You simply can’t win the game if you don’t know the rules. In this message, we look at chapters 7 through 10 of Esther and see how to live a successful life full of purpose - even when things seem chaotic. Although you can’t always see it, God is moving the pieces of life together for good.
David Marvin: All right, here we go!
JD Rodgers: Here we are.
David: Corona Porch edition, week three. We are continuing this series on Esther, God Save the Queen. How are you doing, man?
JD: I'm doing pretty good.
JD: I'm just excited to be here.
David: Come on, bro. I love it, man.
JD: Yeah. It's just nice to get out of the house.
David: It is so nice to get out of the house. Good grief, man.
JD: Obviously, stay away from me.
David: Cabin fever. Hey, so we're going to wrap up the book of Esther tonight. If you're just joining us, we'll give you a recap of everything that has been going on. But let me ask a question. What is your favorite board game?
JD: Oh. Recently, it has been… Have you ever heard of Secret Hitler?
David: Oh, I totally have heard of Secret Hitler.
JD: Yeah. If y'all have not seen Secret Hitler, I would highly recommend it.
David: Which sounds like a much worse game than it actually is.
JD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, actually it does.
David: Yeah. Totally.
JD: That's really weird. But it's such a fun game. It's a Watermark favorite too.
David: It's a total Watermark favorite, which is going to confuse people, but it is a great game. Risk would be up there. There are several games. In my house right now though with little kids, we are reintroducing all types of games that are from my childhood in order to stop all the Disney watching that's taking place. So we're playing Guess Who? Do you remember Guess Who?…
JD: Oh yeah.
David: …where you flip it open. You flip them down if they're not the person. We're playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
JD: Oh. Loud game.
David: My son. Oh, totally loud game. He's all about it. I played a new game for the first time this week called Scattergories. Have you heard of Scattergories?
JD: I don't think so.
David: Scattergories is like… If you're a Millennial or younger, you probably have no idea what that game is, but my wife loves that game. She was like, "We're playing this." I was trying to be a supportive husband, and so kids went down. We played Scattergories. Never played the game before, and I'm like, "How do you play?" She was like, "Oh, you'll figure it out."
In her mind, it was really self-explanatory, which works at some level, but then there are different rules that are a part of it. So we started playing, and because I didn't know the rules, it was like every time I would try to do something… So the way it kind of high-level works is…I'm going to get blown up in the comments I bet on this. People will be like, "You don't know how to play Scattergories?"…you'll roll the die, and it'll have letters on the die. So it's like a 26-edge die, or some level of edge.
JD: Okay. Wow.
David: You roll it, and it's like a G. Then you pick a card, and on that card it'll have 12 different categories of things where you have to write a favorite boy name that starts with a G, favorite music band, type of food, continent or country, or just these different things. So we're playing the game, and there'd be different things where she'd be like, "No, you can't write the same name twice."
So if you wrote down, you know, Garth Brooks for favorite musician, and then you wrote Garth for a favorite boy's name that starts with a G, doesn't count. Or if you had two words that started with the same letter, and you're on S, and you have Spongebob Squarepants, that'd be two Ss, so you get double points on that. So it'd be like, "What? You're cheating!" It was because she didn't ever explain the rules. I didn't know exactly how to win the game, all that was involved, what would count against you. Because if you don't know the rules to a game, you can't win the game.
David: What does that have to do with what we're talking about tonight? Well, as it relates to the game of life, what we talk about all the time with young adults, is there are a lot of people, everyone is playing the game of life, but a lot of people don't know the rules. They don't know what it means to actually have a success or to win, what failure looks like.
So just like in any board game, if you don't know the rules, you can't win the game. If you don't know the way life works or really the rules, the objective of the game of life, if you will, you will not be able to win. You may be thinking to yourself, "No, I want to know what success looks like or thinks like." So wherever you are listening right now, I just want you to think about, "What does a successful life to you look like?" What are the objectives really of life? What would a failed life look like?
David: What would it look like to at the end of your days… I mean, because there are at least few things more tragic, maybe nothing more tragic, than to get to the end of your life, or to the end of your 20s, or to the end of your 30s or 40s or 50s and waste your life or waste a decade and not have played according to it.
So God, all throughout the Scriptures, gives us principles and truths that are a part of the rules of the game of life, if you will, because he, as much as we ever would want to, wants us to experience success. He wants us to live a life of purpose and a life that at the end of our days we look back and say, "Man, it wasn't a waste, and it wasn't a fail." Tonight, we're going to continue in the book of Esther. We're going to look at three principles from the final four chapters. So we're about to go through some Bible tonight…
David: …that will relate to what it looks like, some key things that are involved anytime you're going to succeed at the game of life. So the book of Esther…for a recap…is a book that is named after Queen Esther. It takes place 500 years before Jesus was around. Do you know what country it's in? Modern-day country?
JD: I don't want to get it wrong.
David: Yeah. It's in modern-day Iran. It was the Persian Empire at that time. Basically, what had happened 500 years before Jesus was around, so 500 BC, Persia, which is an empire of ancient times, shows up, and conquers the known world. They take over everything. They're led by a king named Xerxes. He's one of the main characters in the story. I said when I think about Xerxes, I think of Jake Gyllenhaal from the one movie that probably no one has ever seen. There he is, just looking fly. He's King Xerxes. He rules over the land.
David: He's powerful. He's wealthy. He has the palace. He has the kingdom. He has everything. He's not a believer in God, but he ends up…week one we covered…holding a "The Bachelor: Persia Edition," a mix between The Bachelor and beauty competition and sex competition, to find who will be the next queen of Persia. Esther was ripped out of her house, and she was declared… She won the competition. So when I think of Esther, I think of Wonder Woman right here because she's kind of the Wonder Woman in our story. Gal Gadot.
David: Fierce, man.
JD: So fierce.
