Living Out Your Purpose
May 6, 2007 | Brian Bill
We’re wrapping up our series called “Facing Your Giants” today. We’ve learned so far that when we focus on giants, we stumble; and when we focus on God our giants tumble. But here’s the rub. Each time we take on giants, we also discover some garbage in our lives. Last week we established that whenever we face trouble, we must deal with rubble. This morning I want to suggest that in order to fully face down your giants, you must see your position as a platform for God’s purposes.
Please turn in your Bible to the exciting Old Testament book of Esther. The setting takes place in the city of Susa, which is located in modern-day Iran. Chronologically, the events unfold in the middle of the book of Ezra. As we pointed out last week, while a lot of Jews migrated back to Jerusalem, for some reason Esther and many others stayed behind.
Before we look at how best to live out our purpose we need to familiarize ourselves with the story. There are 5 primary characters in this literary masterpiece:
- King Xerxes: Powerful ruler of the Persian Empire.
- Queen Vashti: Woman of character and conviction.
- Queen Esther: Exhibits both inner and outer beauty.
- Mordecai: Esther’s stepfather
- Haman: The nasty villain.
This book is one of the favorites of the Jewish people and is still read out loud during the Feast of Purim, which takes place in March each year. The story is often acted out, preceded with a period of fasting and concluding with a big feast. Members of the audience are given noisy instruments to rattle, clang, and bang to drown out the hated name of Haman. I’m going to hand out some noisemakers right now and I’d like you to make a racket every time I say his name. The rest of you can hiss, stomp your feet or yell so that Haman’s name will be audibly obliterated. You have permission to be noisy in the sermon today. For some of you, that won’t be a change from other weeks. Just kidding.
The Miss Persia Pageant
King Xerxes was the leader of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth and decided to throw a party for the nobility that lasted for six months, where military plans were drawn up and wine flowed freely. After 180 days of partying and planning for his upcoming invasion into Greece, he hosted an even bigger bash that lasted for seven days. Persian banquets were known to have up to fifteen thousand guests.
While the King and his buddies were imbibing at this open bar bash, Queen Vashti had a more dignified get-together of her own inside the royal palace. On the last day of the party, King Xerxes asked his gorgeous wife to come out and parade around in front of all his drunken buddies.
When word came to Queen Vashti that her husband wanted her to appear at his party, she told him to take a hike. Can you blame her? She wasn’t at all interested in being gawked at by a bunch of crude men. This made Xerxes go berserk and he ordered her banished from the kingdom.
Let me pause here to say that while Vashti lost her position, she kept her integrity. She knew that her morals would have been compromised had she walked into that room full of drunken men. She would not cross the line because she valued her dignity.
Friend, what about you? Is someone trying to get you to compromise your sexual morals? Don’t do it. Take a stand. Hold your ground. If you’ve already crossed the line, ask God for forgiveness and make a fresh commitment to have some moral courage. It’s never too late. Taking a stand like this is never easy and it’s often controversial and unpopular and comes with some unpleasant consequences. Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship, wrote a column this week about Tony Dungy, the coach of the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts, who has taken a stand recently and is being criticized for it. After accepting an award from the Indiana Family Institute, which believes that marriage between one man and one woman is God’s plan, Dungy declared: “I appreciate the stance [the Indiana Family Institute] is taking, and I embrace that stance.” He has not earned brownie points with the “politically-correct police” and has been criticized and condemned by some in the gay rights movement, but he is standing up for his Christian convictions.
You may take a moral stand and say “no” to sex outside of marriage and be made fun of. Or, you may even be dumped for someone else. Is this easy? No, it requires some courage. Is it worth it? You bet it is. It’s much better to be virtuous like Vashti than to be sensual like Samson.
A couple years later, King Xerxes decides its time to find another Queen. His buddies tell him to hold a Miss Persia Pageant in chapter 2. Esther is entered, or actually drafted, into the competition and wins the king’s favor and becomes queen of the entire Persian Empire. I should add that she was in all likelihood a teenager and no one knew she was Jewish. We’re told that she was beautiful in form and feature and no doubt was a woman of some faith as well. It’s at this point that we begin to see the invisible finger of God at work behind the scenes.
