Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 139 Consider the Cost and Consequence of Disobedience – Part 4

Jonah 1:17-2:10

17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. 1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. 2 He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! 3 You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. 4 Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ 5 “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. 6 I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God,     snatched me from the jaws of death! 7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. 8 Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. 9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows.    For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” 10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”

After running from God and refusing to repent we see the pouting prophet pitched into the sea and swallowed by a fish. It took more than just having his ship swamped by a storm for this hard-hearted prophet to surrender, God had to send a fish to swallow him. It is here in the belly of the fish that Jonah stops pouting and starts praying. Sometimes the Master has to take extreme measures to bring us to our senses, a truth that prosperity preachers tend to avoid teaching. The reality is that God is often in the midst of our circumstances of misery, moving to bring us to repentance. You may not like to hear that and you may even want to disagree, but go back to chapter 1 and read verse 4: “But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.” Then verse 17: “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.” Who was it that caused the storm? Who was it that sent the fish to swallow Jonah? Here’s the Biblical truth, sometimes those difficult and dark circumstances are God ordained to get you back on track. Now look at chapter 2 verse 3: “You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.” notice the words “You” & “Your”. Jonah knows that it wasn’t chance, or blind fate that caused his dilemma. He doesn’t blame the sailors for they were merely God’s instruments, His means of discipline and restoration. The Master is ok with His disobedient kids experiencing some misery because He knows just how miserable the path of rebellion really is in the end. A father who loves his kids doesn’t turn his back when they are disobedient but disciplines them. God’s heavy hand of discipline is actually evidence of His love for us. But how do you respond to His correction, do you whine or submit to His way? This story of suffering actually shows us the ultimate value that God places on us being in a right relationship with Him. God brings judgment upon Jonah not to pay him back but to bring him back. God knew exactly what it would take for Jonah to stop running and rejecting His rule and reign over his life. I also want you to see that when God brings a trial into our lives, He gives us time to contemplate the lessons He is teaching. Jonah had 3 days in the bowels of the fish to figure things out. God’s means of taking us out are actually not mean, they are an act of mercy, because you will never reflect on where you really are when you are still on the run. Today you may feel swallowed up by your circumstances, but you have the assurance that what God brings into your life is more than just a lesson; it’s for your good and His glory. It’s only when you’ve run and run and you finally hit rock bottom and are forced to face the consequences of your running that you realize that you don’t have any leverage with God. You don’t have any leverage when things are going good or bad, but it’s only in those times when things are going bad that we fully realize this truth. Here in lies the Biblical truth that for many Christians tastes like a bitter pill, God doesn’t owe any of us His blessings.  As Jonah is in the fish suffering the consequences of his running he realizes that he can’t blame anyone. God had made it perfectly clear what He had called Jonah to do and Jonah chose to rebel. It is here that we finally see Jonah repent and pray and instead of guilt God shows him grace. Verse 2 says, “God answered” that’s grace, Jonah deserved to be digested, he had rebelled against a righteous and mighty God. But Jonah finds a God of grace, willing to forgive. Go ahead call on God and confess, He is there waiting for you to turn to Him.  The gift of grace is that God hears the prayer of those who have run, but then repent. Even when we spiritually sink as deep as Jonah did in verse 6: “I sank down to the very roots of the mountains” God will not abandon us. Jonah was thrown out of a ship, but not out of the sight and grace of God. Jonah’s deliverance was directed by the Hand of God, the One who rules His creation. The fierce wind, surging sea and fearsome fish are there to faithfully serve the Father. God was willing to chase and redirect creation which caused Jonah to repent and return to a right relationship with Him. One of the evidences of true repentance is that our pouting turns to praise. Not only does Jonah sing songs of praise but he vows to sacrifice and serve God. It is interesting to note that both chapters one and two end with sacrifice and vows. Jonah the prophet is now at the same place that the Gentile sailors are, he may be out of the boat but he is on board with serving God. God’s children should be known as people of praise, and despite the misery we may be in we can magnify the Lord. Psalm 34:3 says: “Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.” But often instead of magnifying the Master we tend to magnify our problems. Now when you magnify something you don’t actually change the size of whatever it is you magnify, you actually change your perception of it. So when people magnify their problems the result is that God looks small in comparison. But when you magnify the Lord, your perception of Him changes, you gain a proper perspective, and you start to see His power over the problems. As Jonah concludes his prayer he states that “Salvation comes from the Lord” this is the theme of the entire Bible, salvation is a gift, and God isn’t obligated to limit it to only those that we think deserve it. Jonah’s sour attitude in chapter one centered on his not wanting to be a part of God saving the Ninevites so he refused God’s call and ran, until he ran into the saving arms of the Almighty. God reaches out to us because we can’t reach Him. The grace of God is that He accepts and entitles the undeserving. God loves us not because of who we are and what we have done, but because of who He is and what He had done. The most terrifying aspect of Jonah’s plight is when he realizes that God could have given him what he wanted, to be free from God. Jonah wanted to run from God but it’s the results of running that bring Jonah to repentance. Jonah started out being unwilling to say “Thy will be done” but in the middle of the Mediterranean he realized the awful significance of hearing the Almighty say “All right then, your will be done.” When we try to run from His righteousness, God may grant our wish for a while, but what we think we want will be our ruin. The belly of a fish isn’t what I would call a pleasant place to live, but it can be a good place to learn. You may not like where your life is right now but the lessons you learn will change your life.  

