Christianity is everything we don't want it to be, if we surrender too deeply. This is what Jonah learned. At the end of the book of Jonah he confesses the reason he ran from God in chapter one, “That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.” (Jonah 4:2,NLT) Imagine God said to you, "I am going to get rid of some bad people. I am going to squash the person who has hurt you. I am going to humiliate those who are causing you trouble." Our response would be, “Go God!” Then God says, “But first I want you to share the good news of my Son with them.” All of a sudden we want to get away on Southwest Airlines. That’s too much work, frightening work and we don’t want it to work for certain people.
In chapter one of Jonah God uses a wind and a whale to get Jonah to reverse course from disobedience to obedience, but his obedience was not complete. In chapter four God uses a weed, a worm and a wind to help Jonah reverse the condition of his heart from apathy to compassion. Something was wrong with God's prophet. After the Ninevites repented, Jonah left the city, climbed a hill, built a box office seat and waited for the annihilation to begin. When it doesn't happen, Jonah is angry.
God tricks his prophet. He causes a plant to grow that shades Jonah from the intense heat of the sun, Jonah is happy. Then God sends a worm to kill the plant and a wind to cook the prophet, Jonah is miserable. God asks, "Are you upset about the plant dying?" Jonah (taking the bait) replies, "Of course I am, you'd be upset if your air conditioning broke in the middle of the dessert." Then God springs His trap, "So it is okay for you to be upset about the death of a weed you didn't even plant but I can't be upset about the death of over 120,000 people I have cared for longer than you can imagine?" It is at this point the careful reader realizes she too has been drawn into God’s trap. We’ve been thinking, "Really, Jonah, how could you, whose life was saved, be so selfish?” As soon as the thought comes to mind the Holy Spirit convicts us that we, like Jonah, have shown more concern for the transient cares of this life than for those who are perishing?
Are you willing to take a look at your heart? Jonah’s heart was filled with the wrong pronouns. In chapter two he praised God, “YOU hear, YOU save, YOU are worthy of sacrificial service.” In chapter four Jonah focuses on his condition, “I am angry, I am hot, I am happy/not happy.”
Christianity calls us to the worst imaginable sacrifice for a people who love our “I-lives.” Followers of Christ are called to “YOU-Lives.” (the “YOU” being Christ). The YOU-Life surrenders hurts, forgives enemies, love others, sacrifices time, treasure and talent in order to serve God’s mission wholeheartedly so that those who are perishing may be saved.
Prayer: Lord, put our hearts in sync with YOURS. Give us hearts for YOUR mission, filled with YOUR compassion. Help us give up our I-lives live the YOU-Life. Amen.
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I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.
- William Carey
My name is Tim Kirkes. I am honored to be the a child of my heavenly Father, the husband of Lisa, the father of two boys and the pastor of San Dimas Wesleyan church.