Monday, March 22, 2010

My Jonah Complex

You can run from God but you cannot outrun God.  This is the story of my life.  I think a lot of us share this in that we often choose to do our own thing versus God’s will.  This does not necessarily have to reflect a call to the ministry but includes any aspect of your walk with Jesus that you have not given over total control.  My story is that I was called into youth ministry some 18 years ago.  Because I lived the life of a minister’s child, I personally did not want that life and told God, “No!”  As life progressed, God allowed me to be successful at my career, even allowed me several accolades and such. This is to say that God will not punish you for ignoring Him.  God does not operate that way.   He is a God of love and grace.  However, God will often bring you back to His will and quite succinctly open your eyes to where you need to be.

I have heard many sermons lately about Jonah.  I found it necessary to blog my experiences because I must be facing the “Jonah complex” now for God to have several different podcasts all speak about Jonah.  The funny thing is that they are from months ago to recently and I just got around to listening them.  It’s awesome how God works and His incredible timing.  There are many parts to the Jonah story, and by default, most people think of it as a fairy tale where this guy [Jonah] gets swallowed by a large fish and lives inside of it for three days.  If you get deeper below the surface of the story, you see particular points.

Jonah attempted to go to Tarshish, the farthest place he could go from Ninevah where he was told by God to go (Jonah 1:1-3).   How often do we go as far as we can in the opposite direction of where God wants us, thinking [hoping] we can hide or that He will change his mind?   Jonah was to go to Ninevah, approximately 600-700 miles from where he was.  Instead, he got on a boat to travel 2,200 miles to the west near Spain.  Let's put that in perspective.  That’s the equivalent of me being called from Orlando, Florida to go to Richmond, Virginia.  Instead of heading to Richmond, I get on a ship and head to Brazil.

Next thing we see is Jonah getting on that ship in Joppa and heading to Tarshish.  After they set sail, a storm comes.  Jonah, staying in the bottom of the boat, is called up to answer to the other people on the boat as to what he did to cause the storm (Jonah 1:5-10).   Isn't it interesting to read that the other people on the boat all called out and prayed to their gods in time of need?  Once Jonah explained that he disobeyed God they asked what should be done.   Jonah again takes the easy road and says to throw him overboard.  I think at this point in time he could have just cried out to God and repented, asked them to turn the boat around, and God would have calmed the storm.  They tried to turn the boat around on their own but were unsuccessful (Jonah 1:13).  But Jonah would rather take the easy way out and end his he thought.  Jonah is tossed overboard and immediately the storm ceased.   End of story?  No way.   This is where it gets real personal for me.

God provided yet another opportunity for Jonah to obey God and do as God instructed.  God provided a large fish to swallow Jonah and keep him for three days and nights (Jonah 1:17).    [A side note here is the beauty of the fact that even in this horrible situation, God used it for His glory.  Do you notice that the men then feared the Lord?  The one true God!  Because of Jonah's admission to running from God and the subsequent happy ending, the sailors made vows and sacrificed to God!!] (Jonah 1:9-10; 14; 16)   I relate so much to this part of Jonah's story.  God has given me more than enough opportunities to trust him with my life and my future.   He has revealed His plan and yet I still choose mine.  I am willing to take the easy way out so many times instead of just going.   I fool myself and think I can hide, then when God gets my attention again I still don't go to Ninevah.

The amazing thing of this whole story is that Jonah finally obeyed.  While inside that fish, Jonah cried out to God.   At Jonah's seemingly lowest point, he realized what he had done and cried to God for mercy and another chance (Jonah 2:1-9).  [This is something I really want to change in my life too.  That at my lowest points I actually seek God and His will fervently.  I want to be like that constantly.]  And wouldn't you know it; the God of second chances came through and provided Jonah the opportunity to obey.  I wonder on what day of the three Jonah finally prayed that prayer.   I imagine he was like me and the rest of us and probably yelled at God the first day, pouted and whined the second day, and finally woke up the third day.

So Jonah gets that opportunity and steps out and goes to Ninevah.  Lives are changed, God spares the city.  Jonah's obedience saves the lives of numerous Ninevites (Jonah 3:1-10). This is the part I want to be.   Getting to the place where God wants me and teaching the youth of that city.   Changing lives for Him. Furthering His Kingdom.   Not running from God any longer.   Giving Him every part of my being and not just the parts I want to. Thanks Jonah!

For me, I see through Jonah that God doesn’t chase us, He waits for us.  And when we finally obey, He comes through yet again and blesses our obedience for His sake.

To understand why Jonah might not have wanted to go to Ninevah read Nahum 3:1-5.  Another point of curiosity is that when the seas calmed, do you think Jonah was just sitting there floating and asking to come back on the ship or had the fish already swallowed him?

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