How to P-R-O-C-E-S-S the Stress

If experiencing emotional pressure or strain, try these prescriptions from Scripture for helping us p-r-o-c-e-s-s- the stress:

P – Pardon. This refers to the need to release bitterness and the feeling of being treated unjustly. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). This wasn’t as much for their sake as it was for His benefit: He wouldn’t resent even those who were maliciously treating Him.
R – Read. Yes, get out your Bible and dig into one of its passages. Reading has a way of giving us an escape to another time and place.
O – Outside. Get back to nature. Read again Jesus’ instructions for how to overcome worry  (in Matthew 6:24-34) and notice how many times He refers to lessons we learn from what we’ll see in the great outdoors.  The heavens announce that there is a great and good God (Psalm 19:1-7).
C – Conversation. God made us for companionship and relationships. Numerous passages direct us to engage in upbeat communication: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29 NKJV). Call up someone you’ve been thinking about and ask them how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to.
E – Exercise. Okay, Paul wrote that “bodily exercise profits a little” (1 Tim. 4:8), but he didn’t say it profits nothing. In whatever way you can, get the blood flowing and get moving and work off some of that tension. Perhaps ride a bike. Go for a walk. Maybe work in the yard or in the garden. Activate the muscles and joints and see if you don’t feel better.
S – Sustenance. It could be that you’re not eating as you should. When Elijah was under stress, what he needed was a good meal (see I Kings 19:5-8). Make sure your diet is a healthy one.
S – Supplication. If you haven’t laid the matter before the Lord, then do that right now. Take a moment and “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV).

God’s Makeovers: No More Secret Disciples

All four accounts of Jesus’ life record His death and His resurrection, and they also describe how He was buried by someone who – up to that point – had been a secret disciple.

The man who transported Jesus’ body from the place of His crucifixion to the site of His burial was Joseph of Arimathea. In John 19, we read about the last moments of Jesus, then, John continues:

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.” – John 19:38-42 (NKJV).

No doubt it was Jesus’ crucifixion that moved these men to come out of the shadows and to courageously and compassionately see to it that Jesus was laid to rest in a dignified manner.

A conviction of the cross of Christ has that kind of impact. Paul wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18 NKJV). Those who have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice in our place on the cross won’t keep it hush-hush.

We can’t become a Christian and keep it a secret. Paul pointed out, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10 NKJV). We are not permitted to claim the benefits of Jesus’ blood without acknowledging that He is our Savior and the source of our forgiveness.

We can’t be a Christian and keep it a secret. The Lord said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33 NKJV). Perhaps this will be a learning process for some, but the Lord does not make it optional whether we can privately be a Christian and publicly pretend not to be.

In a way, this principle is seen in one of the miracles Jesus performed. In Mark 5, on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, a woman who had suffered for many years with a medical issue managed to touch Jesus’ garment from behind, and was healed. Mark records what happened next:

“And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”
31 But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ”
32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” – Mark 5:30-34 (NKJV).

I’m confident that Jesus knew who had touched him and why she had done so, and that she was healed – He knew all of those details already – but what was yet to be known was whether she would let it be known. Would she take a blessing from the Lord, and then keep it to herself? No! What a moving moment when she “fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.”

Friends, let’s be so moved by the power of the gospel of Christ that we won’t keep it a secret anymore.

Find more about God’s Makeovers: Joseph of Arimathea in our YouTube video.

God’s Makeovers: Second Chances for Struggling Christians

An episode that arose during the First Missionary Journey provides some insight into the patience of God – and our need to be patient with others who may be struggling.

John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the first major expedition by the church at Antioch to send the gospel of Christ into the heart of the Gentile world (Acts 13:3-5). John Mark, however, didn’t finish the journey. Luke explains that after the party landed along the southern coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), “John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13). Not much is suggested in the text to convey the idea that anything was troubling with that development, except that it is specifically pointed out. We learn later, when Paul and Barnabas were planning their second journey together, that John Mark’s leaving them had much more significance to it. When Barnabas suggested that they allow John Mark to travel with them on the second trip, it was not welcomed by Paul:
“Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:38-41 NKJV).

The separation of Paul and Barnabas is disappointing, but the disagreement – over a matter that was not related to faith or doctrine – was so intense that they elected to take different paths in the mission.