David: So that's character number two. So you have King Xerxes, you have Esther, then you have Uncle Jesse Mordecai is who I think of. Uncle Jesse, of course, the most famous. Then our villain, Haman, which is Jafar, whether you like the cartoon version of Jafar or the real version of Jafar. There he is with Iago, man. Straight up Iago. Those are the main characters.
Week one, we were introduced to this peasant girl Esther who all of a sudden goes from poverty to the palace. Then week two, we were introduced to the villain, where Haman set out a plot to kill all of the Jewish people, all of the people of God. Basically because Mordecai wouldn't bow and worship him, he was like, "I'm not just going to kill you; I'm going to kill all the Jewish people." Because Haman was number two in charge, he was the prime minister, he had the ability to put in a decree that allowed that to happen.
We're told that all the Jewish people knew there was going to come a day, March 7, where they were going to all be killed…it was months ahead…and that they were going to lose their lives. Then last week, we dove in and just kind of looked at three more truths as it relates to fairy-tale faith, and talked about Disney.
So if week one was The Bachelor: Persia Edition, and if week two was Making a Murderer, and if week three was Disney+, if you will, Fairy-tale Faith…what's involved in true faith…this week will be Silver Linings Playbook, that even when you can't see it, God is at work, and even in the midst of all the craziness that has happened so far in this story that look chaotic, that at times was so painful, that at times clearly it just seemed like God was absent…
JD: What does he say? Even when you don't see it…
David: …see it, you're working. That's right. I absolutely would.
JD: I just had to.
David: Had to.
JD: You know they're all thinking it.
David: Oh, 100 percent. Even when all that is going on, God is clearly at work. Esther is one of the two books in the Bible that does not mention the name of God. But even though he's absent, the whole purpose of the book is that God is at work throughout the story, and he's moving the pieces. Even when you can't see it, he's working.
JD: That's right.
David: That's right. All right, hey, we're going to be in Esther, chapter 7. If you have a Bible, flip it open there. If not, it'll be up on the screen. We're going to fly through this story. We're going to get through like four chapters, and I'll summarize every now and then to keep it going. So here we go.
JD: Wait. What chapter?
David: All right, chapter 7. Last week ended with the king and the queen and Haman all having dinner, and the queen was like, "Hey, King, here's my one request. I want to have dinner again with you tomorrow," because Esther had not come to the king yet and said, "Hey, there's a plan to kill all my people, and by the way, I'm Jewish," because remember she hid that.
David: So that's where we're going to pick it up. Dinner number two. We're sitting there with Esther and the king…
JD: What a bomb.
David: …and Haman. What a bomb for sure. All right, verse 1. "So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther's banquet." So they're at the dinner table. "On this second occasion, while they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, 'Tell me what you want, Queen Esther. What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!'
Queen Esther replied, 'If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request, I ask…'" Here's my request. "'…that my life and the lives of my people will be spared. For my people and I have been sold to those who would kill, slaughter, and annihilate us.'" I love this next sentence. "'If we had merely been sold as slaves, I could remain quiet, for that would be too trivial a matter to warrant disturbing the king.'"
As in like, "Hey, they're planning to kill us. Had we just been sold as slaves, I wouldn't have even bothered you. I know you're a really busy guy, but I figured if they kill the queen somebody is going to lose their job because you're going to be like, 'Hey, where's the queen?' and they're going to be like, 'Oh, we killed her,' and that's not going to be a good day for anybody, so I figured it was probably worth bringing it up to you." It's like such funny wording.
JD: That's hilarious.
David: "'Who would do such a thing?' King Xerxes…" Jake Gyllenhaal. "…demanded. 'Who would be so presumptuous as to touch you?'" The queen. "Esther replied…" Remember it's Esther, Xerxes, and Haman sitting at the dinner table.
JD: Mm-hmm. Jafar, about to be exposed.
David: Jafar. "'This wicked Haman is our adversary and our enemy.' Haman grew pale with fright before the king and queen." I don't think Haman knew Esther was Jewish. He's probably sitting up there at the dinner table with the king and the queen, and the queen is like, "Hey, King, here's my one request. They're planning to kill me and all my people and all my family."
Haman is going, "Wow, that is crazy. I didn't know there were other crazy murderers out there planning to genocide an entire people. But who would do that against the queen? That's nuts, whoever would do that." Then she says, "By the way, it's Haman," and he has to be going, "I had no idea she was the queen." The king…
David: Yeah. That's a huge gulp! moment. The king steps outside,, and he's in a rage. "Then the king jumped to his feet in a rage and went out into the palace garden. Haman, however, stayed behind…" Verse 7. "…to plead for his life with Queen Esther, for he knew that the king intended to kill him. In despair he fell on the couch where Queen Esther was reclining, just as the king was returning from the palace garden. The king exclaimed, 'Will he even assault the queen right here in the palace, before my very eyes?'"
So he's like just groveling for his life, and he falls on the couch she's sitting on. The king comes back in, and he doesn't think he's groveling; he thinks, "He's assaulting my wife," and he's like, "Dude, this is game over." "And as soon as the king spoke, his attendants covered Haman's face, signaling his doom." They put a bag over his head. He'd never see the light of day again.
"Then Harbona, one of the king's eunuchs, said, 'Haman has set up a sharpened pole that stands seventy-five feet tall in his own courtyard. He intended to use it to impale Mordecai, the man who saved the king from assassination.'" So Harbona is sitting there, and we don't know what he's feeling of Haman, but he at least is like, "Hey, I have an idea. There's a big pole in Haman's yard. He was planning to kill Mordecai. You remember Mordecai, the guy who saved your life. I mean, as great as that guy was, I can't believe Haman would want to do that. But why don't we throw him on the pole?"
JD: He's just trying to get a job.
David: Yeah, for sure. He was trying to get a promo. "'Then impale Haman on it!' the king ordered. So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai, and the king's anger subsided." None of this is what the Bible is saying is good or right or ideal; it just is describing what happened.
