Learning from Jonah

Ryan McCreery, Associate Pastor of Ministry Development

This summer over a hundred adults went through the book of Jonah together here at Fellowship in a weekly Bible study. This 8-week study seemed to have a profound impact on those who attended and sought to apply this Old Testament Scripture to their lives. As a way to wrap up the study and summer together, I thought I would share my personal take-aways from Jonah.

I heard many people say, “I am like Jonah, more than I thought.” I couldn’t agree more. It is easy to read stories from the Bible and think we would have responded differently. However, when we slide into Jonah’s sandals and walk a mile in his place, we experience just how difficult it is following God when we merely consider life from our own perspective.

You see, this book of the Bible is best known for the miracle which took place inside a fish. After being swallowed up, Jonah was in the belly of a big fish for three days, three nights and lived to tell about it. However, the greatest emphasis ought to be given to how God demonstrated His compassion for the people of a foreign city called Nineveh, and His calling on Jonah’s life to share with them His grace. For this is the only book in the Old Testament where God sends one of His people to the “gentiles” – to the nations – to share His desire for them to turn from their evil ways so that He might relent from judging them.

When Jonah received this calling to share, he disobeyed.  He thought God’s plan was unfair, and quite frankly, inconvenient and a distraction from what he ought to be doing to serve God.  He felt the Ninevites did not deserve God’s love because of how evil they were acting. In fact, as part of the Assyrian nation, the Ninevites were an immediate threat to Israel, Jonah’s country.  It did not make sense to Jonah why God would give them an opportunity to repent, so he up and left.  Additionally, God’s plan was quite inconvenient for Jonah.  Instead of staying safe in his country, God called him to “Arise, go to Nineveh” hundreds of miles away.  God encouraged Jonah to live on mission, completely dependent on Him, rather than living for self and doing what looked right in his own eyes.

This book will shake your foundation and get your attention if you are currently living for yourself.  Are you like Jonah?  I know I am, when living selfishly, apart from God.  When I choose to live for myself, I am unconcerned with the people around me and I am following an agenda that best benefits my goals.  If things don’t go my way, I merely see it as a setback versus seeing the situation from God’s perspective.  People become servants helping me to accomplish my tasks, instead of the opposite.  During these times, I certainly do not see the lost the way God does nor exercise compassion toward them.

I think Jonah serves as an excellent example of a conflicted follower of God.  There were times when he was disobedient and other times when he obeyed.  We don’t know ultimately how the end of the story went for Jonah because of the abrupt ending of the book.  However, we can conclude that Jonah was most miserable when running from God and living in direct opposition to God’s will.  Jonah was most blessed when turning to God and living for Him.

Therefore, as a believer in Jesus, having received grace and enjoying the steadfast love of God, let us not live like Jonah.  But let us intentionally live for God, viewing others the way God does. Let us seek to serve others, rather than being served.  Let us look past our differences and see that everyone is made in the image of God.  Let’s be kind, gracious and merciful to each another — in our homes, in our church, and in the world.  Let’s live with compassion, especially toward those who are lost and hopeless, looking to share about Jesus and the salvation that is only experienced when trusting in Him for the forgiveness of sins.  Simply put, let us live for God, extending to others the very thing we have been given — grace and love. 

If you joined us this summer, let me encourage you to live differently today, and every day.  If you didn’t, then pick up the Bible and read the book of Jonah with this in mind.  God’s compassion, grace and love is amazing; so let’s share it with everyone without prejudice, both in action and speech.

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Ryan

“You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” – Jonah 4:4