Introduction: During the 1942 battle of Bataan, the aphorism “There are no atheists in foxholes” became popularized. Approximately 76,000 American and Pilipino troops were surrounded with no resupplies, dwindling food, no hope of rescue and an enemy that would soon march many to their deaths. During this battle, God was the soldiers’ only hope. After Haman issued a genocidal decree calling for the Jews’ annihilation, the Jews were also jolted out of their apathy. God was also their only hope. Mordecai and Esther were no exception. They were also forced to abandon their worldly ways for hope in God. From their transformation, the Bible reveals seven lessons on obtaining a spiritual transformation. These include: (1) turning to God during trials, (2) conviction of sin, (3) sacrifice, (4) faith, (5) service, (6) humility, and (7) obedience.
First, the trial created by Haman’s death sentence caused widespread mourning. Without God, there was nothing that the Jews could do to avoid their deaths. Without Jesus, every person is also under a death sentence from sin. Spiritual transformation begins by learning through your trials that you are also under judgment and in need of Jesus. Second, before her transformation, Esther tried to silence Mordecai. At that time, she was spiritually blind and focused only on herself. Transformation also requires conviction of your sins and a concern for others’ needs. Third, also before her transformation, Esther refused to place herself at risk by confronting Xerxes. Transformation also requires sacrifice. Jesus had to sacrifice Himself to make reconciliation with God to be possible. In response, your transformation should include a desire to sacrifice your time, talent, and treasure for Him. Fourth, at his moment of transformation, Mordecai expressed his faith that God would honor His promises to protect His people, even if Esther refused to help. Transformation also requires faith in God’s plan of salvation, not in people or leaders. Fifth, as led by the Spirit, Mordecai revealed that God had likely made Esther Queen of Persia for this very moment. Your transformation should also be evidenced by your willingness to serve God wherever He places you. Sixth, in her moment of transformation, Esther asked for the Jews and her Persian servants to fast for her to give her strength. Your transformation should also be evidenced through humility, prayer, and dependence on God. Finally, both Esther and Mordecai committed to obeying God’s calling in their lives. Your transformation should also be evidenced through your obedience to God’s plan for you.
Mordecai and the Jews mourn their death sentence. After Haman announced Xerxes’ order for the Jews’ genocide, Mordecai and the Jews mourned their planned annihilation: “1 When Mordecai learned of everything that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city and wailed loudly and bitterly. 2 And he came as far as the king’s gate, for no one was to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. 3 In each and every province where the command and decree of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and mourning rites; and many had sackcloth and ashes spread out as a bed.” (Esther 4:1-3). Haman plotted the Jews’ demise out of pride because Mordecai refused to bow to him (Esther 3:2-6). Mordecai mourned the unintended consequences of his actions. The Jews fasted, mourned, and wept over the planned extinction of their entire race. This trial shocked them out of their apathy and forced them to turn to God for their salvation.
Mordecai could not have changed the outcome by bowing to Haman. Once a Persian king issued an edict, it could not be changed (Esther 1:19; Dan. 6:8, 12). Thus, Mordecai could not change the law by bowing to Haman and asking him for forgiveness. Although Haman’s genocidal response to Mordecai’s actions could not have been foreseen, Mordecai still felt deep remorse for his role in triggering this response. Most of the Jews liked living in Persia and felt well treated. Thus, most passed at the chance to return to the Promised Land when King Cyrus II issued a decree that gave the Jews the right to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13-17). Mordecai and the Jews expressed their intense grief by tearing their clothes (c.f., Gen. 37:29, 34; 44:13; 2 Sam. 1:11; 2 Sam. 3:31; 1 Kgs. 20:31; 21:27; 2 Kgs. 2:12; 22:11). Under Persian law, Mordecai could not enter the palace in his grief. For this same reason, Nehemiah became filled with fear when he showed his private grief to King Artaxerxes (Neh. 2:1-2). “The palace was not to be saddened by private griefs.” (Pulpit Commentary on Esther 4). Yet, Mordecai also did not hide and cry in his home. By standing at the king’s gate in visible mourning, Mordecai was hoping that others would react. The Persian capital was already “agitated” by the prospect of an entire race being annihilated (Esther 3:15). Mordecai may have specifically hoped that news of his actions would reach Esther and Xerxes.
