Good morning everyone! Today we are in the final week of our series on Jonah called Big Fish. I hope you all have been enjoying this series. It has been my prayer that we would walk together through this powerhouse of a fish story! However, we’ve been learning that this is anything but a fish story. It’s actually a story all about sin and grace. It’s about people who run from God, and how he chases after even the fastest and furthest runners out there. It’s a story of how God used Jonah to change the nation of Nineveh.
I’ve been wearing glasses since I was in 4th grade. When I was in 2nd grade I used to purposefully fail the eye exam simply because I wanted to go to the nurse’s office over and over again. I was a little 2cnd grader crushing on Mrs. Moriarti… Little did I know that Mrs. meant she was off the market. I didn’t see a ring, and you know what that means… No ring, no thing! I thought I had a chance. Now listen, before you go and judge me, you need to know that I had the oldest teacher alive… and she was mean, and nasty. In fact, I’m pretty sure she was a Ninevite…
Well, the joke was on me because two years later I’d actually fail the eye exam, and then be strapped up with lenses for the rest of my life. Oh yeah, Let me tell you how cool I was in middle school… Two words for you. REC SPECS. I’d be out on the soccer field with my REC SPECS on like (Funny Voice) “HEY GUYS OVER HERE” “Pass the Ball”.
It wasn’t until college that I figured out I can use them to my advantage… See in college I stepped out of nerd glasses and moved into what I call “INTELLIGENCE ENHANCERS”. Throw some glasses on your face, and you instantly look smarter. You go from being a C student to a solid B!
Well the reality is that without these glasses I wouldn’t see clearly. I would have a sight issue. The other day I got my reminder from the eye doctor that it is time to come back in to get my eyes checked. You know the routine… They make you look at some chart like this and ask you to read until you can’t read any more… Which I thought, this is good because the other morning was scary! I woke up the other morning and couldn’t see anything… I thought, what happened… then I realized that I had the sheet over my head.
Come on! That was a stupid joke… don’t laugh at those…
Some of you in here today know exactly what I mean. You’re squinting right now to see me. You need to go visit Nurse Moriarti… J Some of you have had Lasik surgery to correct your vision because you, like me, are unable to see clearly what’s right in front of you without your glasses!
Vision is critical isn’t it? Vision affects everything. When we can’t see properly, things move out of focus. Or maybe we focus on the wrong things. If we’re not careful without good vision we can even do damage to ourselves, or others! On my drivers license there is a restriction, maybe on some of yours as well… It is a class A restriction which means I need corrective lenses to ensure that I am driving safely and not putting myself and others at risk. Vision is critical!
Jonah was no stranger to having vision problems… In fact today we are going to see just how hard it was for Jonah to see. Jonah struggled with his vision from the beginning of this story. In Jonah 1 God said to Jonah:
“Go to Nineveh to preach against it… But Jonah headed for Tarshish.” Jonah 1:2-3
Jonah couldn’t see why God wanted him to preach in Nineveh… What good was Nineveh? So he jumped on a ship to Southern Spain, running 3,000 miles in the opposite direction from God. Somewhere along the way, God sent a storm to get Jonah’s attention, and the course of Jonah’s life was forever changed. In the midst of the storm, Jonah was thrown overboard, and God provided a Big Fish to swallow Jonah. The very thing that looked like it would kill Jonah, God used to save him. And three days later the fish spit Jonah up on the shore. And God came back to Jonah. Look at what God said to Jonah:
“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you. Jonah obeyed… and went to Nineveh” Jonah 3:2-3
And because of Jonah’s obedience an entire city was changed… look at this in verse 10 of chapter 3:
“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.” Jonah 3:10
At first GLANCE you would think that Jonah would think this was positive, right? It would be a sign of success. He was good at this whole prophet thing! God had Grace on the Ninivites, He didn’t destroy them. This LOOKS like a massive win, and yet, that is not at all how Jonah SAW it.
Today we’re going to wrap up the story of Jonah by looking at the 4th chapter. Which is found on page 646 of the Bibles around you. Turn with me to Jonah 4 where we will see Jonah’s response to God’s Grace on the Ninivites.
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing 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. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:1-3
Jonah is furious with the outcome of Nineveh. Did you see what Jonah said there? He actually admitted part of the reason that he ran from God towards Tarshish was not because he was scared of the big mean Ninevites. He was scared that they might turn to God and be forgiven. He was scared that they might not be punished…
And when it all didn’t happen, when they weren’t punished, when their city wasn’t torched with fire, when they weren’t wiped off the face of the earth, Jonah became angry. In fact, what we see here is Jonah stepping into a major depression over the salvation of Nineveh.
