Jonah: A man on the run: What to do when you cause a storm
When we think of the book of Jonah, we usually think of the whale. However, this sermon begins our series on Jonah by looking at how the story of Jonah is really about mission, about following God’s commands, and about our own ideas of God and what He may ask us to do.
Something To Talk About:
- My life mission will come through God’s word: It doesn’t come from reading a magazine, it doesn’t come from watching TV, it doesn’t come from talking with friends, it comes from God’s word. You were made for a uniquely designed mission that only you can do. There are 17 verses in Jonah chapter 1, and verse 1 says this: The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai:” This is how he gets his mission. God can speak to you in any number of ways to get your mission.
- My life mission will require a step of faith: It’s going to move you out of your comfort zone. It may challenge your prejudices. It may stretch your mind, you’re thinking. It will certainly stretch your faith. In verse two, God says to Jonah, “Here’s your mission, Jonah. I want you to get up and go to the great city of Nineveh.” Nineveh was a very cruel, brutal city. Nineveh is about 550 miles from where Jonah lived in Israel. How’s he going to get there? He’s going to have to walk 550 miles. This is not going to be an easy journey. But, more than that, it’s a step of faith because Nineveh was the mortal enemy of Israel. Your mission will often challenge your comfort zone, it may challenge your politics, it may challenge your prejudices.
- My life mission will somehow help others: God has given us a mission to help other people because He loves everyone. A life mission is about how God wants to use you to help other people. God is going to use us to express His love, to express His care to people that are in pain. God cares about the injustice that’s in this world. And so, this was part of Jonah’s life mission, what we learn about life mission from Jonah. In the second half of verse 2, God says, “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh and tell them that I see all the evil happening there, and I won’t ignore it.” Jonah didn’t like this mission very much. God had not abandoned Nineveh and He will not abandon you if there is a way out. That’s part of the mission.
- My life mission may scare me at first: Because it’s God’s vision, it’s bigger than you, and that can be scary. It certainly scared Jonah, in verse 3, but Jonah ran away from the presence of the Lord. He heard about it, God says, “You’ve got to go to Nineveh,” and He says, “There’s no way I’m doing that, God. That is the last thing in the world that I’m doing. I am not going to Nineveh, I don’t want to be there, I’m scared to be there,” and he ran the opposite direction. Ask yourself the question, we all need to ask ourselves, “Is there something God has told me to do, that I’m not willing to do? And I’m running as far away as I can, from that thing that He has told me to do.” One of the great lessons of life we need to learn is to run to God when we are afraid, don’t run away from God.
- Running from my mission causes bad consequences: God says to Jonah, “Go.” Jonah says, “No.” God says, “Oh.” There are always consequences to every decision. You see, one of the things that God did is He gave us the freedom to choose. I can choose to totally ignore God with my life if I want to. I don’t have to love God. I don’t have to obey God. I don’t have to even acknowledge God, I can pretend God doesn’t exist. God gives you that choice and gives me that choice. But you are not free from the consequences of those choices. And that’s what we don’t understand. Because we think because we’re free to make choices, we’re free from the consequences.
- The longer I run from God, the worse it gets: The longer I put off accepting my mission, the longer I live a self-centered, selfish life, the worse it’s going to get. God is patient with us, but His patience absolutely runs to an end. So, if things are getting rougher, then you don’t know what the storm could be ahead. Now, verse 11 says this, “Now, the storm was getting worse, and the waves got rougher.” Jonah 1:12, Jonah says, “Here’s what you guys do, throw me overboard. Throw me overboard down in the sea.” And everything will calm down. I know that it’s my fault that you guys are having to fight this terrible storm.”
- If I’m fighting God’s plan, trying harder doesn’t work: If I’m fighting God’s plan, if I’m running from God, trying harder won’t and doesn’t work. Because your arms are too short to box with God. God is God, and you’re not. The only way you’re going to be saved is to just surrender to the grace, and goodness, and mercy, and love of God, and throw yourself in His arms. You can’t save yourself. I’m not just talking about saving yourself to heaven, I’m talking about the situation you’re in right now. You can’t do it on your own. Salvation is never the result of your own effort.
- When I do what God wants, things will calm down: When I finally do what God wants, things will calm down. And all of a sudden, there’s a peace where there was a storm. All of a sudden, there’s rest where there was panic. I want you to look at what happens. Jonah 1:14-15, “Finally, the sailors cried out to Jonah’s God, ‘We’ve tried our gods, that didn’t work.‘” They cried out to Jonah’s God, “‘Oh, Lord, don’t let us die because of this man’s life. Please don’t hold us responsible for his death, because, you, Lord, sent this storm for your purpose.’“ You know that storm you’re going through right now? It is because God has a purpose for it. God’s purpose for your life is greater than the problems you’re going through. The purpose is always greater than the problem. When we stop running from God, things will calm down.
- When I do what God wants, unbelievers believe: Unbelievers around me believe, when I finally do what God wants me to do. Look at the sailors. They’ve seen the storm immediately stop. And in Jonah 1:16, “When the sailors saw this happen, they were awestruck by God’s greatness, and they worshiped God. And they offered a sacrifice to God, and they made vows.” They made promises to God, “God, we’re going your way from now on.” The whole ship is converted. Why? Because one guy, who was doing the wrong thing, the believer who was doing the wrong thing, gets his life right, and all of a sudden, the nonbelievers believe. When you start fulfilling your mission, people around you that you never thought would be believers in God or Christ, are going to come to Christ. It just happens. Because, all of a sudden, they see that you are walking in calmness, not in stress, and not in a storm. And they go, “Whoa, I want that in my life.”
- When I accept my mission, God shows me mercy: He doesn’t scold me, He doesn’t spank me. He doesn’t say, “What took you long enough?” He doesn’t give me a lecture, when I finally say, “Okay, I want what you want, God.”. He shows mercy.
- On a scale of 1-10, how familiar are you with the book of Jonah? (1=I’ve never heard of it; 10=I could teach a course on it)
- God has a pre-determined path for our lives but we must first discover that path. What does 1 Corinthians 3:10-14 tell us about the essential foundation for building our lives?
- Why does it matter whether or not we find the purpose for which our lives were created?
- Discuss why Jonah ran from the mission he was given. Why do you think God gave Jonah a mission that required he take a step of faith?
- Have you ever tried to run from God’s will for your life? Would anyone like to share about a season when you ran from God?
- What are some of the ways God pursues Jonah in this passage? What are some of the ways God pursues us when we run from Him?
- Is there anything God could ask you to do, today, that you would say “no” to? If so, what is it and why would you say no?
- Why does trying harder–human effort and will power–not work when we are fighting God’s plans or resisting His direction?
- Miracles happen when we do what God wants. Why do we insist on our own way when obeying God will cause things to calm down, unbelievers will begin to believe as they see the change in our life, and we will receive God’s mercy?
- What would be the best outcome in one area of your life if you fully surrendered to God? Is there an area of your life that you hesitate to give to Him because you are afraid?
- How do you hope to grow or change through this sermon series? What was your biggest takeaway from the opening scene of Jonah’s story?
Take one thing home with you:
If I run from God, it will cost me.
If I run from God, not only will my life go downhill but if I run from God, it’s going to cost me. There’s always a price tag in running from God. And it always costs more to run from God, than it costs to run to God or to run with God, in God’s direction. There’ll be an emotional price tag. There’ll be a relational price tag. There will be maybe a financial price tag, a physical price tag, a spiritual price tag. It always costs more to run from God, than to actually run with God.