On Sunday morning at First Pres we continued in our spring sermon series entitled Commissioned: The Reluctant Missionary. Jonah was a man of faith who wrestled mightily with obeying God. Jonah was also a man with an important lesson to learn.
In chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Jonah, it’s clear that Jonah is not having much fun. Unwilling to obey the Lord and do something he really, really didn’t want to do, Jonah ran from God. He ran onto a ship, and God sent a storm that nearly sunk the vessel. He was thrown into the raging sea and swallowed by a fish sent by God. The mission God had for Jonah and the circumstances God orchestrated in Jonah’s life left Jonah scared, depressed, stinky, alone, and under the waves. If you missed church on Mother’s Day and want to listen to the message from Sunday, you can do so here.
As I said on Sunday, God is putting Jonah is incredibly painful circumstances, not to pay him back but to bring him back. God is not trying to punish Jonah and pay him pack for being disobedient, God is trying to get Jonah to come back to him. And although Jonah is suffering, he is at the same time experiencing God’s grace, because God is still pursuing him.
God’s discipline, God’s putting us in difficult circumstances, God’s asking us to do things that we don’t really want to do, are all expressions of God’s love for us.
For Jonah, the hardship he experienced caused him to see rightly what he could not see when he was comfortable and at home in Jerusalem. While in the belly of the fish, he saw that he was putting other things in the place of God and disregarding allegiance to the One True King. He saw that his unwillingness to obey God left him with nothing substantive to put his weight down on.
All of our idols are shown to us to be idols when we are broken. And sometimes it takes being thoroughly broken before we are able to see our careers, the pleasures of life, our kids, money, and whatever things we tend to pursue instead of God, sometimes it takes being beneath the waves and in the storm before we are able to see those things clearly as what they are: not God. Not as valuable as a relationship with God. Not as beautiful as being close to God, even a God who calls us to do hard things.
God is all love. So whatever it is you are sensing God is asking you to do, whatever it is you know God wants to help you stop doing, whatever it is you have decided to just tune out and ignore because it’s scary or it’s inconvenient, or you’re not even sure you can do it, whatever it is that you know is from God, is there because God loves us, and he wants us home, with him, growing and maturing in the likeness of Christ, who is not finished with any of us yet.
So don’t begrudge the storms of this life. Sometimes it’s the storms that wake us up and bring our hearts back to God.