JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason To Believe is the opportunity for second chances.
Sometimes, we fail the Lord by disobeying His Word. When that happens, we might be tempted to think that it’s too late for God to ever work through us again, which leads to the temptation to give up.
But if we ever feel that way, we can find hope in the second chance offered to Jonah. God initially sent word to Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against it, because of its wickedness. But Jonah ran away from the LORD. He went the opposite direction from where God was sending Jonah, and ended up over his head in a sea of problems.
In the belly of a huge fish, Jonah came to his senses and turned his heart to the Lord with this prayer, “I, with a song of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
After this prayer, we read in Jonah 3:1, “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” And Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD.
A second chance is an opportunity to learn from our first failure, and join God’s redemptive work on the earth. A second chance is also a sign of God’s mercy to us, and is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Jonah 3:8 through 10.
After Jonah preached to the huge city of Nineveh, the people responded with prayer and repentance.
The king and his nobles said, “Let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”
Whenever we give up sinful practices and turn toward God, we make a decision for life. In the case of Nineveh, one of the specific sins that they committed to give up was violence. Along with violence in a society, there is the presence of hatred for others, selfish ambition, envy, inconsideration for people and general disrespect for human life. Turning to God closes the door on these destructive attitudes and opens the door for His love to take root in our heart. This leads to a change of attitude that seeks to do good for our neighbors. Nineveh was a civilization that made a choice for life in the nick of time.
Prayer and Repentance are vital relationship-building principles to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Jonah is a fascinating book of the Bible recalling the journey of Jonah to Nineveh to preach God’s word and declare His warning of impending calamity.
In a significant development, the city responds favorably to Jonah’s message and the city is spared destruction.
Jonah became displeased. He became angry, and vented his anger to the LORD. He said, “Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Sometimes, even the prophets needed an attitude adjustment. There was a time when Elijah was fearful and wanted to die. There was a time when Jeremiah was timid to become one of God’s prophets. The LORD had to remind him not to underestimate what God could do with His help. Jonah needed an attitude adjustment too.
The LORD shared His heart of concern for people with Jonah. He said, “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
The LORD’s word with Jonah challenges us to share God’s concern for souls, and is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Nineveh’s wickedness had come up before the LORD. Their time was running out if they continued on their destructive path. But God was calling Jonah to preach His Word. When he got there, Jonah proclaimed, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
Not only did the people respond in brokenness; they also called urgently on God and gave up their evil ways, which included violence. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. A city was spared from destruction.
Sometimes, it may appear that someone is far, far away from God. By seeing the violent culture of the Ninevites, we might be skeptical that the people would ever acknowledge God. But what is humanly impossible is possible with God. From a human point of view, we see Nineveh on the verge of a breakdown. From God’s point of view, the city was on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough and was ripe for revival. He worked through one of his prophets to accomplish the task.
The revival of Nineveh was a display of God’s patience and compassion and is lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Jonah had run away from God’s mission to go to Nineveh and ended up in isolation after being swallowed by a great fish.
That is where he came to his senses and made a commitment to get on board with God’s mission.
With his heart more aligned with God’s purpose, Jonah 3:1 says, “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.
Because of unwise decisions in the past, we might be tempted to think that God has given up on us and will not call us to service again. However, the Bible talks about several godly people who had second opportunities after making serious blunders. Just 50 days or so after Peter denied knowing Christ, he gave a bold sermon on Pentecost that led to the salvation of 3,000 souls. Jonah’s second opportunity also yielded productive results. The Ninevites were receptive to what he had to say, and humbled themselves in the eyes of the LORD. If you are on the sidelines of regret, remember: it’s not too late to get back to the place of service that honors God and touches lives with His grace.
Jonah’s second opportunity is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – After Jonah ran away from God, he ran into a violent storm that threatened the safety of everyone on the ship. Jonah knew that he was the cause of the storm, and so he told the crew to throw him overboard. Reluctantly, they did.
Then, the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
When a parent disciplines a child for disobedience, sometimes that discipline takes the form of a time out. The child has time to think about what happened, and how they might do things differently next time.
Jonah had a three-day time out. While he was inside the fish, Jonah stopped resisting God’s will. His turning point is a prayer found in Jonah 2.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
Jonah’s prayer of commitment is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – It happened in Jonah chapter 1 of the Bible. The word of the LORD came to Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness had come up before the LORD.
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. The map would indicate that Tarshish was in the opposite direction of Nineveh.
Why did Jonah run from this assignment? We learn later in the book he was more afraid of a successful mission than a failed mission. He said to God, “That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
Jonah did not share God’s concern for the people of Nineveh. Consequently, he went the opposite direction and found himself in a storm of his own making. If apathy causes us to run away from God’s will, He may bring a storm to shake up our world, not to destroy us, but to wake us up to the urgency of responding to His voice.
Jonah’s reluctance shows us the importance of being filled with God’s love for people, and is a lesson of faith worth remembering.