Summary: Greatness with God is not measured by the same standards as men measure greatness.
Sept. 28, 2003 Esther 10
His name is Muhammed Ali, and they call him “The Greatest.” With good reason. As an amateur, he had 108 boxing bouts. Because of his wins in those fights, he gained 6 Kentucky Golden Gloves championships, two National Golden Gloves championships and two National AAU titles all before he was 18 years old. Just months after his 18th birthday in 1960, he won the Olympic Gold Medal in Rome. During his professional career, he won 56 of 61 fights, 37 of them by knockout. Three different times, he gained the heavyweight boxing crown for his own. – from the official Muhammed Ali web sight
In an April, 1988 edition of Sports Illustrated, their was a story titled “Ali and His Entourage”. Sports writer Gary Smith went to Ali’s farmhouse to interview the three-time world champion. On the floor leaning against the walls, were mementos of Ali in his prime. Photos and portraits of the champ punching and dancing. Sculpted body. Fist punching the air. Championship belt held high in triumph. But on the pictures were white streaks – bird droppings. Ali looked into the rafters at the pigeons who had made his gym their home. And then he did something significant. Perhaps it was a gesture of closure. Maybe it was a statement of despair. Whatever the reason, he walked over to the row of pictures and turned them, one by one, toward the wall. He then walked to the door, stared at the countryside, and mumbled something so low that Smith had to ask him to repeat it. Ali did. “I had the world,” he said, “and it wasn’t nothin’. Look now.”
Muhammed Ali’s story is a great story. That’s probably why they recently made a movie out of it. It has good times and bad. Unforeseen twists and turns. There are moments that you want to stand up and shout out of excitement and moments that you hang your head in shame wondering what in the world he must have been thinking when he responded the way he did. It’s kind of a mixed bag. His story grows sadder the closer that it gets to the end, and the end is almost here.
For many reasons, Ali’s story reminds me of Esther’s. For nine weeks now (or for the sake of the analogy, we could call then nine rounds), we have been calling the play by play on the only fight that Esther ever fought. She wasn’t fighting for a crown (although she got one in the process); she was fighting for her survival and the survival of her people. Though she had entered this fight against her will, she sacrificed her morals and put in some below the belt moves in order to stay in the fight and win the favor of the king so that she could become his bride. God used this situation to put Esther in just the right position for her to be able to block the blows of her opponent – the evil Haman – who was intent on destroying the Jewish people. For a while, it looked like Haman had Esther and her people on the ropes. But with a surprise move that only God could orchestrate, Haman was defeated with a knockout blow. The fight lasted nine rounds. Esther, Mordecai and the Jews were victorious over their enemies. And they, like any world champion, threw a party to let the world know that they were indeed the champs. Now, all that is left to do is to publish the newspaper article that will summarize the champ’s activities after the big fight. That is exactly what we have here in chapter 10, the last chapter of Esther. Let’s read the 3 verses that complete the book. [read them]
Don’t you love a great ending? These verses are like the epilogue at the end of a book or a movie. An epilogue in a story usually has no great action. It simply ties up some loose ends and tells you how everything worked out. It helps everything to wrap up neatly. The epilogue is usually just a tag on the end of the story. You could skip it without doing any harm to the overall story or without missing anything of real importance. We are not going to skip this epilogue. There’s something important here for us to see. And according to the statement made in 2 Tim 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed [or inspired] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,...” Believing that to be true, let’s see what these last three verses have to teach us.
As we read those verses a few moments ago, I hope that you noticed a word right in the middle of vs. 2. The word is “greatness.” Everything that we’re going to talk about today centers around that word and how we are to define greatness.