The Jews’ planned genocide overshadowed the Jews’ Passover celebration. Haman published his order to exterminate the Jews on the 13th day of the first month on the Jewish religious calendar (Esther 3:12). The Jews were required to select the Passover lamb on the 10th day of the first month, the day when Haman likely sealed the Jews’ fate with Xerxes (Ex. 12:1-5). On the 14th day of the first month, the Jews were to slaughter the Passover lamb to remind them of how God allowed death to “pass over” them when a Pharaoh tried to kill them (Ex. 12:6). Because God controlled the timing of these events, He was sending a message to the Jews. He would again cause death to pass over them.
Every person is under judgement without Jesus. The Jews were in exile because they had repeatedly disobeyed God (Dt. 28:64-68). Like the Jews, every person has sinned and in need of salvation. “Indeed, there is not a righteous person on earth who always does good and does not ever sin.” (Ecc. 7:20; 1 Kgs. 8:46; Ro. 3:23). Without Jesus, the penalty for sin is death: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 6:23). The Jews saw no hope of survival without God. You should also see Jesus as providing your only hope of eternal salvation.
Use God’s testing and trials to be transformed and put your faith in God. God repeatedly allowed the Jews to experience trials to cause them to turn back to Him. When you see that God is using a trial to allow you to return to Him from your worldly ways, rejoice “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt you (Ja. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). While Satan’s temptations are meant to cause you to sin, God’s tests are meant to build your faith. He also tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). David, someone who committed adultery and then tried to cover it up with murder, later invited God to search his heart to expose his sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you willing to use your trials to turn closer to God?
Esther attempts to silence Mordecai’s public grief without any questions. News of Mordecai’s public acts of grief initially caused Esther to feel great fear. But instead of investigating the reason for his grief, she sent Mordecai new clothes to end his public spectacle: “4 Then Esther’s attendants and her eunuchs came and informed her, and the queen was seized by great fear. And she sent garments to clothe Mordecai so that he would remove his sackcloth from him, but he did not accept them.” (Esther 4:4). As a result of her isolated position, Esther had not yet learned of Haman’s decree. Why then would she feel fear? Because she and Mordecai had gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. Mordecai’s public grieving in a Jewish manner and their prior associations risked exposing her true identity. Thus, she sent clothes to try to silence Mordecai.
The Jews were spiritually blind and needed to be convicted and turn to God. While Esther would become a hero of the faith, it is important to recognize that she did not start off that way. All of the Jews had their faith awakened through trials and tribulation: “What we are not told is that Mordecai or any of his fellow-Jews repented. We are not told that any prayed. The name of God is not mentioned here or elsewhere in the Book of Esther. There is no specific mention of prayer, no mention of the Jews speaking to God, nor any reference to God speaking to His people through His prophets. Based upon the instruction given to dispossessed Jews in 2 Chronicles 6:34-39, and the example of godly Jews in Ezra 9:5—10:1; Nehemiah 1:4-11; and Daniel 9:4-19, it seems almost necessary to conclude these Jews—including Esther and Mordecai—are not godly. This is further indicated by the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Be delayed and wait. Blind yourselves and be blind. They become drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers’ (Isaiah 29:9-10). Isaiah was a prophet whose task was not to call Israel to repentance or to turn the nation back to God. God’s people had rebelled too long; they had passed the point of no return. It was now time for judgment, and Isaiah’s task was to pronounce the doom of impending judgment in a way that would harden hearts rather than break them (see Isaiah 6:9-10). Later in chapter 29, God indicated the hour of Israel’s doom was near when He took away the prophets, once known as “seers.” In taking away the prophets, God took away the eyes of his people, leaving them in their state of spiritual blindness. Their doom was sealed. Their doom was sure. While we read of prophets in Israel in Ezra and Nehemiah, no prophets are mentioned in the Book of Esther. If men are not speaking to God (in prayer), neither is God speaking to the Jews (in Persia) . . . Could it be Mordecai was an embarrassment to Esther so that she tried to quickly silence him? She sent clothing to her step-father, hoping to persuade him to put an end to his mourning. But Mordecai was not dissuaded.” (Robert Deffinbaugh “Esther’s Dilemma and Decision” (Esther 4:1-17).
