The book of Jonah has always been one of my favorite Old Testament books. It is full of ‘life lessons’ from start to finish. Chapter 1:2 tells us that God told Jonah “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” and verse 3 sais “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD”. It would help you tremendously to read the whole book of Jonah, it is only a few chapters. In our text though, Jonah has been shown the will of the Lord. If that wasn’t enough, God told him plainly what He wanted Jonah to do. No doubt many reading this column are thinking “I sure wish God would show me His will for my life” or perhaps “I sure wish God would tell me plainly what He wants me to do”. Well there is good news, HE HAS! If you look closely at the Bible God has plainly told us all exactly what He wants from us and what His will is for us. Let me illustrate: We’ve all had someone hold a flashlight for us while we search for something and half the time it seemed like they were pointing that light at everywhere but where we needed it pointed. In much the same way God’s will is like a beam from a flashlight. He points it where you are supposed to look! Until you look where He’s pointing his words and His will you won’t see what his will is for you. So God told Jonah what to do but Jonah flatly refused to do what God wanted. He decided he absolutely wasn’t going to go where God directed him. So in verse 3 we read that Jonah went looking for a ship to take him anywhere but Nineveh. We pastors see this all the time. When someone is looking for a ship to escape God’s will, you can bet they’ll find one. It doesn’t matter which ship, any old clunker boat will do. Many rebels like Jonah have we pastors seen. Those who refuse to submit their will to God. Those who refuse to submit their heart to God. Those who refuse to surrender the throne of their life to God. Mark this down in your bible. If someone is looking for a ship to get them out of God’s will, they’ll find one. The S.S. DO-AS-I-PLEASE is just waiting for them to pay the fare. It is heartbreaking to see the high price some people have paid for a trip out of God’s will. I’ve seen many pay a fare for a trip they regretted with all their heart.
Some years ago I was preaching in a jail in Tennessee to a handful of men, most of whom had been in tears throughout the sermon and afterwards one asked to speak with me privately. He told me how he’d ruined his life with booze & drugs and of how he had really ‘messed up this time’. I told him about the Lord Jesus Christ [the Life-Changing miracle worker] and prayed with him. A few days later this same man’s long-term ‘fiancé’ called me and asked if she could meet with me regarding the sermon her fiancé had mentioned from the jail service I’d held. Later, when I met with her, she told me of the charges she too was facing and wanted to know if there was yet hope. She described having been raised by loving parents but said she couldn’t stand their rules. They were ‘strict and uncompromising’. Her father was demanding and her mother unreasonable she said. She hadn’t spoken to them in over two years. She told me of how she’d left home under wrong circumstances, gotten into drugs which had cost her a good marriage and two teen children (whom her parents were raising). She cried and told me she hadn’t seen her kids and had no relationship with them. She’d had a string of run-ins with the police and multiple failed relationships. At the moment she had a whole new set of charges pending ahead of her. She was being abused, a constant victim of domestic violence, etc. I asked her if she couldn’t simply call her parents whom I was sure would be thrilled to help (John 15:11-24). Her answer? NO! My father demands I dress a certain way, behave a certain way, talk a certain way and dictates the places I can go and who I can socialize with and be friends with. Nearly shouting by this point she said, I REFUSE TO BE TOLD WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT DO! Gently I asked her “even if that refusal has ruined your relationship with your parents [whose demands and standards were there for her protection], and has cost you a marriage? Even if that refusal has robbed you of your children and has destroyed your relationship with them? As she went on describing her outrage at all they who had tried to keep her from the life she’d chosen I felt a great pity for her. Sunken eyed, hollow cheeks and unkempt hair – It made me angry again at the old devil who had turned her against her family and even her own children. Even faced with the terrible consequences of her rebellion and pride she still couldn’t see what it has done to her. As I sat there listening to her I imagined her shackled like Charles Dickens fictional character Jacob Marley with great heavy chains of rebellion forged link by link and lock by lock. A great ponderous iron ball dragging along behind her. That’s where many people are in these last days! They’ve not realized that some rules are good and some standards are loving. This is Pastor Malcolm Harrison inviting you to bring a Bible and join us at Calvary Baptist Church in Palestine. We have services at normal church times as well as Sunday school for all ages.