Good morning everyone! So glad to see you all here today. I love getting together on a Sunday and seeing friends. This past week I invited a new friend of mine to come and join us here this Sunday. I met him while he was doing some work on our neighbor’s house and we started chatting for about 45 minutes about what I do, and that’s always an interesting conversation… But I invited him to join us here at Hope City because I believe that this is one of the best places that you can be in your entire week is to be here at Church, in the presence of God! Amen?
Alright, well, we are in a series called Big Fish, we are looking at one of the greatest fish stories of all time! As a church we are moving through the book of Jonah, and in your Connect Groups you are discussing this topic. It’s a fascinating book. It may only be 48 verses long, but it packs a powerful punch.
It’s like the time I took my son Noah fishing and somehow this turned into a competition, who could land the biggest fish. And well, as you’ll see here was the outcome.
VIDEO OF NOAH DANCING WITH LITTLE FISH
He caught a little tiny fish, but that thing had some power and it packed a punch! That’s what the book of Jonah is like. It may be small, but it has something here for your life today!
Hopefully you’ve been reading along with us. Last week I challenged you to read the book of Jonah every week, or quite possibly every day even.
Well last week we saw that Jonah tried to outrun God, and flee from what God was asking him to Go & Do. God was asking Jonah to be obedient to Him. He had a calling, a goal, a desire for Jonah and the question was what would He do with it?
If you recall
1-2, The word of the Lord came to Jonah. “Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it…”
See, Ninevah, just a reminder, was the capital of the Assyrian empire! They were wicked people! They were the original Terrorists of the Middle East. God said, Jonah, I want you to go and preach to them because I’m going to destroy them if they don’t change!
Jonah was like, uh, yeah. You can just go ahead and do that.
Can I suggest that sometimes God sees people differently than we do!
|YOU SEE someone that:||GOD SEES Someone:|
|Is annoying and aggravating||Someone He created.|
|Has a different belief system than you||He wants to be connected with|
|Is throwing their life away by their choices||That He hung out with when He walked this earth. Prostitutes, Dealers, Frauds, Cheats, Sinners, and Those who thought they were saints. THE WHOLE MIX!|
|Has a different skin tone than you||That is made in HIS image, and is LOVED by Him|
Jonah was not having it. They aren’t like me, they don’t deserve God’s Grace! God said Go and Do and instead Jonah decided to Run & Hide. Last week we said that you can always find a boat sailing in another direction. You can always find a group of people who will head to Tarshish with you, who will chase after your own desires rather than be obedient to the desires of God. Here at Hope City, there are people who have made this decision to Run & Hide… You’ve been feeling God calling you away from your comfort, and your security and yet you snuggle back into your warm bed at night. You get yourself all tucked into you cozy comfortable life.
There is a little bit of Jonah in all of us. When you are following Christ, and trying to live a life that is an authentic life of faith, God will ask you to Go & Do, and you’ll be like, nah it’s time to Sit & Chill. You follow God in 95% of everything you do, but it is that 5% that just is messing you up.
God, don’t mess my relationship with my girlfriend, or boyfriend. Or, I’ll dedicate my family to you, but not my finances, that’s personal. And I don’t want God mixed in with my business or career.
We all have that area where God calls us to obedience and we are tempted to either balk, or bolt! We Run!
This is a story about SIN and GRACE.
If you recall: Sin is when we RUN from God! But Grace is God giving CHASE.
Even when we deliberately FLEE in the opposite direction from God, and others give up. Our Heavenly Father never stops pursuing us with His love and mercy, hoping we’ll come to our senses, turn from our destructive behavior and come home.
God may send a Storm to Grab your attention
No matter how far we run, God passionately pursues us. In fact, if we continue on our self-destructive path, at some point God may send a storm to Grab your attention.
That’s exactly what happens with Jonah. Turn with me to Jonah chapter 1:4 which is on page 645 of the Bible’s around you. Let’s pick up in verse 4 of Jonah and read the rest of Chapter 1 today.
Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”
Jonah gets on a ship to escape God physically, and yet mentally he still knows what he is doing… And what does he do? He goes to sleep. Let me physically run from God, and then mentally I’m going to run as well.
When I get STRESSED & OVERWHELMED sleep becomes my go to… Sleep can easily become the thing that I look forward to. I look forward to escaping the day and putting the pillow on my head and slipping off to bed. And yes, I put a pillow on my head every single night. Yes I can breath… Alright?
Jonah went down in the hull of the ship and put a pillow on his head to drown out the noise of the world around him. He boarded that ship to get away from God and then went into the belly of the ship to get away from himself. Have you ever felt like that? The decisions you’ve made have left you wanting to get away, or escape…
Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven who made the sea and the land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
And you can pause there… because in the story of Jonah, we focus on the fish. But at the center of this story is a storm!
A great wind on the sea comes a long and threatens to break up the ship. Most people think that this was a hurricane. Picture a calm body of water being hurled into chaos… Waves, Wind, White Caps everywhere… It’s like Siesta Key… Look at this [BEFORE PICTURE] Gorgeous, blue green, tropical water. And then during a Hurricane it looks like this… [AFTER PICTURE]
Listen to this, anytime we run from God, there is a storm that follows us.
Sin always has a storm cloud attached. This is going to click for some of you in a moment. You’re gonna think, “AH! So, that explains what’s happening in my life right now.” Maybe something has come into your life recently that’s dark and ominous.
Your business is tanking, or your relationship is about to break up, or you’re drowning in debt. Sometimes in an attempt to intercept our self-destructive path, God may send a storm to grab your attention.
See, this is Grace! Grace is when God intercepts us on our path of self-destruction.
Sometimes it just doesn’t look like that in the moment! Look at the news… Just recently, we’ve seen several people loose their reputation, and even their jobs due to inappropriate sexual conduct… Whether it was a full on affair, or something as destructive as sexually explicit language, these men have lost their jobs, and reputations, and millions of dollars have been spent to help calm this storm.
Men, let me play “weatherman” for a second. There storm on your horizon everyday and it’s sexual in nature. Every morning when you wake up, you need to know that there is a sexual storm cloud hanging over your head waiting to form. Don’t let it. Put your mind in a whole different atmosphere. Let that rain fall only on the soil of your marriage… Because when that rain falls, fruit grows, gardens grow, things prosper.
But when we let sin and it’s storm cloud swirl too long on one spot, eventually the hurricane hits! And the truth is that sometimes God may send a storm to grab your attention.
And this can be one of the scariest moments in your journey of faith because suddenly you’re in danger of losing everything around you that’s precious. Notice something about what happens with Jonah?
When the storm first hits, Jonah is OBLIVIOUS to its impact! All the other sailors on the ship are screaming & crying out—fearing for their lives. And where’s Jonah? Below deck sleeping it off.
He’s oblivious that everyone around him is about to drown! That’s an illustration of the painful truth that people who run from God inevitably hurt the people closest to them.
Rebellion is never victimless. I’ve watched this happen time and time again with couples who deal with the pain of infidelity, or pornography, lies, and addictions. Often times your small decisions have huge ramifications. Your personal decisions have a way of leaving a public wake behind them. Your decisions impact not just you, but your spouse, your kids, your friends, and your family.
The first consequence in running is we lose sight of God, the second is that we lose sight of everyone else. There is collateral damage! Those you love get hurt.
Maybe you’re in a storm right now because someone close to you is rebelling—but you’re suffering the consequences. I’m so sorry for that. It’s not fair. And it’s not God’s desire that you suffer.
But let me encourage you with this thought, Even in the storm God’s grace is at work. There is a purpose behind the pain.
Maybe your relationship breaks apart, or your career sinks, or your addiction gets exposed.
This is where some of you say, “AHA! I told you. I always knew that God was an angry, vindictive God. See this is what I hate about God and religion. The instance you step out of line He is ready to just wipe me off the face of this earth.