Jesus also loved and called you while you were still a sinner. Just like the Jews in exile, Jesus also loved you and called you while you were still a sinner: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro. 5:6, 8). Like the Jews, you are called upon to accept and confirm God’s calling in your life: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;” (2 Pet. 1:10). “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” (1 Thess. 1:4). Have you fully responded to His calling in your life? Or, are you clinging to your old life?
To find your life in Christ, you must lose your worldly one. Esther needed to be willing to lose everything before God could use her. Like Esther, you must lose your worldly life to find your spiritual one: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39; 16:25). “‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” (Lk. 9:23; Mk. 8:34). “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil. 3:7; Heb. 13:13). Do you value most things of the world more than God?
Esther rejects Mordecai’s first request for her to sacrifice for her people. Through a messenger, Mordecai pleaded with Esther to use her influence to save the Jewish people. But Esther initially rejected this request out of fear that Xerxes would have her executed: “5 Then Esther summoned Hathach from the king’s eunuchs, whom the king had appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this mourning was and why it was happening. 6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square, in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, and the exact amount of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the elimination of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict which had been issued in Susa for their annihilation, so that he might show Esther and inform her, and to order her to go in to the king to implore his favor and plead with him for her people. 9 So Hathach came back and reported Mordecai’s words to Esther. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and ordered him to reply to Mordecai: 11 ‘All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king in the inner courtyard, who is not summoned, he has only one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.’ 12 And they reported Esther’s words to Mordecai.” (Esther 4:5-12). Xerxes initially feigned virtue by claiming that he did not expect a payment: “11 And the king said to Haman, ‘The silver is yours, and the people also, to do with them as you please.”’ (Esther 3:11). But this this was simply a haggling tactic. They soon agreed upon a price for Xerxes (Esther 4:7). Esther feared for her life because she could not approach Xerxes unannounced without risking death (Esther 4:11). He also further lost interest in her because of his harem of women. Thus, she had not seen or spoken with him in 30 days (Esther 4:12).
Esther had a procedure that was available to request a meeting with Xerxes. Doing nothing and approaching Xerxes unannounced were not Esther’s only options. She could have sent a messenger to request a meeting. But that would have required that she reveal the reason for the meeting. And explaining why she deserved a voice regarding the plight of the Jews would have likely revealed her Jewish heritage: “Herodotus (3.118) mentions the Persian custom that anyone who approached the king uninvited would be put to death unless pardoned by the king. Herodotus also said, however, that a person could send a letter to the king asking for an audience. Why this procedure did not occur to Esther can only be surmised. Since she had not been summoned by the king for a month, Esther did not know whether he would forgive her if she approached him without a royal summons. She may have concluded that she had lost the king’s favor. It appears that initially Esther was more concerned about her own welfare than about her people.” (Frank Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 817). Esther was about to have her spiritual blindness lifted. These were her last words before her spiritual transformation.
Your spiritual transformation was made possible through Jesus’ sacrifice. God tested Abraham in his final trial to see if he would sacrifice his promised son Isaac (Gen. 22:2). Unlike Abraham, God the Father had to allow His only son to be sacrificed for mankind. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross so that all who believed in faith could be saved: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies,”’ (Jo. 11:25). With faith in His sacrifice, you can be spiritually transformed to serve Him.
Out of gratitude, respond to Jesus’ sacrifice by making yourself a “living sacrifice”. Jesus’ death was a one-time sacrifice that does not need to be repeated (Ro. 6:10; Heb. 10:12). Yet, you can respond to His sacrifice with gratitude by making your life a living sacrifice for Him: “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:1-2). Out of gratitude, will you give Jesus the best of your time, talent, and treasure? Or, are you only focused on yourself?
