There is a saying that is often used to explain the success that some people experience. They say, "I was in the right place at the right time." This has also been said by many who have survived fires, or natural disasters as they took cover in the right spot in the nick of time to save their lives. Many people think that being in the right place at the right time is a matter of "luck" or even guesswork.
We, however, believe that "…God causes all things to work together for good…" Romans 8:28
We don't believe in blind luck or fate, we believe in an eternal God who is aware of, and sovereign over, every event in our lives. We believe that it is God who:
- Creates opportunities for good and provides blessings.
- Permits evil to a degree before He judges and punishes.
Either way, God is a God of history and events and each event is either specifically created by Him to accomplish His will or is permitted by Him so that He might accomplish His will despite opposition. So, if you've ever been in the right place at the right time, it was no fluke, God put you there for a specific purpose.
A great example of this is found in the story of Esther, described in an Old Testament book of the same name. I want to use her story to teach us a few lessons about being in the right place at the right time.
Book of Esther – Background
Before summarizing her story, I'd like to give you a little background information on Esther and the times she lived in so you can get some perspective. Timeframe is middle Fourth Century B.C., after they settled in the land of Canaan that Moses led them to.
For a little more than a century the twelve tribes of Israel lived together as a single nation ruled by a king. There were three kings who ruled (Saul, David and Solomon). After Solomon's death, there was civil unrest which led to a division creating a north and south kingdom who were constantly battling one another. With time, the northern kingdom was defeated and deported by the larger pagan Assyrian kingdom and was never reestablished. Some time later, the Southern kingdom (which had Jerusalem as it's religious and political capital) was also overtaken by the much larger pagan nation of the Babylonians (who had also defeated the Assyrians).
Now through various prophets (like Jeremiah), God had promised that Judah (the Southern kingdom) and its main city (Jerusalem) would one day be rebuilt (70 years) and the people deported to Babylon would return to inhabit the city again, which they did under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra and others.
While the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, they established houses and businesses there and settled down in their new homes in a foreign land. Now a curious thing happened while they were in Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians were themselves defeated by a new and powerful military nation called Persia. Once they conquered the Babylonian Empire, the Persians maintained the foreign captivity of the Jews by their former masters the Babylonians. And so the Jews remained in exile in a pagan and foreign land but now to a new set of captors, the Persians (modern day Iran).
The story of Esther takes place during this particular phase of Jewish history (while they were in captivity under Persian Rule).
The Story of Esther
The book of Esther is written in narrative style with the writer quite simply telling the story of this beautiful Jewish girl who became queen of this great nation (Persia). We don't have time to read the book so I will summarize it for you:
1. King Ahasuerus (Xerxes - Greek name) ruled Persia from 485-465 BC. He was one of the most illustrious rulers who ruled over the ancient world (127 provinces from India to Africa). He planned a military campaign against Greece and before departing had a great feast for his noblemen and governess to which he invited his royal wife queen Vashti. The queen refused to make an appearance and so the king deposed her and searched throughout his kingdom for a young virgin to take her place as wife and queen. They did this by seeking and gathering the most beautiful women in the realm into the king's palace to be prepared to meet the king so he could choose.
2. Esther was a Jewish orphan girl being raised by her cousin Mordecai, both were among the Jewish exiles living in the Persian kingdom. Esther is gathered up along with the other young women and becomes the king's wife and new queen (but he did not know she was a Jewish exile).
3. Haman was the king's prime minister and managed the King's affairs. He was very powerful and because of this, received homage and deference from the lesser nobles and officials. Haman came in contact with Mordecai (Esther's cousin) although he wasn't aware of the relationship. During their meetings Mordecai, as a Jew, refused to bow down before Haman (a sign of worship that would be forbidden of Jews). This made Haman angry and in order to retaliate, he organized a plot to kill every Jewish exile in the empire. He couldn't execute his plan without the king's authorization so he convinced the king that the Jews were planning a rebellion and had to be eliminated. The king went along with the plan and ordered a decree that all Jews were to be killed on a certain day.
