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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mike Novotny » Mike Novotny - When Doing Right Is Risky

Mike Novotny - When Doing Right Is Risky

Mike Novotny - When Doing Right Is Risky
TOPICS: What's the Point?, Esther, Courage

So, way back in 1953, a 24-year-old guy, Atlanta native stood at the altar, look the love of his life in her eyes and vowed to love her deeply until death would do them part. Just a year later, in the mid-1950s, this same young man received a call into ministry and began a really promising career as a pastor in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Just a year after that, he received his doctorate and just a few months after that he and his wife were blessed with their very first baby, a little girl that they named Yolanda. Marriage was good, fatherhood was good, ministry was good. People were interested, salivating over this young's man potential to be a pastor who could make a hug impact. But just a few weeks after everything had lined up in his life, a black woman refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus. You probably know the story of who that woman was. And maybe now your brain has put together who that new father, husband and pastor was too.

Rosa Parks was the woman who refused to give up her seat. And Dr. Martin Luther King Junior was that father, husband and pastor. And because Rosa Parks' story happened in his church's backyard, Dr. King had a choice to make. It seemed to most people that few people were better positioned to do something about the injustice of the American south than Dr. King. He was a pastor who believed that God love the world, a God who did not discriminate. He was a pastor who believed in the cause of justice as the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles said. He was a man who had the kind of mind, who could dream about a better America. And God had given him lips that could speak and stir the hearts of American consciences.

Dr. King was in the right spot. God had put him in that place for a purpose. And yet, he knew, and everyone knew that if he would step into that calling and do what is right, it would be a great risk. The racists of the American south did not just bark, they bit. In fact, they sometimes bombed, and Dr. King and his wife had a baby girl sitting in a crib at home. God had thrown him a slow pitch to do what was right, what the Bible would call, "Righteousness". But he knew deep in his heart that if he did, doing right would come with a risk. It's true though, isn't it? Sometimes, when God gives you the chance to do something good and right, something biblical and obedient, something beautiful that lasts for eternity, it's not always comfortable and it's not always simple. Sometimes, it makes your palms sweat and here's why.

I want you to write this down, if you're taking notes, if you're watching at home too. Because sometimes doing right is risky. Sometimes, doing what is right in the eyes of God, will cost you your comfort. It will make you sweat just a little bit. You'll hesitate, wondering if you should do it. Sometimes, doing right is risky. If you know a police officer or a politician, you realize this is true, don't you? I recently met a couple, I heard their story last Friday, who came from central Africa. War-torn, civil war, rebellious in fighting groups. Just carnage, mayhem, injustice. It made me realize how beautiful it is to have good police officers and a fairly stable government. But if you are a cop or if you know a cop, you realize that being a cop can be risky. You're supposed to wear a bullet proof vest for a reason.

Confronting injustice, arresting people who are breaking the law comes with a risk. In fact, you know what else comes with a risk? Is reporting the officers next to you who are not standing up for the cause of justice. Being a good police officer, doing what's right, serving and protecting, can be risky. And I don't know about you, but I would rather be a pastor than a politician these days. Even the best of them will get more hate mail in a week than I'll probably get in my entire life. Like to stand up for the values of democracy, what's good and right, and not just what's convenient for the here and now and the next election, that is no small thing to do. To break ranks with your party when they're not acting for the cause of righteousness and justice, they're just trying to win an election at any means possible.

If you're a democrat to speak against the democrats, if you're a republican, to say, "No, no, no that's not how we should be acting, like that". Doing right in the political realm is as risky as it is in the realm of police officers. Doing right in so many occupations is risky. And you know who else it's risky for? You. I bet before this month is over God will call you, he'll give you a slow pitch to do something that's right. But you will know deep in your bones, you'll hesitate to take that step because you'll feel that it's a risk. You'll be nervous about their reaction, about the results. Sometimes, what's obviously right is risky. I'll give you three examples. How about confessions, or confrontations, or invitations? It's risky to make an honest confession, I see that all the time in church. You know, Christian is struggling with this thing, but this thing is kind of embarrassing.

