Have you done something that you know is right, but in the end, you have been punished for it?
Let me tell you about a man named Michael. He was an American war veteran, who had been involved in Desert Storm and returned with PTSD. So, when he walked past a car on a sunny day with a dog locked in it, windows fully up, panting and seemingly in distressed. Michael couldn’t just ignore it, he had seen enough death and violence, he didn’t want to see any kind of tragedy anymore. Michael decided that he would save that dog, in that hot enclosed car.
He ripped the arm of his wife’s wheelchair, then used it to smash the driver’s side window. He got the dog out taking it to the shade and giving it some water. Possibly saving its life. A little while later the driver came back to find her car damaged and a man holding her dog, so she called the police. When the police arrived, they heard from the car and dog owner, they heard from some witnesses and from Michael and his wife. The owner of the car insisted that charges be laid on the man for breaking and entering, and trespassing. You see in that state in America you can break into a car to save a person, but you can’t break in to save an animal.
The police had no choice but to arrest Michael. In the end charges were dropped, but there was a chance of jail time or $1000 fine for saving the dog’s life. But Michael said that he would do it again if he had his time again.
Sometimes even though we do what is right, but the outcome is a punishment. Sometimes we please God, but that won’t always please people. So often we have a choice, ‘please God or please people’. Will I stand up for what I believe in, or will I give in to the pressure.
In the book of Esther, we get a glimpse of this. This book helps us to understand that:
Circumstances may not be perfect, God still works with imperfect situations. People may not be perfect, God still works with imperfect people. God’s salvation and grace will always shine through.
Read Esther 2:19-3:15
We all like the idea of having a big all-powerful and sovereign God on our side. We are all happy to worship and obey God when there are promises of prosperity, protection and success. But what about when obedience to God brings about hardship.
In these verses we see that Mordecai did two things right, then I want to look at his reward for doing the right thing.
1. Doing the right thing.
The author here introduces Mordecai as un upstanding Jewish man. This is shown in two instances that we are to understand as Mordecai doing the right thing. First, he uncovers a plot to assassinate the king, which leads to the attempt being stopped. Secondly, he refuses to obey the king’s commands to bow to Haman. This one is a little more complicated however, because it is never explicitly made clear why he wouldn’t bow. In both situations of doing the right thing for Mordecai, there was risk and it required effort.
You are being asked to do the right thing in your life. You know what is right but sometimes you hesitate, your wrestle with the ‘How will this affect me?’ question.
Doing the right thing can be summed up into this one idea, it is about being obedient to God. When we are obedient to God we are always doing the right thing.
2. Our Reward
What was Mordecai reward that he received for doing the right thing? Well, he didn’t really receive anything from king Xerxes, other than a mention in the king’s chronicles. You would have thought that the king would have been a little more thankful for saving his life, but no. Not only did he not receive anything, but his enemy Haman is promoted to power.
Which leads us to Mordecai’s refusal to bow, surely that would have stirred up the blessings of God. But no. That led to the edict of complete annihilation of the Jews in Persia and possibly beyond.
Sometimes, doing the right thing not only has a risk, and there is not only no reward, but there are negative repercussions. Is God still sovereign in these situations? Is God still able to make good things come out of difficult circumstances? The answer is Yes.
God’s plan and purpose isn’t about punishment or destruction, it is about hope and joy and right relationship. Sometimes, this will involve hardships that build character (not suggesting that God causes the hardships, but uses them)
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
God will not allow hardships to thwart His plans and purposes. In fact, He will use them to grow and develop our character. The key is obedience in the face of risk and negative outcomes. God will provide a way out.
This is a tough subject because we have a sovereign all-powerful God, but the tension comes when obedience to Him doesn’t always produce the reward we expect. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t lead to good rewards in the short term.
But if we are only following God for the good rewards, then we run the risk failing to learn from circumstances. God’s sovereignty will be revealed in your life through Him using both the good and the bad to fulfil His purpose. What we can learn here is that we need to practice obedience to God, in doing what is right, no matter what the immediate outcome will be. Then never allowing the situation to define or alter our view or relationship with God.
Let God be sovereign in your life no matter the circumstances.
In faith, hope and love
Steve and Cass Abram