Alistair has been preaching through the book of Esther for several weeks now. I am continually amazed and blessed by his ability to take something so familiar and help it come alive to me in new ways. I know it is not solely his doing, that apart from the inworking of the Holy Spirit, both in his life and my own, his words would fall on deaf ears, but God uses his teaching in my life and heart, and for that I am so grateful.
One main point he has been stressing as we make our way through Esther is the doctrine of providence. The name of God is not mentioned in the entire book, yet we see him between every line of the story. This is easy due to our knowledge of the end of the story. If you stop for a moment, though, and put yourself in the shoes of Esther or Mordecai, I’m positive this providence would be much more difficult to see (much like it is in my own life). This past Sunday, we read the line:
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 4:14, ESV)
These words penetrated a new, deeper part of me than ever before. Having just returned from a missions trip to Taiwan, I am doing some serious soul searching. The Lord showed me glimpses of Himself and who He created me to be in so many little ways over the 10 days we were gone. I have had a soft spot in my heart for missions for a number of years. I continually wonder if the Lord is calling me into full-time foreign ministry. Despite these thoughts, and my ultimate desire to see the name of Christ be lifted high throughout the whole earth, I have very big reservations and a list of excuses I tell God about.
I have dietary restrictions, I can’t possibly function in another culture.
I am a home body, I would miss being home and being with my family entirely too much.
I am introverted, I would be totally spent and useless after a short amount of time on the mission field.
I have school debt, I have to wait until it is all paid off before going anywhere.
I’m single, I don’t want to go alone.
I just don’t think I’d be happy, yet again, I’m called to be holy and obedient, not happy (so I guess I would go…maybe).
These are just a few of the list of excuses that run through my mind when I think about going into missions. The Lord used this trip in my life, despite all my many reservations, to open my heart up more to the idea of going away to serve Him. All of the issues listed above were put to rest in really neat ways. My wheat intolerance was barely an issue as rice is the primary grain in the Taiwanese diet. I didn’t yearn for home like I usually do after being away (even for a few days). The Lord gave me His strength to continue on, even though I was spent from constant extroversion, lack of sleep, and sensory overload. One of the missionaries we worked with is still paying off school debt but is able to do so because of the good pay Americans get for teaching English. The community at the church we were working wouldn’t leave me feeling as single or lonely as even my life here does. Most of all, I was HAPPY. I was filled with love and joy. I felt I was utilizing the gifts and passions the Lord has given me in a way I am unable to do here. I could actually picture myself doing that, teaching English and working with children.
Then, the sermon on Sunday. For such a time as this. Just as Esther was put in the perfect position to be able to save her people, we Americans have been put in the perfect position to save the Lord’s people from around the world. Esther, out of none of her own strength, ability, planning, etc., was made queen of Persia. When she became the queen, though, I am sure she never thought so much would be required of her. She enjoyed her lush lifestyle. She lacked nothing and didn’t want to rock the boat, even when an entire people group, HER people, was going to be executed. Then, at the urging of her uncle, she agreed to give up her life, her riches, her comforts, her marriage, her everything for the sake of her people. As I sat and listened, I could see many similarities to my own life. I have been born into privilege. I am a U.S. citizen, I am a native English speaker, I was raised in a Christian home and belong to the Lord Jesus. I have more money than most of the population of the world, I have been given a heart for people and a love of discipleship, and the list could go on. What if I have been given all this for such a time as this? What if, as was the case with Esther, my blessings are not simply for me to enjoy? What if I have been given this place of influence and this comfortable life in order to use it for God’s glory and for the redemption of His people? We don’t realize what doors are open to us as U.S. citizens. Our ability to travel, to teach, and to be supported financially is incredible. People desperately want to learn English, so much so that they are willing to send their children to a church for a week to practice speaking the language, even though they are being taught things diametrically opposed to their own Buddhist beliefs. We have so many doors open to us. Why aren’t we going through these doors in masses?
I am still thinking and praying through all of this. I feel I am finally surrendered to God’s will, even if it means leaving people and a place that I love. I am waiting for God to put the next step before me, begging He makes that step very clear. It is a scary thing to follow God into a foreign land all by yourself, but I know He will bless me in ways I can’t even fathom from where I stand now. As I stand on this precipice, waiting for God to say, “jump,” I encourage you to search the heart of God for His purpose for you. What has the Lord blessed you with and what does He want you to do with it? My friends, we are not meant to be merely consumers, we are called to be fishers of men, laborers in the vineyard, and obedient servants of Jesus Christ. We must never forget.