By Mary Southerland, Crosswalk.com
"Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you” (Jeremiah 1:5, NCV).
After teaching elementary school for several years, I decided that my students would never again play any game that required children to choose teams. Why? Inevitably, the least popular or most athletically challenged children would be left standing alone, on display, easy targets for derogatory labels and ridicule.
We began choosing teams on the basis of birthday month, favorite flavor of ice cream or color of clothing worn that day. The result? Every child was chosen.
We all long to be chosen, loved by someone who sees us as we really are. Someone who recognizes our worth. Esther was an orphan, an insignificant and unknown Jewish girl living with her uncle Mordecai when she was chosen to be Queen, the wife of Persian King Ahasuerus.
Esther had reigned for only a short time when Mordecai learned of a plot to assassinate the King. Mordecai told Esther who told Ahasuerus and the guilty men were executed. The king’s life was spared, but life for the Jewish people became extremely difficult.
Haman, a very influential but evil officer in the king’s court, was promoted to the second-highest position in the land. Haman hated the Jews and convinced the King to issue a law that all people had to bow to the King, or they would be executed. That law would mean certain death for not only Esther and Mordecai, but also for every Jew who bowed only to God.
And there was one other small problem.
The King did not know that his new queen was a Jew. As Esther and her people fasted for God’s direction, Esther planned what might have been the first reveal party for the king and Haman. During the banquet, Esther revealed Haman’s plot.
Esther also revealed the fact that she was a Jew. True love won the day. The King condemned Haman to die and saved the Jewish nation. In short, God raised Esther up to save her people!
Esther made a life-changing decision to step out in faith and obey God. Because she made the right choice, she discovered her true worth in God. If Esther can take those steps, so can we.
Step 1: Understand That We Are Chosen
“And who knows, you may have been chosen queen for just such a time as this" (Esther 4:14, ICB).
Esther was chosen--not just by a King, but by God. God placed Esther in a high position of leadership at a very special time and for a very special reason. The same is true in your life and in mine.
You are no accident!
Where you are is no surprise to God.
Situational ethics is now being taught in many schools. One teacher, wanting to illustrate that human reasoning is many times wrong, gave the following situation to a class of students:
"Would you advise a mother who was pregnant with her fifth child to have an abortion--given the following facts?
- Her husband had syphilis.
- She had tuberculosis.
- Their first child was born blind.
- Their second child died.
- Their third child was born deaf.
- Their fourth child had tuberculosis.
Most of the students agreed that she should have an abortion. The teacher was quiet for a moment before responding. “Those of you who said, ‘Yes' would have just killed the great composer Ludwig von Beethoven!"
You and I were created in response to the love of God.
“I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother's body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old” (Psalm 139:14-16, NCV).
We were created in love…for love. The plan came first! God personally supervised our formation. We were created for a special purpose and with a unique plan for our lives. In other words, we were created by God for God!
“Know that the LORD is God. He made us, and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep he tends” (Psalm 100:3, NCV).
In this verse “LORD” literally means “Father” or “dearest daddy.” We were not created to be His puppet. We were created for an intimate, loving relationship with God. He created us and chose us, and just as God had a special plan for Esther, He has a special plan for you.
“I know what I am planning for you," says the LORD. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future” (Jeremiah 29, NCV).
The best plan for every life rests solely in the hands of the One who created it.
In the early days of the automobile, a man's Model-T Ford stalled in the middle of the road. No matter what he tried, the car wouldn’t start. Finally, a chauffeured limousine pulled up behind him and a wiry, energetic man stepped from the back seat, offering his assistance.
After tinkering for a few moments, the stranger said, "Now try it!" The engine immediately came to life. The well-dressed man then identified himself as Henry Ford. "I designed and built these cars," he said, "So I know what to do when something goes wrong."
God is our creator. When our lives are broken, He can heal them. When the plan falls apart, He can fix it. We not only find our strength in that truth, but we also find the core message of our calling as well.
We are wanted, loved, and cherished by God. We belong to Him. We are chosen.
Step 2: Accept the Challenge
“I will go to the king…” (Esther 4:16, NCV).
Esther certainly understood stress! When the King’s law to destroy the Jews was published, Mordecai and the rest of the Jews lost it. Mordecai told Esther that she needed to go to her husband and beg for mercy.
Esther initially refused, but with good reason. If she went to the king without being invited, she would be killed. Now that is a real test!
Like Esther, every time life delivers a cruel blow, we must make a choice. We can choose to accept the challenge, or we can refuse it and miss the opportunity it offers. Yes, I said “opportunity.”
If you are like me, when a trial comes, I tend to look for the nearest exit, hoping to avoid the pain and examination that every challenge affords. At the center of every challenge is an opportunity. Behind every problem is a purpose.
“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness--secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name” (Isaiah 45:3, NLT).
Don’t miss this truth! God has gone before us, and in every problem, every darkness and trial, has buried a “treasure” and stored “secret riches.” The only way we can discover that treasure or uncover the secret riches is to face the challenge, walk through the darkness, and confront the trial, refusing to give up until the lesson is learned and the truth gained.
When golf balls were first manufactured, their covers were smooth. Golfers discovered that after repeated use, the covers grew rough, giving the ball greater power when it was hit. Life is much the same. It takes some “rough spots” to make us go our farthest.
Jesus did not come to eliminate our problems. He came to fill those problems with Himself. Someone once said: “When God permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps his eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat.
“So don't worry, because I am with you. Don't be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you” (Isaiah 41:10, NCV).
Queen Esther came to this truth when she accepted the biggest and, I am sure, the most frightening challenge of her life. She boldly stood for truth and against the enemy’s schemes. In doing so, she saved her people and won a place of honor.
What challenge is before you, my friend? Accept it, welcome it, embrace it--and just see what your God does through it!
Step 3: Choose to Face Our Fear
“Then I will go to the king even though it is against the law, and if I die, I die" (Esther 4:16b, NCV).
The ability to walk through fear comes from trust in God alone. Esther was afraid and uncertain. She still chose to walk through her fear, ignore her own human weakness and limitations, and go to the king.
Fear is a control issue. Its opposite is trust.
Playing God is the root of fear. When we play God, we trust ourselves instead of Him. If you are struggling with fear, the question you must ask yourself is, “Who is God in my life?”
Step 4: Step Out in Faith
"Go, gather together all the Jews…and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids 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” (Esther 4:16, NIV).
A teacher was doing her best to disprove the miracles of the Bible. "Take, for instance, the crossing of the Red Sea. We know this body of water was only six inches deep," she said. A little boy immediately shouted, “Praise God for that miracle!" Annoyed, the teacher asked, "What miracle?" The little boy explained, "The Lord must have drowned the whole Egyptian army in just six inches of water!"
Paul writes, “It was by faith that the people crossed the Red Sea as if it were dry land. But when the Egyptians tried it, they were drowned” (Hebrews 11:29). Fear puts our circumstance between God and us while faith puts God between our circumstance and us. God’s people crossed the Red Sea and Esther saved a nation--because of faith.
Esther rose from the ordinary to the extraordinary and proved herself worthy because she understood that God had chosen her, just as He has chosen you. Esther was willing to accept the challenge before her. You can, too. Just as Esther chose to face her fear, you can face yours. Esther stepped out in faith and today, God is calling us to do the same.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/francescoch
Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, Fit for Life, and 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life and Joy for the Journey. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.