Whatever the cause for John Mark’s decision to leave the mission on the earlier trip, he later regained a strong relationship with and respect of Paul. In some of Paul’s later writings, he describes John Mark as a productive coworker (Col 4:10-11 and 2 Tim. 4:11). Peter referred to John Mark as his spiritual son (1 Peter 5:13). Early church history reveals that John Mark is the penman of the Gospel According to Mark.

Christians are forgiven, but they aren’t flawless. In John Mark’s life we see how the mistakes we make don’t have to define our lives – we can make a new start in Jesus Christ.

See more about God’s Makeovers: John Mark in our YouTube video.

God’s Makeovers: Manasseh’s Prayer

If your prayers have been infrequent, perhaps a dose of motivation is needed. In 2 Chronicles 33:12-13,  we learn what turned one of Judah’s most ungodly kings, Manasseh, into a man of earnest prayer: 

“Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.”

Notice three features of this prayer that can help us reinvigorate our prayer-life:

1) The incentive for Manasseh’s prayer: “when he was in affliction” (v. 12a). Sometimes the turmoil or trauma of life can remind us of our humanity and mortality and reawaken us to our spiritual needs. Manasseh had created these problems by many years of ungodly living and turning away from God’s message. The Lord was open to receive him back. His forgiveness, however, won’t necessarily take away the course of natural consequences set in motion by our misconduct. Nothing bad that we experience is for nothing if it draws us closer to our Creator.

2) The intensity of Manasseh’s prayer: “he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him” (vv. 12b-13a). Manasseh’s prayer reminds us of the publican who “standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!'” (Luke 18:13). Prayers that lack spirit or are merely repeating words without feeling perhaps won’t rise any higher than the ceiling. Prayers that reach the ear of God are like “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). 

3) The impact of Manasseh’s prayer: “He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom” (v. 13b). What a tremendous example of God’s presence and patience! Manasseh had ignored the Lord for decades, yet our Father readily provided for Him when he turned his situation over to Him. Of course, the precise outcome of our prayers are in God’s plan and according to what serve His purpose. For example, the apostle Paul pleaded for relief, and in his situation, the Lord saw that instead of eliminating the problem, He would continue to equip Paul to endure it (see II Cor. 12:7-10). As he relied on God, “Manasseh knew that the Lord was God“ (v. 13). Regardless of the manner in which the Lord answers our prayers, we can continue to have certainty that He is providing for us in the way that is best for us. 

James pointed out that “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). As we increase the urgency of our prayers, the Heavenly Father increases the frequency of His answers.

More about God’s Makeovers: Manasseh are in our YouTube video.

“Let Us” Take the Next Step

In grammar, “let us” uses a helping verb that focuses on an additional action. In the Book of Hebrews, readers are invited to take that extra step 13 times:

  • “Let us therefore fear” (Heb. 4:1).
  • “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4:11).
  • “Let us hold fast our profession” (Heb. 4:14).
  • “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16).
  • “Let us go on unto perfection” (Heb. 6:1).
  • “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).
  • “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering” (Heb. 10:23).
  • “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24).
  • “Let us lay aside every weight” (Heb. 12:1).
  • “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).
  • “Let us have grace” (Heb. 12:28).
  • “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp” (Heb. 13:13).
  • “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually” (Heb. 13:15).

What is the next step you should take to respond to the Lord’s message?

Always… Be Thankful

God’s plan for our lives includes developing a spirit of continual gratitude. Paul wrote, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thess. 5:18). When we focus on being thankful, it will improve the way we cope with our past, our present, and give us incentive for the future. So it is useful to be familiar with techniques for becoming more appreciative when we may not necessarily be in that mood at the moment.  Here are three ways we can become more grateful:

First, write it down.  We sing about “Count Your Blessings,” and that’s a great idea. When we begin to think of specific good things in our life, it changes the way we feel. 

Scripture teaches we should be living intentionally, not taking any moment or blessing for granted. The psalmist wrote, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Being continually grateful includes thinking of how we are being blessed at every moment.  We should be “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). 

Take out a sheet of paper and write down something you are thankful for, and continue adding to the list. There is something potent that happens when we actually write it. A study in 2010 by Professor Anne Mangen and neurophysiologist Jean-Luc Velay, reported in the Advances in Haptics Journal, revealed that we process what we write with our hands more powerfully than typing or reading only (Daily Mail, Jan. 21, 2011, “Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard: Children who write by hand ‘learn better than those who type’”). 