What's interesting, and we may come back to this, that the enemy of God's people and his plot were ended by the death of someone on a wooden pole or on a tree. The same word is used for crucifixion. So it's just an interesting parallel to what happened with Jesus years and years and years later, that Jesus would end the Enemy's plot not by the Enemy dying on a pole, but by Jesus dying on a cross for you and for me.
Esther 8:1: _ "On that same day King Xerxes gave the property of Haman…" _ Who was number two in the land. They guy has a big estate. _ "…the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther. Then Mordecai was brought before the king, for Esther had told the king how they were related." _ He was her uncle.
"The king took off his signet ring—which he had taken back from Haman—and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed Mordecai to be in charge of Haman's property." So Mordecai all of a sudden is now elevated essentially to Haman's position, number two in the land, and Esther is given Haman's property.
"Then Esther went again before the king, falling down at his feet and begging him with tears to stop the evil plot devised by Haman…against the Jews." She goes down and she's like, "Please stop. They're going to kill my people. He has fixed a day." Remember that decree had gone out a couple of weeks ago that just horrifically all the Jewish people were told on that fixed day they were liable to be killed, or anybody could kill them and take their stuff. She's begging, "Please reverse that decree."
"Esther said, 'If it please the king, and if I have found favor with him, and if he thinks it is right, and if I am pleasing to him, let there be a decree that reverses the orders of Haman…who ordered that Jews throughout all the king's provinces should be destroyed. For how can I endure to see my people and my family slaughtered and destroyed?'" Verse 8. King Xerxes replies,
"Now go ahead and send a message to the Jews in the king's name, telling them whatever you want, and seal it with the king's signet ring. But remember that whatever has already been written in the king's name and sealed with his signet ring can never be revoked."
So this is interesting. In that time, any time a king or any time the leader of the country made a law, it was impossible to reverse that law. You could make other laws, but unlike today where you can repeal something, in that time with the Persian Empire, any time a king made something… People think it may have been because they thought of them as like deity or different reasons behind that. But they couldn't reverse it. They could just add other laws to it.
So he's going, "I can't reverse the fact that we already said the Jewish people will be killed on this day, but we can add additional laws." He says, "Write whatever you want. Put it in there." "So on June 25…" I love the detail, man, of the Bible.
David: "…the king's secretaries were summoned, and a decree was written exactly as Mordecai dictated." Verse 10: "The decree was written in the name of King Xerxes and sealed with the king's signet ring. Mordecai sent the dispatches by swift messengers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king's service." All throughout the empire.
Here's what the king's decree said. So Mordecai writes it all down. They send it out. It's a new decree. It "…gave the Jews in every city authority to unite to defend their lives. They were allowed to kill, slaughter, and annihilate anyone of any nationality or province who might attack them or their children and wives, and to take the property of their enemies. The day chosen for this event throughout all the provinces of King Xerxes was March 7 of the next year."
So they had a decree that they were to be killed, and basically this new decree was like, "Hey, you guys can unite, prepare, be ready for war." It's pretty crazy. It's like The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones and just nuts stuff going on. As we're going to see though, God was clearly at work in the midst of all of it, but that's the second decree that has been put out there.
Verse 15: "Then Mordecai left the king's presence, wearing the royal robe of blue and white, the great crown of gold, and an outer cloak of fine linen and purple." So he's looking good. "And the people of Susa celebrated the new decree. The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere.
In every province and city, wherever the king's decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. And many of the people of the land became Jews themselves…" We're going to come back to that. "…for they feared what the Jews might do to them."
Chapter 9, verse 1: "So on March 7 the two decrees of the king…" So fast forward, because remember it was in June 25. Now we're all the way into March. The day comes. "…the two decrees of the king were put into effect. On that day, the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but quite the opposite happened. It was the Jews who overpowered their enemies." So anybody who came and attacked them, the Jewish people were victorious.
"The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the king's provinces to attack anyone who tried to harm them. But no one could make a stand against them, for everyone was afraid of them." Here's one of the reasons why. Verse 3: "And all the nobles…" That's the royalty. "…of the provinces…" That's like the governors of all the states, if you will, because they had 127 states. It'd be like in America. All the people in authority in every state.
"…the highest officers, the governors, and the royal officials helped the Jews for fear of Mordecai. For Mordecai had been promoted in the king's palace, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces [in the empire] …" So they go out. They successfully defend themselves.
The rest of the armies in these provinces help them and protect them, and so that's likely one of the reasons why, in addition to God just giving them favor and protection, that they are successful, they don't lose their lives, and they're victorious on that day. But the victory still involved them going to fight and then protecting themselves. It still involved a battle with them.
Verse 20: At the end, to celebrate the victory God had given them, "Mordecai recorded these events and sent letters to the Jews…" In the kingdom. So the battle is over. The Jewish people won and saved their lives.
David: Mordecai sends out letters to every Jewish person "…throughout all the provinces…calling on them to celebrate an annual festival on these two days. He told them to celebrate these days with feasting and gladness and by giving gifts of food to each other and presents to the poor. This would commemorate a time when the Jews gained relief from their enemies, when their sorrow was turned into gladness and their mourning into joy."
So are you following it? Basically, they're victorious, and he's like, "We're for now on going forward going to celebrate this day every single year." So Jewish people everywhere celebrate God's deliverance of his people.
JD: The day they were supposed to be wiped out.
David: Yes. The day they were supposed to die was the day they…
JD: Are now celebrating.
David: …celebrate, are victorious. Skip down to verse 29 of chapter 9. "Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote another letter putting the queen's full authority behind Mordecai's letter to establish the Festival of Purim." Which is a festival that even today Jewish people still celebrate.
But really the entire book ends, and we're told that God, in the midst of all the brokenness and chaos, he preserves, he protects his people, he puts Esther in a position of authority, and he reverses all the wicked plan of Haman, and the day they were to die became a day of celebration, and the clear message of the entire book is that even when you can't see God's face, that he's not at the forefront, he is very clearly at work.
