Esther shows herself to be a Strong woman of Faith (Christian), not because of the outcome, but because of her attitude. I love that phrase from Phil DuFrene, a strong Christian. Scholars sometimes speculate why the book of Esther was not named the book of Mordecai…. The general consensus: this chapter – Esther was encouraged by Mordecai, the plan to save the Jews was moved along because of Mordecai, but Esther is the one in the position in which the strength of her faith is most necessary. She had a choice, and she acted on her beliefs.
Haman and Esther both beg for their lives in Esther 7. We know the end of the story, but Esther and Haman did not. Esther lives, Haman dies on the very gallows he erected to hang his enemy Mordecai, a testament of his own arrogance. Esther is granted her life. We know the end of the story, but just suppose for a moment that Esther did die and Haman was allowed to live: does that change God’s character, his love towards Esther. Does it change Esther’s character! NO! Esther is loved because of her devotion, her faith, and the strength of her character. She leaves the outcome of her life and the life of her people to God. It’s up to God. Let go and let God.
So many words could be chosen, I chose three words that describe Esther’s admirable character. Similar words, with overlap in meaning, perhaps one of these words will stand out to you. Let the Lord will speak to you and use one of these words to bring you to the place of being a stronger Christian, to learn to let go and let God. Or perhaps one of these three words will be an affirmation that you are on the right track with God. The three words: Conviction, Confidence, Courage.
1. A woman of Conviction…Esther knows what she believes. People who are absolutely convinced of what they believe will change the world. It is only because Esther is convinced she is right that she dares approach the king with her request. She has an absolute unequivocal assurance. Three times, over two days and two banquets, the King asks Esther what it is she wants (Esther 7:1-2). She is convicted knowing she is right, knowing she has to do what she has to do.
When you have a conviction, nothing will change your mind, no circumstance, no outcome, nothing. Strong Christians are absolutely convinced in the truth as expressed in the Bible: Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, the life saving work of Christ on the cross. No wiggle room, no qualifiers, but conviction. Perhaps a bit of stubbornness is part of conviction.
Contrast a conviction to a preference. A preference is something you believe, but under the right circumstances you might change. When I lived in San Francisco in 1989, it was an amazing experience to be in the same city as the Superbowl champions. The team that year with quarterback Steve Young, and Jerry Rice, was like a machine. They were not only good, they were almost literally unstoppable. I had a very strong preference for the 49ers as my favorite team, if I would have had children I would have wanted to teach them a love for the 49ers. Sally would not cooperate with my enthusiasm, but I love her anyway. For years afterward, SF was my favorite team and the Seahawks #2, but then something happened. The league reorganized and put the two teams in the same division. For a few years the Seahawks improved and SF stunk. My preference has changed.
A conviction will not change. A conviction is not something that you discover, it is something that you purpose in your heart. A conviction just is. Convictions on the inside will always show up on the outside, in a person's lifestyle. Esther’s choices to approach the king is birthed from her convictions. To violate a conviction would be a sin. If you do not stand up for that which you know is right, if you allow the actions of your life to contradict your heart, you will experience guilt and shame…
Tell me about your faith: preference, or conviction? Tell me about the need for others to know Jesus Christ? Is Jesus a preference, you don’t really have the right to impose your beliefs on others, Or is Christ a conviction: it’s a matter of life, and others need to hear the good news.
A person who lives by their convictions, lives what they believe, will make an impact on those around them: I love this little story: David Hume, 18th century British philosopher who rejected historic Christianity, once met a friend hurrying along a London street and asked where he was going. The friend said he was off to hear George Whitfield preach. "But surely you don't believe what Whitfield preaches do you?" "No, I don't, but he does."
Isn’t that the sort of thing Esther does for us. Even when my faith feels shaky, to see Esther’s conviction lived out in her life, her choices, her actions.
2. A woman of Confidence…confidence married with conviction is powerful. Confidence is putting feet on your convictions. Confidence is a self assurance to do the right thing. We know Esther is confident because she orchestrated the entire meeting with the King and Haman. No whim, no spontaneously being led by the spirit, but step by step plan that took time to unfold. She could have had the confrontation with the king over and done the first day in a private meeting, but she had the confidence and wisdom to approach the king in a well thought plan. Back in chapter 5 she dared to approach the king and wa granted a hearing. She is so confident she dares to invite Haman to a banquet. She does not know the outcome, but she is assured and bold.
