It may surprise some readers to learn that one of the great challenges of preaching is not deciding what to say – it’s deciding what to leave out or only mention in passing. This fact may actually startle some who feel that I preach too long! The fact is that every preacher mines more gold than he is able to adequately bring out in the pulpit. During the month of June I have been sharing a series of messages through the Old Testament book of Jonah. You can watch or download each message in this series here….
While I have covered a lot of territory in these messages, here are some further thoughts on Jonah and how studying & preaching this book has spoken to me…
(1) God is sovereign over circumstances, nature, and all things. At various points in the book of Jonah, the Bible says that God sent a storm, prepared a fish to swallow Jonah, made a plant grow, and even caused a worm to chew on the plant and kill it! Over and over again, scripture affirms God’s sovereignty and while the book of Jonah doesn’t use that word, it clearly teaches this truth. As believers, we can take great comfort in the Biblical truth that our lives are in the hands that hold this world together. God is not up there guessing! He is at work and engaged.
(2) When we serve God, our failures aren’t final. Think about all of the ways that Jonah failed. First of all, he ran from God’s will for his life – literally in the opposite direction. He failed to be a witness to the pagan sailors on the ship and only did so after they inquired about his faith. He failed to love lost people. Even after he got right with God and obeyed, his heart was still filled with bitterness and a lack of concern for the people of Nineveh. He was more concerned about his own comfort than he was about a city of at least 600,000 people who were far from God. Certainly, Jonah was an imperfect messenger, but isn’t it great that over 2700 years after the events of the book of Jonah took place that we are still challenged, encouraged, and instructed by his life? God used Jonah in spite of a myriad of ways Jonah was not everything he should have been. This fact certainly doesn’t excuse our sin, but it does remind us that no servant of God is perfect in this life. Jonah struggled and God still used him. If you struggle, God can still use you too.
(3) God loves those who are far from Him. I will not write in this blog some of the barbaric atrocities that I have read were committed by the people of Nineveh. They are literally that bad. Suffice it say that the people of Nineveh were the most brutal, most godless, most pagan people in the known world of that time. Nevertheless, God loved them and sent a prophet to give them an opportunity to repent before they were destroyed. Think about that. In the same way, God still loves those who are far from Him today.
(4) God’s people must share the message with those who are far from Him. Jonah reinforces another great principle of scripture: God uses His people to share His message. That is clear all through the Bible. My friend Sammy Gilbreath likes to say, “It’s only Good News if it gets there in time.” It got to Nineveh in time and they responded. Today may the day that God wants to use you or me to get the gospel “just in time” to someone who really needs to hear it or hear it again. Let’s share the gospel with someone today!