer? I don't know but I do know that God puts people in place for a purpose. Or my last suggestion. What if he puts you in that place for a person? Maybe you're memorizing the historical facts and the required class. "What's the point of this"? Maybe the point of this isn't this. Maybe the point of this is him, the guy who's sitting next to you who got burned by the church and he thinks it's just all about hypocrisy, and money, and whatever.

What if God, like literally, had your seat assigned next to his so you could break his stereotype that Christians are just super judgy people who think they're earning their way to Heaven because they're so much better than everyone else? What if God, like, puts us in hospital beds, puts us in jail cells, what if God puts us in families, and neighborhoods, workplaces, volunteering with people that we don't love, we might not even like but he put us there for a purpose to love them and let our shine in front of them, to pray for them, know them, be there for them, listen to them? What if the point isn't the degree or the salary? What if it's just literally that one person? I don't know. Does God have you there for protection, for a prayer, for a person? I do know this, You are put in place for a purpose because in all things God works for the good. Let's pray:

Oh God, it's so beautiful to know you're not just a compassionate but weak God, you're a God with a huge heart and you are a God with mighty power. That you're not just sad for those of us who've struggled, you're not just a good human counselor or a best friend, you're the God who can do something about it, and even flip it for a greater good. You did that father with the betrayal of Judas and the cowardice of the Pharisees. You used that for the forgiveness of our sins when Jesus ended up on the cross. And you're doing the same thing today. I'm asking you to send your Holy Spirit to give us faith to believe the things that we have just heard. And the Devil would love love to use our pain to pull us away from you, to make us give up on church and close our Bibles, and stop praying. He would love to use that divorce, that tragedy, that confusion so that we have no more faith left in our life. God lead us not into that temptation but instead deliver us from that evil so that we believe even now, even this, even me, I'm put in place for a purpose. God, we pray for a big, great faith like that, that trusts you, that believes you're a God who can always be trusted, because you're the God who gave us your first and your very best, the God who gave us Jesus. We pray all these things with confidence and hope, and we pray them in Jesus' name. Amen.

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