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Now, let's consider a few lessons from the story of Jonah. First of all, Jonah
didn't want to go! He did not want to do what God told him to do!! Instead, he went the other way. Did God say, "Oh well, better find us another prophet"? No, He went after Jonah and put him in a situation of "repent or else" (not hard to make the right choice when you're sitting in the belly of a whale!!) Afterwards, God gave him the
same orders all over again.
Folks, sometimes God doesn't take "no" for an answer! We like to think that everything is negotiable with God, and maybe some things are. But we must never forget that He is
Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Creator as well as our Redeemer. Or, as Paul puts it - who are we the "clay" to argue with God the "potter"? (Romans 9:20,21)
The calling of God, therefore, does not necessarily have to be in accordance with our wants or wishes, or neatly fall into line with the plans we have already made for ourselves. It is
His will which is to be done [whether we like it or not]. Afterall, Psalms 100:3 says, "Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture."
Be good sheep - follow your Shepherd!
A second lesson revealed in the story is that God did not call Jonah to preach to a people for whom he felt a particular compassion, or a place he had "always wanted to visit." To the contrary, the Assyrians were sworn enemies of Israel. While sitting on a hill overlooking the city,
Jonah was actually looking forward to its destruction ("it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry" because "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way" and decided not to punish them - Jonah 4:1 & 3:10).
Here we see a man, called of God to a people and a place, not because he loved them, but because he loved God. The Apostle Paul explained his own zeal in service by saying "the love of Christ constraineth us" (2Cor 5:14), which love was demonstrated when "(Christ)
died for all" (v.15a). When believers fully appreciate what God's love has done for them, especially in the giving of His own Son for them, they "should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again." -v.15b
We also learn in Jonah that the consequences of disobedience are not exclusive -
others will suffer when we refuse to do God's will. The men on the boat with Jonah were in jeopardy of their lives for no other reason than that they were in the company of a man running from God. I've often said that
the safest place on earth is in the center of God's will - not just safe for me, but also for those around me!
An even greater number of souls ("...sixscore thousand" Jonah 4:11)
would have suffered had Jonah not repented and gone to Ninevah. We must obey the Lord - if not for ourselves, at least for the many others whose lives our life touches.
God's will is not an option, it is an obligation, because we can never know who will be helped or hurt by our obedience or disobedience.
So, what have we learned? That not everything God may
will for us to do will necessarily be what we may want to do. Or, for that matter, easy to do. Oh, it's true that we will find fulfillment and real happiness in obeying the Lord, and what begins as unpleasant becomes the source of our greatest joy in time. But that process is not always immediate, and our first response to God's call may also be something like this: "Could this cup be passed to someone else?"
What, then, should be our response to the call to Christian service? It is not "How much can I
do for God" or "How many sacrifices can I make for Him" (afterall, the prophet Samuel said,
"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice."
I Sam 15:22) The measure of faithful service is not how much we give up but how well we give in!
The Lord does not call on everyone to go to the "uttermost parts of the earth" [if He did, it would be awfully crowded there]. Somebody's got to stay home and be a witness here. But when one is "called", or asked to "sacrifice", or expected to go that "second mile", it is then that the choice we make
("not my will but thine be done") reveals the true
condition of our heart, and the real commitment of our soul.
About a decade ago I published these words in one of my newsletters: "The decision to discipleship comes when we surrender our 'rights' and say to the Lord,
I will serve You anywhere, under any circumstances, for any length of time." Six months later, during our first voyage to the mission field, we were shipwrecked at sea, loosing our boat and nearly our lives But my resolve was not shaken, neither was my trust in God. Afterwards, I wrote again those words adding to them, "Only in the discipline of this
commitment can we rest in the perfect peace which I felt that fateful morning, the acceptable goal for us all."
In closing, I share with you the words of Oswald Chambers from his powerful devotional,
My Utmost For His Highest: "He is not offering us a choice of how we can serve Him; He is asking for absolute loyalty to His commission, a faithfulness to what we discern when we are in the closest possible fellowship with God...In our surrender we must give ourselves to God in the same way He gave Himself for us - totally, unconditionally, and without reservation." Or, as the popular Gospel song puts it,
"My storage is empty, and
I am available to you."
. . .David A. Goodrum