Rise Up Like Esther

How do you handle stress in your life? Do you binge-watch TV? Are you a stress eater? Or do you stop, pray, and read the Word?

Esther was put in the unique position of queen. She was a humble and obedient woman, and though the Scriptures don’t go into it, I think she could have been a quiet and shy young woman—one who didn’t want to stand out to be noticed but knew deep down she was special. She knew her identity was in God and not man.

As we come into the story of Esther in chapter 4, she learns there’s a plot to kill the Jews. There’s a rule that you cannot walk in to talk to the king, but instead he must call you in. Failure to follow this rule can result in death. Mordecai wants Esther to help the Jews, but Esther cannot go into the king on her own. She is in a difficult and stressful situation. Take a moment and put yourself in her position—perhaps you are right now. Perhaps you are trying to do the right thing or speak up for yourself, but you feel trapped. There isn’t a “good answer”—there is either pain for you or pain for someone else. Which do you choose?

Esther chose God. I love what Esther says in verse 16, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day . . . then I will go to the King . . . if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16, ESV). She surrendered her life and her choices to God, but she didn’t do it alone—she asked for help. She asked for her community to pray and fast for her. Doing this showed her humility, as well as her submission to God—praying for a miracle that would save both the Jews and her life. There was no “easy way out.”

How will you handle stress moving forward? I pray that you would take a moment, breathe, and realize you are the daughter of the King. Perhaps God is calling you to gather your community to pray and fast for a situation that only God can handle. Know this dear sister, only He can and only He will.

No More Excuses

“I can’t.” In youth ministry and education, I hear this phrase a lot. “I can’t read because it’s hard,” “I can’t cut that out because my hand is too tired,” “I can’t write that essay because I’m too busy,” “I can’t pray out loud because I don’t know how,” “I can’t be real with my friends because they might reject me,” “I can’t tell my friends about Jesus because I don’t know enough yet,” “I can’t help with that ministry because I’m not old enough,” “I can’t . . . because . . .” What I have found is that this phrase stems from a lack of trust. A lack of trust in themselves and in the person giving them the task and telling them they are capable. It can be really easy to get frustrated, shake my head at them, and say, “Would you just try it and trust that I know what I am talking about?” Yet, how many times has God asked me to do something and I have said the same, “I can’t . . . because . . .”?

When God called Jeremiah to speak on His behalf to the people of Israel, Jeremiah’s immediate response was, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (Jer. 1:6, NLT). God had just told Jeremiah that He had purposefully and intentionally created Jeremiah for this task. God knew him in his mother’s womb and had set him apart to do this job, but Jeremiah’s response to God was to make excuses. Did Jeremiah think that God forgot how old he was? Did he think that God didn’t take his age and experiences into account? It can be easy to criticize Jeremiah, and yet, how many times have I done the same thing when God asked me to do something?

I love God’s response to the excuses, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and I will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken” (Jer. 1:7-8). God is firm and calls out Jeremiah’s excuses, but He pairs it with a promise and a reminder. God promises to be with him and protect him and because of that Jeremiah can walk forward without fear. He reminds Jeremiah that He is Lord; who better to trust than the one who intentionally created you? The reason I love this is because God answers the doubts in Jeremiah’s heart . . . his doubt in himself, but also in the one who gave him the task and is telling him he can do it.

God calls all of us to stop making excuses and to trust that He knows what He is doing. When He calls you to love your neighbor, He knows who your neighbor is and how difficult they can be. When He is calling us to share the Gospel with and pray for those in our spheres of influence, He knows it won’t go perfectly. When God calls you to rise up and lead, in whatever capacity that looks like in your life, He knows exactly who you are, and He created you intentionally for this purpose. God didn’t focus on Jeremiah’s qualifications or lack thereof; He focused on obedience and trust. If we focus on going and doing whatever it is God is calling us into, our supposed weaknesses (young, old, experienced, inexperienced, married, single, widowed, childless, army of kids and grandkids, immigrant, eighth generation American, educated, uneducated, etc.) may very well be a part of His design for what He is doing.

The youth pastor in me also has to ask, what if we didn’t just believe this about ourselves, but also about the next generation? What would our world, our churches, and our communities look like if we empowered and raised up the youth around us with the confidence that God can and will use them no matter their age? What if instead of saying, “Not yet,” we said, “Let me walk with you and help you discern God’s voice”? Or when they came to us with issues of injustice that are troubling them, we didn’t just say, “The world is a broken place,” and move on, but rather asked, “What might God be asking you to do?” I get excited about the potential Kingdom impact this would have! Every generation empowered and mobilized in service to God, believing in the purpose they were created for. How beautiful would that be?