The Storm is not to pay you back but to bring you back
But that would miss the larger point of Jonah’s story. God, in His love and grace, will sometimes allow storms in your life not to PAY you back but to BRING you back! Let me say that again, because this may change your perspective on what’s happening in your life:
The Storm is not to pay you back but to bring you back.
It is the opposite of punishment or revenge. It is grace! The storm is a fierce gift. Grace is God intercepting our path of Self-Destructive behavior. It’s meant to re-claim Jonah and bring him back to God’s purposes for his life.
But why a storm? A storm reveals just how helpless we really are! It reveals our true condition—we are out of control! It reminds us, “We are not our own god. We are not self-made, self-governed, or even self-reliant.” Rather we are very frail and fragile creatures designed to draw life from God. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing!” And when we run or take a boat that goes off course, sometime God sends a storm to get our attention and REVEAL how DEPENDENT we are & in need of him.
The storm is a gift! It’s a divine intervention in your life. It’s our heavenly Father intercepting his child’s self-destructive behavior before he does more damage to himself and those around him.
When I was a freshman in college I enjoyed my first year. Like, I made some really good friends. 😉 When I should have been studying, or going to class, I was out in the quad playing Ultimate Frisbee, or in the gym playing indoor soccer. Then of course, we started a club lacrosse team and played other colleges club teams… Amazing first year of school… scratch that. I mean an amazing first year after High School.
Well, after my first semester, my report card got mailed to my house, and my parents saw the grades that I had earned and flipped… I’ll never forget the email that I got, I’m coming to see you. I need to talk to you about something. That was a 6-hour drive for my parents. My dad sat me down and in my dorm room that night he looked me square in the eyes and said, You won’t be coming back here next year with grades like this. His eyes were serious… He wasn’t playing. He wasn’t making a false threat. I could tell.
And yet, my life remained the same. Spring came and my grades were just as poor as they were in the winter… And sure enough, I had hit rock bottom… And yet another hard conversation was had… I was not going back.
It seemed cruel and unusual… and it was embarrassing, and painful.
My dad was not punishing me… He wasn’t even Angry with me… He was disappointed in the decisions I made, yes… but it was because of his great LOVE for me, his son, that he removed me from my self-destructive behavior.
Don’t miss this. The dark and stormy clouds are not meant to pay you back, but to bring you back. It’s a gift. A grace. A sign of true love. That’s what happens to Jonah. God allows a storm out of love. It was getting rougher and rougher, and the men came to him in verse 11 and said,
The sea was getting rougher and rougher, so they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
If you’re facing a crisis in some area of your life right now, would it make any difference if you knew that the storm was actually a gift? A grace from God? Not to pay you back, but to bring you back! That’s part of His sovereign & loving plan.
Almost 2 years ago, my daughter Leah woke up one morning and said to Grace, “Does your shoulder hurt?” Grace said, “No, why, does yours?” She said, “Yeah…” So she comes down to our bedroom and wakes us up and tells us that her shoulder hurts. As Tiffany went to scoop her up, Leah shrieks in pain. We immediately took her to a doctor and they had the same fear as we do… a broken collar bone!
Well, to confirm that, they needed Leah to have an x-ray taken of her shoulder. She wasn’t having that. We walked her into this dark room and laid her on the cold metal table… laid on her back and tears streamed down her face. The nurse said she needs to hold her arm in a certain position. Of course she couldn’t. It was too painful. The nurse said, it has to happen. You’ll need to hold her arm there.
For the next several moments, seemed like an eternity, I had to cause my daughter excruciating pain. I can still hear her screaming my name, shrieking my name, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!!!”
How could I explain that we were going to take a picture of the inside of her shoulder? How can I explain the way an x-ray machine works. How can I explain that what we needed to see in that picture would ultimately take away the pain.
I didn’t want to cause her pain. I was trying to prevent her from experiencing MORE PAIN!
This is how it is from God’s perspective. We look up and think: I don’t understand why God is allowing this! This is painful… this seems unnecessary!
But us trying to understand the mind of God is like an ant trying to understand the internet.
