Putting Faith Into Action.
Esther 5-6, James 2
Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. – James 2:18 ESV
It is so easy to claim belief in God. But it’s something altogether different to live that belief out in daily life. In the story of Esther, we have belief or faith in God put to the test. Esther and Mordecai had to take what they knew about God in a purely academic or cerebral sense and apply it to their circumstances. They both had to take steps of faith and learn to stand on and trust in the character and power of God. Esther knew that, while she was queen, she was under the same law that prohibited anyone from coming into the presence of the king unless summoned. The penalty for violating this law was death. Yet Esther, after prayer and fasting, determined to trust God and place her life in His hands. She boldly walked into the king’s presence, uninvited and unexpected. But rather than encountering the king’s wrath, she “won favor in his sight, and he hold out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand” (Esther 5:2 ESV). Not only that, the king greeted her with the shocking words, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to half of my kingdom” (Esther 5:3 ESV). As God had done so many times before in the history of the people of Israel, He influenced the heart of a king and caused him to show favor to His servant. Mordecai, the man whose refusal to bow before Haman had caused the dire situation in which the people of God found themselves, continued to show up at the gate and do his job. He didn’t flee in fear or run for his life. He remained committed to His God and consistent in his refusal to bow down before a man. Under pressure and faced with the prospect of watching his people ruthlessly murdered, Mordecai didn’t compromise his convictions or succumb to situational ethics. He remained firm, trusting God, in spite of all that he saw happening around him.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God is always at work, most often in ways that are invisible to our eyes. He operates behind the scenes and orchestrates events in unseen ways. Esther had no way of knowing that the king would show her favor. Neither she or Mordecai had any idea what was taking place behind the closed doors of the palace and in Haman’s own home. Haman was plotting the public hanging of Mordecai. King Ahasuerus was having trouble sleeping. And God was behind it all. Haman, driven by pride and anger, was plotting his revenge on Mordecai. But he was unaware that his plans for Mordecai’s demise would be turned against him. He had no way of knowing that the gallows he had constructed for Mordecai’s death would become his own place of execution. Esther was oblivious to her husband’s insomnia and his seemingly random request to have “the book of memorable deeds” read to him. In that book he would hear of the earlier actions of Mordecai, who had exposed and foiled a plot on the king’s life. Haman had no idea that, when he had shown up early for work that morning, his timing was God-ordained. And when asked by the king, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” (Esther 6:6 ESV), Haman had no idea the ramifications his self-centered response would have. In this passage we see both the sovereignty and sense of humor of God. Thinking that the king wants to honor him, Haman came up with a very elaborate, over-the-top recommendation for honoring “the man” the king has in mind. Haman had no concept that the king was to Mordecai. He had no way of knowing that his words would be used to honor his mortal enemy. And Mordecai was oblivious to the fact that God was getting ready to reward his faithfulness and convictions. God was working in unseen ways, putting together a plan by which His enemies would be destroyed and His people, blessed.
What does this passage reveal about man?
As human beings, we live by sight. We are circumstantially based, and prone to focus on what we can see. We evaluate the situation surrounding us and draw certain conclusions. We make assumptions and make determinations based on the facts as we know them. But we tend to overlook what God may be doing behind the scenes. That is where faith comes in. The writer of Hebrews gives us a wonderful definition of faith: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:2 NLT). Paul told us that we are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV). The word he used for “walk” is a word that means “to conduct your life.” It conveys the idea of living your life, going about your everyday affairs, by faith, not by sight. In other words, we are put our faith into daily action, by trusting in what we can’t see: the reality of God’s behind-the-scenes involvement in the everyday affairs of our life. Faith has practical ramifications. Believing in God is far more than a mental assent to His existence. It is a daily reliance upon His power, sovereignty, love, mercy, and unwavering commitment to our long-term well-being. While things may not look promising, we can always count on God keeping His promises. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will not fail to keep His commitments to us. But our greatest temptation will always be to doubt God. We will always find ourselves prone to allow our faith to become compromised and our actions to be based on human reasoning. James wrote to his audience warning them of this very thing. They were showing partiality, treating those with wealth as more important and significant than those who had nothing. They were using human reasoning to determine that sucking up to the rich made sense. They had convinced themselves that associating themselves with the wealthy would have long-term benefits. But to do so, they were having to violate God’s royal law of love. It made no sense to love the poor because common sense said there was nothing to be gained by doing so. But faith rarely makes sense. Doing things God’s way will not always seem reasonable or practical. But the life of faith rarely makes sense from a human perspective.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
I can claim to have faith in God, but the proof is in the pudding. In other words, faith must show up in practical ways. It can’t remain hidden. Esther was going to have to walk into the presence of the king sooner of later as an expression of her faith in God. Mordecai was going to have to stay committed to his convictions if he wanted to see His God act. To have compromised or caved in would have openly declared his lack of faith in God. James whole point in dealing with faith and works was to convince us that faith is not some ethereal, hidden characteristic, but a practical, visible manifestation of what we know about our God. Esther’s faith in God became visible when she placed her trust in Him and stepped into that throne room, in spite of her fears and the voice of reason screaming inside her head. Mordecai kept showing up to work each day, knowing that his refusal to bow down to Haman had led to the possible destruction of the entire Jewish population. Everything in him and everyone around him was probably telling him it wasn’t worth it. He had to have been wrestling with whether or not he had gone to far. Certainly he entertained ideas of giving up his hopeless crusade and was tempted to rationalize a more reasonable solution to his problem. But he stayed committed because he trusted God. He had told Esther, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place” (Esther 4:14 ESV). He didn’t know exactly how, but God was going to save them one way or the other. His hope was not in Esther, but in Esther’s God. How we act in this world should be based on what we know about God. Our belief in God should impact our behavior. What we know about our God should influence our actions, regardless of what we know about the ultimate outcome.
Father, I want to be a man of faith. I want to learn to live by faith, not by sight. Help me to understand that it is my growing awareness and understanding of You that drives my behavior. It is my confidence in You that allows me to live confidently and uncompromisingly in this world. My faith has an object: You. And it is my faith in You that allows me to live faithfully in this world, regardless of what I can see or not see. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men