Knowing & Doing!
Jonah 1:1-17 & 3:1-5;10
Every now and again, a news clip or headline will catch my attention... even when I’m not really paying attention! Kinda like the headline I read a while back, that read, “Pastor Accused of Making Bomb Threat.”
It turned out that a youth pastor in Kentucky had called in a bomb threat on a Sunday evening... because he was unprepared for the service that evening. He apparently called 911 from the church at about 6:30 pm... and the church was evacuated after the call, and the 7:00 service was, of course, cancelled. After a police search revealed no bomb, the pastor confessed.
I suppose every pastor has been tempted to do something drastic when they feel unprepared. And I imagine that most of us - whether we’re teachers, or nurses, or clerks - everyone has felt unprepared, or under-prepared, at some point. So we can kinda relate to the pressure that would lead to taking drastic measures to avoid doing whatever it is we feel unprepared to do!
It makes me wonder if Jonah would have considered calling in a bomb threat, had that option been available to him?
Of course, Jonah may have felt unprepared or unqualified to carry out God’s calling... but Jonah‘s greater problem was the fact that he simply didn’t want to do what God was calling him to do! And I can certainly relate to that! God wanted Jonah to preach to the people of Ninevah… and Jonah didn’t want to do it. I get it. There are often things God wants us to do, that we sometimes have difficulty motivating ourselves to actually do.
And that’s when the excuses kick in… Or rationalizing why we can’t. How often have you and I said, “you know if I only knew what it was that God wanted me to do I would do it.” Or, “If I only knew God‘s will for my life I would do it.”
But there’s a problem with that. Because the problem with us obeying God’s will, has nothing to do with us knowing God’s will, or knowing what God wants. The fact is the real problem is motivating ourselves to do the things we already know God wants us to do.
I can tell you right now, beyond any shadow of doubt, that if you’re married… God wants you to be a better husband or wife. If you are a parent, God wants you to be a better parent. If you have grandchildren God wants you to be a better grandparent. At this very moment I can assure you, that for all of us, God wants us to improve our witness… He wants us to be better disciples... to be better about sharing the Good News, through our words and actions and deeds. God wants each of us… to be a vital an active part of the life of his church. He wants and expects all of us to use our time, talent, and treasure in ways and honor him, bringing him glory. And we know that don’t we?
So the problems not “knowing God‘s will for our lives”… the problem is surrendering ourselves to whatever it is that God has already called us to do.
Jonah knew exactly what God wanted him to do! God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh and share the message of repentance. And we all need a good message of repentance from time to time don’t we?
Of course, there are a lot of messages that we probably need to hear… and that I probably ought to preach! Messages about how we should treat the poor… or messages about how we should treat one another… or messages about the pitfalls of this world!
They’re not always necessarily welcomed messages… Because sometimes they challenge the best of us, to be more than what we believe we’re capable of being. We’re not always too keen on being challenged! We really like to be told how well we’re doing… How good we are… And how blessed we are! Right?
It’s not always fun sharing what we all need to hear most - even when it’s spoken in love! But sometimes we need to hear it, regardless. Don’t we?
Jonah knew what God wanted him to do. So, again... knowing God‘s Will was never the problem. And knowing God‘s Will is seldom the problem for any of us either.
Doing God‘s Will is the problem.
Of course, Jonah decided run… Maybe, many of us would rather run away than do whatever it is God‘s calling us to do. We certainly like to stress or lack of ability, our lack of talent, our lack of resources as reasons as to why we can’t. Of course, Jonah literally hopped on a ship heading in the opposite direction from Nineveh… a ship bound for Tarshish. It was his way of calling in a bomb threat!
Jonah wasn’t satisfied with making excuses… He tried his best to literally escape the presence of God… To run from the presence of the Lord as far as he possibly could.
And we think, “well how foolish!” But, then we turn around and sometimes do the very same thing! Some run-off to the mountains… Some run to alcohol… to drugs… some put their faith and trust in their pocketbooks… in their careers... in politics. Others get caught up in a faux faith that doesn’t require them to engage the problems of the world around them. But the result’s always the same: there is no satisfaction - no wholeness - no true peace apart from God’s Will.
You and I, like Jonah, could run to the ends of the earth or even to the bottom of the ocean in the belly of a fish… But without God we will never find what we really need… And without God we will never truly be fulfilled.
What is so threatening about doing God’s Will? Why’s it so frightening? Why do we make one excuse after another? Why to we run away?
When will we figure out the simple truth that we can never run away from God?
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
We should be running to God! Eager to do his will! We should be striving more and more to understand the amazing and sufficient grace that’s been lavished upon us through Christ! We should be enthusiastic to know more, and to trust more in the God whose love is everlasting and whose mercy is boundless!
The God whose love and mercy and grace is so inexpressibly great... that even when we run... even when you and I choose to ignore God’s voice, and resist doing the things we know we should be doing: just like with Jonah, “the word of the Lord [comes]... A SECOND TIME.”
God... our God... is the God of second chances... and third chances... and hundredth chances!
What are we waiting for church? Let’s be the people God has called us to be. Instead of digging for excuses as to why we can’t - let’s celebrate the reasons we CAN! Instead of running away... let’s run into - the grace, the joy, the security... of doing God’s Will.
Who knows! As we do that (as we seek Christ with all our heart, soul, mind and strength)... maybe the modern Nineveh - we call home - will come to crave that same marvelous grace!