Good morning everyone(Title Slide)! I’m Pastor Peter and I want to welcome you to Hope City. Whose ready for a great morning together? After watching that lead in video, I get excited every week. It feels like the start to any great action movie… How can you not get pumped by that. I love being here at Hope City, I love singing with Matt and the band, they do an incredible job every single weekend in leading us in worship.
For those just coming aboard – you need to know, we’ve been following the life of the OT prophet, Jonah, who was just sorta minding his own business, when one day God said: Listen, you know Sin City? No, not Vegas, the other one…Nineveh! Yeah, I need you to go there…
|Jonah 1:1 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me.”|
You see, Nineveh, left this awful stench in God’s nostrils cuz of their sheer wickedness. It absolutely stunk! Sorta like when you find that 3 day old fish in your cooler 😉
Speaking of fish in the cooler, check out some of my friends and the fish they’ve put away recently….
Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4, Pic 5, Pic 6,
In Jonah’s story, God says GO. And Jonah says, NO. In fact, Jonah buys a one-way ticket in the opposite direction, 3000 miles away from Ninevah. God says: head up to Jacksonville and Jonah says: See you in San Francisco! ;-
Yet over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen that even when you try to RUN from God…His love for you is so STRONG…He’ll never let you OUTRUN His love. You can RUN from God, but you can never OUTRUN God.
And we saw this come alive last week as Jonah sailed away from God… In fact, do you remember what happens next? What happened when Jonah said NO? Quick little review, take a look at 1:4:
|Jonah 1:4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.|
God raised this violent storm to grab Jonah’s attention…in fact, Jonah was eventually thrown overboard, actually hurled into the deep and raging sea… BUT…
|Jonah 1:17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.|
Now some of you are in the same boat as Jonah! You’ve been headed off course for a while now (a wrong relationship, a secret addiction) whatever your Hurts, Habits & Hang Ups may be…and you can see the storm clouds forming ahead…and you’re feeling like you may be tossed overboard any minute.
And that’s frightening!
Now as a kid, I always wondered… What was it like for Jonah inside that great big fish? Like, what was he doing in there? (Picture of Jonah inside a whale)…sitting on a turtle…hilarious!
But seriously what did Jonah do in there for 3 days and 3 nights? Like was he playing cards, checking Facebook? Can you imagine what that Facebook feed would be like? Amazing…
I think as a kid, all I thought about was how he got swallowed up by a fish… I went from Him being swallowed to him being puked up. And I passed over the three days of him being in the belly of the beast.
In Jonah 2 – we learn exactly what Jonah did: He was PRAYING!
See, Jonah 2 is a written record of one of the most DESPERATE, RAW and PASSIONATE PRAYERS found in all of Scripture! In fact, the entire 2nd chapter of Jonah is this incredibly beautiful, Hebrew prayer – a passionate psalm, a desperate plea from a heart under extreme distress!
And unlike many of our more superficial prayers, where we just want our CIRCUMSTANCES to change… HERE we see a heart-wrenching, soul-searching prayer, and how it changes YOU from the very core – inside out. See: today, Jonah’s gonna teach us how to pray from deep within the Belly of the Beast! So turn with me to Jonah 2 (p.645) – and let’s hear this man’s desperate prayer:
|Jonah 2:1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 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. 3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever…|
Guys! Do you feel Jonah’s pain here? His desperation? He’s been thrown into the deep and has no idea which way is up! In fact, the Hebrew word used there in verse 2:
|2 “In my distress I called to the LORD”|
In my Distress! I called to the LORD… you gotta understand, that Hebrew word for distress is: TSAW-RAW! is one of the most PRIMAL words in all of Scripture! It means Extreme Distress! It’s a word reserved for only the most excruciating of circumstances…like childbirth! A woman in labor…no epidurals, no drugs, just pure TSAW-RAW!
There’s a few new dad’s here at Hope City… We’re praying for you! 😉 I could tell you stories!!! WHEW… You’ll make it. I love the fact that my kids are old enough now to tell me their stomach hurts… Rather than just show me. PEW! That stuff stinks… Kids just stink… Like they make weird noises, and nasty smells… J
I remember being a new dad. I remember when my wife, Tiffany, was going into labor with our first… We took the birthing class together… I read a few chapters of “what to expect when your expecting”… Then I quickly put that down as fast as I could… WOW… But I was ready to go… I’m gonna be a good husband, gonna be there for her… I was her “Breathing-Coach”… This was gonna be a walk in the park…
Well I remember being in that delivery room, holding the hand of my sweet, beautiful bride… the soon to be mother of my child… and gazed up into my eyes and she said to me… STOP TOUCHING ME!