Mordecai’s faith in God to intervene for the Jews, even if Esther were to refuse to help. Mordecai then rebuked Esther for her selfishness. At his moment of transformation when all seemed lost, he responded in faith that God would provide a way to save the Jews: “13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish.” (Esther 4:13-14a). Mordecai warned that Esther’s secret identity would not remain a secret for long. If she said nothing, she would eventually be exposed. Even though Mordecai wanted Esther to act, he put his faith in God, not her. Facing certain death, he now firmly trusted in God to keep His promises to His people.
God is faithful to keep His promises, even when all seems lost. God promised an “everlasting covenant” with Abraham and their descendants (Gen. 17:7). He further promised that He would not forsake His people during their future time of captivity: “Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so loathe them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, so that I might be their God. I am the LORD.’” (Lev. 26:44-45). “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not abandon you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” (Dt. 4:31). “Now the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you,” (Jdgs. 2:1). Do you trust in God’s promises to protect and deliver you when all seems lost?
Trust in God, not in powerful people, for your deliverance. With his faith awoken, Mordecai did not assume that Esther was the Jews’ only hope. Even if she did nothing, God would find another way (Esther 4:14a). Although it is tempting to turn to your favorite politician or political party for salvation, you must instead put your trust in Jesus: “Do not trust in noblemen, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “Give us help against the enemy, for deliverance by man is worthless.” (Ps. 108:18). “Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.” (Is. 30:3). Are you trusting in politicians or in God?
Mordecai proclaims God’s plan for Esther’s service for Him. Mordecai then challenged Esther to consider that her elevation to queen was most likely part of God’s plan: “14bAnd who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?’” (Esther 4:14b). Normally, kings selected a queen to build a foreign alliance or solidify internal power. For example, Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kgs. 3:1). The elevation of Esther, a lowly Jewish woman with no parents and no importance, to become Queen of Persia showed that God was in control.
Jesus appointed you to fulfill unique tasks before He created the world. Jesus developed a plan for each person to serve before He created the universe: “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love . . . For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 1:4, 2:10). God had created Esther for this very moment to serve Him and be His instrument of salvation: “At this moment Esther’s life purpose was at stake. God had guided in her being chosen queen. In the biblical perspective election is for service, not just for one’s own benefit. Being liberator of her people was more important than being the queen of Persia. Mordecai’s statement reveals a deep conviction of God’s providence, a belief that God rules in world, even in the details of the nations and in the lives of individuals. Mordecai told Esther , ‘If you remain silent, . . . you . . . will perish (v. 14). In a crisis situation such as this, there was no neutral position. Failure to decide brings personal loss and misses the opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose. In God’s providence each person has a unique task.” (Mervin Breneman, The New American Commentary, Vol. 10, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 337). Are you accepting your calling to step forward to serve Jesus and be His hands and feet to help others in need?
Serve wherever God has placed you. Don’t wait for God to place you in your desired place of service. Serve wherever He has placed you: “Mordecai knew that God had promoted this orphan in exile for a reason - and Esther must have the courage and wisdom to see that reason and fulfill it. This principle applies to us also. God promotes us or puts in a place for a reason, and we need the courage and wisdom to see that reason and to walk in it. ‘You have been wishing for another position where you could do something for Jesus: do not wish anything of the kind, but serve him where you are.’ (Charles Spurgeon)” (David Guzik on Esther 4). Are making excuses to delay service?
Esther’s request for fasting to help her intercede for the Jews. In her moment of transformation, Esther realized that she lacked the power to confront Xerxes on her own. Thus, she asked for Mordecai to arrange for a fast to strengthen her: “15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16a ‘Go, gather all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants also will fast in the same way.” (Esther 4:15-16a). Esther’s faith had grown to the point where she was now willing to reveal her Jewish heritage to her attendants for the first time. She would ask for them to fast for her as well. Why wouldn’t she also ask Mordecai for prayer? Because she was new to her faith and had no prior experience with prayer. Spiritual transformation is a process, not an event. Every believer should grow in their walk.