Second, take it away. Reflect for a moment on “What if I’d never…” or “What if I didn’t have….” When we are keenly aware of what we would have missed or lost without what we have now, we become more appreciative. Paul realized what he would have been without Christ: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10). Jesus reminded us: “without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

A recent report in Psychology Today reiterated this technique. Dr. Ryan Niemiec explained in “New Happiness Strategy: Mentally subtract the positive from your life” (publ. Oct. 30, 2013) that when we think about what our life would be without a supportive friend, education, health, our home, safety, any positive event or achievement, that we experience an “enhanced sense of appreciation.”  This method helped George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life and it can help us, too.

Third, work it out.  If you can find something to do, especially something that will help someone, it will immediately trigger the capacity to feel connected and grateful. In his New York Times article “A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day,” John Tierney pointed out that when we realize how we’ve been helped, it compels us to help others. Paul advised, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8).

More about how to “Always… Be Thankful” can be found in our video on YouTube.

Always… Be Prayerful

Need some help to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17)? Here are a dozen good reasons for praying seven days a week:

#1: Jesus asks us to be – Effective prayers are persistent prayers:  “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).

#2. God blesses us everyday: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

#3. God’s love is experienced everyday: “He that loveth not knoweth not God;  for God is love” (I John 4:8).

#4: Our leaders make difficult decisions everyday: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority” (I Timothy 2:1-2a).

#5: Something will likely worry us everyday: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)

#6: Everyday someone is troubled by a health problem or physical concern:  “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray” (James 5:13).

#7: Everyday we sin: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1).

#8: Everyday someone somewhere would benefit from a missionary for Christ: “Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest , that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

#9: Everyday someone needs encouragement:  “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (Romans 15:1-3).

#10: We need God’s wisdom every day:  “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

#11: Today could be our last day: “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).

#12: Everyday someone misses an opportunity to answer the Lord’s invitation:  “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:1-2).

See more about daily prayer in our YouTube video: “Always … Be Prayerful”

Always… Be Joyful

At the end of the Book of First Thessalonians, Paul gives a list of instructions for attitudes and behaviors to be developed by Christians.  What makes these verses more meaningful is the circumstances of the people who were the initial recipients of this book.

The Thessalonians were experiencing lots of problems, and Acts 17 explains how the church started there and how Paul’s life had been in danger:

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. 5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea.” – Acts 17:1-10

Knowing the situation, Paul nevertheless gives these three pieces of instruction for enduring trying times:

Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The first command, in verse 16, is ALWAYS BE JOYFUL:

The text is easy to interpret, but perhaps not so easy to implement:

Rejoice: “chairō; a primary verb; to be “cheer”ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off; impersonally, especially as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: — farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hall, joy(- fully), rejoice.” (Strong’s Dictionary)

evermore: “pantote… every when, i.e. at all times: — alway(-s), ever(-more).” (Strong’s Dictionary)

[Trivia that’s not so trivial – “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) is the shortest in the English NT; but “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) is the shortest verse in the Greek NT (the original language)).

Christians should be people of joy: 

  • We are full of joy for our Savior: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.
  • Our Salvation brings us joy: “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:2.

The book of Psalms has some great passages about being joyful:

  • “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” – Psalm 34:1-2 KJV
  • “I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. 2 Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.” – Psalm 145:1-2 KJV
  • “While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” – Psalm 146:2 KJV

This passage (1 Thess 5:16) teaches us how this joy makes a difference for us.

Following this command to be joyful will have its challenges. Because we are commanded to be joyful (and this is one of about six dozen commands in the New Testament to express joyfulness),  it means this is a choice we make. We are to adjust our attitude to be joyful at all times, no matter what the circumstances are. 

Paul also wrote this about being joyful:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4 NKJV

Our joy does not come from our situation, but from our Savior and His salvation – “Rejoice in the Lord.” Our relationship with God equips us for any circumstance.

Make a daily commitment to being reshaped by God’s word about this.

Remember: “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.”

These resources supplement our video at Always…Be Joyful at YouTube

 

Coping with a Crisis: Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk (pronounced “hah-BACK-uck”) is one of a set of a dozen books found at the very end of the Old Testament. He’s one of the Minor Prophets, which refers not to the importance of the book, but its length. Even though these books are small in comparison to the other Old Testament writings, including the much longer Major Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, they contain some powerful teaching. 