Even when it looks like he's not working, he is using everything chaotic and broken. He's using corona right now. He is still at work all around us. That's really the message. One of the reasons today, again as we've said… Purim was celebrated a couple of weeks ago by those who are Jewish. If you have Jewish friends, that took place this year on March 9.
But here's what I want to focus on for a few minutes. I want to pull out three principles that are just parallels to I think our experience as it relates to living a successful life. Three things that parallel. Anything you want to add or clarify or that's confusing?
JD: Yeah. I think the one thing… It's a lot of text.
David: It's a lot of text.
JD: So I think the one thing. Can you just paraphrase for me? So they couldn't get rid of a decree the king had made, but she could write another one.
JD: He gave her the pen and paper and said, "You get to write it."
David: Mordecai. But yeah.
JD: Oh, okay. Mordecai got to write it.
JD: Good to know. What exactly did he…? Can you just paraphrase one more time what he wrote?
David: He basically wrote up that, hey, all the Jewish people out there can band together. It's kind of a funny thing because you'd be like, "What else were you going to do?" But they may have had access to the king's military or military around there. They certainly, by Mordecai writing that, were given encouragement from the local state governments they were a part of to support the Jewish people. Basically, he wrote out that Jewish people can proactively attack anybody they think may be attacking them.
David: So he gave the right and permission to do that legally.
JD: So it made them seem more powerful.
JD: That way everyone is like, "I'm with the Jews, because the king is with the Jews."
JD: Gotcha. Okay.
David: Hey, you mess with them, it's not going to go well. Even the local governors and governments were all supporting the Jewish people.
JD: That's interesting. I think I naturally would've suspected some way for war not to even happen at all. I don't know, like something creative. But it's interesting. Okay, it makes a little more sense.
David: There was a victory, but it still involved fighting.
David: Let me camp on three things, as we wrap up the book, I just want to highlight that I see in this story that are such a parallel to our lives. The first one is this: you and I can't change the past, but you can alter the future. Just like the king, he couldn't change what had been written, but he could write a new law. Hey, I can't change what's in the past. That's already there. But I can change what will happen in the future.
That's such a parallel, I think, for our experiences as humans, because you and I at some point in realizing in life if you're going to have a successful life you have to realize, "Hey, I can't go back and relive the past." There are going things in my rearview mirror from high school, college, whatever stage of life you're in, that you wish you had a do-over on. Although you cannot go back and rewrite the past, you can rewrite the future you're in.
This is so huge, because people who walk around today in the shame and guilt from their past… I mean, Christians will walk around today and they have shame and guilt from past decisions, past broken relationships, abortion, sexual abuse, things that were done to them, and there's this sense of like, "Man, I just carry a guilt I wish I could do away with or get rid of, or I wish I hadn't blown it on my first job with that employer, with parents."
You cannot go back and undo the past. Jesus can forgive, and it has been forgiven if you are in Christ. Although you cannot go undo that, you can rewrite the future you're headed to. Paul, the apostle, would say you, if you're in Jesus, you're no longer marked by the things you've done before. You're no longer marked by your past. Second Corinthians 5:17: "If anyone is in Christ the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"
Paul, who was a murderer, who could've been easily tempted to go, "Man, I cannot believe…" He was a murderer before he became a Christian. He had done things that most people listening will never compare to the level. Paul said he was the chief of sinners. We at least know he was responsible for the death of Christians.
He says one thing. "I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it." Everything in Christ. "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…" Not that there are not consequences for decisions in our past, and not that there are not things we can go back and own and ask forgiveness for, but you cannot rewrite the past, but you can rewrite the future.
That's important because unproductive is me sitting around, being like, "Man, I'm covered in shame and guilt. I'm damaged goods." This is how I see it a lot of times play it out with young adults. They think, "Dude, I'm damaged goods because of my dating history, what I've done with guys, my sexual past. A godly girl or a godly guy will never like me."
JD: Yeah. Being abused.
David:"I've been abused."
David:"I had an abortion."
David:"I'm unworthy." The message of the gospel is that you have been totally forgiven, and Jesus doesn't look at you and define you by your past, and he wants you to begin to realign and redefine your future according to his Word, and that is a place where you are in the driver's seat. While you can't go back and rewrite, just like the king, "I can't undo what has already taken place and been written, but I can write something new."
So for us, I think it looks like us, going, "Man, I am in the driver's seat of writing the future story I'm going to have and the future that is in front of me." How am I doing at really taking advantage of that?
JD: Yeah. Another person I want to speak to I just thought of is I think someone who has been caught.
JD: If you've been caught in a really wrong action, a sinful action, whatever it may be, I think a lot of times the Enemy really keeps you stuck. Almost like the shame that comes with being caught can almost make you feel like you're never worthy again to do something, especially something kingdom-minded, something with the Lord on your side. It can just forever feel like that's kind of your reputation now.
JD: So just even this applies to the person who has been caught in an action they're ashamed of. For me, David, something you're making me think of is in this story when the king is giving Mordecai the ability to rewrite, he says in verse 8 of chapter 8, "But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked."
Ephesians 1 just says, "In him…" So in the death of Christ, in his death, burial, and resurrection. "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…" And Titus 3:5: "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…"
That Holy Spirit who seals us. I think a lot of people, they think like you're saying something of their past that sealing doesn't exist for them. It's like, "Well, I broke it, and now I'm over. I'm doomed." But this tells us that the Holy Spirit is what secures our identity in Christ.
JD: It's not dependent on our own actions. It's really encouraging.
David: So, really, wallowing in the past is just not a… For a follower of Jesus, the best thing you can do is say, "Hey, the past doesn't define me; Jesus does. Now I get to be a part of helping define the future in front of me." So wherever you're at, today the best opportunity in front of you is going, "Man, I want to be on purpose and intentional as I write the chapter I'm going to live out as the future in front of me comes. I'm going to surrender every day to Jesus and try to live according to his Word."