And so, when someone asks them, "How are you doing? How can I pray for you"? They talk about the safe stuff, alright, not the sexual stuff, not the substance stuff, not the real stuff, not the struggling relationship, not the depression, not the doubts. We just pray for like great grandma's cancer, and safe travels as the kids go back to school. I mean, the Bible's pretty clear about this, huh? Don't give false testimony, tell the truth. But when someone asks you how you're doing, and you know that a really vulnerable, transparent confession might be met with an uncertain reaction, realize that doing the right thing is risky. I've been in enough small group Bible studies here at our church to realize that everyone even if it feels safe, is hesitant to take that step.

"If these people really knew me, would they accept me? Would they love me? If they knew that I had a legal record, if they knew that I struggled with weed or heroine or fentanyl. If they knew that I'm a registered sex offender. If they knew that I look at pornography. If they knew that behind this beautiful suburban home is a family that's just struggling to stay connected. If they knew me, would they love me"? "Tell the truth," God says. But doing that, doing what's right is risky. Well, based on the decibel level in the room right now, I'm guessing you need some help with that. And that's why I'm so glad I brought one of these today. Today, we're going to continue our study of the book of Esther. And we're going to come across what I think is probably the most historically famous quote from all ten chapters of this Old Testament book.

And that quote spoken by Esther's cousin 2,500 years ago, is going to be God's nudge... Not a nudge, it's going to be his two-hand shove to try to convince you to take the risk. It's going to be God's will, God's promise that if we're going to pray after this message is done, "Our Father in heaven, your will be done," What we're saying is "God, help me do what you want me to do. Help me to take the risk. Help me not to care about my comfort, my image, my popularity. Help me to care about you and people so much that I will do whatever it is, whatever it takes, however risky it might feel". That's the goal of today's message. If you have a Bible with you or you're going to follow on up on the screen. Here's what happens in Esther 3, "After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai," Esther's cousin, "Would not kneel down or pay him honor".

Alright, so Mordecai is Jewish, he's an Israelite. Haman, it says, is an Agagite, which was like a tribe from the ancient Amalekites. And if you would read the beginning of the Bible, way back in the days of Moses, like 1500 B.C. you'd find out that when Mordecai's ancestors, Moses and his people were just escaping their slavery in Egypt, it was Haman's ancestors, the Amalekites, that pounced. They kidnapped, they killed, you know, this would be like kidnapping a holocaust survivor just when they were freed from Auschwitz. And that was so serious and bad to God, he sent a curse on all the ancient Amalekite people. Five hundred years after that in the days of King Saul of Israel, there was another foreign king from the Amalekites named Agag.

So, Agagites, you hear that in Haman's name. And King Saul the Israelites and King Agag the Amalekite fought each other too. Saul won, captured Agag and then the prophet Samuel killed Agag the ancient ancestor of Haman. And so, a for thousand years, these two people, the Amalekites and the Israelites have been fighting each other, killing each other. These like, just bad blood, two gangs going at each other's throats. And so, when Haman is exalted to the spot in the kingdom, there's a thousand years of bad blood. And when he walks by Mordecai, this stubborn, proud Jewish man says, he hates Haman, and Haman hates him back even more. In fact, when the word starts to spread that there's this Jewish man at the king's gate who will not bow the knee to Haman, Haman sees an opportunity. He has the position, he has the power, here's his chance not just to murder Mordecai, but to once and for all wipe out all of Mordecai's people. To win this one thousand year fight once and for all. So, here's what he does.

Verse 8, "Then Haman said to King Xerxes, 'There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king's administrators for the royal treasury.'"

Not only is this giant death clock counting down, he has less than a year to live. All of his people, all of God's chosen people will be dead with him. The promises made to Abraham and others about the coming Messiah, the Savior, would be cut off and never fulfilled. He covers himself in sackcloth and ashes, he mourns and wails at the king's gate. But his cousin Esther, his fellow Jew, has no clue. Apparently, she's in the palace and no one knows that she's Jewish. So, they don't bother her with this news of a genocide of some small tribe who keeps themselves separate. I picture her sitting on a comfortable couch with a servant feeding her grapes and, you know, fanning her with a palm frond, she's fine.

