In chapter four of the Old Testament book of Jonah, the prophet and God are having an argument. Maybe you have had an argument with God at some point in your faith journey; I know I have. If you missed the sermon on Sunday, you can listen to it here.
Jonah shows that he continues to wrestle with (at best) and to resent (more truthfully) God’s mission in the world. Time and again in this short book, God has had to show Jonah that God’s heart for the people of the foreign city of Nineveh is more compassionate, more gracious, more loving than is Jonah’s heart. God’s heart and Jonah’s heart are not aligned. And God is working to get Jonah to move past himself, his problems, his safety, his racism, to surrender to God’s desires for the people of Nineveh.
But Jonah is not concerned with the people of the city who are about to perish. Jonah is concerned about his own comfort; specifically, in chapter four, Jonah is concerned about the comfort provided to him by the shade of a plant that has grown up over his resting spot in the wilderness. In fact, Jonah is so upset about losing the comfort provided by the plant that, when a worm comes along and eats the plant, Jonah says, “I am so angry, I wish I was dead!”
It’s at that moment that God points to Jonah’s heart and says to him, “Jonah, look at yourself. Look at yourself, you are so concerned about this plant. You didn’t plant it, you didn’t tend it, you didn’t make it grow. It’s not even your plant! And yet you are so angry about its death that you are throwing a hissy fit. Should not I be concerned about all these people? Those people are MY people. People whose names I know. People whom I made. People whom I love.”
God is concerned about the people of Nineveh. Jonah is concerned about himself and this plant that made his life more comfortable.
Let me ask you, what are you concerned about?
God desires to use you in the lives of your neighbors, your family, the kids in the city, the generation of students in this church. God desires to use you in the lives of your co-workers, and the kids in Carol Stream, and in the life of your sponsor child. To understand exactly how God wants to use you is a work of discernment through prayer and understanding what God’s mission is in the world.
My prayer for us as a community and as individuals is that we would be concerned about the things God is concerned about. I would invite you, as you move through your day today, to ask God to show you what he wants you to be concerned about, and then allow God to move you to do something about God’s concerns.