So let us be women who stop making excuses for ourselves and others and become women who boldly walk forward saying, “We can because God knows us, and we trust Him.”

Rise Up Like Samuel

Samuel grew up in the eyes of the Lord. He was a respectable, humble, and faithful young boy. Samuel was trained in the temple to assist Eli with the priesthood duties. He learned the roles and responsibilities quickly. Samuel listened to Eli and feared the Lord. On the other hand, Eli’s two sons were sleeping with their female servants. 

Could you imagine everything that was going through young Samuel’s mind and heart? He was away from his family, in a new environment, and had to adjust to a priesthood lifestyle. The transition of living with Eli and his sons could have brought Samuel sleepless nights, restlessness, fear, and even homesickness. These mixed emotions could have left him feeling discouraged, lonely, or even depressed, but God was with Samuel.

One night, Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord near the Ark of God. Suddenly, God called Samuel two times, but he mistook the callings for Eli’s command. He arose and ran quickly to Eli, responding, “Here I am, you called me”(1 Sam. 3:5).

Eli instructed Samuel to lie back down and sleep because he didn’t call him. Both times, Samuel didn’t realize it was God calling him. On the third time, Eli discerned that it was the Lord who was calling Samuel, so he instructed him to go lie down again and wait for the Lord to call on him. As Samuel lay down to sleep, he was attentive and quietly waited upon the Lord.

“Then the Lord came and stood and called as at the previous times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant is listening’”(1 Sam. 3:9–10).

The Lord had never spoken to Samuel personally before this. But on this night, the Lord intentionally called Samuel and conversed with him. Samuel experienced intimacy with the Lord, and God shared His plans with Samuel.  Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? In your busy schedule, are you making time to be still in the presence of the Lord? How attuned are you with the Lord Almighty’s voice and His Word? Are you praying expectantly for the Lord’s response—however long it may take—or are you distracted by the noise that surrounds you? God wants to share everything with you: His plans, purpose, promises, desires, and His everlasting grace through His Son Jesus Christ.

We live in a society where we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of distractions like smartphones, iPads, and social media. These gadgets are not making our lives easier, instead, they have the power to replace our intimacy with God. Answering God’s calling requires us to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. What comes with that calling is an obedient heart to rise up faithfully and respond like Samuel: “Here I am, your servant is listening.” Are we waiting, ready, and excited for the Lord’s call? Are you ready to be His instrument for His good works? Trust that God will lead us and empower us to do the impossible and extraordinary.

Samuel went on to be a faithful priest, prophet, and the greatest judge for the Lord and His people, the Israelites. Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. The Lord was pleased with Samuel and every word he spoke came to pass.

Rise Up and Witness

Can a man haunted by demons and living among tombs teach us something profound about our own journey from death to life? At first glance, when reading about the demoniac in Mark 5 who was healed from a legion of demons, we might not see many parallels between his life and ours. I was humbled to find we had several similarities. 

This man was living in burial caves. He was literally residing among the dead. After his encounter with Jesus, we see a drastic transformation as he rejoins other living people in his hometown. Isn’t that just what Jesus does? He brings every one of us from death to life. Before encountering Him, we are dead to sins. We know nothing of a life apart from sin. After receiving His boundless grace, we experience life. We indeed know what it is to go from death to life and from shame to freedom. 

In Mark 5:19, Jesus instructs this man, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” This man is instructed to go and be a witness for Christ. The word witness can feel intimidating, but it really is simple. It’s telling others about the evidence of Christ in your life. Jesus’ command to this once demoniac and now healed man should sound familiar to us. It parallels His command to all of us in Acts 1:8, to go out and be His witnesses. If you feel that you don’t currently have a purpose, may you be reassured that you do. Your purpose today is to tell others about the ways God has worked and moved in your life. How He has helped and healed you. Tell about when He brought hope and joy to your dreariest of days. Share how His peace persisted in the midst of your chaos. Talk about how, despite your long list of faults, His grace has never known an end. I know you can do it.

Just like this man, we each have a story of how God brought us from death to life. May we have the boldness to share it with others today. Your actions could change the course of eternity for someone else. God’s power is at work in you.