So, we got a little ambitious today and we read 2 scriptures.
These two stories – have some pretty remarkable things to teach us – and so we’re going to dive in quickly and summarize a couple things in each story – that I think drive at the heart of what we’ve been trying to do at Summit – this month – talk about how we grow in our giving. Are you ready?
Story number one.
Esther – what was Esther’s ethnic and religious background?
She was Jewish.
And who is she married to?
King Xerxes. The King of Persia and the Persian Empire
So, the Jewish people living in Persia were under the rule of the Empire. Their rights were extremely limited.
And many people hoped to completely eliminate the Jews entirely. Including Haman – one of the king’s most trusted advisors.
Now, because of this tension – Esther doesn’t tell the king that she is Jewish. She knows its too risky – in fact, the whole reason she became queen in the first place is because he didn’t like that his first queen had a mind of her own and refused to do what he said.
So, Esther had been quiet about her background.
But now things are different. Haman has convinced the king to issue a decree that the Jews are to be annihilated on a particular day. It is essentially an order for genocide.
And so Mordecai – Esther’s cousin has come to find her – and to ask her – what?
To try to do what she can – to stop what is impending…
But what is her initial response?
She is worried.
Because she knows that if she approaches the king –she could be killed.
Her initial focus – understandably is on all the limitations.
I can’t do anything – the king hasn’t called me to see him for 30 days.
What she is being asked to do is simply too big –
She couldn’t possibly do it.
In our second story –
From the New Testament, Jesus and his disciples have had a long day. The plan had been to go to a deserted place where they could rest and reconnect. The disciples have just returned from going out into the community to share the good news with others – and they have a lot to tell Jesus. And they are also deeply grieved, all of them, from the news that John the Baptist had been beheaded.
They needed some time away. So Jesus tells them – come with me and let’s go rest a while.
But those darn people. The crowds of people – with their needs and their longing to be with Jesus – they follow them.
And Jesus sees them – and even though he is tired and he is grieved, he has compassion for them. And so he teaches them – for most of the day. Until the hour was late. And they were hungry.
The disciples come to Jesus – look it’s late Jesus – these people need to go somewhere else – and eat. We need to wrap this up and send them home.
But Jesus looks back at them and says what?
You give them something to eat.
You do it.
And what do they say?
We can’t because – it would cost way more than we could ever purchase. There are too many people. It’s too big.
Their initial focus is – on their limitations.
This task is too big. We don’t have what it takes.
We struggle with this too. What are you wrestling with now – where it is easy to focus more on your limitations?
Researchers have discovered some interesting things about the skill sets and neurological abilities of some of the most highly successful people, people who are able to motivate others and make change happen, people who are able, in a sense, to accomplish what seems to be impossible.
And each one of these people has the ability in difficult situations to do something called Re-Appraisal. They have the consistent ability when things get difficult and dicey – when faced with a challenge or impossible situation – these people have the ability to re-frame the situation – to look at it from a new perspective. To stop focusing on the limitations and instead – focus on the possibilities.
And what they discovered –
Is that the most dynamic leaders – ones who are truly effective at this skill – have the ability to not only do it for themselves – but also help those around them – to do the same.
Both of these stories have dynamic leaders who help move the focus from limitations to possibilities.
Who is that person in the story of Esther?
Her cousin Mordecai –
Mordecai responds to the queen with one of the most famous quotes from this book of the Bible.
“Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this”
Mordecai shifts her focus – to what is possible – that she could be a part of something remarkable – saving her very people.
And when Esther can reframe her story and see it through this lens – it becomes clear what she must do.
In the second story – not surprisingly, that person is Jesus!
What is the question that he asks the disciples to help them see something new?
“What do you have?”
And then he takes what they have – the 5 loaves and the 2 fish – and he thanks God – and he starts handing it out.
And when the disciples can reframe their story – when they can see this not as a burden but an opportunity – what do they spend their time doing at the end?
Picking up 12 baskets of leftovers…
This month, we’ve been talking about growing in our giving. How it is that God is calling us to take another step forward in sharing the resources that we have…
The first week we expanded our idea of what those resources include –
And last week – we talked about the importance of our ability to have trust – that fundamentally – to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus on the water – it takes practice – we have to take that step –
So the final question for this week – is what is holding you back? What is keeping you in the boat? What is it that God is calling you to do and you are focused on your limitations?
So, I want to invite you to think about that thing in your life that perhaps God is inviting you to – the place where you are being called to be more generous with yourself, your resources of money or stuff, your time, your relationship – where you are invited to trust –
And in your paper – I want you to write down the limitations that seem to be keeping you from taking a step forward…
Then I want you to rip up the paper into strips – and on the other side of those –
Write down – what you DO HAVE.
What things do you bring?
Write them down.
During our offering today – we are going to collect the baskets full. The resources that you bring – as a reminder of the abundance – of what we DO HAVE – to face the impossible – and to be faithful to the call.