Some of you, that may be, "I need to confess hidden sin I've never opened up to anybody about." Others, you being intentional to rewrite or write the future story you're going to tell will involve you breaking up with a relationship right now that you just know is toxic, or you're not in a place to date. Let's just be honest. You're not in a place where you're healthy enough.
Others of you, it may involve forgiving a family member who really hurt you or asking for forgiveness from a family member you really hurt, even if they haven't asked you for that forgiveness. Like, "Hey, I'm just going to extend it." But we are all in the driver's seat largely as it relates to writing the story in front of us.
So you can't undo the past, but you can rewrite or alter the future there going ahead and you are headed toward. I think one thing that ministered to me that I heard recently from a friend is at some point this season of corona…we talked about it on Views from the Porch…is going to be a story we look back on, and it was a season of our lives, and we tell about that season.Like it's a story. It'll be a part of all of our story. It'll be in the past, and it'll be a part of the story we tell. That's really true for all of us in life right now.
At some point, this season today, what you're doing with your 20s, the type of dating relationships and how you date, the way you use your time, how you work at the office, that's all going to be a part of the story that when you're 40 or you're 50 or you're 60 you're going to look back and be, "This is the story of how I met your mom, how we pursued purity, how we dated together. Or, hey, how we kind of slept together. We met at that bar. We met on Tinder, and we ended up just getting married after we lived together for three years."
Both of those are two versions of stories, and you get to today decide which type of story you want to tell and which story are you writing because the decisions you're making today are shaping the future you're headed to.
JD: That's so good.
David: So, really quickly, the next one. I don't know how much time we have here, but the next one on…
JD: You're doing great.
David: Yeah. Where are you going to go, man? You can't go anywhere!
JD: What are you out there doing?
David: Corona! For real! The next thing from this story that just jumps out to me that we talked a little bit about already was you can't win the battle if you aren't willing to fight. You can't win any victory, you won't have a victory over a battle, you won't win the battle if you're not willing to fight.
What does that have to do with us? Most of us are not in the army or in the military. Here's where I see it in their story. God provided a way and a path toward victory, but it involved them still fighting. You observed that, which is really interesting. You would've thought, "Oh, he just stopped everything from happening," and he didn't.
David: He involved a victory that also involved them fighting. I think for most of us…no, not even for most of us…for all of us…any great victory over the spiritual battles and temptations and sins you have to wage war against and I have to wage war against involves us all having to fight. There's this idea in Christianity that, "Hey, once you become a Christian, the temptations you have to lust after people who are not your wife, or to get angry at people who frustrate you, or to be selfish, all of those kind of just go away because the Holy Spirit now takes over."
That for most…not even for most of us…for everyone…is not the case. When you follow Jesus, it involves daily picking up your cross, Jesus would say in Mark, chapter 9, and following him, which is daily dying to yourself and dying to your sin nature. Do you know what? How would you describe a sin nature?
JD: A sin nature is that thing in me that has always just been there. A really practical example. If I were to go home right now and my roommates, who have been at home all day... There are dishes in the sink. I could walk in and I could just naturally assume the worse and be like, "Man, they're so lazy. They've just been sitting around here watching Netflix all day, and no one is doing the dishes," and just find myself frustrated at my roommates. For all I know, they've had a really difficult day instead of just doing the dishes.
JD: Like that's just something in me that is just naturally there, and it has always been there.
David: Yeah. It's the thing in all of us that allows sin to come naturally.
David: It's like why I never have to work at being angry.
David: Like you've never had to work at being selfish. Nobody has to work at being like, "Do you know what's really hard for me?" Well, I don't know if this is true. For most of us, lusting or being entitled. "That just doesn't come easy for me."
JD: Yeah. Comfort.
David:"I feel like I'm just so gracious and good." That person listening is clearly clouded by pride that comes naturally and easy to that person.
David: But it's that thing inside of all of us where sin just comes naturally. It's a part of our nature. The Bible says that is your sin nature, and as long as you and I are in this life, that's going to be a part of our lives, and so daily I have to not listen to that and put that to death and try to walk in dependence on the Spirit of God.
In Romans 8:13, along this idea of, hey, you can't win the battle… If your battle is anxiety, maybe it's an eating disorder, or pornography, body image in general, maybe it's an anger problem, whatever, fill in the blank. You won't win that battle without you fighting against that, making the decision when I don't want to, when it's not easy, when it doesn't feel like the right thing to do, I'm going to choose to put that to death and choose not to follow that and try to follow God's Word.
In Romans 8:13, it says, "For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." Colossians, chapter 3, says, "Put to death…whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality…" He just gives some examples. "…impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry."
In 1 Peter 2:11, it says, _ "Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul." _ The Bible says you and I have to declare war on our sin nature, on all the different ways that sin pops up in my life. Anytime it happens, I have to go to war against it. I love Peter's language, because he says, "Your sin nature has already declared war on you. You just declare war on it."
David: John Owen, this old pastor, made a line that like, hey, all of us in life are either killing sin, or it is killing us. It's killing relationships. It's killing our relationship with God, our love for people. It ends people's actual lives all the time.
David: The Bible says you and I can experience victory, but it involves a fight, a battle. So if your struggle is same-sex attraction, if it is an eating disorder, if it's lust or anger, like my problems, it involves me daily… Here's what I said the battle looks like. Here's how I define it. Scripturally, at least, he calls us to all this. I'd love to hear what you'd add, or if you agree. Biblically, we battle by living authentically with the people of God, according to the Word of God, and depending on the Spirit of God.
Bible, here's how you battle every single day. This is day-by-day. It's not fixed. It's not a one time. Every day, I have to battle by living authentically. That's confessing sin to other people who are followers of Jesus at a heart level. Like I was tempted to believe my worth comes from my paycheck.
I'm tempted to just lust. I'm having lustful thoughts about a coworker I work with, or about past relationships, or I clicked on something on the Internet, on social media that I just spent too much time on that girl's page. I have to confess all those things and do confess all those things to my small group of guys as I wage war in battle.