One day, when Mordecai was sitting outside one of the doors to the king’s palace, he overheard two disgruntled employees talk about how they were planning to assassinate the king and so he sent a note to Esther telling her to warn Xerxes. Esther then told the king what she had heard, giving the credit to Mordecai. The king had the two conspirators killed and this incident was recorded in the official royal records. Keep this detail in mind because this event will come up again later in the story.
Fearing for his life, the King instituted a massive shakeup in his government and promoted an obnoxious politician named Haman to be his right hand man in chapter 3. Haman is a dark character and verse 1 tells us that he is an Agagite, also known as an Amelekite. The Amalekites were descendents of Esau and were enemies of God’s people (see Exodus 17:16). According to Deuteronomy 25, the Israelites were to remember that the Amalekites attacked them from behind as they left Egypt and were commanded to take them out for this.
we must deal decisively with disobedience in our life, or it will keep tripping us up, and even affect generations to come
As we learned in our Old Testament Journey, King Saul was ordered by God to completely destroy the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15, but he disobeyed. Because he let the Amelekite king Agag live, Saul lost his kingdom. Now, thousands of miles away and 700 years later, Saul’s sin is still causing problems for God’s people. This is a reminder that we must deal decisively with disobedience in our life, or it will keep tripping us up, and even affect generations to come.
Friends, I believe that we are living in the last days and the battle lines between good and evil, between God and the evil one will grow more distinct. Did you hear about the three Christian workers in Turkey who were martyred on Easter Sunday? It’s now come out that they were satanically tortured for three hours before they were killed. I’ve read the reports about what was done to them and can’t repeat what I learned. As I was sharing this with the elders this week before our time of intercession for the persecuted church, I told them that we can expect to see two things happen in the days to come: unbridled evil and unprecedented evangelism. Amazingly, the wife of one of these men went on Turkish TV and publicly forgave these murderers, saying, “They know not what they do.”
We are in a war, brothers and sisters. Put your armor on and be prepared for what’s ahead. Pray for persecuted believers around the world. Related to this, I highly recommend Ray Pritchard’s new book called Stealth Attack for practical ways to engage the enemy and to be encouraged in the face of all the bad news we’re hearing.
Haman was a prideful person who demanded that everyone literally bow down before him whenever he walked by. And everyone did — except Mordecai. Being a Jew, Mordecai was committed to bow only before God. Exodus 20:3-5: “You shall have no other gods before me…You shall not bow down to them or worship them…” And, he no doubt knew that Haman was an Amelekite. Mordecai’s refusal to revere really got under the skin of Haman. Knowing a bit about Haman’s heritage helps us understand why he hated Mordecai so much. When he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews who were scattered throughout the Persian Empire. Haman’s anti-Semitic feelings began to dominate him as he put together a plan for an ancient holocaust.
Haman bribed the king in order to get him to issue a decree to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews on a set day in the spring. The spawn of Satan and the offspring of Eve have been in conflict since the fall. Men like Haman and Hitler, and even the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are determined to exterminate the Jewish people.
The dice is then rolled to determine what day the holocaust is to begin. This is where we get the word “pur” or “Purim,” which literally means “the casting of lots.” When Mordecai hears about this, he stops eating and begins to weep and wail loudly. Queen Esther hears about her stepfather’s mourning and sends someone to find out what’s going on.
I see five principles from chapters 4-7 that will help us see our position as a platform for God’s purposes.
1. Be persuaded.
Mordecai pleads with Esther to use her position to take a stand on behalf of the Jews in 4:8: “Please go into the king’s presence and beg for mercy and plead with him for our people.” Esther’s initial response shows her fear. No one knew she was Jewish. And she had heard about what happened to ex-queen Vashti and knew she couldn’t just walk into the king’s presence. It had been about 30 days since they had spoken and the law stated that one had to be summoned by the king. In fact, the king could put someone to death if they did not follow the exact etiquette. There were always guards armed with axes just waiting to slice and dice anyone who approached the king uninvited.
When Mordecai heard Esther’s hesitancy, he turned up the heat and made a very convincing case in 4:13-14: “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. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
Mordecai is saying three things to Esther.
- Don’t think you’ll escape the holocaust when it happens. You’ll be wiped out just like everyone else when it becomes clear that you are one of God’s chosen people.
- If you don’t do something, God will send someone else. God could just as easily use another person to fulfill His purposes because He will accomplish all He intends, regardless of our involvement. Esther is important but she’s not indispensable.
