The God of the Second Change
Running From the Call
I want us to take a short turn through a little but well know book. Sadly this book is generally known for a supporting character.
In the Old testament book about a prophet named Jonah … the most famous character is a >>>> you said “whale” but there is no whale in this story. A whale is a mammal and as we wills see there is no water mammal referred to in this story. It is a FISH … but the Fish, while an interesting part, is only just a PART in the story, a supporting character at best. This story is about God. This story is about an important part of the Character of God. People often see God in the Old Testament as vindictive and Judgmental but that is not true, God’s judgment is always the result of his Holiness but not his deepest desire.
The Apostle Peter explains an important part of God’s Character that we will find front and center in this book, this true story.
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance
Hallelujah we serve the “God of the Second Chance” …
This story, while teaching us about God, and his offer of Repentance, also becomes a good mirror. When we compare ourselves to others, we might see ourselves as pretty good people … but when we look at God … we see ourselves as we truly are
As we take this short 4 message walk with jonah, I want you to see God through the wonder of Repentance Available through the God of the Second Chance.
What happens when repentance happens?
Who Demands it?
What Does Repentance bring in Man? In God?
What does Repentance Reveal?
Read chapter one with me in the book of Jonah … Someone is NOT where they should be …
READ Jonah 1:1-17
There are many things about this story that are not pretty. Our lead human character Is portrayed in a very honest, albeit unflattering, light.
So, the title “Running From God”
Jonah was a prophet.
In 2 Kings 14:23-27 he is shown during the reign of King Jeroboam II. That was a wicked king who lead God’s people into idolatry. God’s correction came on them through the attacks of pagan nations. Foreign people had repeatedly attacked and taken land. But God sent Jonah.
Jonah prophesied a popular message that God would restore their borders and he Did.
Now my guess is that Jonah became a famous and popular preacher. Today he would have had books, T.V. etc. With all that success, “The Word of the Lord Came to Jonah” in verse one … in other words … GOD CALLED
Now that does not mean a phone call … but what if it was …”
“Jonah … It’s God calling”
“Jonah, good job with the preaching in Israel, I’m sure the people really like the message you gave them from me.
“Thanks God, yes it’s been kinda cool to have the people like me, doesn’t always happen with my fellow prophets.
“You know God, I think it’s time to enlarge the Church … build a family life center with a Gym … a coffee shop in the foyer would be really nice too.”
“Well Jonah, I have something new for you alright …”
“Jonah, you might want to sit down, I want you to go to Nineveh and I want you to preach about their sin and call them to repentance. They are a wicked people and I want to tell them that I have seen their wickedness and something has to change”
“Jonah … Jonah … can you hear me now?”
You see … Nineveh was the worst … we will learn more about how bad they were in a later message, but Imagine that God said to you, “I want you to go to Afghanistan, to the Taliban headquarters … or into the hills for the Al Qaida leaders and I want you to preach against their wickedness.”
Or Libya 10 years ago, Nazi Germany of the 40s, etc.?
If God said “I want you to go to the place where they will hate you the most, where they hate me (God) the most and preach, REPENTANCE”
God’s Call comes in many ways sometimes dramatically … but most times not
God has called me in many ways and times over the years
December 15, 1975, at the First Baptist Church in Pickerington, Ohio; we were worshipping in the Elementary/Middle School.
I knew that morning that God wanted me to be a preacher of the gospel. But I didn’t tell anyone, I waited for two weeks. I honestly felt guilty for two weeks for keeping this to myself. Then on December 28th 1975 I made that decision public to our church where my father was the pastor.
There have been many calls and many assignments
In May of 2000, in my quiet time, I sensed the Lord saying, “Jim you are going to leave your current pastorate and move to another state and another large city. I shared it with Lisa and she confirmed that feeling. Then two weeks later, a pastor began to talk to me about joining him in moving to St. Louis to First Baptist Ferguson. I was not surprised by that Pastor’s call because God had already revealed his plan in my life.
But calls aren’t always so dramatic and life changing. God’s call doesn’t always involve a moving van, but the stakes are still in eternal issues.
In December 1983, I was a freshman in college, studying for the minister, serving on the staff of the Miller Heights Baptist Church as their Minister of Music. There was a guy on campus named David, he was an Atheist. When you are an open atheist on a Baptist College campus, you are a marked man for hot hearted, well meaning Christians. I wanted in the dorm lobby one night as several of those well-meaning Christians “spiritually assaulted” him arguing the existence of God and Christianity, to no avail. To be honest you could tell that David was enjoying the exchange.
As I watched from across the room, I prayed a little prayer “Lord, I want to be able to give a meaningful witness to David.” That was all I said. David and I were acquaintances on the small campus but were definitely not friends, we didn’t hang out, we had very little interaction.