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 138 Consider the Cost and Consequence of Disobedience – Part 3

Jonah 1:3-6 

“3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish. 4 But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 6 So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.” 

Last time we looked at Jonah’s decision of disobedience, his refusal to obey God and go to Nineveh. We saw the first steps in his deliberately disobedience and how he board a boat bound for Tarshish. We saw the direct result of disobedience; it causes us to run from the presence of God, resulting in us trading peace for problems. It is in verses 4-16 that we see the rest of the results of a rebellious heart, the cost and the consequences of disobedience. For there will always be a cost to sin. The first principle we see is that: 

  • God loves you too much to let you live lawlessly

“But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.”When Jonah chose the path of disobedience, God would have been within his rights to write Jonah off. God could have said, “Jonah, you have disobeyed me, and I am done”, God could have dismissed Jonah because of his disobedience but He didn’t. The goodness and the grace of God is seen in that despite your disobedience you can’t outrun God’s love, as the Psalmist declared in Psalm 139:7-10, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? (8) If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (9) If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, (10) Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” What a contrast between the first words of verse three, “But Jonah” and the first words of verse four, “But the Lord”. Our rebellion and running from God is not the last word, it is God’s response to our rebellion and running from Him. It is here that we see the contrast between our puny rebellion and God’s powerful love. God’s love pursues this disobedient prophet, because God loves us too much to let us live in rebellion and broken relationship. So God calls together His nature, the wind and the water, and stops Jonah with a storm. Notice that nature immediately obeys the call of its Creator unlike His child! Now this is not a typical storm it’s a typhoon, so great that even the veteran sailors surrounding Jonah are afraid. As Christians we often focus on a God who can calm the troubled waters of our lives, but do we stop to consider that this same God cares enough to stir them up and stop us? How seriously does God take His call on our lives, how seriously did God take this call on Jonah’s life? God took it seriously enough to sink the ship on which the disobedient prophet was sailing rather than let him continue in rebellion. Sometimes what seems mean may actually be mercy. In Psalm 119:67 David wrote, “I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word.” And in Psalm 119:71 he says, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees”. God loves you too much to let you live a lawless life. God cares so much that His mercy pursues this mad and pouting prophet. God loves His disciples so much that He is willing to deal with our disobedience using discipline. We may not like it or even interpret it as love, but let me ask you would a loving parent discarded or would they discipline a disobedience child? God loves His children too much to leave they adrift aimlessly and alone on the open sea of rebellion. Yet many believers today seem to think that they can continue in rebellious and unrepentant sin without any serious repercussions. That a loving God will let them continue to live in disobedience and that there will be no correction or consequences. But let me ask you, what does the Word of God teach? Hebrews 12:9-11, clearly teaches us that God cares enough to correct, “9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Because God cared he corrected Jonah’s disobedience with disciplined, in fact chastisement from God is an indication that we are a child of God. For Jonah God revealed His care through the correction of a storm, yet when storms break out in our lives because of disobedience we tend to blame God instead of seeing them as a blessing. In the middle of the mess we want to rant and rave rather than take responsibility for our rebellion. We are more sad over the storm that sorrowful over our sin. Do we even connected and contributed the presence of the storms to our disobedience? We cry out for God to calm the storm but do we cry out for Him to clean the heart that is causing the storm? How often is it my disobedience that has actually led me directly into the middle of the storm of discipline? What about you, are you in a storm designed to stop you from running further into rebellion? How are you responding, are you going to run back to your relationship with God or continue in rebellion an run further into ruin? 

Second we see that our:

  • Disobedience is not disconnected from others it involves and includes them.

Verse 5 says “Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship” as a result of Jonah’s sin others suffered. Is your sin surrounding others with suffering, is it putting others into painful situations? We never sin in seclusion, instead like second-hand smoke our disobedience harms the people around us. One of the repercussions of rebellion is that we make everyone around us miserable. One of the side effects of sin is that others unwillingly inhale its harmful smoke and get sick. The tragedy of a disciple’s disobedience is seen in the damage that is done when their disobedience pushes the lost away from the Lord. The tragedy is that Jonah’s rebellion hid his testimony from these sailors. It is a sad day when a saint of God has to be exposed before an unbelieving world. Jonah had to be found out as a follower, because he had concealed his identity as a child of God. What about us are we hiding the holiness of God, are we living lives as light and salt or is our sin shadowing our relationship with the Savior? How about you have you worked in the same place for years but no one knows you are a Christian? Does your lifestyle reveal Christ to the world or cover up the cause of Christ?