I like to think that was the DISTRESS Talking. 😉
I look back at that moment and I’m like: Thank God – you WOMEN are truly incredible! – Thanks be to God, as men we’ll never come close to that kind of TSAW-RAW or ANGUISH in our lives… Or at least that’s what I thought… And then I got a sinus infection, and I was like, I totally understand child birth now… I get it. J
MY SOS MOMENT
Spearfishing in Costa Rica:
Get out of the boat. Aqui, Aqui…
SI… Aqui, here.
HUGE WAVES, the boat disappeared in the trough of the waves
Current was pushing around the point of this rock formation
Emotionally – I was scared for my life.
Physically- I was getting myself worked up and winded.
THIS IS IT! THIS IS WHERE I DIE! Here in Costa Rica… If I could have, I would have shot up an SOS… SOMEBODY SAVE ME! Pull me out of the water.
I’m sure some of you have felt this way. It could have been child birth, it could have been a traumatic accident, or it could even be as simple as your kids 2nd grade play.
|The LORD ANSWERED!|
Don’t bypass what Jonah endured inside the belly of that beast! Jonah was in DISTRESS! And only when we can FEEL that distress in our bones, can we then truly appreciate the miracle of how that verse ends:
|2:2 He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD and [let’s read this together…please don’t miss this!] he answered me.|
Now guys just think about that for a second. I called to the LORD and he answered me.
Can you just grasp for a second what it means that we have the ability to call on the God of the universe, the One hung the stars in the sky…the One who created every grain of sand, designed every cell in your body? You can call on Him! You can pray to Him! And He will answer you! God will answer your prayers of DEEP DISTRESS from the belly of the beast! God hears the cries of His people no matter how DEEP or DARK your crisis gets!
But honestly… we don’t believe that. Do we? I mean do YOU believe in the power of prayer? I hope so! I just preached through a series on prayer before Easter… But sometimes prayer can be challenging.
|It’s like the story of that small-town church in Oklahoma…
– Strip club opened up next door
– Prayer meetings and fasting…
– Struck by lightning & the owner sued the church
– Pastor: Oh, no, no, no. Those were just little harmless prayers.
– Judge: Now this is interesting. Here we have the owner of a strip club who believes in the power of prayer… And a pastor, who does not.
And it makes you wonder, right? Do you really believe God answers your prayers? I’m not talking about Mother Theresa’s prayers or Billy Graham’s prayers…we already know God answers those.
But do you believe that when YOU cry out in DISTRESS to the Lord…that He’ll actually respond to YOU? That in your moment of Deep Distress & Desperation…God will answer?!
Because if we’re honest, I think we all WANT TO believe that… but the truth is, we don’t always FEEL like that’s the case.
And the reason why is NOT because God isn’t paying attention or because He doesn’t care. No!
The reason why it feels like God’s not answering our prayer is because a lot of times we’ve only got eyes for ONE AND ONLY ONE, SPECIFIC TYPE of ANSWER…when the reality is…God’s answer is always SO MUCH DEEPER AND BETTER than anything you’re looking for.
I like the way Craig Groeschel, pastor of Lifechurch put it: Prayer should not be about getting God to do what we want. Instead, effective prayer is agreeing with what He wants.
Think of it this way – God always answers DEEPLY DESPERATE prayers. Guaranteed! 100%!
BUT the answer isn’t always in a change of CIRCUMSTANCE…it’s sometimes in a change of HEART in the one who’s praying!
For instance, just take a look at how this passage ends and you tell me if this is the same person who earlier said NO, when God said GO! See if you can spot any heart-change taking place in the Belly of the Beast. Look at v6:
|But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. 7 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. 9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”|
Folks, does that sound like the heart of rebellion to you? Does that sound like the same guy who was running fast and furious away from God?
No. Not even close.
I mean THIS Jonah is in the Belly of the Beast… and yet he actually sings songs of thanksgiving, blessing God for what he’s done!
And WHY? God answers an S.O.S. by changing the HEART of the one in distress!
Because God answers the prayer of distress by changing the heart of the distressed …It’s what God loves to do over and over again, from the lives of Fishy Prophets… to a Florida Preacher to everyone in between – God answers the prayer of DISTRESS by changing the heart of the one distressed.
|Launching the Church
· Feeling the pain of the bills here at Hope City…
· Lots of areas I’m able to just press through and put more time in and solve the issues. And I can easily be tempted to think that I had something to do with the outcome of all that. That somehow I was the reason it came together
· Finances are not one of those things.
· We worry about what we cannot control.
· Finances were out of my control.
· We work hard to spend every penny that comes in here at church wisely and effectively.
· I remember one weekend in particular where I cried out to God with tears running down my cheeks… I was afraid. I was distressed. I was paniky.
· I felt the Holy Spirit saying, Will you trust me to provide?
…It was a word in my moment of Distress. See: sometimes God changes your circumstances… and sometimes, He changes YOU!
