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November 29, 2023

A Devotional to Prepare Our Hearts for a New Year

By Dr. Marcus Buckley, Ministry Director at Christian Union Vita at Cornell

"And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 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?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”  Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him." -Esther 4:12-17


I was in high school when my journalism teacher, Mr. Ott, hit me with a hard truth: “bad news sells.” As something of an optimist, I was taken aback and ready to dispute this. Surely people would enjoy reading about pleasant, hopeful things more than grim, dreadful ones. “Bad news sells papers,” he repeated. “It’s always been that way, and it’ll always be that way.” 


I’m sad to admit all these years later that Mr. Ott was right. While newspapers may no longer be the media of choice, people flock to their favorite network, website, or social media platform to see the latest horrors that humans can inflict on one another. It’s easy to sit back and be discouraged, to throw our hands up helplessly and say, “What’s the point?”


It would be even easier to wonder: why are we here in this day and age? While there has always been suffering and tragedy, our awareness of it is greater than at any point in history. Why are we living in a time when so much bad news is readily accessible all of the time with alerts of disaster and loss literally waiting for us in our pockets? Wouldn’t it have been nice to live in another era when life was simpler and, dare we say it, easier?

 ChristianWorldViewBlog


Even Christians aren’t immune to this way of thinking. It is easy for us to wish for ease and comfort, to pine for days when our greatest worry is how to find new pleasures. This sort of thinking, however, is not what Christ has called us to. We are called to a life of sacrifice, challenge, and even suffering. There are those within Christendom who would preach a false doctrine of physical prosperity for all believers, wrongly suggesting that it is God’s plan for all of His children to be comfortable, wealthy, and wise. Only one out of three of these is correct, and it isn’t either of the ones most would hope for.

 

Wisdom, the right implementation of correct knowledge, is arguably one of the greatest needs in the life of a believer. Huge swaths of Scripture, most notably the book of Proverbs, highlight the need for wisdom. The discussion of wisdom itself requires the recognition of its effective deployment. One such example is Daniel, a young man who, along with countless others of his age, was taken captive after their homeland of Judah fell to the Babylonian Empire. As was the practice of victorious conquerors, Babylon brought the best and brightest of the Jews to be indoctrinated in their culture and customs. This practice both strengthened the conquerors and weakened the conquered.

 

Daniel, however, recognized that God was still his Hope and Provider, regardless of the bleak personal circumstances in which he found himself. When the king’s trainers offered him and his friends rich food that contradicted their Jewish dietary restrictions, he instead asked for food that may have been less physically tasty but was certainly more spiritually uplifting. God honored this wisdom and sacrifice on their behalf by allowing them to be healthier than all those who ate of the king’s idolatrously sacrificed food. God then continued to elevate and bless them for their faithful obedience, but He did not remove them from all adversity. On the contrary, trouble would follow them all of their lives, yet God blessed and provided for them.

 

Esther lived some 100 years later, finding the Jews still under the dominion of another empire, this time the Persians. This young Jewish girl would be elevated to the position of queen, and was ultimately expected to risk her own life to save her people. The man who raised her, Mordecai, challenged her by asking, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

 

That same question rings out to us as Christ followers today. Instead of questioning why the world is the way it is, instead of seeking to out maneuver suffering and sorrow, what would happen if everyone of us who is a believer sought to understand our God-given role where we are, when we are? How different would the world be if Christians sought not material or physical pleasure but spiritual power? What kind of impact for the Kingdom of God could we have if we truly and completely gave ourselves up for His purposes, no matter the cost?

Let’s find out. 

 

For the life we live is not our own anyway– we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Let’s glorify God in our bodies, whatever that may take. Let’s live as though we were selected to be born, to live, and to be saved–and if need be, to die–for such a time as this.   

 

Father, we pray for wisdom and courage today to be men and women of Godly character who love and trust You enough to follow in all the ways You lead us, through adversity and blessing alike. We know that all things are in Your Hands, and we rely exclusively upon You to live each moment surrendered to Your will and purpose. In Jesus' matchless name we pray. Amen.

To join Americans across the country "for such a time as this" in a 21-day National Fast from January 2-22, go to CUAmerica.org/fast.