Have you ever had that feeling of frustration when someone doesn’t get what they deserve? Maybe it’s a coworker… and they come in to work late time after time… you know it, everyone else knows it. They come strolling up with a Grande Cup of something Starbucks, and a Double Smoked Bacon Sandwich…. Meanwhile you’ve barely had breakfast to make sure that you got to work on time! Then they get called into the boss’ office. And you’re all excited because finally they are going to get what was coming to them! He’s been in there for 5 minutes… and you’re like yeah baby! It’s going down! Then 10 minutes goes by and your starting to collect boxes to pack up his desk for him. 15 minutes and you’ve already thrown his lunch out of the office fridge… And then nothing happens. They’re not fired. They don’t come out crying… Acutally it’s the opposite… They come out and got promoted! That’s frustrating right?
This is just how Jonah is feeling! God comes back and asks this one question of Jonah:
“But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.”
Jonah was sitting there watching… waiting with baited breath that maybe still God would punish the city of Nineveh. And nothing happened according to his perspective. From his perspective all he could see is the city of Nineveh still thriving in it’s glory. He sees the evil, wicked, ruthless people missing out on the destruction that they are due.
Jonah is blind to the fact that what he is witnessing on that hillside is the Grace of God at work.
This brings us to our Big Idea today, Every way of seeing is a way of not seeing. Let me explain. You are looking at me right now… Your eyes are on me, and you have no idea if the doors are open or closed to this room. In fact, you have no idea that there are doors back there! You don’t know that there are 3 people at the tech table right now. You are seeing what’s in front of you! In fact, turn around… wave high to Tammie, Gavin, and James! I get to see them all service long, and so should you… The same thing is true for me… I don’t see what you see. I don’t know what’s going on behind me…
What you see, or the way that you see things is critical! Your perspective is crucial. Think about Jonah. He is stuck in one perspective… and who’s perspective was that? HIS OWN—He could only see things one way, from his own point of view! He couldn’t see things from any other perspective than his own and it blinded him. Everyway of seeing something is a way of not seeing something.
But perspective can clear things up too, it can correct your sight. Several years ago, one (Family Picture) of our kids was struggling with authority. Go figure…. See, we are a totally normal family! J Well I sat down and had a conversation with them and quickly I figured out that there was a perspective issue going on. They couldn’t see it from my perspective. They couldn’t understand why mommy and daddy were always calling the shots and telling them what to do. We didn’t get this figured out until we flipped their perspective. And once we flipped the perspective or saw things from someone else’s point of view things got better. Not perfect, but better. Perspective brought clarity. Every way of seeing something is a way of not seeing something!
Jonah was blinded by his perspective. Remember, Every way of seeing is a way of not seeing! He was blinded to all that had actually happened. From His perspective, nothing had happened. It was a failure. Jonah actually was sitting there on the hillside looking at what he had just done and in doing so, He misses the Big Picture of What God Is doing in the lives of others. Why? Because he couldn’t see it!
Listen to me when our vision is affected, our actions are as well.
You should see me in the middle of the night. When I get up in the middle of the night, and my glasses are off, I walk through the house like a zombie… arms up… shuffling my feet to make sure I don’t trip on anything. My vision affects my behavior. And ultimately my attitude. Have you ever stepped on a Lego in the middle of the night?
You can loose your salvation in a moment like that. Jesus can up and leave the room in that instance.
OLIVIA: Building slide structure
Let me show you something about what we see. Our Eyes+ Our Perspective= ____________ When we combine our eyes and our perspective we the end result, or the action, our behavior is to be Judgmental. Our Eyes+ Our Perspective= Judgemental We can’t see it any other way. We judge everyone on what we see, & the way we see it.
But when we use Our Eyes + God’s Perspective=_____________ our eyes but look at it with God’s perspective we find a totally different outcome. Our behavior and attitude is totally different. When we use Our Eyes + God’s Perspective= Gracious our eyes but look at it with God’s perspective our actions will be led by Grace. We’ll be more gracious in our interactions and more understanding.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor. It’s not getting what you deserve. It’s when a police officer pulls you over for going 45 in a 30 and writes you a warning. It’s when your boss doesn’t write you up for being late for the 4th time. It’s when your spouse doesn’t respond to your snarky comment nor do they hold it against you. Grace is life changing and it requires God’s perspective & it reveals God’s Character.
I’ve experienced Grace
But Jonah just couldn’t get it. And so to help Jonah understand the Grace that was shown to Nineveh look at what God did.
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:5-8
God provided all of this to help show Jonah what Grace is about. You might be tempted to think this is God showing Jonah Grace, it’s God correcting Jonah’s perspective on Grace.
And Jonah, according to his own perspective is left feeling judgmental about the plant. And he is ANGRY! And God comes back to him again… trying to adjust his perspective… He says,
“But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” Jonah 4:9
Have you ever felt that angry with someone else? Have you ever felt that angry with your current situation that you actually thought, if it is going to be like this, then it’s just not worth living. That’s how I felt when the Dallas Cowboys won the Superbowl (Pic of Troy Aikman) in 93, 94, & 96. It’s alright now though… It’s been a long time since they’ve been to the superbowl. J Life is good again.
