This is a further post in my series on the attitude of the Christian to work. Other posts in this series and the sermon itself are also available here.
Looking for your moments
So far we have seen that we’re firstly called to be humble and submissive at work. Secondly we are to be identified with the world but not the same as the world. And Jesus was the perfect example of this. He was the perfect example of a missionary. He infiltrated a hostile world. He laid down his powers and actually, like Esther He didn’t reveal His true identity. And He told people not to tell when they found out. He laid aside heaven and became a man for us and He was always talking about this final point:
Jesus was looking for His time to act, which really brings us to my final point this morning, and that’s this — Act 4 of Esther and on point us to the dramatic way that God can use an ordinary person. Mordecai gets exalted, Esther plans a banquet, Haman plots to destroy Mordecai, Haman is forced to honour Mordecai, Haman gets hanged, Esther discloses her identity and exposes Haman, and the Jews as a result are saved. It’s an interesting point and then the feast of Purim that the Jews still celebrate today gets established. And finally, the king decides that Mordecai would be a good prime minister.
And you and I need to understand that that there are sometimes ‘moments’ that God has for you. ‘Such a time.’ You know what Mordecai says to Esther? He says “Maybe you became a queen for such a time as this.” Divine appointments people sometimes call them. Every now and then a significant opportunity presents itself to an individual to make a big difference. And sometimes it’s YOU! It’s not ‘the church should do something’ it’s ‘I can do something!’ It’s not ‘someone else should do something’ it’s ‘I can do something’. Often great things can happen in an instant, when the right person is in the right place, at the right time and does the right thing.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes we don’t even realise the impact that we are making at that moment. I had a great example of this, this week as I was preparing for this talk. I was so surprised – I suddenly got a Facebook message from a nurse I worked with around 8 years ago. And this nurse said ‘Look, I don’t know if you remember me…’ (I did, as it happened) ‘..but I still remember what you wrote on a card, I think there had been a death and we wrote a card but I still remember what you wrote, and Adrian, I live in such and such a place now. I think I need to go on that Alpha course that you recommended me to go on.’ Something like 8 or 9 years on. I don’t remember writing that card. I don’t even remember having a conversation with that person about Alpha. I wouldn’t like you to think that I do that with everyone I work with. I don’t. Sometimes the opportunities are not there. But you know, that little moment that probably only lasted a few seconds, several years ago, potentially still having an impact in that person’s life. It’s a wonderful thing to realise that whilst you don’t have necessarily tell everyone that you’re a Christian, or preach the gospel to everyone, there can be those moments when God takes you or uses you, either for the extension of the kingdom or sometimes for influence to change a whole nation like Esther did.
Some people will look at that and say, ‘Oh, it’s just about luck. That’s what it is. That’s how people succeed at work.’ But the truth is that, I think it was Tiger Woods who said, ‘The more you practice, the better your luck is.’ And life is about, what looks like luck often. Let’s be honest. We call that divine blessing, but actually it’s about making the most of the opportunities that come to you. And that’s what we need to learn to do. They did this here – Mordecai fasts, and so did Esther. Presumably that includes prayer although it doesn’t say that. And as a Christian, we should pray, even for our workplace. When we face one of these challenging situations, that’s a good time to pray. But we pray as though it all depends on God, but we act as though it all depends on us.
Sometimes people look for magical moments to just come out of the sky for you. Can look a bit like that, BUT Esther had prepared herself for this moment.
Don’t miss the opportunities God gives you. Don’t miss them. we may stop God using us, but we will never frustrate ultimately God’s purposes.
Sometimes there can be a moment that is so important that you need to be willing to risk everything for that moment. And that’s literally what Esther did. I love the honesty as the writer records her initial reluctance, then as Mordecai says, “Look if you don’t you’re dead, so you may as well.” She laid down her life, effectively for others. Remind you of anyone? Jesus laid down his life. And true beauty is about self-sacrifice. We lay down our lives for our friends, for our workmates. If there is nothing you are willing to risk your life for, I worry about you, if you are even truly alive.
I love what one missionary said about this. He was being told as he was preparing to go and a good friend of his was saying ‘You can’t do it’. People were saying ‘It’s too risky, it’s too dangerous’. And he says, “Amongst many who sought to deter me was one dear old Christian gentleman whose crowning argument was always, “The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals.” And at last I replied, “Mr Dixon, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms. I confess to you that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms. And in the great day, my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours, in the likeness of our risen redeemer.”
So brothers and sisters, don’t be afraid to take risks for God sometimes. Don’t do it recklessly. Esther was wise. Notice she doesn’t go straight in there and say ‘Excuse me, great king. I know I’m not supposed to be in your presence, but you need to save my people.’ No, she goes in and invites the king to a feast. It’s the ultimate sales lunch! If you’re a salesman you can study what Esther did. I mean she was wise. She was winsome, she says, ‘No come and eat with me.’ Looking for the right time to speak. Sometimes that’s so important. People go barging into a situation to try and fix it and muck it up. Sometimes it’s better to build on the favour that is already there and you’ve got a further goal.
Bob Roberts puts it this way about his life’s ministry and it’s interesting he says, ‘Look, my goal is to get a hearing with everyone I can.’ Don’t you love that? ‘To get a hearing’. That’s a great goal to have at work – to get respect from people so that you will have a hearing. Being helpful to your boss is despised in some work places but it is just enlightened self-interest. And here Esther she gives a feast to her boss. She honours her husband she says, ‘You know, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to make the best of this.’ And she does it, and then of course, God intervenes. The king can’t sleep. He reads the record of his rule and he recognises that he’s forgotten to honour Mordecai. Why would you row with the one person who can fire you or in her case have her killed!? Draws the interest and doesn’t close too soon!
A secular person might read the book of Esther and see just a combination of wisdom and good fortune. A Christian will read this book and see the hand of God guiding. Do you want to run your own life and career or allow God to direct? Give your life to Jesus and let him into your career. He will “ruin” a few careers by calling you out to the church but make others! But being with Jesus is no sacrifice. Maybe you can be like me and serve God but still have your career. God could actually expand your career, give you great influence. It really doesn’t matter, because it is his to do with as he chooses. Or it should be. Are you God’s secret agent in this world? Are you serving Jesus at work?