Don’t miss this: Powerful Prayer has the Power to Change You From the Inside Out. Write this down…
God answered my prayer of Deep Distress that day – not by miraculously changing the circumstances – but by clearly changing my heart and helping me see more vividly my need to Trust His continued grace and guidance in my life. He answered my prayer by reminding me, just like He reminded Jonah in the Belly of the Beast…that there’s nothing I can do to save myself. But the good news is – Salvation comes from the LORD.
In fact, God changed my heart before He changed my circumstance. We are still week to week here at Hope City, the decision has been made. We are trusting God to provide and He has been providing through you. THANK YOU! Do you know why I’m thanking you? Because you have been faithful & obedient as God has led you to support the work that God is doing here at Hope City. Yes God has been providing, but He has been doing that through your obedience.
Too often we are only worried about our Circumstances and not the condition of our heart. Where as God says I can work through any circumstance, but I can’t do that until your heart is ready.
You may be so focused on what’s going on AROUND you that you miss out on what God wants to do INSIDE of you!
Don’t miss that. It could be the most important thing that you do in this lifetime is to make that decision to pay attention to what God is doing in you more than what He is doing for you. Life is more fun when it is not just about you. IN fact, God wants to use you to make a difference here in this city, in this church. But it will require that it isn’t about YOU! And yet, some of you are stuck in the Belly of the Beast right now, and I hear you, I know your there. But I’m telling you that God won’t leave you there forever. What may seem like forever will be the moments that you look back on and see the hand of God doing His work in your life.
What if I told you RIGHT NOW, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, TODAY…you could cry out to the Lord in your despair… And that He would answer you? That in your moment of Deep Distress (maybe a lifeless marriage, a distressing health report, an upsetting situation at work…) that in this moment of DEEP DESPAIR, you could go to the Lord in prayer…and He would answer you! Would you do it?
Well then what’s stopping you? In fact, right now, I want to give you the opportunity to write out your prayer (just like Jonah did) and offer them up to the God who is waiting to answer them.
Inside of your programs you should find one of these [PRAYER CARDS] and remember Jonah 2:2: “In my DISTRESS I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” And on the back we’ve give you some space to write out your \ Prayer of DISTRESS.
Now I want you to be honest – like Jonah was. Tell God how you’re feeling. I mean when you look back at Jonah 2 (we didn’t even cover all of this)…he says, “I’ve got seaweed wrapped around my head…” IOW he’s saying: I’m so confused…I can’t see my way clear in this situation… So tell God exactly what you’re feeling…what your need is!
And as the band comes out right now to lead us in this last song – I want to encourage you, RIGHT NOW, to go ahead and take that pen and write down your prayer. This is a moment between just you and God – no one else. So be as raw and open as you can be. In fact, if you’re sitting here and it takes you more than 5 seconds to think of something – guess what? – you’re trying too hard… you’re filtering things… you’re trying to manage things… and that’s NOT a From-The-Soul-Primal DISTRESS prayer!
Be OPEN and HONEST about what’s distressing you…because God wants to answer THAT prayer! God is waiting to answer your prayer and let you know He’s here to help! We only need to be honest and ask.
So I’m gonna ask the band to give us like 90 seconds to just write out our DISTRESS prayer… In fact, I’m gonna click my pen right now and do the same thing. I’m going to write my prayer as well. And then we’ll close in worship with the last song…
…Guys you know what’s amazing? Do you know what’s beautiful? It’s that the reason God hears every single one of these prayers is because Jonah was a SIGN.
Do you remember this?
Jonah was in the belly of the beast for 3 days. And in the NT it says that one greater than Jonah is here. In 3 days, Jesus had gone through death, burial and resurrection…He is our High Priest…IOW He lives to intercede for us ~ that’s why God hears our prayers! In fact, in Hebrews it says:
|Heb. 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.|
So folks, you can have confidence God hears your prayers and will answer your prayers…NOT because you’re a good person…BUT because Jesus Christ lives to intercede for you! He wants to give you grace! He paid the price to give you grace!
Here’s what I want you to do – I’m going to ask you to take a step of faith. Would you go ahead and fold this prayer over? Fold your card over.
And our ushers are going to come down the aisle right now. And what we’re going to do right now is STAND and we’re going to sing a powerful song of affirmation…a song about putting all of our faith in Jesus Christ even in the midst of the storm…and as we do, the ushers are going to pass the buckets around… and as they do, would you drop your prayer in there?
And here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to pray for you. We’re going to pray with and for you this week. you don’t have to put your name on it… but we’re going to lift you guys up in prayer because we want to stand with you just as Jesus Christ did!
Father, I pray right now for all those here who are lifting up their prayers to you right now. All your people crying out to you from the Belly of the Beast…from their heart to yours, God receive our prayers, AMEN!