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Lessons from Jonah

I empathize with Jonah's story because it reflects mine in many ways. While he wants his heart to be tender and sensitive to the things of God, he still wrestles with the plans and purposes that God wants to work out through him.

Have you ever wrestled with God in the arena of "my way vs. his way"?

Below are just some of the things that shaped my heart through Jonah's story. I pray that these same principles will shape your heart as well. We have much to learn from his mistakes.
Jonah's story can be read by clicking here – Jonah 1-4.

Jonah ran in the wrong direction despite having followed God for so long (Jonah 1:3). We are never too mature in our walk with Jesus to not make bad decisions. The ship that Jonah boarded to Tarshish was heading east… any idea where Nineveh, where Jonah was asked to go, was? – West. He ran in the wrong direction to a city known for comfort and prosperity.

I don't want to put comfort and prosperity ahead of God's call on my life – ever.

When the ship that Jonah was on got caught up in a God-ordained storm, the pagan sailors did some detective work to find out whose God had caused the storm (Jonah 1:10). All evidence pointed to Jonah. When he confessed that it was his God who was doing this, the sailors were horrified and shocked, claiming, "What on earth did you do to make him this mad?" (My paraphrase!). Even the pagans know there is a link between our trust in God and our actions towards him.

May there be integrity between our beliefs and our actions.

God is at work despite our disobedience (Jonah 1:16). That's good news…

God hears our prayers from anywhere, even in the depths of the seas. (Jonah 2:2-3) Interestingly, the word used for belly here is a translation of the word 'Sheol,’ meaning a place of death. The word used to describe the 'heart' of the seas is a derivative of the word 'womb.’ Have you noticed that the places of death we find ourselves in are often a womb through which new life is birthed from us? We must remember that.
God uses situations and places of death to birth new things in us. Isn't that the gospel story? Help me remember it, Lord!

Jonah's confession reminds us that "idolatry robs us of grace"(Jonah 2:8). I have experienced that more than I care to remember. Grace is much better than anything I have esteemed.
I'll take grace, please. We should love God more than we hate our enemies (Jonah 4).

It is a sad reflection on Jonah that even after God had done great work among Jonah's fierce enemies, he was still burning with anger against them. He was mad at God for forgiving them when he felt they were beyond forgiveness. We must never get past the tipping point where we hate our enemies more than we love God. It only rots our souls.

Lord, shape my heart today with the things that break yours.

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