Esther 2 I am sure that we are all moved by the exciting and wonderful story of the book of Esther. It shows us the overriding hand of God, the love and care of God for all His children. We can clearly see in chapter 2, the Persian Empire was at the height of its power and led by a powerful king, King Xerxes. We are told about a young beautiful Jewish girl called Esther who was humble and had a lovely figure. Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. After extensive preparation, she won the king's heart and became the new Queen. She is then in a position to save the Kings life passing on the assassination plot details. Then in later chapters with her uncle’s advice, she foiled the evil Haman’s plot to kill all the Jews. We see God’s plan working out to save the Jewish people. We see God selecting some unlikely people to get the job done. We are reminded that his plans are followed through. This is a great reminder for us that God’s plan to send Jesus back to the Earth to set up the Kingdom will actually happen. So we need to be prepared for Jesus' return. Then, with God’s grace, we can enjoy the benefits of eternal life and excellent health.

Esther is not a prophetic book, so it is not placed in the Bible with the other major or minor prophets. The middle reading for today is Amos chapter 7. The time period of the Esther account was 475 BC but the Amos is set in 760 BC – some 300 years earlier. Amos needed to warn (by way of his prophecies) both the nations of Judah and Israel. Warning them that their sinful ways would bring down judgment on them and the nations exiled to a foreign land. Unfortunately, they did not listen or learn. But like many of the prophets, there is a final good positive message that the Jewish nation would be restored. The final part of Amos covers the restoration of Isreal, Reading Amos 9:14 - 15 I will bring my people Israel back from exile. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land, I have given them,” says the Lord your God.

In a later Empire, that of the Romans, we have the days of the apostle Paul, we have him caring for one of God’s servants and can see the hand of God (again).

The New Testament reading is the whole letter to Titus. Sometimes, it is daunting to recall the life of our brother Paul, simply because he did so much in his life and achieved so much preaching and many baptisms. Titus arrives in the Bible record later-on, so it is easy to overlook him. His name does not, appear in the four Gospels or Acts but only in a couple of letters. Paul wrote to Titus the small letter but we find out a little about him in various chapters in the 2nd of Corinthians (2, 7, 8, 12, and 13). We find he was one of Paul's trusted, faithful, and close companions. Frequently, it was Titus, that Paul turned to, when there were problems and Paul needed someone to travel and help out. Titus can be seen as an important and useful brother to Paul and was entrusted with some of the most difficult and delicate matters of the time. In 2 Corinthians 7:5-7 “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn - conflicts on the outside fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.” Paul had sent Titus with the first letter of Corinthians and it had the desired effect on the brethren and sisters. When Titus returned to Paul, Paul was very happy to see Titus and happier still that the ecclesia had welcomed Titus and responded to the letter by way of repentance. We tend to forget that Paul had his problems and concerns and they affected him; just as our problems affect our happiness. Titus was able to report back that the Corinthian ecclesia was improving and was repentant. We learn a little more of Titus’ character in 2 Corinthians 8:16 NIV "I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative."

We must try and do the same. Titus had - Concern for the brethren and sisters. - He had enthusiasm. - He had the initiative.

What marvelous attributes to have. If only we could all have those attributes written down about us and especially from the hand of Paul, who would not have recorded them (with the aid of the spirit) if it was not 100% true. Titus had and we should try to have: - Concern, enthusiasm, and initiative.

How can we show we have these attributes? Having concern about our brethren and sisters is clearly not enough because we have to show our concern in our actions. In taking the time to talk to everyone and share something of ourselves. In encouraging each other to do the right things in our lives. And helping each other in any practical way that we can see. We need to have enthusiasm for the truth and show that in our actions. In our prayer, our readings, our attendance, our private study, and preaching the gospel to anyone that shows interest. Plus talk enthusiastically about the Bible message to each other. It's all too easy to slowly lose our enthusiasm for the truth slowly over time. So we need to think positively and carry on patiently. We also need to show initiative - whenever we can. It can become easy to take the hard work of other brethren and sisters for granted. It can become easy to assume that, someone else will do that job or tackle that problem. We should all be “willing workers” in God’s vineyard. We should be volunteering and doing things before being asked. I know I could do with a lot more concern, enthusiasm, and initiative and I need to show it in my actions too.

We have looked this morning at the need to encourage each other and the small sacrifices we have to make for the truth are not especially hard to make. We have thought about the fantastic future kingdom we can look forward to in the future, if we make these small sacrifices and how they should make us the happiest people on earth. Whatever our personality type, we just have to get along with each other with patience and understanding. We have been reminded that we have all been chosen. We should be looking for the best in others and we should look after one another. We can do this by showing in our actions that we (like Titus) have concern, enthusiasm, and initiative in our walk in the Truth in the short remaining time. But before we take these symbols of Christ to ourselves, let us also remember the concern, enthusiasm, and initiative of Christ. He was always concerned about his followers and preparing them for the future. He was always enthusiastic to talk and teach others about the gospel message. And he always took the initiative to preach the gospel and help others. Let us hope this spiritual food of bread and wine, can strengthen us to be more like him until he returns and to be grateful and happy while we wait.