Rewind. Pause. Push Play. “For Such a Time as This”
August 22, 2011 – Aaron Bird
Welcome to the University of Illinois! If this is your first week on campus, I hope you’re finding your way around, enjoying the dorm food, befriending your room and hall mates, not paying full price for your books, learning the bus routes, loving your classes, and having a fantastic Welcome Week! If this isn’t your first year here, I hope you’re reconnecting with friends, nearly done moving in/unpacking, getting as much sleep as possible, and ready to start another great school year! For those of you who may not know, Axiom is no longer on Thursdays this semester; we have officially switched our worship service to MONDAY nights at 8pm in Mumford Hall, room 103. As such, last night was our first Axiom Service of the school year, and believe me, it was amazing – a truly great way to kick off the semester.
Just in case your reading this for the first time, let me tell you how this whole blog thing works… If you miss an Axiom service, or if you really loved the message, or if you didn’t quite understand the message, or if you want to share the message with your friends and family, you should check in right here Tuesday evenings (hopefully)! Here you’ll find my (Taylor’s) recap of Monday’s message, some verses to dwell on for the rest of the week, and a few thoughts on how to take what you learn on Monday nights and put it into action. That being said, here we go!
Rewind: What are you doing here? I know that’s a broad question, but it’s an important one. What are you doing here at the University of Illinois? You’ve probably been, or will soon begin, studying and taking exams and writing papers and completing labs. Hopefully you’re also enjoying the freedom and social atmosphere that comes with living on campus. Maybe you’re here because it was expected that you attend college, and U of I seemed just as good as anywhere. I suppose it’s even possible that you’re here because you don’t know what else to do right now, and college is, in a way, a way to buy yourself four more years to figure your life out.
Those kinds of answers are all well and good, but they don’t really touch on the question I was trying to ask, so let me rephrase it: what is your purpose here? Is it possible that, rather than being the reason, studying and test-taking and graduating are all side-effects of you being here? Don’t get me wrong, those things are really important and should definitely be a focus in your life, but could it also be that something much, much bigger is happening? Have you ever thought that you might be an Esther of the 21st century?
Alright, before you tell me I’m crazy because either you’re a dude (which would make it physiologically impossible to be ‘Esther’) or because you’re not living in ancient Persia, let me explain; you and Esther may actually have more in common than you think. For example, the Persians, who ruled over the Israelites during Esther’s time, LOVED to party (King Xerses once through a six-month-long party, followed by another week long party), and, here at the University of Illinois, whether or not it’s your scene, we also LOVE to party (the Princeton Review ranks us as the #11 Party School in the nation). Another thing you and Esther may share is being outside of the social norm; Esther was a Jewish woman living in Persia (not a Jewish nation, by the way), and long felt that she must keep her faith a secret to be accepted. Similarly, we are Christians living in an increasingly non-Christian environment, and you may at times feel that living out your faith separates you from many of your peers. Finally, Esther, like you, found herself in a place of great significance. Now, unlike Esther, you are probably not the queen of a country, but you are at one of the top schools in the nation, and simply by attending a university you are placing yourself within the group of people from which most world leaders arise!
Now that you realize just how much you share with Esther, and are thoroughly invested in her story, you should take a moment to read the Book of Esther (if you haven’t already)… Aaron went through the whole book on Monday night, and if I had the time, or if I really thought you had the attention span, I’d summarize the whole thing for you again, but, since neither of those things are true, you’ll have to click on this link here, and read it yourself… go ahead and do it now; it’s really not that long…
Wow! Did you catch all of those coincidences? First, out of all the girls who were paraded in front of King Xerses, he chose Esther, a Jewish woman, to be his wife and his queen. Second, Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, just happens to overhear the inebrieated guards plotting the King’s assassination and is credited with saving the King’s life. Then, on just the right night, the King can’t sleep, and his servant just so happens to pick the history book that has Mordecai’s act of loyalty written in it. Next, Esther is allowed into the King’s chamber even though she had not been summoned, for which the typical punishment was death. Oh, and then, just before the evil Haman can carry out his act of genocide against the Jews or the murder of poor Mordecai, the King decides to honor Mordecai, forcing Haman to take part in the celebration. Later, Esther is able to expose Haman and save the Jews all without losing the Kings favor. AND, in the end, Haman is hung on the gallows he had intended for Mordecai; talk about a twist ending!
Does it make you at all uncomfortable to write all of those things off as coincidence? Well, what if, rather than coincidence, we give credit for these events to the One who truly deserves it? What if we call them miracles instead of coincidences? We should be praising the Lord for protecting His people rather than breathing a sigh of relief at another lucky break for the Jews! If we do that, then what Mordecai said in 4:12-14 was true: Esther had indeed been placed on the throne for such a time as this.
What if you are here at the University of Illinois in August of 2011 for such a time as this? Would that change the way you think or the way you live? What if I told you that God has a plan for your life (because He does), and that you don’t have to wait for graduation before it kicks in (because you shouldn’t)? Don’t let your expectations limit your ability to serve the Lord by carrying out His divine purposes. So, what are you waiting for? Life begins right now; go figure out why you’re here.
Pause: The start of the school year can seem really hectic and out of control at times, especially during Welcome Week- everything’s new and slightly intimidating – but, you can trust that God has everything completely under control! If you feel yourself getting stressed this week, take some to time to read and pray about these verses.
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.” Ephesians 1:11-12 MSG
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 NIV
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
“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.” Romans 8:28 NIV
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” Isaiah 46:10 NIV
Push Play: How many times have you seen Dead Poets Society? You know the movie I’m talking about, right; you’ve probably watched it in high school English. It’s the one where Robin Williams stands on a desk and tells his students to “Carpe Diem, seize the day!” about a thousand times? Well, I’ve probably seen it 10 times, all while sitting in a classroom, and even though I’m being a tad sarcastic here, I love that movie. I know I’ve already made some pretty strange comparisons in this post, but the story of Esther really does make me think of that movie. Remember the hard-hitting pep talk Mordie gave Esther in chapter 4: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:13-14) He basically tells her not to squander her God-given opportunity to do something good for the Lord’s Kingdom; he’s telling her to seize the day!
I think that’s why the Book of Esther made it into the bible even though it never once makes a direct reference to God. Esther is God’s version of Dead Poets Society (stay with me here)! The story tells us that even though God may not always be obviously present to our limited human eyes, hearts, and minds, we can take comfort in His promise to always be there, and to always be good, and to always be in control. So, again, I’m going to ask you, why are you here? And, is it possible that you could be like Esther?
Don’t miss a God-given chance to change the world. He has brought you to this place at this time, and He does in fact have a divine purpose in mind. Sure, He can accomplish His purposes without you, but if He has chosen you (which He has) for such a time as this, do you really want to say no?