Seek God’s help through humility and intercessory prayer. Because Esther decided to approach God in humility, God later lifted her up (Matt. 32:12; Lk. 14:11). With the Jews fasting and also praying as an intercessor, God would hear their prayers. Throughout the Bible, there were many times when God answered intercessory prayers. For example, God answered the intercessory prayers of Abraham (Gen. 18:23), Moses (Ex. 32:11-14; Nu. 14:18-22; 16:21-24), Samuel (1 Sam. 12:23), David (2 Sam. 24:17), Elijah (1 Kgs. 17:21-22), and Jonah (Jo. 1:12). The apostles also continually prayed for others (2 Tim. 1:3; Col. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). This means that you have the power of intercessory prayer. Are you praying as an intercessor to start a revival and to then keep it burning?
Fasting helps you to depend upon God. Some demonic obstacles require both prayer and fasting (cf., Matt. 17:20). The threatened genocide of the Jews certainly fell within that category. Fasting is important for intense spiritual battles because you must depend upon God, not your own strength or intellect, to succeed. “Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.” (Joel 1:14). Daniel also humbly submitted to God when the Jews were threatened: “Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his friends would not be killed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” (Dan. 2:17-18). Esther knew that her task was something that was beyond her abilities. Thus, she knew that she needed to depend upon God. In a crisis, do you depend upon God or yourself?
Esther commits to confronting Xerxes, and Mordecai commits to help spiritually. After planning a fast, Esther committed to risking her life to save the Jews from annihilation: “16b And then I will go in to the king, which is not in accordance with the law; and if I perish, I perish.’ 17 So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him.” (Esther 4:16a-17). For Esther to have faith alone was not enough. For her faith to be real, it required action. She needed to risk her own life to save her people from destruction. Mordecai’s role was equally important. Esther could not do anything on her own. She needed the Jews to fast and pray for God to miraculously intervene and save His people.
Faith without works is dead. Esther and Mordecai knew that their lives were worth more dying for the Jews than merely protecting themselves. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21). If they had ignored God’s calling, their faith would be dead: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (Ja. 2:17). Would you be willing to serve Jesus, even if it meant placing your life or safety at risk?
Accountability helps to ensure your obedience. Esther and Mordecai strengthened each other and kept each other accountable. The Bible warns believers not forsake the accountability that comes from being in a fellowship group in your church: “not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:25). A public commitment to follow God’s Word is also necessary to stay obedient. For example, the psalmist made a public vow of accountability: “I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Your righteous judgments.” (Ps. 119:106). King Josiah followed this example by having the people affirm their agreement to be bound by the Ten Commandments (2 Chr. 34:29-33; 2 Kgs. 23:1-3). Ezra also followed in this example in leading the people in a public vow of accountability (Ezra 10:12-14). Today, Jesus also wants you to publicly confess your faith and agreement to the New Covenant to help you remain obedient to Him (Ro. 10:8-9). If you confess Jesus to be Lord and Savior before others, He in turn will confess you in heaven (Lk. 12:8; Matt. 10:32). Are you in a small accountability group and sharing your faith in Jesus with others? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Jesus is not your Lord if you refuse to do what He says. A believer may proclaim Jesus as Lord. Yet, Jesus is not your Lord if you disobey Him: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24). “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” (Matt. 7:26). Is your faith evidenced through obedience to Jesus?
God sees you for the person of faith that you will become. Esther eventually showed incredible trust in God in her later willingness to confront Haman. Yet, it took time for her to develop that faith. Prior to Jesus’ death, Peter denied Jesus three times. Yet, Jesus saw him for the man of faith that he would become. God also sees you for the person of faith that you will become. If your faith is lacking, do you trust in Him to transform you? Likewise, have you written off a sinner because you think he or she cannot be changed? If you know a believer who has strayed from Jesus, encourage that person to return.