- God has positioned you exactly where He wants you for such a time as this. Esther, this is your purpose in life! This is what God has made you to do!
It took some persuading for Esther to see that her purpose in life was wrapped up in her position. She resisted at first and then she was persuaded. Are you open to be persuaded as well?
2. Prepare yourself.
We see next that after being persuaded, Esther took some steps to prepare herself for the task in front of her. First, in 4:16 she mobilizes all the Jews in Susa to fast for three days. Notice that she doesn’t try to do this alone. She knows she needs some help. Second, she gets herself ready by fasting because she acknowledges that she must go on a spiritual journey with God and wait on Him for His intervention. Third, she determines to go into the king, but only after she is prepared. Fourth, she’s ready to pay the price if it backfires: “And if I perish, I perish.” Her fifth step of preparation is found in 5:1 when she puts her royal robes on. She probably chose the best outfit she had because she wanted to cover all the bases. These robes of royalty would hopefully remind the king that she was the queen.
Friend, make sure you take time to adequately prepare yourself spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. When it comes to living out your purpose, you must be prepared. Only time alone with God can give you the courage and conviction you need.
3. Be proactive.
After she replenishes her spiritual tank, Esther tells Mordecai that she will go into the king. There’s nothing passive about her at this point; she is willing to take a stand and put her life on the line in order to benefit others. She’s been transformed from a beauty queen to a bold and brave woman of God. You can almost hear Esther’s heart beating as she walks down the long corridor to the king’s chamber. When the King sees Esther he smiles and says in 5:2, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? I’ll give you up to half of my kingdom if you want it.”
Utilizing some wifely wisdom, she told the King that she would like him to bring Haman and come to a special banquet that she had prepared. After dessert is served, the King once again asks Esther what she wants. You can feel the suspense building as she tells him to bring Haman to another feast the next day and then she’ll tell him.
Part of living out your purpose is to be persuaded that your position can be used for God’s purposes. After getting prepared then it’s time to be proactive. Having said that, we should never force God’s hand or try to make something happen before the time is right. That leads to the next step…
4. Trust God’s providence.
By waiting to tell the king what was on her heart, several things happen behind the scenes that splash God’s signature all over these events.
Haman must have been feeling pretty important about now. He was the only one invited to eat with the king and queen two days in a row! 5:9 says that he went out “happy and in high spirits.” But, as he was walking through the palace he spotted his nemesis Mordecai at the front gate. Maybe now Mordecai would give him the honor he deserved. After all, he had just been with the royal family! But Mordecai didn’t even acknowledge him when he walked by. Haman was filled with rage but controlled himself because he knew that Mordecai and his people would soon be eradicated by the king’s edict.
When Haman got home he called all his friends together and told them about his rise to the top. About half way through his self-promotion party, he stood up on a picnic table, cleared his throat and said, “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the King to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” (5:12-13)
His wife and his friends then come up with a great idea. They encourage Haman to erect some scaffolding that is 75 feet high and ask the King to hang Mordecai from it. This is absurdly high because they wanted Mordecai’s hanging to be a public spectacle. Haman is thrilled and has some workers construct it right away. He could hardly sleep that night knowing that in the morning he would finally be rid of Mordecai the Jew.
But here’s where the plot thickens. There’s one other person who can’t sleep that night. I think they made a movie out of this called “Sleepless in Susa.” Maybe the king couldn’t sleep because of all the sounds of construction going on. This is actually a case of Almighty-induced insomnia or holy heartburn. Because he was restless and uncomfortable, he asked one of his servants to read from the official records. This would surely put him to sleep! It’s like reading one of my sermons. But, as he started to doze off, he sat up when he heard about what Mordecai had done several months earlier to save his life. He asked his servant what had been done to honor and reward Mordecai for his loyalty. He was embarrassed that he had forgotten to do anything special for him.
At that precise moment, Horrible Haman had arrived at the court so that he could be first in line to talk to the King about hanging Mordecai. Haman was summoned into the King’s presence. Haman was thrilled because he was going to get rid of Mordecai sooner than he had thought!
The King asked Haman a simple question, “What should be done for the man the King delights to honor?” Haman was certain the King was talking about him so he stuck his chest out and said in 6:8-9, “Have them bring a royal robe the King has worn and a horse the king has ridden…and have him led around the streets by one of the King’s most noble princes…” Haman was pouring it on pretty thick!