I'm living authentically with the people of God, according to the Word of God, that I want to align… This is tricky in this culture, man, because the Bible says align your life with the Word of God, and everybody wants to align the Word of God with their wants.
David: Like, this is what I think he really means, and that's not relevant, and it's kind of outdated. You can't trust everything that's in there. I mean, we don't eat shellfish, or we do eat shellfish. Come on. Good grief!
David: Leviticus. It's like the go-to everyone has. It's like, "Leviticus!"
JD: Don't have tattoos.
David:"You still eat bacon, right? Ah, are you saying no bacon?" No, there are so many podcasts we have out on there. That is a dumb question. But if that is something you fall into, go check us out on Views from the Porch as it relates to why the Bible is appropriate or relevant.
David: But point being, I live authentically with the Word of God. I try to align my life with the Word of God, and walk in dependence on the Spirit of God. Day by day, "God, I can't defeat anger. I can't defeat lust. I can't defeat anxiety. I need your help." And that just involves a moment-by-moment prayerfulness and trying to walk in the Spirit.
Anytime I don't walk in line, I don't battle, I do the first thing. I live authentically with the people of God, and I bring it into the light, and I have others encourage me on that journey. But that's a day by day, every single… I think the thing that's hardest for me, a thing I hate about it, is I wish it was gone. I wish it was over, you didn't have to battle. And every day, I have to get up and still battle that.
David: Last year…I think I've shared on here before…I went through re:generation, which is our 12-step recovery. It's like Celebrate Recovery. It's an amazing ministry, if you're in Dallas, or if you have re:generation at your church. But just because I saw there was some anger in my heart and lust I wanted to get rid of and really just anger that was not allowing me to respond in a way that a husband who had gentleness and care and consideration…
And I was like, "I don't want to live life and not have done everything I can to be the father I want to be, the husband I want to be, the person I want to be, and the follower of Jesus." In that process, it just was pulling back layers and going, "God, make me more like Christ. Will you help me? There's still so much brokenness in my heart, and I need your help." And daily… I wish re:generation was like, "It's over. Finished."
David: It took me a year. I went through it. And now for the rest of your life you're just learning to put to death the deeds of the flesh, or put to death that sinful nature inside of you.
David: So I think again the idea of you can't win. You will not be victorious, whatever your struggle is. I just want to put to death the lie people have out there that you're going to wake up one day and you won't even desire, you know, same-sex attraction won't happen. Maybe that'll happen. But for a lot of people that's not…
David: …and they constantly put it to death. Or one day you're going to wake up and you no longer have anxiety. I don't know the person who that's their story. They're probably out there, and God bless them. For most of us, it involves doing what Paul said. Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the sinful nature. Galatians 5.
David: So anything you'd add?
JD: Yeah. I have to make sure I don't… It's like a passion point of mine. I think especially because I know a lot of people my age, we have almost unintentionally been trained to be consumers. And what happens to consumers? They become fat and they don't know how to do things on their own. They're just sitting there like a baby bird with their mouth open, wanting to be fed by their mom, and they never become mature…
JD: …Christians. They don't ever get to feast on the meat. They stay on the milk all of their life.
JD: And that's not the life Christ calls us to live. So for me, I always tell people, "Hey, you have to get out of that consumeristic mindset. You have to stop waiting for things to come to you. You have to start being proactive, not reactive."
JD: That's what I always say. Because the war is coming to you. That's why I personally love watching war movies because it reminds me so much of this mentality that there is a spiritual war waging war against my flesh every day. And I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, it's too gory, it's too bloody," and I'm like, "That is nothing compared to the spiritual war that is going on, and the Enemy, that way he is wanting to destroy you is nothing compared to even what you're seeing on that movie."
JD: In those movies, a lot of times what's happening is there's like that scene where everything finally calms down and everyone is asleep in the bunkers or whatever. And then what do you know? You hear the sound, and then just a bomb hits.
JD: They had no time to prepare, they had no time to arm themselves, and they are losing because they weren't ready, and they couldn't have predicted it. The same with us. If you're not waking up every day, Ephesians 6, putting on the armor of God, not praying, asking the Holy Spirit to lead you, to guide you, to convict you, and walking proactively, it's going to be too late…
JD: …because the war is coming whether you want it to or not. I always say no one runs into the battle unarmed. So when you make that choice like you're talking about, when you make that choice to not get up every single day, put on that armor, grab the weapon, the sword, grab people, other fellow people going to the fight with you, and then ultimately following and trusting the Commander, the Lord, I mean, you're going to fall.
JD: So I would say for me, one myth I just want to speak against really quick that I think is people look at people like us, and they almost make it like we're really far off and that we don't get it. Like we don't have a flesh that wars every day. I always tell people, "If only you knew how much I am getting tempted and how much the Enemy is whispering in my ear and wanting me." He wants me just to fall one time to ruin everything that I… The goodness there is God's grace abounds, but I'm saying…
David: There's no division between pastor and person out there.
JD: Exactly. It's the rest of your life. You have to be proactive.
David: Here's what else is crazy. So we'll hang here just one more minute.
David: Again, you have nowhere to go. It's I feel like we've gotten to rub shoulders with just people, incredible pastors, like well-known people, throughout the years who are leading incredible ministries around the country. It was almost surprising to me. It sounds crazy to say that, and I'm hesitating to mention names here, but a lot of our audience would know who those names are. Godly men. Well-known people. Every single one of them has to do this as well.
David: You would think, "Oh, man, you're X person. You have to do that?"
JD: You figured it out.
David: Yeah. "You figured it…" No! All of them. Every single one of them. Any time somebody falls, I'm never surprised. People are always shocked that somebody fell or made a mistake, had a moral failure, and I'm like, "Dude, are you kidding me? They still have a sin nature." The thing that comes naturally to them every single day is moral failure, the thing that comes naturally to all of us.
