Teaching point three: God uses people who rely on him.
The young queen’s reply to Mordecai was one of faith. Call a fast, she told him, and recruit all of God’s people who are in exile in the capital city. Esther used the three-day fast as a time of preparation. Then she approached the king. In the biblical telling, the drama is high as she enters the court. Would he extend the scepter and receive her, or for her brazenness would he demand her life? The outcome depends on God and his response to the fast on her behalf.
[Q] How can we demonstrate to God our dependence on him in trying circumstances? If it is a practice such as fasting, should we let other people know?
Teaching point four: God uses people who willingly accept the outcome, whatever it may be.
Not as commonly quoted, but more vital to the account is Esther’s declaration “If I perish, I perish.” This is the pivot on which her commitment on behalf of her fellow Jews turned. Here her attitude changed from fear to faith, from anxiety about losing her life to willingness to give her life that others might be saved. Her heart was moved by the pleas of Mordecai, but it was not enough that she was stirred to compassion. She needed resolve, a steely determination that she would intercede at any cost. And there is in her statement a sense of resignation. Esther, favored by the king while the rest of her people languish as slaves in this foreign land, was ready to resign her palace, her will, her very life. Her end was not hers to decide.
Untold numbers of missionaries and martyrs demonstrated this attitude about their service: godly compassion matched by a holy resignation. In recent times, Dietrich Bonhoffer, Jim Elliot, and Cassie Bernall have joined them. So did the unnamed preachers in the former Soviet bloc, believers in Muslim countries, and the Christians sold into slavery in Sudan.
The call for most of us in the West is not that we die literally, but that we die to our own aspirations, society’s approval, and the ethical compromises on which reward in the marketplace is often based. Instead of life itself, we are challenged on our quality of life: when our climb up the corporate ladder perishes, when our financial security perishes, or our bosses’ opinions of us, or our homes in a safe neighborhood.
[Q] What would you personally add to that list?
[Q] What is at risk if you surrender to God to be used in an extraordinary way?
Apply Your Findings
[Q] Chip maker Chen said, “God is placing me in Silicon Valley so I can be his servant here.” Have you ever sensed that God has placed you somewhere for a specific purpose? Did you know it at the time, or did you recognize it afterward?
[Q] Consider your current life-situation. Can you see God’s hand in your placement there? What do you think his purpose is for you at this time?
[Q] What risks are involved? What rewards?
A Handout for Further Study
Silicon Valley’s Surprising Testimony
High-tech Christian executives are bringing biblical values back into the mecca of Mammon.
Finding God in Esther
Read through the book of Esther. Using a colored pencil or a symbol, mark the direct references to God. Using another color or symbol, mark the indirect references to God: religious beliefs or practices, evidences of the faith of the people, events without human causes or explanations.
You probably didn’t find any direct references. God is not mentioned, nor is his name, Yahweh. Scholars have offered many explanations. Here are a few:
The book, which gives the reason for Purim, a festival not included in the Torah, was read at the festival. Because a lot of drinking was involved, the participants might have mispronounced the words representing Yahweh’s name. The name was omitted to avoid blasphemy.
The book may have been written in Persia where the reference to Israel’s God would have been disdained or forbidden.
The book presumes the work of God, therefore the name is not necessary. Everybody can see that God is busy behind the scenes.
The book reflects the spiritual condition of post-exilic Jews. God is silent for the four centuries preceding the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth, so his hiddenness is shown in the text.
Do any of these explanations seem plausible to you? If so, which one(s) and why?
On the theme of hiddenness, recall a time in your life when God seemed hidden. How long did it last? What did you do during this period? When did you recognize his presence again? What had he been doing while you were unaware of his work?
How does God work through hiddenness?
The Silicon Valley Saints
High-tech Christian executives are bringing biblical values into a mecca of Mammon.
By Tony Carnes, for the study “Silicon Valley’s Surprising Testimony.”
A field of shattered dreams lies south of San Francisco along Highway 101 down to San Jose. Newly emptied office buildings in Silicon Valley are a visible sign that hard times have hit the multibillion-dollar technology industry. While the legendary founders of Silicon Valley are retired millionaires, some in the next generation of high-tech heroes are losing big time. Billions of dollars in stock-market equity have disappeared as investors have sold off stock in publicly traded firms. The tech-heavy Nasdaq market has lost over half its value in the last 18 months.
But even as the downward spiral of the high-tech industry persists, a potent spiritual transformation is unfolding. Is God at work through a new alliance of Christian executives in Silicon Valley? Their faith-centered approach to wealth and power is revealing that the “next new new thing” may be the timelessness of Jesus Christ.
As workaholic executives burn out, this growing network of faith-focused business leaders is determined to save Silicon Valley’s soul. The executives’ aim of bringing biblical values back into the marketplace has the potential to change the high-tech corporations that are changing the world of work.
These executives have turned to Os Guinness, the evangelical author, sociologist, and consultant, as a key resource. In an interview with Christianity Today, Guinness said Christian business leaders in Silicon Valley have an “extraordinary opportunity” to deploy their business enterprises in ways that embrace a Christian worldview. “Silicon Valley will have a longer lasting and more global impact than the 1960s,” says Guinness, who has observed California’s Bay Area for 30 years. For Guinness, the firms of Silicon Valley are at the forefront of a “second Industrial Revolution” in which information technology will transform how people live and work.
During a recent tour of Silicon Valley firms, Christianity Today spoke with several of the most prominent Christians there about their high-tech, high-finance world, and how faith influences their work.
Michael Yang, 39, as much as any other individual Christian executive, represents the promise and plight of an Internet capitalist. Yang, who emigrated from South Korea in 1976 at age 14, graduated from the University of California- Berkeley with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. After working at Xerox, Samsung, and other firms, Yang in 1998 founded MySimon.com, the spectacularly successful Web site for comparison shoppers. Yang sold MySimon.com last year to another Internet firm for $700 million.
Soon after, Yang launched an online auto shopping site called Dreamlot.com. But with fierce competition, the site never took off and was closed in less than a year, proving that no one has a foolproof strategy for business success and that early career success can be difficult to repeat. His latest effort is NetGeo.com, an Internet company that provides technology services to business Web sites.
As paper wealth from a declining stock market has evaporated, some Christian business leaders are reevaluating their achievements and career direction. Before the dot-com bust of 2000 and the power short-circuits of 2001, not many executives took time to consider where they were going strategically or considered their spiritual needs. Everyone wanted “to jump into the river of riches to a field of dreams,” says Tal Brooke, Berkeley-based author of Virtual Gods and president of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. Indeed, the Valley is home to an estimated 250,000 millionaires out of 2.5 million inhabitants.
“It is a fact,” Yang said recently in a Bible study. “It is hard to feel spiritual need” when basic physical needs are fulfilled.