God In My Chaos
Turn to Jonah 2
In the story of Jonah, we see this mystery – this mysterious balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill. We see God, who is fully in charge allowing Jonah to make decisions that are both contrary to God’s will and in alignment with God’s will. We see God, who set the universe in motion, who set nature in motion intervening in nature to accomplish His good and perfect will.
How much control and influence does God exert over His creation – we don’t know.
How much control does God exert over our decisions and freewill – we don’t know.
But we do know this –
God is involved in His creation and He is involved in our decisions. God is not somewhere out there just watching. He’s involved. But here’s the question – do we recognize when He is involved – especially when my life is in chaos?
And that’s the title of the sermon this morning – God in My Chaos.
When we left Jonah, he was treading water. Remember, Jonah ran from his mission, God pursued Jonah with a storm, the sailors made him walk the plank, the storm immediately subsided and the pagan sailors turned toward their hearts toward Yahweh. And to top it off, as we’ll read this morning, God sent a fish that swallowed Jonah.
I wonder how many of us, in a similar situation would have attributed these events to God’s hand? The pagan sailors got it, they figured out that this was the hand of God. However, I believe the temptation for many of us is to be blind to what God does around us.
So again, the question this morning is this: Do we recognize when God is involved in our lives – especially in our chaos? Furthermore, are we aware that God uses and even creates circumstances to shape us, redirect us, and as 2 Tim. 3:16 states, to train, rebuke, correct and teach? Is everyday just the same ho-hum day without any recognition of God’s presence?
I wonder how many of God’s people have become Functional Deist. What does that mean? Deism is the theological belief that God created the universe, however, He’s hands off. He wound it up, set it in motion and now sits back and merely observes.
Many of us would say Deism in ludicrous, yet, how do we live our lives? We look at the storms and chaos in our lives and wonder where is this God who is supposed to be in control and guiding and helping. Where is God in my chaos? Why isn’t He doing something?
Well, I challenge all of us this morning to search our hearts and decide if we’ve been Deists. If so, turn from that and begin to see that God is indeed in the midst of my Chaos.
Let’s go back to Jonah. He is now in the water drowning. I say that because when you read his prayer, it doesn’t sound like a man who was floating on a inner tube with a coconut cup and little umbrella toothpick thing. He was on the brink of death.
Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Let’s look at Jonah’s life up to this point. His life is in chaos. There was a massive storm, he was drowning somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea, and now he’s in the belly of a fish. Out of the pan and into the fire! His life is nothing but turmoil and chaos. He’s completely at the mercy of the elements.
Question 1: Who caused the chaos (or if you prefer, plug in circumstances)?
It’s not Jonah. Jonah did not make the storm. Jonah was not Aqua-Man or Dory – he didn’t ask a fish for a ride. Jonah is the reason for the season, but he’s not the cause.
So who’s the cause? God caused the chaos.
God sent the storm and God provided the fish. Now, God was always in control, so they’re not chaos to Him, but they were to Jonah.
The chaos was far beyond Jonah’s ability to control or manage.
(Again, get rid of that erroneous cliché that God wont’ give you more than you can handle! Bogus and not in Scripture!)
Got any chaos in your life? Any circumstances that are beyond your ability to control or manage? Is it possible that God is the cause? Is it possible that God has created some uncomfortable chaos to train you, teach you, correct you and redirect you?
Before you answer, let’s ask another question.
Question 2: What was the purpose of the chaos?
Just to be clear, what I’m asking is why did God send the storm and provide the fish?
And let me add this – the chaos (the storm and the fish) were not intended to kill Jonah. If God wanted Jonah dead, guess what – we would have 65 books in the Bible. Furthermore, I do not believe God was angry. Not all storms and chaos in our lives is because God is angry or out to destroy us. So what’s the purpose?
I believe the circumstances were designed by God to do two things:
1) Redirect Jonah’s Attention
– follow the story. During this entire ordeal, when did Jonah stop to pray? From verse 1 to this point, where is Jonah’s attention? On himself. His attention is not on “those people (Nineveh)” or the sailors and it’s definitely not on God. He’s a self-centered prophet.
