Not For the Faint of Heart

Do you ever have that sinking feeling that you are missing something?  Ever leave the house before vacation thinking, “Did I turn off the coffee pot?”  I have this sickening tug in my soul that we are forgetting something of eternal importance.  I look around at my own life and ask the question, “Is anything I am doing having a lasting impact?  Am I sharing the Gospel with people every day?”  Sadly, I answer no.  I am broken over this.  The Holy Spirit won’t let me rest.  I share the Gospel, but I can never believe that it is enough.  I need a constant reminder of why I am here.  I do not mean to sound negative, but I am burdened.  The longing in my soul is not to “play church” or “go through the motions.”  I want to know that it is “well with my soul.”   I want to serve Christ with reckless abandon; giving Him all of myself so that He is in full control.

I have been reading and re-reading the book of Jonah; particularly, chapter four.  I love the book of Jonah.  There is so much meat packed into such a small package.  As I was reexamining the Scripture, I could not help but be struck again by its message.  It is both simple and profound.  We know the story of Jonah.  As a child, it is one of our favorites because he is swallowed by a fish.  Too cool, right?  Well, chapter four introduces us to Jonah’s anger.  It says, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious.  He prayed to the LORD:  ‘Please, LORD, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country?  That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place.  I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.  And now, LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’  The LORD asked, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?'” (verses 1-4)  In chapter three, Jonah finally goes to Nineveh where the Lord was sending him.  He preaches a message of destruction.  However, the king and all the people of Nineveh repent.  Their repentance results in God not destroying their city.  The fact that God shows mercy is why Jonah is so upset.  He basically tells the Lord that He knew He would forgive Nineveh if they repented.  He must have also thought Nineveh would be prone to repent if he went to them because he says that the whole reason he was running from the Lord was because he knew how it would all turn out.  Now doesn’t this seem odd?  Jonah, knowing God’s mercy, love, and desire to forgive as well as people’s tendency to repent when they hear the Word of the Lord, decides to flee from the responsibility of preaching God’s message.  He is basically sentencing them to destruction.  He doesn’t want them to be saved.

Here is my dilemma:  Are we not just like Jonah?  Of course, we see ourselves as wanting people to be saved and not destroyed, but what do our actions say to the world?  When we do not share the Gospel, which is the message God has given us to take to those who will be destroyed if they do not repent, we are saying to God and the world that we do not care.  We do not want them to be saved.  We, like Jonah, know the mercy, love, and forgiveness of God if we have accepted Christ.  We know that without Him, eternal punishment and everlasting destruction awaits.  We must go, therefore, telling the message so that people can repent; so that God will withhold His punishment.  I think about Jonah’s anger.  He wanted the people of Nineveh to answer for their sins.  This is nothing new to us, either.  In the depths of our soul, we are also angry when God chooses to show mercy to those we deem unlovable.  Don’t buy it?  What about a God who would save and forgive a child molester or a rapist?  What about the God who desires to forgive that family member who has hurt you so badly; the friend who broke your heart?  Now, I know this is personal and not easy to admit, but we are ugly people on the inside who desire justice and vengeance according to our own standards.  We want the “bad” people to be punished, but we do not feel any conviction over our neighbor who is dying and going to Hell.  This is where I start to question our sense of Christianity.  No, we would never want anything bad to happen to a child, and I am not suggesting that sin is okay.  What I am saying, and what Scripture says, is that sin is not okay.  Sin of any kind is not okay.  Acts 10:34-35 says, “Then Peter began to speak:  ‘In truth, I understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.'”   There is a Christian rap artist named LeCrae who makes the point perfectly in one of his songs.  It basically says that we want God to rid the world of evil, but how much evil?  We are all evil.  Do we want God to get rid of us?  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  I am afraid that we, that I, too often take the attitude of Jonah.  I am angry with God about the wrong things, and not concerned about the sin in my own life.

The end of chapter four tells the rest of the story.  Jonah runs off to pout, and God allows a plant to grow and provide shade for him.  Jonah loves the plant.  God then allows a worm to come and destroy the plant.  Then, Jonah grows weary under a scorching wind.  He is angry once again and wants to die.  For a second time, God asks him if he should be angry.  Jonah boldly answers yes! (verses 6-9)  Listen to what God says in response to Jonah’s answer.  “‘You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow.  It appeared in a night and perished in a night.  Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?'” (verse 10)  We usually only care about those things that affect us directly; even though they are often trivial.  We would rather put more effort into our jobs or our families than we would into carrying out the Great Commission.  God is pleading with us to care about the nations more than we care about our own personal comfort.

I know it is not easy to examine ourselves and find fault.  Yet, I am praying that in my own life, God would keep me ever mindful of the task at hand.  That I would be always focused on the bigger picture of His plan, and that when I fail, He will remind me.  I am praying for a move of the Holy Spirit to break the hearts of those who claim to be His to truly act like they are His.  This is not a calling you out message, but one that begs us to take sharing the Gospel seriously.  Romans 10:14-15 says, “But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how can they believe without hearing about Him?  And how can they hear without a preacher?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written:  How welcome are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!”  People must hear about Christ in order to believe in Him.  We have been sent to tell them.  We are the preachers; not just our pastors, Sunday school teachers, or deacons.  We are the messengers.  We have a life changing message that has eternal significance.  We can not keep it to ourselves while the Nineveh’s of our world are dying and headed toward punishment.  We have to tell them of the Christ who died to show them mercy, forgiveness, and love.  God will forgive those who repent.  Will we be among them?  Will we repent of our sin of not sharing the Gospel?  I pray we do.  I pray we do not miss out on the true calling in our lives.  It is so much more important than anything else.  I pray we will be forever changed by the Christ we say we serve.

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