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Overcoming Setbacks and Discouragement

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Overcoming Setbacks and Discouragement

Jonah 1:1-4:11 (Initial reading - Jonah 1:1-17)

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Oct. 27, 2013


*Almost everybody knows the story of Jonah. It's one of the first Bible stories we learn as kids. They even made a Veggie Tales movie about Jonah, starring Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber.

*But we must understand that this Bible story is absolutely true. The giant fish could have easily been a shark. In fact, history records other sailors who were swallowed whole and rescued. In the mid-1700's, one man toured Europe with the preserved body of a 3,000 pound shark that swallowed him. (1)

*Or take sperm whales as another example. These whales are also able to swallow people whole. They live on squid, which they swallow whole. In 1955 a whole 405-pound squid was removed from the belly of a sperm whale. (2)

*On top of that, all things are possible with God. He is in control of every planet and every particle in this universe. God could make a giant squirrel to swallow you if He wanted to!

*Also know that Jesus affirmed the truth of this Old Testament story. In Matthew 12:40-41, Jesus said:

40. "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

41. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."

*When Jesus talks about Jonah being in the great whale or fish for three days, He speaks of it as a historical event. It was just as factual as Jesus being in the grave for three days. So, if you throw out Jonah, you're going to have to throw out Jesus too! -- This Old Testament story is real.

*Let's start today by reading Jonah 1, thinking about how to overcome the setbacks in our life. Would you please stand in honor of God's Word?


*Trapped for three days inside the belly of a really big fish: That's what I call a setback! And we're going to have some setbacks too.

*Sometimes these things will hit you right out of the blue. The last thing Jonah thought when he got on that boat was that he was going to get swallowed by a giant fish. And you may be doing great right now, but all of us are going to have some setbacks in life. How can we overcome the setbacks and discouragement in our lives?

1. First: Depend on God's deliverance.

*We must depend on God's deliverance, and we can depend on the Lord, because He wants to deliver us.

[1] God wants to deliver us from our disobedience.

*The only reason why Jonah needed deliverance was because of his disobedience. The Lord had told Jonah to go warn the wicked people of Nineveh about soon-coming judgment from God. Instead, Jonah took off in a ship for Tarshish. He was going just as far as he could go in the opposite direction, so the Lord sent a terrible storm to stop the ship. Then He sent a giant fish to swallow Jonah, and steer him back to where God wanted him to be.

*Jonah got swallowed because of his disobedience, and we are all in danger from our disobedience. We are all in danger, because one way or another, all of us have disobeyed the Lord. As Romans 3:10 says: "There is none righteous, no, not one." And Romans 3:23 says: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

*Jonah needed deliverance because of his disobedience. But then he did the right thing: He depended on the Lord. Please look at Jonah's prayer for deliverance in chapter 2:

1. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish's belly.

2. And he said: "I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me. "Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice.

3. For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

4. Then I said, 'I have been cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.'

5. The waters encompassed me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head.

6. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.

7. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple.

8. Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy.

9. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.''

10. So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

*If anybody ever needed to be delivered, it was Jonah. Was there anything he could do to save himself? -- Absolutely not. But Jonah trusted in the Lord. And so should we, because as Jonah said in vs. 9: "Salvation is of the Lord."

*And in one big way, the story of Jonah is a picture of our Savior Jesus Christ. Again, in Matthew 12:40, Jesus said: "As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Jonah is a picture of Jesus: Jonah in the fish three days, Jesus in the grave three days.

*Of course, the difference is: Jonah felt like he was dead. But Jesus really did die. Jonah went through intense suffering for his own sins. Jesus went through infinite suffering for our sins.

*Salvation is of the Lord, -- Because the only one who can save us is the one who died on the cross for our sins. Without Jesus Christ, we are in worse danger than Jonah was in the belly of that fish. But Jesus can and will save all who trust in Him. Turn to the Lord and trust in Him. He will forgive your sins and give you eternal life.

*You say, "I've done that. But I am going through a hard time, a dark time in my life." We can trust God to deliver us from our disobedience.

[2] But we can also trust Him to deliver us from our darkness.

*Right now you may feel like you are trapped in the darkness of the whale's belly, tossed up and down, choking on some foul stench in your life. But don't give up on God! All of God's children go through hard times.

*Charles Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers of all time, but he often battled deep depression. Sometimes Spurgeon had to be out of the pulpit for two or three months at a time. And he described the depth of his depression by saying: "There are dungeons beneath the castles of despair." (3)

*But don't give up on God! If you are in the belly three days, three weeks or three years, don't give up on God! Just like Jonah in vs. 7, remember the Lord, and reach out to Him in prayer. Then you too can say: "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple."

*Whenever you feel like you are in the belly of the whale, reach up to God in prayer. Depend on God's deliverance.

2. But also make the most of God's mercy.

*That's what Jonah did in chapter 3, starting in vs. 1. Look what happened after the fish vomited Jonah:

1. Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,

2. "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.''

3. So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.

*Verse 1 points us to the mercy of God, because there the Lord spoke to Jonah the second time. God is so patient, kind, and merciful toward us. He is the God of the second chance. Jonah had rebelled and run away as far as he could. But God gave Jonah a second chance.

