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For prior background for today’s post, skim Jonah 1:1-3:9. Today’s post is in reference to Jonah 3:10-4:11. Click on the links and you may select your preferred translation from within Bible Gateway.

Jonah was not the typical prophet. He doesn’t exactly offer us a great role model to go by. So what were the Israelites to learn from this prophet, and what is our “take-away” for the book of Jonah?

  • No one can run away from God. He is everywhere.
  • God gives us second chances.
  • God loves even the worst sinners and expects us to love them too.
  • We can serve God with a willing spirit or begrudgingly. Our relationship with God suffers when we serve begrudgingly.
  • Serving God isn’t about personal satisfaction, we are the servants.
  • We don’t limit God with our resistance to his call, but we miss his blessings.
  • God wins, sometimes in spite of his “called”.

The first three points above are self-explanatory and were discussed in my last post. I mention them here for the purpose of review.

Does it matter how we serve God? Jonah was not a willing messenger, but at least at his second call he went. He hated the people he spoke to as he begrudgingly gave them God’s message. Jonah resented the very God who gave him the message to deliver.

Has your service to God ever resembled Jonah’s service? Have you ever participated in a church function out of a sense of duty even though you secretly resented that you were expected to be there? What happened to your sense of joy in serving the Lord?

Why do we serve God? Jonah wanted to have the last word. He told the Ninevites that God was going to destroy their city, and he wanted to see it happen. To Jonah, it was all about being seen as right when it was all over, it was all about Jonah.

When we serve God, it isn’t about us. It shouldn’t matter if we are recognized as great leaders. What really matters is our obedience to God and our relationship with him, even if the people we are trying to serve don’t seem to respond. The greater prophets in the Bible seldom experienced the joy of seeing revival among those to whom they ministered.

Is God limited by our failures to respond to his call? Not hardly. God is God and he will accomplish his ends one way or another. God was not surprised to see Jonah board the ship to Tarshish. Nor was he surprised to witness Jonah’s pouting when Ninevah was given another chance. Perhaps God chose Jonah because he knew this would be his response. Perhaps God knew the Ninevites needed to see an angry man who would shake his fist at them saying something like, “and He’ll do it too! He just had a whale swallow me in the bottom of the sea and spit me out so I would come here and tell you this!”

What kind of follower of Christ are you? Do you willing do what God asks in his Word? Or do you resist his commands with “I know that’s what the Bible says, but I think…” When you feel the voice of the Holy Spirit leading you to do something that takes you outside your comfort zone, how do you respond? When we fail to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, we lose. We lose fellowship with God, we lose the joy of our salvation, and we lose opportunities to experience first-hand the mighty hand of God at work.

1 Kings 19:15-21 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Elijah was given an assignment from God to anoint two kings and the person who would become his own replacement at the beginning of this passage. God was planning judgment on Israel for its activity in Baal worship.

When Elijah found Elisha he was a prosperous farmer and was plowing his field with a pair of oxen. Elijah conveyed the message that Elisha was to become the new prophet by placing his cloak on Elisha’s shoulders. Elisha was willing and ready to leave his wealth to follow God’s call on his life. He sacrificed all of his oxen and used the farm equipment as fuel for the sacrifice. He could no longer turn back to farming.

Are we as willing to burn our bridges when God calls us to serve him in a special way? I have entered retirement to begin what I believe is a call to become a writer. I can’t claim to have made the clean break that Elisha made, however. I keep looking back to see if there is part-time work available, yet I am aware of how that too will make demands on my time cutting into my productivity as a writer.

Father God, make me willing to make the clean break to follow your call, wherever that call may lead me. Give me spiritual ears that know your voice apart from all others, and a heart and mind that is willing to follow your call.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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     1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

     5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

     “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

…………………

     10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” 

      “Yes, Lord,” he answered.

      11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

     13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

     15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Acts 9:1-6, 10-16 (NIV)

Saul (his Hebrew name) was zealous for God. He had kept the Jewish laws as well as any of the Pharisees and was determined to do everything in his power to keep the Christians from spreading their “heresies.” He had obtained permission from the high priest to capture Christians and put them in prison. Earlier (see chapter 7) he had been present when Steven was stoned to death and gave his approval.

Jesus, with a sudden flash of light and the sound of his voice, brought Saul to the ground and caused temporary blindness to get his attention and to turn him around. Saul’s first instructions were to go ahead to Damascus where he would be told what to do next. Suddenly the tables were turned. Instead of going to Damascus to persecute the Christians, he would now have to put himself at their mercy. Saul’s conversion experience wasn’t a piece of cake with promises of a good easy life ahead.

Ananias was facing a similar dilemma. God had told him to go to Saul, the same Saul who was feared by Christians everywhere, and restore his sight. But the Lord told him again to go, and reassured him that God had chosen Saul (Paul as is his name in Greek) to preach salvation to the Gentiles and the people of Israel.

Has God spoken to your heart to go somewhere or do something that makes you uncomfortable? There is nothing in the message of salvation that promises that Christians will serve him in comfort and luxury. Every Christian has been given a task to fulfill on earth. Your calling may be to serve overseas as a missionary, or it may be to be salt and light for him as you try to minister to difficult family members, co-workers, or neighbors.

Whatever your calling, it will bring about difficult choices. If you aren’t facing any such choices, the reason may be that you aren’t listening for his voice. “No, Lord” can not be an acceptable answer. Either Jesus is Lord or he is not. Jesus promised that our yoke would be easy, but the nature of any yoke is that it will work only if we are willing to stay in step with the one we are yoked with. Living for Jesus isn’t about pleasing ourselves, it is about serving him.

Lord, open my ears that I may clearly hear your voice. Help me to stay so close to you that I will never have to wonder if your voice is truly coming from you. Help me to feel your joy even if the circumstances become difficult.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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     1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

     4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

     5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

     6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

     8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

     Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.  Luke 5:1-11 (NIV)

Wow! What an invitation! Before Jesus began choosing his twelve disciples he was at work healing people and speaking to the crowds that had already begun to follow him. One of the persons healed was Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. (Luke 4:38-39). When the crowds become so large, he borrows Simon’s boat so he could back away from the people on the sea of Gennesarett (also known as the Sea of Galilee) to speak to them. Then there followed the miraculous catch of fish after Simon had fished all night unable to catch anything – so many fish that Peter had to call his friends James and John to help him bring them in. The catch nearly sank both boats

Peter bacame instantly aware of his sinfulness and asked Jesus to leave, but Jesus invited them to follow him by assuring them that they would become fishers of men. They immediately left everything to follow Jesus.

I’ve often wondered about Zebedee, the father of James and John, having to continue fishing without their help. But here we see how Jesus provided an enormous catch of fish for him at the time James and John left him behind.

What is the message from this account that we can apply to our own lives today? One thing that comes to my mind first is the freedom we have to follow Jesus. He will take care of us and our families if we are obedient to follow him.

Once when I was in graduate school I agreed to help a young freshman with a paper she needed to have typed and printed. When I read her paper I saw how desperately she needed more help than just typing to get it ready. I coached her with questions and suggestions to help her make the decisions necessary to turn it into a good paper. The reason I mention this situation is that the timing couldn’t have been worse for me to help her, since it was time I needed to be preparing for my own exams. One in particular was for a class with a very picky teacher who was known for his impossible exams. But God is amazing! The day before this dreaded exam, one of our classmates persuaded the teacher to accept the hard work that everyone had put into their projects and cancel the exam. He did, and I received an A for the course. I also learned a few days later that the girl I had helped was very active in a campus Bible study group. God surely had brought us together for that brief moment in time.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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