Monday, November 14, 2011

Jonah's Second Chance

Our pastor, Joe Champion of Celebration Church, has been preaching/teaching on Jonah the past few weeks. Awesome stuff!! He calls the series "Is Your Grateful Dead?" (Click the link, then "Media/Online Sermons" to watch them!) Jonah, like a lot of us, had issues with being grateful. And, like a lot of us, Jonah had to learn some life-lessons the hard way. Today I want to take a good look at Jonah's great adventure---from hearing from God to time spent inside a fish---and see if I (and you!) are more Jonah-ish than we care to admit.

The Book of Jonah isn't very long--just four short chapters--but we can learn a lot from Jonah. We can look at what he did--and what he didn't do!--and take away some pretty important life-lessons.

  • #1: Jonah knew God in a personal way. God spoke to Jonah in the very first verse of the book. He asked Jonah to go to Nineveh and "preach against it, because its wickedness" had come up before God. Obviously Jonah knew God's word well enough that the Almighty himself had confidence in Jonah's abilities to turn an entire city to righteousness. But what was Jonah's response? He ran away! From God! Can you imagine? And because we read that Jonah ran away (v.3) we know he knew exactly Who spoke to him. He knew it was God. And yet he went in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to go. I think a lot of us can relate to Jonah's poor decision making. 
  • #2: Jonah had to go through a storm. Have you ever had a "storm" come into your life? I have. It's not fun. It can be pretty scary too. Storms are unpredictable. They tear things apart. They destroy. God uses storms to get our attention sometimes. Pastor Joe said, "Storms serve God's purposes for our good." (Romans 8:28) As a storm survivor, I completely agree. If God hadn't sent the storm that caused the men on the boat to throw Jonah overboard, he would have gone on to Tarshish and totally missed the amazing thing God was planning for him in Nineveh. And not only did God use the storm to change Jonah's life, but the lives of the men on the boat too. (1:16)
  • #3: Jonah prayed from inside the fish. Not only did God bring a storm into Jonah's life, but he also brought provision--in the form of a giant fish. (1:17) Like Pastor Joe said this past Sunday: "Our provision just might stink." Man, is that true sometimes!! But it is provision nonetheless. God needed Jonah to spend time in the belly of a stinky fish to think things over. To get the right perspective. To listen. You might feel like you're in the belly of a whale right now. Nothing is going right. Your marriage is in trouble. Your finances are in trouble. Your kids are in trouble. Whatever it might be, you find yourself just wishing God would command the fish to vomit you out and be done with it! (Nice image, huh?) My advice as one who once felt like I was inside the stinky fish (and sometimes still do): Keep praying!! Don't give up! God IS listening! He DOES have a plan!
  • #4: Jonah got a second chance. Jonah 3:1 says: "Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time." How many chances does God give us? I think the number is infinite, to be perfectly honest. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:16 that Jesus' patience is "unlimited." God loves us. He's our Father. But like a good Father, he has to discipline his children sometimes. Without discipline, children run wild and usually end up in trouble. Jonah was no different. He was running away to Tarshish instead of going where God told him to go. So God had to discipline him. And what was the result? 
  • "Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh." (3:1) As someone who has "run away" from God at different times in my life, I know how good it feels to finally be obedient. To surrender to the will of God. But wouldn't it have been so much better if Jonah had just obeyed God in the first place? I think that is the lesson we all need to learn from Jonah! And look what happened because Jonah was obedient! A city of 120,000 people was saved! (4:11)

Are you a Jonah today? Have you heard a word from the LORD but ignored it or even ran away from it? Are you going through a storm? Are you ready to be obedient? God is there, every step of the way, waiting, watching, guiding if we'll let him. PrayListen! Obey!

One interesting thing to note about Jonah's story. It ends very abruptly. Chapter 4 tells us that Jonah got a little full of himself. God wasn't going to put up with it and puts an end to the story. Don't let that happen to your story!

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Brazil, Russia, Australia, Israel, Bulgaria, Germany, United Kingdom, Poland, France, Malaysia, Sweden, Italy, Georgia, Ukraine, Ghana

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