Today I begin a new series which is taken from an edited transcript of a recent sermon I preached at Jubilee Church. Here is the video of that sermon:
I have referred quite a bit to two sources while preparing this. We’ve often said that at Jubilee, it’s as though we live between the ESV Study Bible and the Spirit-Filled Life Bible. I’ve found both of those resources incredibly useful in my preparation. The Spirit-filled Life Bible summarises this book in seven acts, and I’ll refer to that. I will focus more on some of the earlier acts in this list. I can’t cover everything. But I am focussing on what this book can teach us about how we can respond to Jesus in our vocation, in our work and in all that God has called us to do.
The book of Esther is a remarkable book. It is an unusual book in the Bible because it is the only book in the Bible that doesn’t actually mention God, which is interesting. It almost reminds of when Alastair Campbell famously said to Tony Blair, “We don’t do God.” And maybe some of you are in workplaces that are a bit like that. In this book there is also no obvious appearance of God, there’s no dramatic, remarkable miracle. There’s no new doctrine that gets revealed. And it’s not focussed around the spiritual leaders of God’s people. However, God is everywhere in this book. And my ESV Study-Bible says, and I love this phrase – it says this: “Even while God is most hidden, He is still present and working to protect and deliver His chosen people.”
What we see in this book is a remarkable string of coincidences that at the time seem incredibly ordinary but were actually God working in the lives of these people. Nothing would have happened in this book if the king hadn’t got drunk one night at the beginning! It’s a ridiculous thought, isn’t it? And yet there’s this string of coincidences without which none of this would have happened. And what we see here is God using ordinary people, working together. It’s about how God can bring deliverance to His people; can bring salvation to His people; can bring remarkable affects to His people without actually them almost even knowing, at least initially, that that’s what’s happening. Remarkable things were happening. God was preparing His plans among a string of slightly strange experiences, but nonetheless not particularly dramatic. There was no writing in the sky, there was no ‘God spoke.’ Esther didn’t become Queen because God told her one day she was going to become Queen. Some Christians worry about not having heard from God. I do believe it’s right for us to pray, it’s right for us to seek God, it’s right for us to believe that God can speak to us today, but sometimes God will guide us in very ordinary, very normal ways.
As I look back on my own career, I’ve had some remarkable direction from God. But I have to say, I’m not sure if God has ever really said, “Adrian, this is the way, walk in it,” in that sense. What has happened is, I’ve found my steps being led by God. And I’ve found opportunities arise that surprised me and astonished me really. But they were so-called coincidences that God used. In fact, there were various points in my career where I thought I knew where God was heading me along – what pathway he wanted me to go along. I was pretty sure, I had decided where I thought I would spend my career and spend my life. And yet, actually, a massive roadblock appeared in my face. And I butted my head against that roadblock and it didn’t move. And I butted my head again against the roadblock and it still didn’t move. And then I’m like “Now what do I do?” And so I just took whatever it was that presented itself before me. But the remarkable thing is that God then opened some other doors that led me to the job that I do now, which I’m very pleased to have. It’s a very helpful job for me in many, many ways. But you know, none of that would have happened if I hadn’t have had those roadblocks. So I think we have to realise sometimes that God guides us in a normal way.
If you want to pay attention to just one thing form this whole series, the take-home message, the key message is this: God can use YOU in remarkable ways without necessarily turning you into a full-time church worker. Too many Christians believe that they will only have “arrived” as a Christian on the day that they begin working for a Church and give up the career that God has given them. But God can use you in remarkable ways at work! As Scripture says in Col 3:23, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men, because it is the Lord Christ you are serving.”