Jonah 1:1-3 – The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
The other night I was laying down watching TV. Now I don’t usually watch those televangelist types, but this time was different. As I flipped through the stations with all the televangelists, I came across one who was talking about Jonah and the whale. He ended his speech with “Are you Jonah in someone else’s boat?”
You see, Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah. Ninevah was founded by Nimrod (Gen 10:11), the dude who built the tower of Babel and led the world into a rebellion against God. It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and had over 120,000 people inside its walls. The Bible calls it the city of blood (Nahum 3:1). Ninevah is very much like an ancient America. We are the capital of the free world, have a very large population, and currently leading the world in rebellion against God. In times when I have traveled internationally, especially when I was in Africa, I had people asking me about the country of blood, America.
So anyway, God commanded Jonah to go to Ninevah.
Jonah told God no.
HE. TOLD. GOD. NO!!
Jonah felt like taking his ticket for a nice Mediterranean cruise and go the opposite direction God wanted Jonah to go.
How could Jonah tell God no?
This is God after all! Doesn’t Jonah see that God is calling him?
Of course he does.
But now it gets personal.
I was asleep a few days ago after hearing the televangelist. I went to bed about 11-ish and God gave me an amazing dream that honestly scared the crap out of me. In this dream, I was getting ready to go to work when God pointed at a church. In a hurry to get to work, I said no to God.
Later in that dream, I was at work and more and more problems were happening. It was as if my work life had become very difficult like I was on a boat in a very large storm. As the “storm” rages, the “sailors,” those I work with, throw me overboard (fire me).
I was awakened from this dream!
I immediately texted Mimi to remind me to tell her about it.
It kept me awake for hours. I was in prayer, wondering if I am acting as Jonah had acted.
I can make all kinds of excuses. I need to make money to afford my residence and child support. I don’t even have my seminary degree, why would I want to be a pastor without that. My favorite excuse is that I just don’t have an excuse, it is simply the way I have always done things.
Well, what scared me is that any excuse I could come up with is easily refuted by either the Bible or by examples that God has shown me in this life.
Need to pay bills or make enough money to survive? Get this…
Philippians 4:19 – And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
What about needing a degree to become a minister for God?
In Matthew 5, Jesus went to a lake and was teaching people and decided to get into a boat that belonged to Simon. After teaching, he told Simon to row out to deep water and let the nets out, even though they have not caught anything in their entire day. Listening to Jesus, the men did so and caught a lot of fish. After that, the Bible says this…
Matthew 5:10-11 – Jesus told Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you will bring in people instead of fish.” 11 The men pulled their boats up on the shore. Then they left everything and went with Jesus.
These men did not have any education except being fishermen. Simon was most likely illiterate even! It is believed that Mark wrote for Peter.
So why does one need a seminary degree to be a pastor for the Lord Jesus Christ?
I’m not going to say seminary isn’t important….it is. But I don’t believe it needs to be deciding factor for becoming a pastor when the original disciples we mostly illiterate and had very little religious background.
And what about that final excuse of just being comfortable in my life?
Romans 12: 1-2 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I am not saying the Jesus is so irrelevant that He gets angry about the latest Samsung Galaxy or iPhone. Jesus Himself was very involved in the world that the world accused Him of drunkenness or gluttony. He spent His time around sinners.
The question is not whether I am in this world. The question is what I am doing while in it? Am I picking up and carrying my cross daily? Do I store up treasure here or in heaven? Do I find my joy in Christ or in soccer, coffee, or even my girlfriend or kids?
So, the question that faces me right now is, “Am I going to be like Jonah or will I follow Christ as He commands me to?” And how about you? Are you willing to sacrifice what you know to follow the God who gave you life, both physical and eternal?
I am convinced that we have a generation filled with Jonahs running around this world. The western church is notorious for promoting Jonahs. How many churches have multiple thousands of people but have no succession planning? How many churches have only a handful of people that run the majority of the ministries? How many churches are worshiping in a house of cards and not a house of God?
It is time to be bold.
It is time to follow Christ.
It is time to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and make the leap to living the Christian life. Not the western church life, but the Christian life that is empowered.
So, Christian, take a spiritual gifts inventory and talk to your pastors about where you can serve. And if it goes beyond serving and into planting a church, then so be it. You will be the most satisfied person you have ever been.