So when did Jonah finally put his attention on God? Look at
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
Distress - “In my anguish or unfavorable circumstances I called to God.” Pay attention to the text – the first mention of prayer is where – from inside the fish! How long did it take Jonah to get to this point? We don’t know – but when you put the whole trip together from verse one, we’re looking at probably a minimum of a week, probably closer to two.
Here’s the point: It took a while and a lot of chaos to get Jonah’s attention. Remember in the first sermon I mentioned that there’s a Jonah lurking in every Christian heart. Before we judge Jonah too harshly, how hard does God have to try to get our attention?
Here’s something else to consider in regards to attention - up to this point, a week or two, how many times did God speak to Jonah? Once. I find that interesting. Not once did God speak to Jonah during the chaos. Now, you could argue that the storm was a form of communication and I would agree, but I think you understand what I’m trying to say – God did not speak to Jonah during the chaos. Why? It’s not what Jonah needed. God had already spoken and Jonah didn’t listen the first time, so
What Jonah needed was not words, but circumstances designed by God to redirect his attention.
Each one of us needs that from time to time. Think about it, we do that with children. We say “Get out of the street.” They ignore us. “I said, get out of the street.” They ignore. Then a car comes and any loving and sensible adult knows it’s no longer time for words but time for action – so you run into the street, grab the kid by his britches ….
Our loving and sensible Father is the same way.
God’s silence is sometimes intended to speak louder than words
and all He’s trying to do is redirect our attention to where it should have been all along - on Him.
So let me ask you –
Where is my attention?
Is it more on self? Is it more on the chaos or circumstances of your life? Or the chaos of the world? Or is your attention fixed on Jesus Christ? Scripture says that Jonah called out to God – this was not a mere “Hey God, help” – but a calling out (of course, in the belly of a fish it would be muffled ….). When was the last time you called out to God? It took a week, a storm, a near-death experience and a fish before Jonah called out. We’ll talk more about that next week.
So, the chaos was designed by God to Redirect Jonah’s attention, but also to
2) Redirect Jonah’s Feet
I don’t need to go into great detail on this one – we know Jonah was fleeing God and avoiding the mission that God had placed upon him. Jonah was out of God’s will and God wanted Jonah back in His will – back on mission of “making disciples” if you will. But Jonah said no. But God said yes and pursued Jonah to get him to turn around and go back to Nineveh.
Has God ever used chaos or circumstances to redirect your feet? Has He ever said, “You’re going the wrong way so I’m cutting you off at the pass?” And let me ask you this – what about your current circumstances? For some of you, the chaos you’re experiencing might be by the hand of God – particularly, if you’re running the wrong way. If God has given you a task, a mission, a call – whatever, and you’ve said no, then God’s going to bring a little chaos until you say yes.
A word of caution here – you may say that you don’t have a particular task or mission so this doesn’t really apply. Not so fast. The Bible is full of tasks that are common to all Christians. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Avoid sexual immorality and gossip and put on compassion, and kindness (Col. 3) etc. If God is calling you to ____________ and you’re running the other way … life might get a little stormy, a little chaotic until you surrender.
Let’s review the questions before we ask one more: 1) Who caused the chaos? God. Some chaos is caused by God. 2) What was the purpose of the chaos? God’s chaos always has a purpose – to redirect our attention and to redirect our feet.
Here’s the 3rd and final question:
3) What is God’s motive behind the chaos? Love
Love. Love for who? Love for “those people” for God was sending Jonah to them so that they might repent. Love for Jonah – God loved Jonah so much, that He didn’t give up on him.
Chaos not always a sign of God’s absence or disregard or hatred, but often proof of His presence, His guidance and His love.
How do you look at the circumstances in your life? Are you more of a Deist - that what is happening is just life, it’s just circumstance – that God is really not involved or behind any of it. That life is merely the sum of my choices.
Or, is God behind my circumstances. Do I believe that God is using the circumstances of my life to shape me, teach me, mature and even redirect me?
Is God hands off or is He hands on?
Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Ask Him to reveal what or who is behind some of the chaos?