The King liked that idea and then told Haman to immediately get the robe and horse and do as he suggested for Mordecai the Jew! He couldn’t believe it! He obeyed the king but probably didn’t have a very good attitude about it. His only comfort was in remembering that all the Jews would be killed in a very short period of time.
Though God’s name is never mentioned in this book, He is everywhere evident behind the scenes. Someone has said that a “coincidence” is simply a time where God has chosen to act anonymously. He may be invisible, but He’s also invincible. His will, will be done. He brought Esther to Persia and Vashti vamooses; God gave Esther beauty so she could become queen. He placed Mordecai in the right spot at the right time so he could discover the plot to overthrow the king. The king was lazy about rewarding Mordecai and God made sure Haman was in the palace at just the right time so he could do the honors.
Let’s go on a “God-hunt” every day, looking for evidence of His leading. Expect to see Him at work in the ordinary and you will be overwhelmed at how many times you find Him. Unfortunately, we miss Him much of the time because we’re not even looking. Listen carefully. There are no coincidences with God! Life is filled with appointments, not accidents. God is at work in the intricate weavings of our fragile human decisions and His timing is impeccable. There’s one last step that is very important…
5. Proclaim your identity.
Friend, if you’re serious about living out your purpose, you must proclaim that you are a believer. We can’t live in two worlds any longer. It’s time to stand up and speak up. That night Haman showed up at the palace for Queen Esther’s banquet. Once again the King asked Esther what she wanted from him. This time she was ready. The waffling wife had become the courageous queen in Esther 7:3-4: “If I have found favor with you, O King, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life — this is my petition. And spare my people — this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation.”
Interestingly, Esther’s name means “hiddenness” but now she is coming out in the open. She’s raising the flag to let everyone know that she is a member of God’s family. The King didn’t understand until now that his bride was a believer in God and had unknowingly signed the Queen’s own death warrant! He then asked her, “Who is this man who has dared to do such a thing?” Esther calmly replied, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman!”
The king flew into a rage and went out for some fresh air to clear his thoughts. Haman then begged Esther for his life but just as the King came back into the palace he saw Haman leaning on the Queen. Persian protocol forbade anyone from coming within seven paces of the queen. The King couldn’t believe it. Haman was now trying to hit on his wife! The King exclaimed in 7:8, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”
Haman was then led out of the palace and experienced some poetic justice when he was hung on the death machine he had constructed for Mordecai! This is exactly what Proverbs 11:8 says: “The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead.” The King then supplied weapons and soldiers so the Jews could defend themselves throughout the provinces. This victory becomes the basis for the feast of Purim.
On Purpose for a Purpose
If you want to find your purpose in life, then see your position as a platform for God’s purposes.
- Allow yourself to be persuaded.
- Prepare yourself.
- Be proactive.
- Trust God’s providence.
- Proclaim your identity.
Let’s flesh this out. He has put you in your family for a specific reason. He has placed you in your neighborhood to be salt and light. He has enrolled you in the school you’re in to influence lives. You have your job so that you can communicate Christ to your co-workers. God has placed you exactly where you are for a reason. Who we are and where we are carries a heavy responsibility. The good news is that he uses ordinary people doing ordinary tasks. I like what Edward Hale has said: “I am only one…but I am still one…I cannot do everything…but still I can do something…and because I cannot do everything…I will not refuse to do the something that I can do!”
God never allows anything to come into our lives by accident
Sometimes we want to get out of our situation – our job, our school, our neighborhood – and sometimes we should. But, I wonder if we miss out on opportunities simply because we’re whining about our work, or complaining about our classmates, or hating our house, or churning about our church. Listen. God never allows anything to come into our lives by accident. Behind every circumstance we face is a greater purpose than we can see at the moment. What’s it going to take for us to see our position as a platform for God’s purposes?
Do you need to take a deep breath, say a quick prayer and speak up? He’s put you where you are to help save lives! Take some holy risks like Esther did and watch what God will do! We need more Esther’s in order to rescue a nation and a world condemned to die. We need some reckless abandon to live the life God has called us to.
I wonder if you’re ready to say today that will live out your purpose through the places and positions God puts you in. If so, would you stand right now?
John 10:10 says that the devil’s desire is to destroy. Jesus came to deliver. Haman has been defeated and destroyed. Satan tried to kill us but Jesus has conquered and we have won! Now let’s eat.