Almost everyone knows the story of Jonah and the whale. It’s such a familiar and fantastical story for those who grew up in Sunday school that we often dismiss it as relevant to our modern day lives. But the story of Jonah is an amazing example of God’s calling on our lives, our response, and the eventual outcome.
Jonah was given a specific assignment to minister to the people of Nineveh. A calling hand-picked just for him by his Creator. This should have been considered an honour. God was trusting him with a mission of huge importance! Obviously, Jonah was not impressed. By running in the opposite direction to Tarshish, Jonah rejected his calling and disobeyed God's command.
But who could blame him? God was calling Jonah to deliver a message of repentance and warning to a nation that had plagued the Israelites for years! Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a particularly cruel and wicked nation. Nahum 3 describes Nineveh as a “city of blood” and “…everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty”. God’s people, the Israelites, had been at the receiving end of this cruelty more than once. Ministering to your sworn enemy is an incredibly difficult calling to embrace.
But what of you? What of me? God has also called us. Our callings may look very different than Jonah’s, but they are equally important. We might not be called to leave our country and minister to our sworn enemy…though that’s always a possibility…rather we may be called to other areas that are difficult for us to obey.
Our disobedience may be less obvious. Perhaps we are not fleeing on a ship headed for Timbuktu, but often we avoid or ignore our calling just the same.
What is your Nineveh?
Let’s consider a few possibilities.
Your Nineveh might be a ministry you’re avoiding.
Maybe you feel God’s tug to lead a Bible study, mentor a young mom or youth, teach Sunday School, share your testimony through speaking or blogging, get involved in a local charity, etc. Perhaps you don’t feel qualified or feel that your contribution is necessary. We have heard the saying “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called”, but maybe you don’t really believe that.
Can you hear me when I say….I understand. I really do. Put me in front of a piano and let me fly. Put me in front of a computer with a blank screen, a tug at my heart, and I freeze. Why has God called me to write? I can’t say. I have no answers. I don’t feel remotely qualified. Others can do this better, so why me?
You can ask all the questions you want, but in the end, God is more interested in your response to HIS question: Will you obey?
Your Nineveh might be a responsibility you’re avoiding.
If you’re a wife, that’s your calling. If you’re a mom, that’s your calling. If you’re a teacher, that’s your calling. If you’re a doctor, that’s your calling. If you’re a grandmother, that’s your calling. If you’re a student, that’s your calling.
We can have more than one calling at a time in our life but some are easier to avoid. Are we giving our best? Are we embracing the different roles God has given us and doing the hard work of showing up each day? It’s so easy to slip into auto-pilot mode. To be present in body and absent in spirit. To twiddle on our phones and indulge in entertainment. To be busy for the sake of business. Often for the purpose of avoiding the responsibilities that God has placed in our lives.
Will you fully engage in the work that is in front of you?
Your Nineveh might be a relationship you’re avoiding.
Let’s just be honest: people are difficult to love. Sometimes we withdraw and avoid those difficult people in our lives rather than face the conflict that needs to be addressed. Authentic love works through conflict to get to the other side. So often we build impenetrable and bulletproof walls instead of fences with gates.
Is God calling you to repair that relationship?
Your Nineveh might be a conviction you’re avoiding.
As children of God, we should always be growing in grace, truth, and love. Sometimes we need to leave behind old ways of thinking, reacting, and behaving so that we might mature. Renewing our minds is a Biblical command. As we grow, the Holy Spirit convicts us of old habits that need to die.
Will you lay your favourite sins, ambitions, or thoughts on the altar?
Your Nineveh might be a change you’re avoiding.
My family moved to a different province two years ago. It was a huge change! There was a lot of uncertainty, insecurity, work, tears, and paperwork! It would have been easy to ignore the inner voice that was calling us to go. Change is hard….especially if routine is your comfort. (Really not expecting Ennegram 7s to agree with me here😊)
Will you embrace a new direction trusting in His guidance?
Your Nineveh might be on your list of “Nevers”.
I will never _______________. Fill in the blank. I’ve pretty much completed my list of ‘Nevers’ and will never have a “Never” list again! However, I say this with complete confidence; I am so grateful that God didn’t listen to me. Every ‘Never’ on my list that has been completed was GOOD for me. What I tend to avoid is often meant to be a gift.
Will you reject God's plans for your own?
As hard as it is to reflect on these, let’s remember something else: God chose your Nineveh. He knows what you need. He knows what’s best for you. He lays a calling on our hearts and asks us to obey. It’s hard to obey a God that you don’t trust. Impossible to obey a God that you don’t know.
My prayer for you today is that you will learn to embrace your calling! Know that it comes from the Lord Most High who had you in His mind when He thought of it. Trust that He is good, and that He will be with you. You do not walk to Nineveh alone.
Join me for Part 2 in this series where we talk about dangers of running from God and your calling.