Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

7 Consider the Cost and Consequences of Disobedience – Part 5

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Jonah 2:10-3:10

2:10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. 1 Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.” 3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. 6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7 Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8 People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9 Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.” 10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.

Chapter two ended with a praying prophet and a puking fish. Sometimes God’s redirection involves regurgitation and it isn’t always pretty. We like the results of repentance it’s the process of puking that we find revolting. But we need to remember that sin never smells good, it stinks and its gut wrenching. Sin wants to swallow us whole, to surrounded us with its stench. What is it that is holding you hostage, trapping and tying you down? You don’t have to live stuck in the stomach of sin, you can confess and come clean. After Jonah’s confession we find him free of the fish, and free to follow the Father. So let me ask you, where do you want to be, on the beach or in the belly? It is here that Jonah’s discovers that:

  • God is a giver of grace

“The Lord spoke to Jonah a second time” Sitting in the sand still stinking from his decision to disobey Jonah experienced the God of second chances.  Have you ever longed to make right a major mistake? We have all made mistakes, whether it’s in our finances or family, some right now are dealing with a marriage mess, or parenting problems. It’s in the midst of these mistakes that we wish we could have one more chance for change, an opportunity to begin again. Our failures can leave us feeling that God our Father could never use us again. That we have ruined any chance to be used by Him, that we could never be bless again. But Jonah found that the forgiveness of the Father involved a second chance to serve. Repentance brought both redirection and a re-commissioning. But notice that it is only after Jonah repents that God commissions him to call others to repentance. We have a Savior who is willing to stoop to use those who have rejected his calling and turned a deaf ear to His word. Redeeming the rebellious and seeking disobedient, directionally-challenged sheep is what our Shepherd does. He is the pursuer of the prodigal, the Lord of the ‘Lost and Found.’ If there is one area that we consistently underestimate the Fathers love I think it’s in His loving longing to forgive. Jonah failed when he was first called to go to Nineveh, but his failure wasn’t final. May be you are struggling with failure today; know you are not alone, for Jonah was not the only person in the Bible who “failed” God at some point. After God promised Abraham that he and his wife Sarah would have a son, he disbelieved God and decided to follow his own plan. He disobeyed God and had a child by his wife’s servant. Even though he “failed” he found a Father that did not give up on him and God made Abraham the “father of many nations”.  Jacob not only lied to his earthly father but he stole his brother’s birthright and blessing. He experienced family failure, but after God had wrestled him into obedience he received a new name, Israel. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then he had her husband murdered to hide his failing, but after he finds God’s forgiveness we find God describing David as a man after God’s own heart. Peter proudly proclaimed that he would never deny Jesus but he did, three times in public. Peter failed Jesus but after he is forgiven he goes on to preach with power on the day of Pentecost, where many lives are changed for Christ. Sometimes we feel like our failure is forever, that it’s fatal and its final, that we can never be forgiven, but we have a Father that longs to forgive. May be today you find yourself stuck in sin, desperate for a second chance. Are you ready to exchange your life in the belly of sin for the shore of second chances? Then right where you are surrender to God and seek His face of forgiveness, repent and reject your life of sin. Next Jonah discovered that:

  • God’s still had a plan for his life

“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.” Just because Jonah had pursued his own direction and disobeyed it didn’t change Gods plan. Our failure doesn’t force God to change directions; Jonah was the one who had to course correct. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So are you going to sit in the puke or pursue His plan? Today we want to sit on the shore, to stay where it is safe, but God’s plan involves proclaiming His offer of peace to other people. You don’t have to be defined by disobedience, are you going to find your identity in your failure or the Fathers forgiveness? When the Word of God came to Jonah the second time it came with the same commission that he had received at first. It was God’s plan for him to go to Nineveh and it was still God’s plan. It was Jonah that changed not God’s plan. Today many Christians claim that they don’t know what God wants them to do, which reminds me of a story Donald Grey Barnhouse, a pioneer in preaching over the radio, once told. His daughter had come to him with a request that he had denied. ‘Well then what do you what me to do?’ she had asked. He told her what he wanted and then went on with his work. She remained standing in front of him and after a while Mrs. Barnhouse called to the daughter from another room, ‘Where are you? What are you doing?’ she asked. The daughter replied, ‘I am waiting for daddy to tell me what he wants me to do.’ To which Mr. Barnhouse raised his head and said to her, ‘Whatever you are doing it is not waiting to find out what I want you to do. I have told you what I want you to do, but you do not like it. You are actually waiting to see if you can get me to change my mind.” If we were honest with ourselves we will admit that we know a lot more about what God wants than what we are doing. You and I know that God wants us to be a witnessing, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be good stewards of our time, treasures, and talents, just to name a few. So are you being obedient to what He has already told you to do? Is it time to stop hiding behind the excuse that you don’t know what God’s wants and get busy with what you do know of His Will? I think our problem is that we often know what God’s will is we just don’t want to do it. Lastly Jonah discovered what:

  • God can do with a surrendered servant.

“This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” Jonah became a messenger of mercy, he had a short sermon of only 8 words but it had radical results. The whole city confessed and responded to God’s message with great mourning.  Verse 5 says: “The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. 6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes.” When Jonah surrendered to go and speak God used even the terrible experience of his time in the belly of the fish for His glory. God has the power to do the same thing through your pain. Out of our failure God can bring spiritual success and forge a future where there was only a mess. Only God can take the bad and use it to bless, which I believe is what Paul is getting at in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Obedience not only benefits our life but it can bring blessing to many others. I love the truth that this chapter is bracketed by God’s mercy; it starts with His mercy to Jonah and ends with His mercy on Nineveh. But notice that the mercy which results from repentance is a limited time offer. Nineveh had forty days to seek God’s forgiveness. We have a God that pursues and is patient, but there is a limit to lawlessness. If we fail to heed His Word and continue to do what we want the consequences of our actions will eventually catch up to us and cost us dearly. What direction are you running in today, are you running toward rebellion or repentance? Are you walking in the footsteps of forgiveness or failure?

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