So any time we don't go to war daily and moment by moment are thoughtful and intentional and careful, that I have to crucify, I can't let this run me, the thing that runs in neutral is a sin nature, and every person, you never escape that. Those guys, if there's anything worth respecting about anybody of any significant platform in Christianity, it involves them daily crucifying their flesh.
JD: Yeah. Just like anyone.
David: Just like anyone. Exactly. All right, so first thing we see is that you can't change the past, but you can alter the future. The second thing, you can't win the battle if you are unwilling to fight. And thirdly…
JD: Take us home.
David: …you can't see the full story God is writing. This seems the most abstract and like, "Duh, I can't see it." You say, "I can't see everything that God is doing? Wow, I have to trust him." Here's why I think this is profound because in the midst of the confusion it can seem like God is absent. What is he doing? What is he up to?
For most of us…not most of us…all of us, you just can't see the full picture about what God is doing. You know, your dad passing away a few years ago. You have no idea all the ways God has used that and is. I'm confident you've seen some of the ways but all of the different ways that God is? At the end of time, you're going to see like, "Wow! I had no idea this person's life, and this person's life, and this person's life."
JD: My dad got to meet his long-lost daughter because of his cancer and got to lead her and her husband to Jesus.
David: So if you could see that on this side of heaven, think about all the ways we'll be able to someday see the bigger picture what God is writing.
David: And if you and I pause and you just look around at today's circumstances or where you are in this moment, you'll be tempted to go, "Where the heck? God is clearly not at work. He's clearly not in this." Here's where this comes from the story. If Esther had stopped in the midst of the story and hit pause at so many different places she'd have been like, "Where? What is God doing? Where is he in this story?" What do I mean by that? Think about if she had stopped whenever her parents died. Because remember she was an orphan.
David: She buried both of her parents. Had to move in with her Uncle Mordecai, that's Uncle Jesse, in the city of Susa, some place far away. Had she stopped and gone like, "My parents are dead. I'm a young girl. I'm an orphan. Where is God?" if she had just stopped at that part of the story, she wouldn't have been able to see the bigger picture and the amazing ways God was still at work despite the brokenness of her circumstances.
Had she stopped when she was forced to be a part of The Bachelor: Persia Edition, and basically every beautiful girl in the empire was ripped out of their home and put to be property of the king, unless they won the competition, and then they could be the queen, she would've been like, "How is God a part of this at all?"
Had she stopped when Mordecai, her uncle, stopped a murder or assassination attempt on the king's life… There was a hit. There were people trying to kill the king. Mordecai discovered it, and he uncovered it for the king, and he saved his life, and the king did nothing to reward him for five years. Had you stopped it, you'd be like, "What?" Especially because the guy who gets rewarded one verse later after Mordecai does that is Haman, the evil and wicked one who would try to kill all the Jewish people, all the people of God.
JD: Yeah. You're like, "What the…?"
David:"Where is God?"
David: How could God clearly be at work when Haman was promoted to prime minister? The most evil person who wants to kill everybody is now made the highest officer in the land? You'd go, "Where is God at work?" When he convinces the king to kill all the Jewish people, when he makes a pole of death for Mordecai to die on and he goes to have him killed, you'd be like, "What is God doing?" Yet you couldn't see the full story God was writing. It was a reversal that came.
And none of us can see all the story and all the ways God is writing in the bigger picture of our lives, and how he's using the fact you lost that job, and you ended up having to move to that city, or that relationship broke up, or your parents ended up divorced, or a loved one ended up dying from cancer…
JD: Someone you know has coronavirus…
David: Someone you know has coronavirus.
JD : Or got laid off of work.
David: You can't see how God is using all of this because he's still at work, and we can't see the big picture. But we can trust him, and he's working it for good.
David: Let me show you a parallel. Here's what's crazy about the book of Esther. All throughout the book you can see what is beautiful. It's an incredible piece of literature because there's like a big word for it. I won't give it because it'll just confuse people. I call it just parallels where it starts with a party full of pagans. Do you remember that the first week where it's like they're all getting crazy drunk? The king told his first wife, "Hey, come in here. Dance naked."
JD: Yeah, yeah.
David: She was like, "No." He was like, "All right, you're no longer my wife then." So it starts with a party and it ends with a party with the people of God. It starts with a party full of pagans; it ends with a party with the people of God. It starts with Esther identifying as a Gentile, hiding her Jewishness, and it ends with Gentiles identifying and becoming Jews.
The third chapter has the elevation of Haman, that evil person; it ends with the elevation of Mordecai. It involves an anti-Jewish, every Jewish person has got to give up their life, is going to lose their life, and it ends with the Jewish protecting their lives and being victorious.
It involves the banquet with Queen Esther, and then there's another banquet. And it all pivots around this royal procession of Mordecai, where he was kind of led throughout the city streets. Remember when that "Prince Ali! Fabulous he!" moment where Haman had to walk him around, basically celebrate, "This is the guy the king really loves who saved him"? But in the midst of all that, God took everything messed up and broken, and the whole story communicates this, and he redeems it, and he reverses it, and he's at work in the midst of it.
David: The whole portrait of Esther is a reminder to you and to me that God is at work when I can't see it, when it doesn't make sense, when it doesn't even look like it. Like corona. What is God doing in the midst of corona? I don't know. I don't know all the ways, but here are some ways I do know he's working.
I do know that last week because of coronavirus somebody stumbled onto The Porch livestream, and they trusted in Christ. They trusted Jesus. And it happened the week before that as well. People who wouldn't have been listening normally found somehow the stream, and God saves their life.
I know that all over the country, the church is rising up, and in community after community there are Christians who are going around and they're bringing, delivering, food to people who have health problems or are elderly, and they're getting a chance to be the body of Christ in a unique way.
David: I know people are searching and looking for God. They're in the midst of this, going, "I've been stripped of so much security." And they're open to talking about their faith right now. So I don't know all the ways, but I do know he is at work. Those are just some of the ways he's clearly at work all around us.
