Earthly Risk, Eternal Reward

One of the most well-known examples of risking everything for God’s kingdom comes in the story of an unlikely hero. When her cousin Mordecai urges her to go before the king to save the Jewish people, Queen Esther understandably demurs, because she knows she could die if she approaches the king uninvited.

But notice how Mordecai responds:

“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.”
(Esther 4:13-14a ESV)

In other words, Esther, your safety is a myth. What is certain, Mordecai tells her, is that God will accomplish his purposes. Esther might die either way, so she might as well go out doing what’s right.

That principle hasn’t changed since Mordecai first said it. In the same way, your safety is a myth. Think about it: At any moment, you could get a disastrous phone call from your doctor that changes your life forever. You could walk into work one day and be told that you no longer have a job. I know those are morbid examples, but they’re real examples. Absolute safety is an illusion, so you might as well bet your life on what you know will last.

It reminds me of the words of Jim Elliot, the missionary to Ecuador who was martyred in his late 20s: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

What you cannot keep is your life. But what you cannot lose is whatever you have staked in God’s eternal kingdom. The one thing you can be certain will happen is that you will stand before God and answer as to whether or not you have lived out his purposes and leveraged your life and resources for his kingdom.

I’ve read the Bible to the end—all the way through the concordance and the maps. And here’s what is clear: God wins. He writes the epilogue. We know how the story ends! Should we not, therefore, risk our lives for the God who has history in his hands? Isn’t this just the reasonable response? As John Piper says, risk is right.

We have even more reason to risk our lives for God’s kingdom than Esther did. You see, Esther’s story was only ever a shadow of our coming Savior. Esther risked her spot in the palace to intercede for the people of God. This prefigured Jesus who, years later, would not only risk the ultimate palace but lose it, not only risk his life but actually sacrifice it in order to save his people, and who now stands before the throne of God faithfully interceding for us.

Jesus’ resurrection assures us that God is going to overturn all the diabolical plans of God’s enemies for good and overwrite those schemes with victory. It shows us that he is in control and that he has rigged the system for the completion of the Great Commission.

So why not bet your life on the one thing you know is certain?

In the end, Esther’s story is less about the courage of a woman of faith and more about God’s sovereign control of history. This same God assures us that one day people from every tribe and tongue will gather around the throne of God and worship him (Revelation 5). He will build his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. That’s how the story ends. In light of that final victory, nothing we risk or sacrifice for God is ever wasted.

He is no fool who gives what he can’t hold onto to gain access to what he cannot lose. The question is not whether or not you’re going to lose your life.

The question is, are you going to have a stake in what lasts forever?