The next day we had a dorm meeting to declare our roommates for the next semester. I had already decided that I was going to have a room by myself, no roommate for the coming semester. After the meeting, David walked up to me and said “Jim, I was wondering if you would be willing to be my roommate next semester.” I told you we weren’t friends. He knew I was a preacher, a minister, he usually avoided me, and now “Wait, what, me, WHY?”
That was God calling … that was an Answer to my prayer from 24 hours earlier.
God was at work in David’s life and he was revealing it to me
God’s call is always a revelation of what he is doing.
God’s call could be as simple as an invitation to an area of obedience in your life.
It could be an invitation to life change.
If God reveals his plans, his ways, or his work, he is not just giving you a “heads up”… God doesn’t send out twitter bombs …
God is calling you to JOIN him!
He told Jonah “Go to the Great City of Nineveh” …
Now before I move on … you should know something about that guy, David, in college.
I said “YES” to his request. We became roommates and friends. Over time, discussions about God, Sin, Salvation, Heaven and Hell, even the Second coming arose between us. Over time, he softened his heart to the gospel and eventually two years later, he trusted Christ as his Savior and Lord.
I will be honest that I haven’t been so quick to obey every time God called … nor would I guess, have you … what about Jonah … the popular preacher … God revealed a desire for a preaching trip, a mission trip for Jonah …
God called and
Wait a minute that’s not how preachers are supposed to be …
Dallas Willard, Christian Author, USC Professor in Philosophy … in his book “The Divine Conspiracy” writes that "the only place in all of God’s creation where the effective will of God is allowed to be absent is the Human Heart."
Jonah said “NO” and he ran away …
Psalm 148:8 says lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that DO HIS BIDDING
When God tells the Sun to Rise, it doesn’t say “no”. When he tells the wind to “blow” it doesn’t say “I’m too tired, I blew all day yesterday”
But look at Jonah’s verbs … He RAN … he HEADED to Tarshish, he WENT down to Joppa … FOUND a ship … PAID the fare … WENT aboard … SAILED … to FLEE From the Lord
Folks … some of our sins are accidents, oversights, slip ups, but running from God is WORK …
Can you see Jonah … God calls … he throws some things in a bag … he travels down to the coast to the port … Then he goes through the marina … interviewing captains from ship to ship … till he finds the one going 180o away from God’s Call …
It says twice he “ran away from the Lord” … or “from the Presence of the Lord” … the word literally means from “the Face of the Lord” which doesn’t mean God couldn’t see him it mean he didn’t have his approval or favor.
Jonah purposely left God’s favor and set out for a place 2000 miles away!
Jonah didn’t want to serve God … he didn’t like the cost … he didn’t like the mission.
It is amazing to me how we complain about the cost of obedience, worship, service etc. But we will pay through the nose, with our own blood sweat and tears to do our own thing, we will pay to disobey
Has God called? Are you Running to it or from it?
Has God revealed a preferred change and you have run away, said “no”
Can I tell you something?
Ultimately, running is futile … If we could just learn this truth
Psalm 139:7 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say ‘surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me.’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.”
Not his presence, NOR his providence, you can’t outrun God
And God’s purposes will be accomplished
Psalm 33:11 the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations
Isaiah 14:24 The Lord Almighty has sworn ‘surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand
In this story, The Lord SENT the WIND and the STORM … Jonah though, was sleeping in the boat.
The sailors (pagans all) were freaking out … everyone … except Jonah
Why? Because he knew it was GOD … Maybe he thought … “God will settle down … he will get his point across but then he will ease up”
Maybe he thought no one would know it was MY fault
But these pagans … they “drew straws” or “Threw some dice” to guess who it was that was at fault … and guess whose name came up? Jonah
“Who is responsible for all this trouble?” “What is your Job?” “Where are you From” “who are your People?”
… Have you ever been there? Jonah would have to answer “Well I’m a preacher from Israel … you know the people that belong to Yahweh, the Creator of Heaven and Earth … and he’s a little upset with me”
THEY WERE SCARED … WHY? They had a greater respect for YAHWEH than Jonah did …
Ever had someone say to you … “wait a minute … aren’t you a Christian?”
V10 tells us they were already aware that he was running from God … but now they realized WHO his God was … They were terrified and said “what have you done.”
And so then …
Reluctantly, REPENTANCE began for Jonah
“Throw me into the sea and this will stop” … i.e. “It’s my fault … throw me in the water and God will ease up on you guys.”
