In my previous post (running-from-your-nineveh.html) we reviewed the story of Jonah and his unwillingness to obey the Lord. Refusing to warn the city of Nineveh of imminent judgment unless they repented of their sins, Jonah rejected this assignment and deliberately traveled on a
ship sailing in the opposite direction.
Nineveh was simply not on Jonah's agenda.
The question arose: what is your Nineveh?
What is the assignment or calling God has placed on your life that you are unwilling to do?
In what areas are you avoiding - figuratively running away from - the assignment God has ordained for you?
If you recall, Jonah was a prophet - one who proclaimed the will of God. To proclaim the will of God would assume that you are on good terms with your Creator and know Him well enough to speak on His behalf. Jonah wasn't a "new believer" with no theological background. He was an Israelite - one of God's chosen people and undoubtedly well-versed in the teachings of Yahweh. Jonah should have wholly, utterly, thoroughly known better than to run from God.
And yet he did anyway.
On one hand, I have great sympathy for Jonah - the assignment was extraordinarily difficult! The people of Nineveh were known for their cruelty, and Israel had experienced their brutality on more than one occasion. To preach a message of repentance with the possibility of redemption was too much for Jonah! He knew that the God he served was "....a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."
Jonah 4:2 NIV
He know God would have mercy, but mercy wasn't what Jonah wanted.
Jonah had a difficult job before him. It would require surrendering the anger and frustration that he rightly felt. It would require dying to his own wishes. It would require God's will above his own.
This is where I find myself in the same boat as Jonah.
For every time I thought I knew better...for every moment I've ignored the truth... for every day I put off obedience for tomorrow... I have jumped on my own ship of self-determination and sailed in the opposite direction.
You can follow Jesus all your life and still turn your back on Him in an instant... if the price was deemed too high.. if the calling required too much.
I find consolation in the fact that God does not allow disobedience to go unpunished. Even greater comfort in the knowledge that He will pursue His lost child and drag him home by whatever means necessary. If it means a whale, then so be it! It is a kindness from God that He pursues us and breaks us. For if He didn't, we would forever run in the wrong direction headed for the pits of eternal damnation.
A whale can be your best friend, when it is sent by God, to save you from yourself.
Many times we find ourselves in our own 'whale'. A dire situation that must occur before we are ready to capitulate and surrender the white flag of our will to God. We wait until the last possible moment...even beyond hope...before we submit.
Often we think our disobedience is a private matter - for God's eyes only. But when we consider Jonah, we see that his disobedience played out in a very public and possibly catastrophic way! Without a prophet to warn them, all of Nineveh's 120,000 plus inhabitant would have perished without a chance for repentance. Additionally, Jonah's unwillingness to obey his calling nearly cost the lives of his innocent shipmates who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Our disobedience will always cost someone else.
How many and how much is unknown.
It's a sobering reality to realize that our decisions could negatively impact so many people. Almost terrifying.
But if this is true, then the opposite is also true. If our disobedience brings so much pain and sorrow to others, then our obedience brings blessing and salvation. When Jonah finally surrendered and completed his mission, the result was a city on its knees in repentance!
When we obey the call God puts on our life, we become a blessing to others. Sometimes God graciously allows us a glimpse of the outcome that comes with obeying Him, but many times we remain unaware of all the ways our actions bore fruit. But we can be certain that God, who is just and merciful, will not allow our obedience to go to waste.
Our obedience will always bring life and blessing to others.
How many and how much is unknown.
Heavenly Father, we long to walk in obedience to you but sometimes it seems impossible. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables us to do what we can't on our own. Thank you that we can trust that our simplest acts of obedience are never wasted, and may we always seek to trust you in all things. Amen