But Mordecai knows that Esther is the only chance, and so he IDM's her, he indirect messages her through some servant of the king. And you know, the servant runs up with Mordecai's message and pleads. He says, "Esther, you have to say something. Your husband is the king, you need to step up. You need to do what's right and rescue God's people". But Esther knows, that's a bit risky. Jump ahead to chapter 4, you'll see Esther's answer. "Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 'All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned, the king has but one law, that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.'" I've seen some of the discoveries from ancient Iran, from the kingdom of Xerxes.

And this one massive sculpture it's called a relief, and it shows king Xerxes' big, curly beard, sitting on his royal throne, He has this massive scepter in his hand. And right behind his throne, like right behind the back of the chair is a line of soldiers carrying very, very sharp objects. There's one big 'ole Persian with like a battle ax in his hand because this was the rule. There were assassins in those days who would march up to the king and then they'd stab him before they could stop him. And so, the rule was, you cannot even step into the room of the king without an invitation. Drop-in appointments are not allowed. And if you tried, if you stepped in unannounced, one of two things would happen, either the king on his royal throne would extend to you his golden scepter for mercy and spare you. Or Mr. Battle Ax behind the throne would put you on a diet and you'd end up about this much lighter. And those are the only options.

And you might be thinking, "Well, Esther, you're his wife. I mean, he picked you. You're the winner of the Persian Bachelor, it's going to be fine". But Esther points out to her cousin, "It's been 30 days since I've even seen my husband". It's probably proof that she was more of a trophy wife to him than the love of his life. And so, if one of the many, many women in the harem that he's sleeping with walks into his presence, what will happen to her? Will it cost her everything? Esther hesitated because doing what was right was risky. But in that moment when she sends word back to her cousin, Mordecai, "I can't, I might die". This is where the movie soundtrack starts to swell, right?

And some of you know this, that what Mordecai is about to say, is actually so famous that if you looked it up on Pinterest, you could find beautiful swirly post. You could find on Amazon a t-shirt with Mordecai's words. There's like literally Christian songs, and albums, and bands, and merch that you can buy with the words of Mordecai. Because when he knew that his cousin who he loves so dearly, he had raised her like his own daughter, when he knew that she was in this risky situation, he still believed that God had put her there to do what was right.

Here's what Mordecai said, "When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer, 'Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish.'" Here's the quote, "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this"? I don't got God's playbook, Esther, but who knows, maybe you are right there for this. Maybe God stirred Xerxes' heart to pick you out of all the other women, so that you, a Jew, would be there on the very day that the king had decreed the destruction of all the Jews.

Maybe God didn't put you in a palace just so you could eat the grapes and be comforted by the fan. Maybe he put you there to take the risk, to do something dangerous, to step up into a higher calling. Maybe he put you there to do what was right, even though it was so risky. And the swell of the soundtrack must have gotten Esther's heart, 'cause it worked. End of chapter 4, "Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai, Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish". So, did the pretty queen lose her head? Come back next week.

As we continue our study on the book of Esther. You can understand why that line is famous, right? This might be painful, but this is my purpose. This might cost me everything, but God has me here for this something. And because there are no coincidences, I was at a party with the staff of our Christian school, and one of our teacher's named Jill, she told me that when she was a little girl, her father used to repeat the words of Mordecai to her every single morning. He'd wake up his daughter, you know, rub her on the head and say, "Sweetie, God has you here for such a time as this". And then, at dinner when they'd gather back together as a family, the father would ask his daughter, "So, what was your purpose"? And in between the wake-up call and the dinner conversation, her life wasn't always convenient or easy, but God always has a good reason, a good work for her to do.