One of the most inspiring passages in all of the Minor Prophets is found at the conclusion of Habakkuk’s little book. His writing focuses on the seeming injustice that God would permit Judah to be conquered by a more ungodly nation like Babylon. After he considers this enigmatic issue, he concludes that he will nevertheless always defer to God’s plan: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Consider three components to this passage, which can teach us how to cope with a catastrophe:

(1) THE DISASTERS WE EXPERIENCE: “the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls” (ESV). In verse 17, Habakkuk gives a catalog of devastation that a military invasion – or any natural or man-made disaster for that matter – would leave in its wake. Perhaps the first step in maneuvering through misfortune is coming to terms that hardships exist in our world and sometimes – for perhaps no reason we can discern – they become an uninvited part of our lives. Job shared this observation: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

(2) THE DEVOTION WE EXPRESS: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk resolves in verse 18 to nevertheless trust in God and to rejoice in Him. This was suggested with his opening verse 17 with “although” – the problems were not going to deprive him of his joy. We can choose that our circumstances will not define us. This type of reaction is also seen in Job: “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 2:21) and in the New Testament, when Paul and Silas were “thrust … into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:24-25). When we grasp that every experience is designed to glorify God (and not us), we will be able to sing praises to Him through the calamity. 

(3) THE DELIVERANCE WE EXPECT: “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” Habakkuk’s  faith was fueled by his confidence in God’s sustaining him through any hardship. Life on the other side of the struggle could be very different from what we might have preferred, yet we can endure. The way we cope, Habakkuk says, is by taking on the persona and special ability of the hind, a mountain deer. This creature is associated in Hebrew literature with swiftness and agility: “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places” (II Samuel 22:34). A similar thought is in the saying, “When God sends us over stony ground, He will give us strong shoes.” The Lord will equip us with the mindset and spiritual resources to adapt our inner world to His way for life; and the Lord will provide in the material world those things that are needed for us to fulfill His purpose through our situation. In this way, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

The Lord hasn’t promised to change our circumstances to suit us, but to suit us to our circumstances. He changes us so that we are equipped for any condition or circumstance. Let’s allow Him to reshape and mold us through our submitting to His word.

“Perhaps This is Why:” A Closer Look at Esther 4:14

One of the most powerful passages of Scripture about God’s providence never mentions His name, but it’s filled with His presence. It’s found about midway through the suspenseful book of Esther.

Esther was a beautiful woman who was selected by the King of Persia to be his wife; however, as detailed in the book, he didn’t know she was a Jew (Esther 2:9-10). At the request of his jealous assistant Haman, the king unwittingly issued an edict that the Jews were to be put to death (3:8-10).

Esther chapter four recounts Esther’s decision to approach the king about the Jews impending demise. This was risky, because it would violate protocol to approach him uninvited, could be considered a security threat and, not the least, would expose her as a Jew.

In our text, Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, urged urged her to take action: “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NKJV). Consider four spiritual principles from this passage:

1) Evil can intimidate good people into doing nothing: “If you remain silent.” Peer pressure urges those who are younger to do things they shouldn’t, then as we get older it pulls at us to not do things we should. Peter was lured to deny Jesus by those beside him (John 18:25-27). Barnabas found it too hard to go against the group mentality (Gal. 2:13).  When it is within our power, we must help those who are in distress.

2) God is so powerful, versatile and persistent that evil cannot thwart His providence when His people call for it: “relief will arise from another place.” Ezra later said the Lord gave them more than relief – He gave them a revival (Ezra 9:9). God’s plans baffle the enemy: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Cor. 2:7-9).

3) God’s providence will not compensate for our unfaithfulness to Him: “your father’s house will perish” (cf. v. 13). For Esther to benefit from God’s providence, she could not sit idly by and be confident of any benefit. The Lord Who sends “our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11) has not promised to provide “if any would not work” (II Thess. 3:10).

4) Perhaps God has placed us where we are for a good purpose. The meandering path of life could have actually been a journey to exactly where God wants to use us:

  • “If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” (Prov. 24:12). God is not surprised by any developments in human activity.
  • “For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him forever; 16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, especially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord?” (Philemon 15-16). The Lord is able to turn misfortune into fortune when we place our activities under His direction.
  • “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” (Phil. 2:30). When we are consumed with serving God’s purpose, He can turn our shortcomings into a blessing.

God’s providence is appropriated through our faithfulness to Him. Faith requires a willingness to risk our security.