Click here to download the Study Guide in WORD
INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
Pastor Stephen Van Dop asks “Where was God in our mess”? From the narrative of Samson, the same question could be asked – “where was God in the mess of Samson’s life”? Time and again in Judges, God reveals himself to the insignificant. Samson’s parents were nobodies with no significant standing and God met them in their need. No-problem is too small, and no-body is beyond the sovereign work of God. God is also beyond understanding. We cannot plummet His ways or understand his work completely, rather what He asks of us is to trust Him – have faith in his promises and obey what He asks of us today. We see this demonstrated in the Angel’s words to Samson’s parents. Additionally, we see a God who empowers his people. He sends his Spirit over and over again. Stephen invited us not to be damp, but wet in the Spirit. Let’s not be satisfied with a little of the Lord, but yearn for all God wants to give. Finally, God shows His grace to Samson. Like Samson, we do nothing to earn God’s favor – He gives it freely (Col 2:13-15). God was present and sovereign in Samson’s life, and He is in our lives as well.
In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
•Have you ever told a lie in order to save face?
•Have you been faced with a situation in which you had to confront or expose someone about his or her wrongdoings? What led you to act in that way?
•Share a quick story of how you’ve seen God intervene in your life even after you’d given up hope.
In the book of Esther, we read a story about God’s providence and faithfulness even in the midst of impossible situations. We also learn from Mordecai and Esther what faith in action looks like, as they refuse to simply sit back and accept what was being planned against them. God’s providence is in play even before they are aware of it, and we as Christians need to live our lives knowing that God’s providence is already available, and depend on His grace for everything we do, no matter how difficult the situation in front of us may seem.
Read Esther 4:1-17 (***consider deleting the scripture text to reduce printing pages)
1 When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
4 When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.
6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.
9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”
12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For 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 royal position for such a time as this?”
15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.
Context – The story of Esther takes place in the reign of the Persian king Xerxes, who had chosen Esther as queen, without knowing she was a Jew. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, discovers a plot by a royal official named Haman, to annihilate all Jews, and therefore comes to Esther for help. The book of Esther was written to demonstrate God’s love and sovereignty in all circumstances.
•Read Esther 3-7 and help set the context for your group.
•V. 1-3 What was Mordecai so upset about? Did he have a good reason to be distressed? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it all feels lost, where there’s no hope for a positive outcome? What was your response to that situation? Briefly share.
•V. 7-8 Even though Mordecai was distressed and was facing annihilation, he still had a plan. Not only did he hope God would intervene, but he knew that God’s will would prevail no matter what happened. In light of this, what should our response be to trying situations? Is moving forward even when there appears nothing to move forward to something you’ve had to do before? Were you able to see God’s hand in that situation? Briefly share.
•V. 10-11 What was Esther’s initial response to Mordecai’s request? How do you deal with risk? Have you ever had to put yourself in a dangerous position to do what you knew was right? What led you to do what you did? Explain.
•V. 12-14 Why do you believe Mordecai answered how he did? Do you believe Mordecai knew God was bigger than King Xerxes and Haman and whatever plan they had against the Jews? If so, why does he plead Esther to rise to the task? How does the fact that God doesn’t “need” you and yet He chooses to partner with you make you feel? Have you ever experienced partnering with God for His purposes? Briefly share.
•Is it possible that God had placed Esther in a privileged position in the king’s court for such a day as this? What does this tell you of God’s provision? Just as Mordecai knew that relief and deliverance for the Jews would arise from one place or another, do you believe God will always provide for you? Have you ever experienced God’s provision in the midst of an impossible situation? Briefly share.
•V. 15-16 Esther turns to God in fasting and prayer before she takes action, and after she does, she is ready to face death itself. What does this teach you of how we should prepare ourselves before trying situations? Have you ever found yourself in a place where you had to trust God with your life? How about trusting Him with your reputation, or your job? What was the outcome? Briefly share.
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
Break the habit of lying
•As a group, take some time to meditate in silence about God and His provision in each of your lives.
•Spend time praying with those in your group that are facing a trying situation in their lives and are praying for God to intervene.
•Pray for and encourage each other in the assurance we find in God as our provider, protector, father, etc.