Michael Apted’s movie, Amazing Grace, features the life and works of William Wilberforce, an English politician who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Following his conversion to Evangelical Christianity in 1785, Wilberforce toyed with the notion of leaving politics and a life in the public eye. He sought council from friends, including Prime Minister William Pitt, and Anglican clergyman John Newton, a former slave ship captain, best known for penning the hymn that the movie is named after. In response to his dilemma, their on-screen counterparts state, “Mr Wilberforce, we understand you are having problems choosing whether to do the work of God, or the work of a political activist. We humbly suggest that you can do both.”
Wilberforce was an intelligent man with great passion and focus, but he was torn between living for God and living for justice. It took some time, plus the insight of his friends (friends are great at bringing fresh perspective, are they not?) to realise that his privileged responsibility within parliament positioned him perfectly to carry out the unique role God had created him for. He did not have to choose one cause or the other, they complimented one another perfectly.
How God has created us and where He has placed us is in exact keeping with how He will use us. Yes, He might call some of us into full-time ministry, but more often than not, He is calling us to bring His light into our workplaces, our colleges, our schools, our families, our friendship groups, and our neighbourhoods. He uses the skills and gifts that He has created us with to open doors of opportunity for us to serve Him and to build His Kingdom.
We need to own who He has created us to be, because, if we do not rise up to take our place in this world, we can be sure that the enemy will claim it.
You may look around and think to yourself, “why has someone not done anything about that?” But is it possible that, in fact, you are that someone? The world needs people who are ready to stand up and say, “This is my time. This is my opportunity.”
In the book of Esther, King Ahasuerus threw a feast for all his kingdom officials and commanded his queen, Vashti, to join them so he could show off her beauty. But upon her refusal, she lost her crown and the king’s aides suggested that virgins be presented to the king so that he could inspect them and select a new queen.
At that same time, Mordecai was a Jew living in Susa; a Benjaminite who’s people had been taken from Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, 117 years earlier. He had raised Hadassah, better known as Esther, his cousin, since her childhood, for her father and mother had died.
Esther was very beautiful and was brought into the palace to join the king’s harem with other virgins from the kingdom. However, Modecai warned her not to make known to the palace her Jewish heritage. Having then been subjected to 12 months of preparation, as was the custom, Esther and the rest of the harem were presented, one by one, to the king. When the king met Esther, she instantly won grace and favour in his sight, more than any of the other women he had already seen, so he duly crowned her his new queen.
Some time later, the king promoted a man called Haman to lead all the palace officials, and the people dutifully bowed down to their new leader and worshipped him. However, Mordecai the Jew did not; he would bow to no-one but the one, true God. This made Haman so furious that he set about plotting to destroy all Jews in the kingdom, not just Mordecai.
Haman was devious and presented to the king a decree to kill all the Jews throughout the kingdom and successfully tricked the king into officiating it with his royal seal, arguing that the Jewish subjects did not observe the king’s laws. When Mordecai and the people of Susa heard about the decree, they tore their clothes, donned sackcloth and ashes, as was custom in the day during a period of mourning, and cried bitterly throughout the city.
I want to pause here for a moment, because what challenges me most in this part of the story is the emotional response displayed by the Jews when their authorities discriminated against them. “Well of course they are upset,” you might be thinking, “they have been sentenced to death!” But do we not also witness laws and decrees being passed in our world today that discriminate against nationality, faith, beliefs? We watch our generation turn their backs on God, but a passive-aggressive post on social media is near the extent that most of us will rise to. Why are we not moved to tears and mourning as our world rejects their Saviour? Why have so many of us become immune to the injustice and persecution of God’s people all over the world? We need to start taking these things personally. I need to start taking these things personally.
So when Esther discovered what had happened, the queen was seized by fear, as she herself was also a Jew. She sent clothes to Mordecai to encourage him to remove the sackcloth he was wearing, but he did not accept them. Instead, Mordecai sent a copy of the decree to Esther and urged her to speak to the king to plead for the lives of her people.
This request, however, only increased the fear in Esther’s heart, for she knew that, unless the king summoned someone to himself, they were sure to be put to death when they approached him, unless the king held out his royal sceptre to them and spared their life. Esther had not been summoned to the king for over a month.
Then Mordecai penned the words we all associate best with the Biblical account of Esther’s life: “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:12-14)
For such a time as this.
Esther had been obedient to her uncle Mordecai when he had suggested she present herself to join the king’s harem. Her beauty had won her the king’s affection and the crown. Oblivious to the special role God had for her to fulfil, she was faithful with what was available to her. But we can see that God had strategically placed her there to save His beloved Jewish people. Was she ready to step up to the plate? Was she willing to accept the role that she was created for; a role that no-one but she could fulfil?
Esther responded to Mordecai once more, asking him to gather all the Jews in Susa and to fast on her behalf, and informing him that she and her maids would do the same. Then on the third day she would approach the king in the name of her people, “and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16b)
She stepped up to the plate. She stepped forward, knowing it may even mean her end. She stepped up for the greater good; to save a nation from injustice and persecution. And God used her mightily in His great plan for His people. We know about her story because she was faithful with what she had been given and what was made available to her. She has a whole book of the Bible named after her, because she accepted the unique role that God had created her for.
Every experience that Esther had faced up until that moment – both the good and the bad – had prepared her and positioned her for success. God knew that this moment would come so He had used her faith, her painful family history, her loyalty to her uncle to make sure that she was ready. That didn’t make it easy, or comfortable, for her to approach the king uninvited – she still required courage to do what was being asked of her – but her obedience saved an entire nation from death. How’s that for purpose? Her adventure led her to the palace, right into the royal family, and perfectly positioned her for all that God had called her to do.
Voices all around us will constantly try to label us, influence us and put us in neat little boxes; the media, our bosses and teachers, politicians and professionals. The only way to combat that is to draw close to the One who created us and ask Him who He has made us to be. None of us were created to fit neatly into categories or boxes because we were all made to be different. There is only one of you! So find your own sphere of influence and do what only you can do.
When we give power to the voices around us, sometimes even well-meaning ones, confusion and stress begins to impress upon us. We become so distracted trying to meet the expectations of others that we forget to listen out for the voice of God. Your current position may not carry a title, or come with a fancy office, or include a big pay-check, but don’t doubt it’s significance. God is always at work, leading His disciples to the right opportunities at the right time for the greater good. Our obedience to His call guarantees us His best life.
The gifts and passions within each of us hold the potential for all that God wants to do on earth in the next 100 years; our response will determine how much of that potential becomes reality. So now is the time to press into the future that God is calling us to. We need to be brave, like Esther, and step into our destiny. We were created, positioned and called, for such a time as this.