I don’t want to, and you can’t make me!

You’ve probably heard this phrase in some form or fashion in your life, especially if you are a parent.  I personally have not heard the second half of this phrase from any of my kids, but if I do…well, let’s just hope Jesus returns at that very moment, for their safety.  I don’t think I’d be able to simply return with the old parental stand-by, “I brought you in to this world, and I will take you out!”  Now my kids are only 8, 5, and 4, so if they were to respond to me or my wife in such a way, I could easily pick them up by their ankles, throw them over my shoulder, and prove to them that I most certainly can make them.  However, I know that when they are teenagers (Jesus take the wheel!!), it’ll be a different story.

You may have even said it a time or two yourself.  As adults, we may simply say “No thank you” to situations that we don’t want to face or circumstances that we desire not to confront.  Often times, we will flat out ignore particular conversations or situations that would be the cause of anxiety in our life.  I think we would admit that sometimes we need that parental accountability.  The person that will, as my dad used to say, “put a size 10 in your koondingy” to give us the motivation we need to get the job done (I’m still not sure where the term koondingy came from, but I certainly know what it means!)  We all too often live independently of others, without accountability.  That can be very dangerous.  The story of Jonah drives this point home with clarity and even a little bit of humor.

In the first chapter, Jonah is given instruction from God to go to the city of Nineveh because the people needed salvation.  Jonah decided he didn’t want to obey the Lord and boarded a ship to go to another town.  God decided to get Jonah’s attention by other means because words obviously failed Jonah.  A “perfect storm” came through and caused the men on the boat to question each other why this was happening (Jonah 1:7).  Here is a prime example of a lack of accountability.  The first thing that comes to mind in a potentially disastrous situation is to blame others.  The men were aware enough that this had to be happening for a reason, but it had to be someone else’s fault for bringing the storm upon the sea.  When they questioned Jonah (1:8), they wanted to know everything about him in order to find some cause to cast blame on him.  Jonah’s response was epic.

“I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (1:9)

One would immediately praise Jonah for this bold, evangelical response to the unbelievers on the ship.  Way to go Jonah!  Way to step up and proclaim your belief in God Almighty.  However, when you look at the timing of this statement and the surrounding events, you get another picture of what’s taking place.  He was bold enough to proclaim his faith in God, but lacked the courage and fortitude to do what God asked of Him.  How eerily similar this sounds to many Christians today.  We are willing and able to post on Facebook or tweet an encouraging scripture or quote proclaiming our faith in God.  But how willing are we, when we are given an opportunity by the Lord, to act on our faith?  I am the first to admit, I too have fled opportunities God has given me to be used by Him, only to feel the guilt and shame of it later on.  Just as Jonah realized after he proclaimed his belief in God, he knew what he had done wrong and took the responsibility to make it right (Jonah 1:12).  In so doing, the men on the boat came to faith in the true God, and for the next three days, Jonah spent some time in deep reflection at the local sushi restaurant.

Question: Do you spend time in prayer when you are at a low point in your life?  If it was disobedience or sin that brought you to such a place, do you repent of that sin and ask for forgiveness?  Need help in knowing how to pray in time of distress?  Look on Jonah’s prayer for forgiveness and commitment:

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.  For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.  Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.  The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains.  I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God, When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.  Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.  But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.  Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2)

And with that, God heard his prayer, grace was extended and Jonah’s life was saved.  Wouldn’t this be a great end to the story?!  This is what I love about Jonah.  You get a true sense of man’s sinful nature.  It may have taken some fish vomit to convince him to do what God desired, but God’s will is always greater than our own.  In yielding to God’s will, Jonah was used to bring God’s word to the people and the city of Nineveh came to a realization of who God is and repented of their sins (Jonah 3).

Observation: It’s interesting today how many Christians in America call for revival and repentance for our own “Nineveh”.  Yet how many of those are willing to go and do?  Every Christian will invoke 2 Chronicles 7:14 which states, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  That’s a nice prayer, but let’s not forget the key words in this verse, “seek” and “turn”.  It involves action.

And Jonah pouted…

Yes, that’s right.  No matter the fact that through him an entire city was brought to salvation, Jonah went outside the city, sat down, and pouted like a little child.  He was upset that God would show such compassion on such an evil people.  Therefore, God had to teach him another lesson in humility.  God provided a plant to shade him from the scorching sun.  Yet, overnight, the plant withered and died.  This caused Jonah to be even more upset than he was.  God’s response to him is absolutely classic and provides instruction that so many of us can learn from:

“And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left…” (Jonah 4:10-11)

How often we worry, stress, get angry and/or even pout over circumstances we have absolutely no control over.  The reason we do this is because we think we have some sort of control.  We fool ourselves in to believing everything that happens around us is somehow related to us and affects us.  We forget that there are other people in this world that have the same concerns, issues, trials, problems, sins, and unfortunate circumstances.  We forget that we need to do all that we can to help each other view life from this perspective (see previous post Look out the window, not in the mirror).  Let us be concerned about the repentance, salvation, and welfare of those around us.  We all need to learn to step out of our comfort zone and minister, serve, and above all, love.

Rak Chazak Amats and may the Lord bless you!!

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:30-31

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” ~ John 15:12-13

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