4. At this point, Mordecai (Esther's cousin) gets word of the plan to eliminate all Jews in the empire and asks Esther to intercede with the king to save her people. She hesitates at first because coming before the king without being asked (even though they are married five years by now) is a capital offense and she could lose her life. In his answer to her doubts, Mordecai says the words that can be applied to so many key moments of so many lives throughout history. In Esther 4:13 he says to Esther:
13he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14For 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 have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"
These words galvanize her into action and she risks her life in pleading her people's care before the king while revealing Haman's plot. Now since a Persian king's decree would not be rescinded, the king made another decree giving the Jews permission to defend themselves and their property against any attack on that day.
5. In the end, the Jews defeated their enemies on the day originally set to destroy them.
- Haman was executed by the king for his lies and plot.
- Mordecai was given Haman's position as Prime Minister over the Empire.
- Esther remained queen and beloved wife of the king.
Usually, the story happily ends here with the footnote that the Jews continue to celebrate this great victory to this day with the feast of Purim
The Burden of Being in the Right Place at the Right Time
Now just in case you've forgotten, we were originally talking about being in the right place at the right time and how Esther was a good example of this. Not only is Esther's story a good example, but it also provides us with a few lessons about the times we find ourselves in the right place at the right time. Here are a few:
1. Recognize That it is God's Timing Not Yours or Luck
Instead of patting yourself on the back or thanking lady luck for your good fortune, realize that God got you where you are; not luck, not talent.
You have the choice of acknowledging Him and searching for a way to serve Him with your position, or spending your benefits on yourself. For example, the rich can try to get richer or learn where God wants them to practice liberality. The talented can seek to glorify themselves or glorify God with their talent.
We are here for God's purpose and when we recognize this we can make the most of our right time, right place moment. I.E.:
- Floyd Mayweather, undefeated boxing champ, burns money and talks trash.
- Tim Tebow, NFL Quarterback, witnessed faith.
We're here for God's purpose and when we recognize this, we can make the most of our right time, right place moment.
2. Recognize That God's Place and Time is Not Always Easy or Pleasant
Esther's story had a happy ending but she didn't know that when the plot to kill all Jews was hatched and she had to risk her life by going to the king. Sometimes our time and place means that God will require a sacrifice from us, a giving of ourselves for a cause that doesn't seem very noble or spectacular at the time. I.E.:
- Pulling back on a promising career in order to save a relationship
- Giving up our "best" years to raise a handicapped child or care for a sick family member
- Losing money or time so that the work of the church can go ahead
It's hard to be at a crucial time and place that brings no honor, no immediate reward, not even the encouragement of others.
It's hard to be at a time and place where the only motivation you have is the knowledge that, "It's the right thing to do," or…"It's my thing to do, and not someone else's."
Sometimes you're not at a prime place, and it's not a good time, but remember it's still God's time and His place for you. And if you do whatever you do recognizing this, He'll not only give you the power to do what you need to do, He'll flood your heart with His peace as you do it.
3. Recognize that God Can Do it With or Without You
Had Esther copped out, God would have offered a time and place, chance to someone else.
Judas wasted his moment and Matthew stepped into the Apostolic ministry and reward he would have received. Time and place are great opportunities, but they also serve to judge what we're made of, what kind of faith we have, how far we're willing to go for the Lord.
When your time and place occurs, realize that you can be replaced, so do what you have to with humility knowing that your opportunity to serve, to give, to lead, to stand up or to die is a great personal blessing. Don't waste it. Don't refuse it, because God can give the opportunity to someone else.
Well, I've spoken a lot about being in the right place at the right time, but I would like to finish by warning you to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time as well. The wrong place and time is being with the unbelievers, the disobedient and the unfaithful when Jesus comes for you personally in death or comes for the entire world in judgement.
We know that this time will one day come for all of us, so while it still is today, make sure you are in the right place, and that is in the place where Jesus is.
I encourage all of you to make the most of the time and place God has given you by:
- Glorifying Him with your success
- Accepting His sovereignty over every time and place in your life
- Making the most of the time and place He's given you, whatever that is
I also encourage all of you to be with Jesus by repenting of your sins and being baptized or restored. If you need to do this, now is the time to come.