And friends, the same is true for you. Doing what's right is worth the risk. I want you to write that down, so you don't forget today. If you're filling in notes in your bulletin. Write this down, "Doing right," I can't promise you it's going to work out all nice, and warm, and fuzzy, but doing right is worth the risk. If you step up, put on extra deodorant and actually do the will of God, you will not look back a year from now or an eternity from now and say, "Oh, you know what I wish? I really wish I wouldn't have done what was right". If you perish, you perish. If they judge you, they judge you. If people react defensively, they react defensively. But doing what is right in the eyes of God, is always worth the risk.

So, let me ask, are there some of you here today who for the first time in a long time, maybe the first time in forever are actually going to be honest with their confession? Have you had enough experience trying to, you know, fix this thing yourself, trying to break the addiction, trying to start a new chapter in your spiritual story? Have you learn that maybe just another prayer for the 77th time probably isn't going to work? It's time to do what's right. I'm going to leave you today with two stories and I'll say, "Amen". Number one, "Jesus". Do you think right now, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God? Do you think Jesus Christ is happy that he took the risk? Like 2,000 years ago when the father sent him to this earth, he knew from day one. Like Mordecai, he could see the death clock ticking down. He knew how he would die, he knew when he would die, he knew how painful his death would be, and yet, Jesus said, "Father, your will be done".

Saving you, loving you, giving you a spot in a place where there is no danger or discomfort. That was so meaningful to Jesus that he risked everything. "If I perish, I perish," Esther said. Jesus came into this world saying, "I'm going to perish". And he picked to perish. He chose the path where he would have to bear the cross because he loved you so deeply. And he wanted you on this very day not to live with guilt or shame, but to fall asleep knowing that "I'm good with God. No matter what happens, my relationship with God is perfect and I have a hope and a future in heaven". That meant so much to Jesus, that he risked everything. And so, he came down to earth and then he crawled up on a cross.

And then, he climbed out of the tomb on Easter morning and now forever, and ever and ever and ever, all of God's people are so grateful that our savior, our Jesus took the risk. That is our foundation and our hope, that no matter how these people react, what they say and what they do because Jesus took the risk, we always have God. Aren't you glad Jesus Christ wasn't a chicken? I am. And I'm glad that Dr. King wasn't either. When Dr. King had a chance to step up and help Rosa Parks, he took a risk and it was risky indeed.

Soon after she wouldn't give up her seat on the bus in 1956, a racist like Haman bombed Dr. King's house, thankfully his daughter was not inside. But he refused to step back. Aren't you glad he didn't? And when they threw him in that Birmingham jail, aren't you glad instead of cowering, he wrote a letter that stirred the heart of American Christians? And instead of zipping his lips about his dream, aren't you glad that he stood up and said, "I have a dream where black and white will play together just as God intended". If you could go back in history and speak to a young Dr. King, that 20-something man, would you tell him to just sit down, shut his mouth and play it safe? Nope. Because years later in history and always looking back from eternity, doing right is worth the risk. Our turn. Let's pray:

Gracious God, thanks for pushing us today. There are some situations that feel like a giant mountain to climb, but you promise us that on the other side of that mountain is something better than right now. There are people who are hearing my words right now who have been hiding a sin and it's been gnawing at their conscience for way too long. Today is their day of liberation and deliverance. There are some situations in families, God and maybe even in this church that have festered for too long, today is the day of correction, confrontation and reconciliation. And there's some people that we're going to see in the next 24 hours who've never known, they've never heard, they don't how glorious and good you are. They've never felt and tasted the sweetness of walking with Jesus. But this is going to be their time, when they hear that simple invitation. And it might lead to their conversion and eventually their glorification. So, God thanks for pushing us, thanks for being tough with us. I pray now instead of giving in to fear and worry and what if's we could be like Esther motivated by Mordecai. 'If I perish, I perish.' But I'm going to do what's right. Heavenly father, thank you that when we cower back in fear, there's grace. Thank you for all the times in our past that we wish we could redo with more courage. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all of those sins too. God, I pray that this place and we as people could be not just the most loving, but also the most bold, the most courageous, the most daring. As we pray, not just with our lips but with our hearts and with our lives, Father, your will be done. It's in Jesus' name that we ask all these things (and all of God's people said), amen.

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