*Then the Lord gave Nineveh a second chance. We see this truth starting in Jonah 3:4:

4. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!''

5. So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.

6. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.

7. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, "Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.

8. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.

9. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?''

10. Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

*Our God is merciful and kind. Jonah knew this great truth. Ironically, that is why he ran away in the first place. The people of Nineveh were vicious, cruel, heartless, and wicked. They were Israel's greatest enemy, and Jonah didn't want God to have mercy on them. That's why the prophet was so upset in the first two verses of chapter 4.

*There God's Word says:

1. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.

2. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, "Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.

*I sure am glad Jonah's not in charge in charge of the universe! I'm glad we're not either. God is a whole lot more merciful than we are. Think about King David. In 2 Samuel 11, David was guilty of murder on top of adultery. But the Lord had mercy on David, and gave him another chance to serve.

*Psalm 86 is just one of the places where David asked for God's mercy. There in vs. 1-5, he prayed:

1. Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; For I am poor and needy.

2. Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You!

3. Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long.

4. Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

5. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

*In Psalm 32:10, David gave this testimony: "Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him."

*Jonah, Nineveh, and David, all got a second chance from God. Christians: God has given us second chances too, many second chances. God has poured out great mercy on us. Now we need to make the most of it. How can we do that? Get busy doing what the Lord wants us to do. That's what Jonah did.

*Again in Jonah 3:1-4:

1. . . The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,

2. "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.''

3. So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.

4. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!''

*God said, "Go." And Jonah went. God said, "Tell them the truth." And Jonah did. That's when God's mercy was multiplied to the whole city of Nineveh. And God wants to multiply His mercy through us.

*We need to go where He wants us to go, say what He wants us to say, and do what He wants us to do. Make the most of God's mercy. That's how to overcome setbacks and discouragement.

3. But also stop majoring on the minors.

*In chapter 4, Jonah needed to stop majoring on the minors in life. Starting in Jonah 4:3, the prophet was so upset with God that Jonah said:

3. "Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!''

4. Then the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?''

5. So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.

6. And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

7. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.

8. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live.''

9. Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?'' And he said, "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!''

*Jonah blew up over that stupid vine. -- Ridiculous. He needed to stop majoring on the minors. How about you? Have you ever gotten upset about something that didn't amount to a hill of beans?

*We all have.

-Scratch on a new truck.

-Somebody breaks in front of us in line.

-Somebody cuts us off in traffic.

-Somebody said a little something that burned us up!

*God wants us to stop majoring on the minors. That's how to overcome setbacks and discouragement.

4. But also care like the Lord cares.

*What matters to God should matter to us. And we can see what matters to the Lord when He spoke to Jonah in vs. 10-11:

10. . . The Lord said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night.

11. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left, and also much livestock?''

*Jonah cared more about the plant than he cared about the people. What a terrible mistake. God cared about those 120,000 children in Nineveh, precious little children who didn't even know their right hand from their left.

*God cares about lost people. He is leading us to care too. And amazing things can happen when we do. When Jonah warned the people of Nineveh, at least 600,000 people were spared! What a miracle! But it's a miracle when even one person gets saved.

*Paige Patterson told about a night years ago in New Orleans. That night Dr. Patterson and another man from his church went visiting. It seemed to be a wasted night, because nobody was home. It was getting late and the young man need to get home to his wife. Paige felt led to pull into a diner, hoping someone would come in that they could witness to, but nobody did. Finally, the other man said, "Preacher, I've got to get home!" They got up and walked out the door.

*Right then Dr. Patterson saw a man in the shadows by a telephone pole. His head was hanging down and he looked miserable. God led the preacher to go over and touch the man on the shoulder. When he did, the young man screamed, "Yaaahhh!" He also jumped about as high as that telephone pole.

*Dr. Patterson told him not to be afraid, and asked him if he believed in God. The man replied: "Until thirty seconds ago, I was an atheist. I am from out of town. And I came down here to sell magazine subscriptions door to door. Earlier this evening I was in a neighborhood trying to sell, and a woman thought I was trying to rob her. She let out a scream. I got scared, panicked and ran.

*I am all alone and don't know anybody here. So when I got to this parking lot, I bowed my head and prayed, 'God, if you're real, please send somebody to tell me about you.' That's when you touched me on the shoulder."

*Dr. Patterson shared Jesus Christ with that young man. He got saved that night and went on to become a faithful Christian in New Orleans. (4)

*When we care like the Lord cares, we will get to see more miracles like that. And this too will help us overcome setbacks and discouragement in life.


*We may never get swallowed by a whale, but we will certainly face setbacks in life. The good news is that God wants to help us overcome, and Jonah helps us see what we need to do:

-Depend on God's deliverance.

-Make the most of God's mercy.

-Stop majoring on the minors.

-And start caring like the Lord cares.

*Think about these things as we go to God in prayer.

(1) Taken from: - Source:


(3) SermonCentral sermon "Crawling out of the Depression Hole - #1" by Jeffrey Stratton - Numbers 11:14-15

(4) Original source unknown

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