I don't know what you're walking through, and I don't know what you're facing, and I don't want to even pretend that some explanation I could give right now will completely satisfy that, but I do know the message of the book of Esther, of the Bible, is that God has promised to work all of those things and to take the most broken, horrific things and bring about good.
David: He did most fully on the cross with Jesus dying on the cross. The worst thing in human history was the greatest day in human history, where Jesus, God himself, who became a man, was crucified and died for you and me. That day that was the worst day in history is also the greatest day because it allowed you and me to receive forgiveness of sins by simply putting our faith in him. Romans 8:28-31 says,
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers…those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
David: Paul says no matter what we walk through as a Christian, we know God has promised he is going to weave everything to good, everything together for good. Let me say two last things. We bought a puzzle recently. It's a 500-piece puzzle. I was like, "We're going to do this as a family. It's going to be so fun. It's going to be awesome." Have you ever done a big puzzle?
David: So I didn't realize how many pieces 500 pieces were.
JD: Yeah. It's going to be a long time.
David: Oh, dude, I was like… I thought a 4-year-old was going to do it with me. Like this was going to be so fun. We're going to be bonding. And he had no idea. It was like this safari puzzle, and just the tiny little pieces and where they all fit. So it ended up being like this thing that, "We'll do it as a family," that I just did because I couldn't let my pride get in the way.
David: I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to finish this thing. Don't worry."
JD: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
David: So it became a thing that I did for like six Saturdays in a row during nap time just because I couldn't let it get the best of me. Just as I think about that, I was constantly going, "Where does this piece fit into the bigger picture? How does this all fit together?" If you were to give me like a 5,000-piece puzzle or a 50-million-piece puzzle, I would've gone, "There's no way I could ever with a lifetime figure it all out."
God is the one over all of our lives and all the brokenness in our world who has promised that he's taking all of these puzzle pieces we have no idea, no ability to figure out how do they all fit together, and he has promised, "I'm working them and fitting them into a bigger picture you can't see right now, but one day you will, and one day all the pieces will begin to make sense, and in the meantime you can trust me."
The story of Esther was a, "Hey, you can trust me. I'm working, and I'm going to bring good about." I don't know who's walking through a situation right now where you just need to be reminded of that, and you need just a moment where you just declare to God, "Will you help me to believe that? I don't know where this puzzle piece I'm holding right now fits, and I need your help." The God who is there wants you to come to him and call on him. Finally, just as we finish this book, what I think is remarkable about the story is there are parallels to Jesus in the story.
David: In Luke, chapter 24… Do you know what I'm talking about in Luke, chapter 24?
JD: I mean, a little bit.
David: The road to?
JD: Damascus. Oh, no, not Damascus.
David: No, you're close. You're close. The road to Emmaus.
David: Jesus is on the road to Emmaus, and on the road, he's talking with two of these disciples, and just for the point of being brief, he basically says, "Hey, everything in the Prophets in the Old Testament in the Scriptures was about me. You knew that, right? It was all pointing to the fact that a Messiah would come, he would be crucified, he would give his life, and he would save his people." All of it, including the book of Esther.
How does Esther point to Jesus? Well, in so many ways we see Jesus is a better Esther. Esther risked her physical life to save her people from physical death. Jesus gave his life to save not her people, but all people from eternal death. Esther left her poverty for the palace; Jesus left the palace of heaven for the poverty of earth. Esther appealed to the king to rescue her people from destruction; Jesus appealed to God, the Father, to rescue us from sin's destruction.
Esther entered the palace uninvited by the king; Jesus entered into our world unwelcomed by his people. Esther fought against an evil enemy, Haman; Christ defeated once and for all the ultimate evil Enemy, Satan. Esther boldly identified herself with God's people to spare their lives; Jesus identified himself with humanity to spare our lives.
Esther saved God's people spread across one nation in one generation; Jesus saved God's people from every nation in every generation. The whole book, and ultimately the whole story of the Bible, points to Jesus. I just want to share one last time for anyone listening, because just like last week and the week before, there have been people who tune in who have never put their faith in Jesus.
You've never had a moment in your life where you said, "I believe. Not that I'm a good enough person to go to heaven, or not that because I'm so bad God wouldn't want anything to do with me, but I believe that Jesus on the cross died for my sin. He paid for all of it. If I'm going to have a relationship with God, it's going to be because I receive his free gift in giving his life for me to have eternal life."
He was buried, and he rose from the dead, and it changed the world. It reset the calendar. It redefined existence. And it is ultimately not what the story of Esther about alone, but what your life and all of life is about. God hasn't forgotten you. He loves you. He cares about you. He's at work in the midst of all of this.
Maybe you're sitting right now listening, and you're locked in at home under quarantine, and one of the reasons God wants you to be there is because he wants you to know he loves you. He gave his life to prove it. If you will trust in that message and in Jesus, you will receive eternal life, and not just experience the God who saved the queen but God who saves you and me and all people who call on him.
JD: So good.
David: So let me pray, and then we're going to do one last worship song. Father, thank you that you have been at work since the beginning of time. You're working right now all around us. You are the same God who saved the people, the Jewish nation, 500 years before Jesus was around through Esther and Mordecai, and you're the same God who saved so many of us listening right now by putting our faith in you.
So I do pray for anyone who's never had that moment, tonight would be their night. I pray for friends who are struggling financially and they're anxious because of challenges they're facing that you'd meet them where they're at, who have other believers in their lives to generously provide for needs.
I pray for anyone who's affected directly in terms of their health with the coronavirus that you would meet them right there where they're at. They'd have amazing recovery in front of them and the body of Christ caring for them and around them. Thank you, Lord, that the same God who was at work even when we couldn't see and understand it is still at work even when we can't see and understand it, and that he loves us and gave his life for us. We love you and we worship you now in song. In Christ's name, amen.