I’ve never been a fan of the movie The Wizard of Oz. Glinda is certainly sweet and beautiful, and Dorothy is spunky – I even like Tin Woodman. The movie has some delightful music, too. But as a child, I remember being scared of the Wicked Witch of the West and all the creepy winged monkeys!
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember that each of the characters traveling the yellow brick road wants to ask the wizard for something. Cowardly Lion’s request is for courage. He wants to be brave enough to overcome his fears. He failed to realize that courage is taking action even when you’re afraid.
I think Esther, one of my favorite Bible characters, is a great example of courage. She was a young woman who took action to save her people, even though she knew it might mean death for herself.
I’m not sure that they had newspapers back then, but if so, I can see the headline after Esther chapter two – “Local Girl Makes Good!” The article details how Esther, an orphan raised by her cousin, beats out all the other beautiful young women in the kingdom to become the new queen. Perhaps there was even an exclusive interview!
Things are good in the palace…for awhile. Then Esther hears that her cousin, Mordecai, is outside the gates. He’s dressed in sackcloth, and covered in ashes, weeping and wailing. She sends a servant down to figure out what the problem is. Mordecai tells of evil Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews, her people. But not to worry – Mordecai has a plan to get them all out of this trouble.
Mordecai is forceful in his command to Esther. “Also he [Mordecai] gave him [Hatach, Esther’s servant] the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people.”
Mordecai knows that this is going to put Esther in a difficult spot. Yet he expects her to rise to the occasion. After a timid first response, Esther steps up and carries out a plan to save her people.
We’re not likely to face the exact situation that Esther did. However, I have little doubt that we’ll be called upon to exercise courage at some point. It could be, as in her circumstance, having to do something that frightens you. Or maybe it’s displaying strength in the face of grief or pain. Here are a few lessons from Esther’s experience that can help us to find the courage we need.
Courage may not be our first response to trouble.
After hearing Mordecai’s instruction to go before the king, Esther sends word back.
“All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or women, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.” (Esther 4:11)
In other words, the king may not be interested in what I have to say – and if I do what you’re directing me to, it means putting my life at stake!
I can’t imagine the initial struggle in Esther’s heart as she determined the course of action she would take. But we do see that she made the choice to follow Mordecai’s order.
God can orchestrate events to allow my courage to accomplish His plan and bring glory to Him.
It may be the most famous verse from the book of Esther.
“…And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Truly God had placed Esther in the right place at the right time to save His people. Initially, she didn’t know how it was all going to play out. But when she did her part, and courageously went to see the king, God put into motion His plan for the Jews to be spared from destruction.
In the same way, I may not see how God’s agenda is unfolding in my life. Yet I can ask Him for the courage to do what He calls me to do. If my goal is to bring glory to God, He can do a mighty work through me.
God gives me courage as I seek Him.
Before Esther approaches the king, she sends specific instructions to Mordecai.
“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise...” (Esther 4:16)
Any courage I can generate in my flesh is likely to fade away fast. God is the source of my courage. If I want to be brave, it’s going to come as I read and meditate on His Word, and spend time with Him in prayer. And just like Esther, I can ask others to pray with me and for me when there’s a difficult situation ahead.
Doing what I’m called to do must come before thoughts of my own well being.
“…and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)
Once I’ve set out to do the task God’s placed before me, I then have to trust Him for the outcome. Esther didn’t know when she went before the king if he was going to extend his sceptre to her or not. But she went anyway.
Often I can think, “Well, if I do this, what will other people think?” or “How will this affect me or my family?” Instead, I need to step out in faith and follow where God leads.
God can use my courage to affect the lives of others.
“The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year; And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed.”
I may never know who is positively affected by my taking a stand. Perhaps my testimony as I’m going through a difficult time can be a witness to others. Esther’s courage and the working of God in her situation are still celebrated by the Jewish people today. When we, through God’s power, have the courage to do what is right, it will affect others. It could be our own family, our church, the unsaved around us, or even future generations.
I’m thankful for Esther’s example as a courageous woman. In the same way, God can use us in this day and age to carry out His plan and bring glory to Him.