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Crunch Time

Esther 4:14 

 

Controversial basketball coach, Bobby Knight, of the Texas Tech Red Raider men's team has announced that he will not accept his quarter million dollar salary. Following his team's 74-68 loss to Baylor, the coach told the school to keep his salary. Knight said he did not feel he had done a good job and neither had the team. In a news conference the Monday after the game Knight said, "I just feel like I had a product, and it broke. You shouldn't have to pay for it." 

The Red Raiders finished the season with a record of 16-11. They were 10-1 before they began play in the Big 12. The team faltered in the second half of the season going 6-10 against league opponents, including a 2-8 record in games decided by nine or fewer points. Reflecting on the season, Knight said, "You heard me talk after games all season long about missed opportunities..." In other words, they came to crucial times in the game-crunch times, and they choked. (Fresh Illustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Crunch times are defining moments. Esther 4:14 was a defining moment for Esther-something her cousin Mordecai reminded her of. "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"

Up until this point, Esther's was a Cinderella story. After 70 years of exile, God's people were free to leave the land of their captors and return to Jerusalem. 50,000 Jews returned with Governor Zerubbabel's blessing to aid Ezra & Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls and the faith of the city. For whatever reason, like the majority of Jews in Persia and Babylon, Mordecai & Esther chose not to return.

The book of Esther begins with a drunken king summoning his wife to dress in her royal attire and parade her beauty before his friends. Queen Vashti refused to leave her guests she was entertaining and become a part of the King's debauchery. As I read the story, I think the King was out of line and his advisors should have told him so. But then again, I'm reading it from the perspective of our culture, not his. The advisors told him to issue a decree banishing the queen from his presence and for him to find a better woman to be queen. That's exactly what the King did. He sent out a letter that included these words, "every man should be master in his own house." I don't know what those words remind you of, but when I read those words I flash back to black and white images of Jackie Gleason proclaiming that he is the king of his castle. 

The King also began a search for the most beautiful, young woman in his kingdom to become the queen. If they had TV in those days, I'm sure the quest for a new queen would have been a great reality TV series, don't you think? Do you think the nation would have tuned in to see "Who wants to marry a King?"

Mordecai heard about he search and brought his cousin to vie for the King's affection. (He'd been raising her since his uncle and aunt died.) She was careful to follow her cousin's advise and did not reveal her heritage to anyone. She went through the twelve months of preparation to see the King, just like the other women, but unlike the others, she was not sent away the next day to the concubine quarters-Esther became the queen.

Even after becoming queen, she did not reveal to anyone that she was a Jew or that Mordecai raised her, but she did stay in casual contact with her cousin. When Mordecai discovered a plot against the King's life, he told Esther and Esther told the King using Mordecai as the source of the information. The king foiled their plot and hung them on the gallows.

So all is well, right? Not exactly. The King promoted Haman to an exalted position and commanded all the servants to bow and pay homage to Haman whenever he walked by. Something Mordecai was unwilling to do on religious grounds. Haman's anger was so great against Mordecai that he wanted him and all his kind killed. He had the King's ear and was able to convince him to sign the decree for the eradication of the Jews.

When Mordecai heard about the decree he was heartbroken. As was customary in his religion, he dressed in sackcloth and ashes and lamented in front of the King's gate. His cry was echoed throughout the kingdom as the news spread about the massacre that was to come. When Esther's servants told her about seeing Mordecai lamenting, she sent garments to him for him to put on, but when he refused, she sent someone to find out what was wrong with him. Here's what happened: I'm reading from the New Living Translation of Esther 4:7-14 "Mordecai told him the whole story and told him how much money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. [8] Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa that called for the death of all Jews, and he asked Hathach to show it to Esther. He also asked Hathach to explain it to her and to urge her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people. [9] So Hathach returned to Esther with Mordecai's message. 

[10] Then Esther told Hathach to go back and relay this message to Mordecai: [11] 'The whole world knows that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him in more than a month.' [12] So Hathach gave Esther's message to Mordecai. 

[13] Mordecai sent back this reply to Esther: 'Don't think for a moment that you will escape there in the palace when all other Jews are killed. [14] If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. What's more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this?'"

Esther had learned a lesson from the last Queen-you come when the King calls, and you don't come at any other time. She was in a real pinch. She could remain silent and allow the slaughter to commence and hide behind her robe and crown, or she could risk saying something in a hostile environment to provide a means of salvation for her people, but if she did so, she would be risking her own life. In other words, it was crunch time. 

What will she do? What will happen to her people? Will she speak up? Or will she remain silent. Her decision will have real consequences for her people. 

OK, it is time for a gut check this morning. What would you do? Take a look at this video about a place where people face these kinds of questions every day.

-video 

Last summer I interviewed one of our missionaries to China who is very familiar with it's church. She told me about a Christian friend of hers who was attending the "three self" church. Three self stands for Self governing, self supporting and self propagating-it is the official church, the government-controlled church in China. Unfortunately, the pastors of these churches are usually not Christians and are placed in the position so they can identify Christians in the congregation and report their activities to the government, resulting in persecution that includes getting fired from their jobs or even jail time. 

According to the missionary, the pastor identified her friend as a true believer and was beginning to report her to the authorities. It looked like she was about to come under persecution, so they began to pray for God's intervention. Soon after they began praying, the pastor was fired and then turned to the woman she was trying to destroy for help. What should she do? Should she take a chance that the ex-pastor was sincere? Or should she remain silent? Could this just be a ploy to get firm evidence of her faith, or did the ex-pastor really want to know about walking with the Lord?

Today, the ex-pastor is walking with the Lord, with the other believers in the underground church in China- a church that is growing daily. According to the Commission Magazine, one Christian woman in Northern China wrote the teachers of an evangelism class that she took that she could not return to take the second part of the course. She reported that in the ten months that followed the first class she led over 4000 people to Christ and helped establish 60 churches. (Fresh Illustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

One woman faced persecution, but because of the prayers of a Missionary, was able to bring her enemy to faith in Christ. Another woman received training and is watching God save souls and establish churches in an unprecedented way. Whether the result is one person or thousands the truth remains, when it came to crunch time, both of them delivered.

Tonight we'll continue in our study of Esther to see what she did at crunch time. The consequences most of us face for speaking are not as dire, yet there are consequences for going public with our faith. How are you handling crunch time? 
 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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