You can sway people with confidence, even with misguided ideas. My first year at UW I was in the cafeteria with a guy from my floor. Kind of a cocky guy. Suddenly he stands up and says watch this, I’m going to go over there, pick up that microwave, and carry it out to my room. So he stood up as confident as can be, picked it up like he owned the place, walked past 3-4 service people, and almost made it out the door when one security guy caught him and made him put it back. He didn’t even want the microwave, he just wanted the thrill of the experience. That’s misguided confidence. But put confidence together with conviction and that’s an unstoppable combination.
Carry yourself with confidence, an assurance of your faith. Esther is confident, so much that the king sees her conviction, he feels her confidence, he is comfortable with what she has to say, what is on her heart. Confidence puts others at ease.
I learned a lesson from my father. I am not naturally a confident person, it is something I have had to learn, am learning. I got a call when I was in high school on a farm near this end of the Halverstick before you start up the hills, they wanted me to drive the truck back and forth with empty haywagons to exchange for full haywagons. The problem was that the truck was a stick shift. I still don’t drive stick shifts. My father said, “Tell him you know how.” So I did. For several hours I drove back and forth, nervous the whole time, but trying not to show it. I brought in the last wagon, the wagon was unhitched and the last thing for me to do before calling it a day was to go park the truck. I shifted that gear, all alone in the truck, guys outside doing their thing, and suddenly the gear shift came loose and I’ll never forget holding it in my hand. I had no choice but to tell the old farmer. As I apologetically handed him the gear shift, he said, “Oh that happens all the time.”
The lesson I learned: Christian confidence is not in yourself, it is in God. That gear held by unseen forces as long as it needed to be held to get the job done, when it was finished, God let it go. Confidence is not in my ability, it is in God, and he will always provide a way. Confidence is the mark of a strong Christian. Not the sort of confidence where I know I will make the foul shot, but rather in how you carry yourself, not even always knowing the outcome, so confident that when you stand at the foul line for the winning score, you will do your best to make the shot, but win or lose, you will be able to sleep that night knowing you did your best and God is in control. Confidence as a person of faith comes through knowledge of Christ, to act in the right way because of what you believe, then leaving the outcome to God. Let go and let God.
3. A woman of Courage…
The convictions of your faith never leave you. Confidence is a way of life. Courage is acting with confidence, based on your convictions, when you’d rather not. When you are not sure of the outcome.
C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” …. It may take courage to go into a new situation and remaining firm in your conviction when others tell crude jokes or tempt you to do that which you know is wrong. GK Chesterton said, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”
What would you do? A test was conducted by a university where 10 students were placed in a room. 3 lines of varying length were drawn on a card. The students were told to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the longest line. But 9 of the students had been instructed beforehand to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second longest line. 1 student was the stooge. What would you do? The usual reaction of the stooge was to put his hand up, look around, and realizing he was all alone, pull it back down. This happened 75% of the time, with students from grade school through high school.
Courage. Esther is a strong woman of faith and courage, because she did not take the safe way out, she had a choice, and she acted on her convictions and confronted the king with her request to spare her own life and the life of the people. Christianity is not a theory, but it is a life to be lived in the world. I saw a Facebook posting this week from Pastor David Crook who has come out of retirement to be an interim pastor at his daughter’s church in Mossyrock. He posted a picture of some of the people in the church working in the church’s foodbank. He said, here is a church that spends more time each week helping those in need, than they do listening to the rantings of the pastor. Now maybe it takes courage from some people to show up on a Sunday morning, but I hope what this time together each week is a time of encouragement, a time of rest, a time of affirmation, and a time of preparation to live in the world as a strong Christian, to have the courage to speak up, or act according to your convictions when needed, to have the courage to live your faith in daily life, to risk a new direction the Lord is nudging you. Courage is needed to put into practice the convictions of what you know to be true.
Conviction. Confidence. Courage. They go together. The point is to let your faith shape the character of your life. Esther is a woman of strong faith. She knows what she believes. She is prepared. She has a plan. But She gives everything over to God. Let go and let God.