I witnessed first hand recently someone who ran away from God’s calling and I was instantly reminded of the story of Jonah.
Jonah 1:1-3 (NIV) – The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.
Jonah was asked by God to share the Good News to the horrible people of Ninevah so they could repent and turn from their evil ways, but Jonah fled in the hopes of never returning. He turned a blind eye to the people who needed him most. He put on the glasses of judgment that were tinted with his own ideas of what they should do, how they should act, and what they should even look like. That sounds so familiar to me. I see people everyday turn away and pretend not to see the depravity, but also the hope that lies within others that walk right past them because they don’t want to see. “Maybe if I just don’t look, it won’t actually be there. That person isn’t worthy of my help. I’ll just help someone else and God will bless me for that.”
But that’s not what God asked of Jonah. He asked Jonah to share the Good News with people who had completely turned away from God. Who are you willing to share the Good News with? Has God laid an opportunity before you, asked you to be a prophet to the nation that you live in? Are you running in the opposite direction?
Jonah 1:15-17 (NIV) – Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. 17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
After Jonah was thrown overboard, he ended up in the belly of the fish, and was put back on track against his will. Why should it come to this? Why not just listen to that still small voice and do what He says? Why turn a blind eye to the truth? This is the part that gets me the most. Once Jonah delivered God’s message, which was one little sentence, Ninevah was saved from destruction and Jonah threw a tantrum.
Jonah 3:4-5 (NIV) – Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
Do you realize that sometimes all it takes is one word? Maybe one sentence to set someone free? You aren’t required to go stand in a pulpit and preach the Word of God. All you are asked to do is to stop turning away from the people who need you, the people you choose not to see. What is your excuse? Excuses are just nails that build a house of regret. I love how God meets Jonah where he is, but doesn’t give him a whole lot of relief.
Jonah 4:1-10 (NIV) – But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relentsfrom sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” 10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
We make the painful mistake of thinking that we are in the center of the universe then try to hide from a God who sees everything. We make the excuse that we are still waiting on His leading when there are people dying right in front of us. He isn’t asking you to do much. Are you more interested in your own glory instead of trying to get the glory for God who only wants people to see Christ in you? God loves us so much, He has a purpose for each of us, and will pursue us with all His might. Sometimes He will even allow us to get through the protective gate in our heart to get a full dose of what we think we need. Stop turning away. I’m begging you. Serving God is not an EARNED position. Do something different today and reach out to that one person YOU feel isn’t deserving, and watch what happens.