Jonah: A man on the run: What to remember when things don’t go your way.
God has a purpose for every life: we all have a life mission. We weren’t made to live for ourselves. The Bible story of Jonah teaches how to know our mission and to understand that it is never too late to start on our mission. Have you ever felt surrounded by a hopeless situation? We’re all going to have moments that make us feel hopeless in this life. The Bible story of Jonah that we’ll discuss here explains what to do. When we hit bottom we need to look up to God, pray passionately, identify the cause of our hopelessness, ask God for specific help, get our focus off of our problems and onto God’s goodness, accept His grace and thank Him in advance with gratitude.
Something To Talk About:
- Remember that God can see things I can’t: Any time you doubt God’s wisdom, you’re going to get in trouble because God is God and you’re not. And when I have my plan, and all of a sudden God has His plan, and God’s plan is different than my plan, and I start to get upset about it, I just need to remember, God can see things I can’t see. God can see the past and the present, and the future all at the same time because He’s not limited by time. So you need to trust His wisdom. When we doubt God’s wisdom, we get in trouble. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says this, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” God does everything just right and on time, but people can never completely understand what He’s doing and see the whole scope of His work from beginning to end. We don’t see what God sees.
- Remember God is good even when I am not good: Now, Jonah, he’s mad at God, but God is still going to be good to him. And in the next verse, verse 6, talks about that even when your attitude stinks, God is still gracious to you. Verse six we find Jonah is out there sitting under the hot sun, “And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun.” This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. Circle that word arranged. It’s the same word where it says God arranged a great fish. He custom-made a broad leaf plant to spring up quickly and provide shade over Jonah while he’s sitting there. He’s worried about Jonah’s discomfort, even though Jonah’s attitude stinks. God cares about you, friends, even when you’re a jerk, and it’s saying here that you have no idea how many times God has made your life comfortable when you didn’t deserve it. You may have been going the exact opposite of God, and God’s still covering you with shade. You may have been ticked off at God, you may have been totally ignoring God, and God was still caring for your discomfort because that’s the kind of God God is. He loves you even when you’re unlovable.
- Remember God is in control of every detail: God is in control of every detail of my life; the big and the little, the large and the small, the fast and the slow, every detail in my life. Plans in your life, friends, don’t fail randomly. There is a purpose, there is a reason behind everything in your life. God had to teach this lesson to Jonah, so He actually uses the object lesson of this plant that He’s grown up to give comfort to Jonah, that God is in control of every little detail of my life. The things that you think are disappointments in your life, disappointments are His appointments. It may not be your plan, but God has a plan. God is God and you’re not. The more you fight God’s plan, the more miserable you’re going to be, and you’re going to have frustration and anger and self-pity and depression and maybe even feel like taking your life. Whatever, God is doing it, in every situation, in every case, God’s motive is love. He’s doing it because He loves you, not because He hates you, not to punish you, He’s doing it because He loves you. God is a God of wisdom, God is a God of grace, and He’s a God of love. And you may not see the beginning to the end, but He’s doing it, whether it’s the big or the little or the new in your life, He’s doing it because He loves you and He knows what will make you happy more than you do.
- Remember to focus on what will last: We fret, and we worry about stuff that is short-term, like a plant that grows up and dies the next day. If we’re going to get distressed in life, at least get distressed about something that really matters.” In Jonah 4:10-11, we read, “Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” We should care about all cities. Why? Because they’re filled with people that God created and made and loved. The future of the world is urbanization. The future of the world is cities. “We fix our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NCV)
- How would you summarize the story (up to the end of Chapter 3) so far?
- How do you think you would have responded to Nineveh’s repentance (and God’s compassion) had you been in Jonah’s place? What sort of crimes or atrocities make you long for God’s vengeance rather than His compassion?
- What do you make of God’s question in verse Jonah 4:4: Have you any right to be angry?
- What happens to our attitude when we, like Jonah, resent the interruption of our plans or the fact that God shows goodness and mercy to people we feel don’t deserve it?
- What did Jonah already understand about God’s character, in spite of his bad attitude? How can remembering God’s goodness to us, even when we’re feeling cranky, help us show His grace and mercy to others?
- God’s appointments are individually designed. God had specific appointments for Jonah. What lessons can be elicited from Jonah regarding or rebuffing God’s appointments?
- How can we remember that what I think is a disappointment is actually an appointment with God?
- Jonah obeyed God and went to Nineveh with the message God gave him to deliver. What concerned Jonah after the city repented? Why? What practical lesson can we learn from Jonah’s response? Discuss the tools God has given us to stay dedicated to what is most important.
- How can realizing God has a greater plan than we can possibly imagine help us when our instinct is to get frustrated, disappointed, angry, or even heartbroken when “things” don’t appear to be going our way?
- How do you hope to grow or change through this sermon series? What was your biggest takeaway from chapter 4 of Jonah’s story?
Take one thing home with you:
Jonah resented God’s plan because it didn’t fit his plan. Have you ever done that? Of course, you have. You got mad at God when you had a plan and your plan for graduation, for marriage, for that job, for whatever, didn’t happen. Jonah was resentful because he wanted his enemies, the city of Nineveh, to be destroyed. God’s going, “I want to forgive them.” Jonah is going, “I don’t want you to forgive them.” And so he doesn’t want God to let him off the hook. God says, “I want you to go to Nineveh and warn them that if they don’t straighten up, things are going to change.” Well, that’s a symptom that, “I want to forgive them.” And that’s what God wanted to do, but Jonah doesn’t want that. Jonah gets upset. He gets resentful against God.
So when things don’t go the way I want them to go, I remember God can see what I can’t see, I remember that God is good to me even when I’m a jerk, when I’m cranky, when I’m totally ignoring Him, God’s still good to me, and I remember that God is in control of every detail, the big and the little and it’s all for our good.