May 10, 2020
“For Such A Time As This”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
God won’t give you more than you can handle. Right? That is true. Right? That word is found in the Bible. Right?
Wrong. It isn’t there. Though I have heard many Lutheran’s speak those words to me, it is not a Scriptural promise. At many times in life God gives you much more than you can handle.
Look at all the stuff that you and I and so many in the world are facing right now – medical concerns that are leaving us frightened; economic realities that are long in complexity; spiritual assaults that include depression, apprehension and fear; a time of isolation and loneliness that causes heartache. One thing is layered upon another and it is more than we can handle.
We have gotten tired of this, already. We are only two months, or so, into this, and just about everyone I talk to says, “I’m ready to return to normal.” But it seems that there are no quick fixes to this. I believe this is more than we can handle.
On this day, Mother’s Day, I have chosen the text from the Book of Esther. I chose this because it is an account of a people- the Jews – and a person – Esther – who were given much more than they could handle.
Around 460 B.C. there were many Jews that lived in Persia. They had been taken captive there by the Babylonians a hundred, or so, years earlier. Though many Jews had returned to Jerusalem, many more had not. There were many in this huge region that was under the rule of a King named Xerxes. Xerxes had a number of subordinates who hated the Jews and wanted them to be annihilated. The Jews were given a problem that was much too big for them to handle.
The order of the King sounded like Adolf Hitler and his “Final Solution” – “Dispatches were sent to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews – young and old, women and little children – on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” (Esther 3:13) The decree went out in January and in December, 11 months later, the killing was to begin.
This was more than they could handle. But this wasn’t more than God could handle. God put into a place of importance a Jewish lady, Esther, who became Queen of Persia. Esther was a “looker”. Or as the Bible says more gently, “This girl was lovely in form and features.” (Esther 2:7b) I say she was a “10”. Due to the looks that God had given her she became part of the harem of Xerxes. But Xerxes didn’t know she was Jewish. He knew how beautiful she was but he didn’t know of her heritage, people or religion.
And now, Esther, had more than she could handle. Would she reveal that she was a Jew and suffer the same consequences as all the other Jews? Or could she make believe that it would just go away? If she closed her eyes and then opened them, would everything then be better? Did God give to Esther, the Queen, and the Jews living in her country more than they could handle? Yes. Initially she wants to close her eyes to the problems, but later, she puts everything into God’s hands.
A man called Mordecai, her cousin, who knew of the plan for the extermination of the Jews, reveals the plan to her, and asks for her help. But the law in that kingdom was that you couldn’t just walk in on the King – he had to summon you. If you entered without being summoned, you could be put to death. This is what we read, “When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: ‘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 come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:12-14)
God made her beautiful and lovely and allowed her to be of such importance and position “for such a time as this.” But for a while she did not want such a place. The burden of responsibility was too great for her. God gave her more than she could handle and it got too heavy.
Mordecai, her cousin, the one who helped raise her after her parents had died, was the leader of the Jews. When the decree went out that all Jews were to be slaughtered he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and threw ashes all over his body. He went in the city wailing as loud and bitterly as he could. When Esther heard of this, “She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth.” (Esther 4:4b). He wouldn’t wear them.
He knew what he was doing. He knew what the tearing of his clothes meant. He understood what he wanted to convey by his loud cries. His people were going to be killed. But Esther simply didn’t want to deal with the truth. “Put some new clothes on – stop being so sad!”
There are things that we don’t want to deal with. There are problems that are bigger than us. God gives us more than we can handle. Stop trying to handle them alone.
Esther didn’t make Mordecai wear the clothes – she caught the drift of what he was saying. Esther decided that she would take a risk and go to the king and speak in defiance of his decree that the Jews were to be killed. “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’” (Esther 4:15-16)
Fatalism? No, this was faith.
This past weekend in our services for 9 people at a time, I looked at them and they looked at me and we all looked terrible. We all looked like robbers with the masks we were wearing. I thought – “This is history.” Wearing masks anywhere and everywhere is history. When I visit Magda, one of the home-bound, who will be 101 the end of this month, she tells me about the bombing of her city, Vienna, Austria, during WWII, she is giving me first-hand history. What we are experiencing is first-hand history. And like Esther, who quickly saw that she had been given more than she could handle, we too have come to royal position for such a time as this, and we too have a hard time handling the position we are put in.
For such a time as this we must realize that all of these problems are bigger than us. Our sin is bigger than us. Our anxiety is bigger than us. Death is bigger than us. By our self we do not have an answer. We’d like to just close our eyes to this all, like Esther sending the new clothes to Mordecai, but that is not the answer.
But for such a time as this Jesus can do what we can’t do. My sin is too great for me, but it is not too great for Jesus. My troubles and worries are too great for me, but not for Him. Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Afraid that you can’t stand and you’ll slip from God’s grip? Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28) For such a time as this God can do in us what we can’t do. He forgave all your sins. Jesus died for you – all sins, all wrongs you have done have been cleansed. He gives you eternal life. Trust only in Jesus. He defeats death – you don’t have to fear it. Martin Luther has this great quote about death, “If God wants me, He knows where I am.”
I remember years ago in the middle of the day my mom was crying. That wasn’t like her. She spent her days singing with Andy Williams or Frank Sinatra. But that day she was crying. I thought that it was probably pretty hard trying to take care of all of us kids. I wonder if sometimes you Moms don’t get overwhelmed and realize that this mothering stuff is pretty hard work – bigger than you some days. But for things bigger than any of us Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9)
The end of the Book of Esther ends well. The Jewish people fight their enemies and they win. In our day Jews all over the world remember God’s deliverance in the yearly celebration of the Festival of Purim.
God won’t give you more than you can handle? Baloney!! But He doesn’t leave you so you have to handle them alone. God in His design has allowed you to live for such a time as this. In life or death, struggles or joys, His might is your strength. Amen!!
Thanks for all your service! We continue to enjoy your sermons online.
Powerful and comforting.
Pastor, thank you for the reminder that whatever challenges or overwhelming problems we may face in this life, God is with us, always faithful, always present, always working on our behalf. We can trust him.
Pastor John, your very special lady on Mothers Day must have been so happy to listen to and see her favorite son sing and also preach another meaningful sermon.
Thanks be to God who makes us able to endure!
Wonderful work on the piano, Diane.