Let’s be honest though… When a storm comes into our lives, our prayers are usually to CALM THE STORM! God, I’m getting crushed. I’m about to drown! Stop the hurricane! But these are superficial prayers. That’s not true repentance. True repentance is not being sad about what’s happening to you. That’s what the sailors had: “What should we do to you to make this sea calm down for us? Jonah didn’t put the blame on others. He didn’t even focus on the storm really. Rather he turns his focus back to God:
9He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
True repentance isn’t simply being sorry for something that’s happened to us. That’s self pity- worldly sorrow is a trap! But Godly sorrow is when you realize how self-centered you’ve become—first you ran from God… then you hurt those around you. And now when you feel that pain, you offer no excuses but simply take responsibility. Listen to Jonah’s Real Repentance.
12Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
It’s my fault! There is no one else to blame. Repentance is when you own your sin. You take responsibility for the damage you’ve caused and that you have no one to blame but yourself. And you’re left with no choice but to throw yourself on the mercy of God!
Jonah doesn’t say “throw me overboard” as an act of suicide… but an act of Faith! Faith that God has Grace, and that there is love under the waves! That there will be something there to catch him.
You can be a Ninevite, openly hostile toward God, or an insider like Jonah, who strays a little… You can sin a little, or sin a lot… it doesn’t matter. WE ALL NEED GRACE!
No matter how far we run, we can never outrun God!
13Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the Lord, “O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
So Jonah gets tossed into the sea. And just when you think it couldn’t get worse… it does.
17But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
And this is the part we all remember from Sunday School. Just don’t dismiss this as a myth.
One time a little girl read this verse and asked her Sunday school teacher if this was true.
And her teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human.
So the little girl said, “But the Bible says Jonah was swallowed by a whale.”
Her teacher said, “don’t take that literally.”
The little girl said, “When I get to heaven, I’ll ask Jonah.”
Her teacher said, “What if Jonah went to hell?”
The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”
To argue about the literal fish, or whale, or how it happened is to miss the big idea! Did you notice the key word in verse 17?
17 But the Lord Provided a great fish to swallow Jonah…
Notice it’s not Jonah was chomped by Jaws to pay him back for his deeds. No it says, God PROVIDED something that probably looked like it was going to kill Jonah… but it was actually meant to save him.
And this is the hope we have for anyone facing a storm today. Or feeling like you’re about to go under: What seems like will kill you, God can use to save you
Sometimes what we fear most, what we think is going to kill us is really a gift in disguise.
Do you know why God allowed your relationship to unravel? Or to lose your job over this? Or your finances to tank? Because He loves you! And He’s jealous for you. And He want you to trust Him and no one else.
It’s not to pay you back, it’s to bring you back. The BIG FISH is a blessing in disguise. What seems like it will kill you, God can use to save you!
On the cross, Jesus was thrown into the Storm of God’s wrath—and because of that—we have peace with God. The storm is over. Jesus was killed so we’d be saved!
He was buried for 3 days and nights in the belly of the earth. Cut off from the Father. He descended into Hell, into the depths of the earth. Why? To save us! There was love under those waves.
God wants to save you through His Son! To pay for your sin and redeem those consequences. Because of Christ you don’t have to run anymore. Through simple trust, we get forgiveness and a fresh start. If you’re here today and you’re wondering if you’ve run too far, this is how God treats runners. With Mercy, not punishment. With radical grace, not guilt. He doesn’t give us what we deserve, rather, He gives us the LOVE & FORGIVENESS we need most!
Maybe today you need to follow Jonah’s example. You need to
- Confess your sin. Jonah took ownership. He didn’t deflect or blame anybody else. He owned it.
- And then he put all of his trust in the grace of God! He didn’t rely on his own self-righteousness… I’m better than the ninevites, he acknowledged that he was no better than the Ninevites… then he trusted God to save them both.
I don’t know what kind of storm is raging in your life right now. The storm of guilt. The storm of infidelity. The storm of addiction. The storm of inadequacy. The storm of fear.
Whatever it is, Only Jesus can calm that storm inside of you with His grace. Will you trust Him?
There is purpose behind your pain… and God is throwing you a lifeline today. Will you take it?