Job realized that day, it was better to be thrown into the open angry waters of the UNKNOWN … WITH GOD … than to be on the FINEST YACHT … when you are running from God
V15 … they took Jonah threw him overboard and the raging sea grew calm
Folks this is a TRUE historical account. Jesus believed and referred to it. So I believe it. But this wasn’t a Hollywood movie … A Change of heart doesn’t bring a sudden turn around, with music swelling … a longing look … google eyes, and then everything is alright …
The Sea calmed … the storm stopped. Perhaps the sky cleared … But Jonah was still IN the Sea.
I would think that this was more frightening than the storm.
Maybe you could hear “dun-nun … dun-nun … dun-nun …” (Jaws Music)
If God has called, commanded, revealed, and you have run … well Returning, Repenting, doesn’t mean that all the problems you created go away.
A convict will still be in jail.
If you are in financial difficulty, you may still be broke
Your marriage may still be in trouble
The baby is still coming
The Addiction still needs to be addressed and withdrawal is coming most likely.
So Jonah, started repentance, but Jonah was in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
Then it goes from bad to worse … the music intensifies … J
Maybe he saw a fin, then One Big Gulp … and Jonah was INSDIE a Giant Fish … not a WHALE … A Fish … what kind of fish? Doesn’t matter, but personally I think it was one of a kind FOR this purpose … the scripture says “God Provided a Fish” it means to appoint, provide, prepared, numbered … So I personally think this was a one of a kind, for this purpose, fish … but it doesn’t matter if he created one FOR this or chose one he already created for this purpose …
The bottom line is this is a MIRACLE and God does Miracles …
But the final result is the same … the chapter ends with Jonah in the belly of this great fish.
So, I’m not going to try and make a happy ending here and tie it up into a perfect thing …
Because the reality is that some of you today may be running from God.
So, I want you to know something as I try and close …
In verse 5, every man had prayed to his “own god” but nothing happened.
Nothing happened because their gods were simply man made creations.
They were made by human hands and imaginations. They were manmade attempts to explain their world. They couldn’t see, hear, or touch, let alone help. They couldn’t calm the storm or send the storm in the first place.
But JEHOVAH GOD was there that Day. The same God who walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden and provided a sacrifice for their sin
The Same God who revealed himself to Abraham giving him a son, then saving his son from sacrifice was there that day
The same God who revealed himself to Moses in the Burning Bush, Gave the 10 Commandments, led his people to the Land of Promise, he was there that day
The same God who delivered David from Goliath … he was there that day
The same God who parted seas, brought down walls, blessed, and disciplined, that God was there that day.
God was disciplining Jonah because he loved him and because he desired that none would perish and wanted to bring word to Nineveh.
God provided that Fish. So that means that he “rescued” Jonah with the fish that swallowed him.
Now it might not have seemed like a rescue at the time … but it was God rescuing him from himself.
I wonder … when the sea calmed … and Jonah looked around, treading water … then one big woosh … and all went dark … maybe he thought “REALLY? What Next? Is This It? I’ve done it now”
But God was rescuing him … he just didn’t know it yet
God was giving a second chance, he just didn’t know it yet
Don’t fear the Lord’s discipline
Be grateful for his discipline because it means he cares and that he is bringing you back
Remember Romans 2:4 "do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
Do you realize how patient God is? Are you glad he is patient and tolerant?
It is because he doesn’t want ANY to Perish but ALL to come to repentance, even though he knows not all will and know which ones will and won’t yet his desire is that all would.
But be careful because Romans 2:5 says if we fail to respond to that kindness, patience and tolerance, we are storing up wrath …
Not only was God bringing Jonah back to himself, and revealing his will; But also God was revealing himself to those pagans that day
Can you imagine the stories they told? I wonder if some revival took place on that boat after Jonah went overboard
Listen, God IS going to Glorify himself and reveal himself either WITH us or WITHOUT us
So, since Jonah didn’t want to witness … Then God made a cautionary witness through his life …
Where are you today?
Francis Thompson born 1859 died 1907 captured this feeling of what it is to run from God in a Poem “The Hound of Heaven” … It is more book than simple poem and I will not read it all … It is also written in an English we aren’t accustomed to but bear with a few lines … listen close … engage these words
The Hound of Heaven
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat--and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet--
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."
Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
"And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
Strange, piteous, futile thing,
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught," He said,
"And human love needs human meriting,
How hast thou merited--
Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms.
But just that thou might'st seek it in my arms.
All which thy child's mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for the at home;
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!"
Halts by me that footfall;
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstreched caressingly?
"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou hast driven love from thee, who hast driven Me?"
Francis Thompson (1859-1907)
God says “I AM HE WHOM Thou Seekest”
While you are running …
do you not know that God loves you and is seeking you
while you don’t even know you are seeking him …
what you want is what he has …
what you need is what he provides …
what you long for he alone can fill