One of Jesus’ parables spoke of laborers being hired to work in a vineyard. (cf. Matthew 20:1ff) In the parable, the one doing the hiring was symbolic of God, and the workers symbolized Christ’s followers. Elsewhere, speaking of the spiritual needs of the world, Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the Harvest to send forth workers.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Then, Jesus proceeded to send those same disciples to do some work themselves (Matthew 10:1ff)
Clearly, one of the messages of scripture is that God has work for us to do. Specifically, and personally, God has work for you to do, and He wants you to rise up to the challenge, confident in faith that if God gives you work, He will also give you the tools and ability with which to do the work, and will bless you in that work (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:10)
But what happens if you decide to back down from the God-given task before you?
In the book of Esther, Queen Esther must face just such a question. She finds herself in a unique position — knowing about a plot against God’s people and having a position such as would allow her to gain the king’s favor so as to remove the threat to the Jews. But the task was not without substantial risk, not only to her place in the palace, but to her very life.
Her cousin Mordechai counseled her thusly: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14; NKJV)
Fortunately, Esther rose to the challenge, went before the king, and saved her people, thus earning a place in the Scriptures, as well as helping to establish the Jewish feast of Purim.
Not all were so faithful to their tasks.
Consider Judas Iscariot, who was likewise highly blessed. Chosen by Jesus to be one of His apostles, given training and instruction from the Lord, and blessed with the ability to work miracles of healing, Judas could have done much to help others learn about Christ and find salvation. (cf. Matthew 10:1-4) Such work was not without risks, and we know the other apostles were all faced with severe hardships and difficulties (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:11-13). Yet, in that service the apostles were also able to find great honor and glory in Christ.
But Judas, instead of following the path of an apostle, failed to meet the challenge. Driven by anger and greed, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Then, when Jesus was tortured, beaten and crucified, Judas was filled with a worldly remorse and hung himself.
Afterward, as the disciples of Christ were gathered together in one place, Peter spoke about Judas, first observing that, “he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.” (Acts 1:17; NKJV) and then recalling from Scripture the prophecy which had said, “Let another take his office.” (Acts 1:20b; Psalm 109:8) Thus the disciples began the process which led to the choosing of Mathias as the 12th apostle.
Judas didn’t do the work to which he was called and so someone else was chosen to fill the void. God made sure that what He wanted done was accomplished, but Judas lost the opportunity for the reward that could have been his.
Again, God has work for you to do. This is doubly true of those who have come to Christ for salvation, of whom the Scriptures say, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God ordained beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) These good works include sharing with those who are in need (cf. 1 John 3:17), keeping ourselves unspotted from the world as we help those in need (cf. James 1:27), and taking the message of Christ to all who will listen (cf. Mark 16:15).
God is going to, at times, put us in just the right place, at just the right time, to do the work He has prepared for us. The question we must answer, and a question each of us must answer entirely for ourselves, is whether we are going to rise to the challenge? Are we going to, like Esther, take the opportunity and do the right thing, no matter the potential consequence? Or are we going to follow in the footsteps of Judas, allowing worldliness and sin to choke out our faith, and prevent us from rising to the occasion?
The church of Christ invites you to come study and worship with us as we seek to do the work God has given to us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.