But Seriously, maybe your ex has hurt you so deeply and it has left you ANGRY! Or maybe you are going through a disappointment that is even too hard to say out loud. It can feel as if you are the only one in pain. The world stops and centers in on yourself, doesn’t it? There are times in life when your perspective will sideline you. And God is showing Jonah just that. Look again at the conversation with Jonah.
10But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11
God asks Jonah if it is right that he was angry with the plant withering and dying. And in a quick second, God says, You had nothing to do with this plant. It came and went. It provided you with comfort and you loved it. And when it stopped benefitting your comfort, you stopped being content. You’re concern seems to only be with your comfort. The real question seems to be what right do you have to be angry Jonah?
You did nothing to deserve it, you did nothing to foster it, to maintain it, or to grow it. Grace is something that is undeserved, it is not getting what you do deserve.
Jonah, why are you angry that I had compassion on the great city of Nineveh? Why does it matter to you that they received God’s grace in their time of crisis?
After all, this is Jonah we are talking about. The very same Jonah who heard God and ran in the other direction. The same Jonah who disobeyed and was given a second chance. Yet somehow Jonah was incapable of seeing God give a second chance to others.
Jonah’s perspective had blinded him to seeing what God was doing in the world around him. His perspective left him in a position of Judgement, not a position of Grace. We find Jonah sitting on the hillside asking the Question “Why Them?” God, why them? Why would you choose to save someone so wicked and evil as them?
Judgement asks that question every time. Every time you sit in a position of Judgement on others you are asking the question, “WHY THEM”? Shouldn’t Jonah really be asking the question, “Why me?” When you receive grace, it leads you to ask the question “Why Me?” I’ve not done anything to deserve it. I’m not worthy of it. My past is too shady, my present is too imperfect… Why me? God, why?
Every way of seeing is a way of not seeing. When you see through the eyes of judgment it leaves you in a position of celebrating punishment, while looking through the lens of grace it causes you to celebrate forgiveness. While Jonah was waiting for the city to be punished he missed out on God’s act of Forgiveness. His vision needed correction.
One of the final things that we learn from Jonah is that Judgement is blinding. Judgement blinds you to the move of God. IF you are stuck in the seat of judge and jury, you will always miss out on God’s forgiveness and grace. You will miss out on the stories of redemption and restoration. And the irony is that no one in here has a different story than that. There is no follower of Jesus who can describe their story without using the words forgiveness and grace.
And yet, sometimes we act like Jonah. We sit in judgement rather than Grace… If you are new to church, I’d love it if you’d let me talk to those of us “churchy folks”. You are sitting in on a family conversation… In fact, what I’m about to say, you may be more qualified to preach than me!
Why is it that Christ followers act like they’ve always been Christ followers and judge other people who aren’t currently Christ followers? Why do we so quickly forget the Grace that God has given us and forget to show the same grace to others?
Guys, because of God’s grace, the church is a place where both sinner & saint, runners and former runners are welcome. Our church exists because we believe that Grace wins. Our church should be filled with people who follow Jesus and people who are trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus. In fact, if you’re here and you would say that you are not a Christ follower I want you to know that we’re glad you’re here. This is a safe place for you to be. We aren’t going to judge you, or expect you to behave like us before you believe like us. But I’m not hiding it either. I believe that following Jesus makes your life better and makes you better at life. Everything we do here at Hope City is to help people take their next step towards Christ in their journey of faith. And I pray you will do that.
Church, let’s not forget where we’ve come from!
See I don’t know about you, but I want to be like Jonah. I want to sit on the Hillside one day and see what God has done through His grace, to see what God has done in our church, in our community, and in your lives and be able to say, “WOW… God allowed me to be a part of that.” Can you imagine? Jonah could have said, I was a part of bringing Nineveh back to God, or He could have said, Nineveh wasn’t destroyed because of me.
Can you imagine what it would be like if you saw the world with your eyes, but God’s perspective? What could it be like?
I believe that we could change the world. I believe that the Church would be as Christ imagined it to be, the Hope for the World, the Hope for the future. Imagine what a difference your life could make if you stopped judging people and started showing grace instead.
Imagine what your relationships could be like. Think about how rich and deep those relationships could be…
Imagine what this could do in your work place when you show up giving grace to others rather than judging them.
Imagine what your kids would experience when they see Mom or Dad showing them grace and modeling for them what it means to be a gracious person…
It could change your life!
In fact, some of you need to change the way that you see. Some of you came in today and you are walking through deep despair… You feel stuck in the belly of the beast.
Some of you today are experiencing the heartache of crushed dreams. You may have thought you were going to grow old with someone, you may have thought that life was going to turn out differently.
Some of you are afraid of what God is asking you to do. You’re just like Jonah, scared… In fact, you might flat out disagree with God… Maybe you’ve been running in the opposite direction.
You may need to change the way that you see things. God is not against you. God is for you. God loves you! I cannot think of a better way to end this series than in a time of communion. See, just as these glasses change my natural vision… Communion changes our spiritual vision. Communion centers us around what Jesus did on the cross for us. It reminds us to look differently, to see differently, and to act differently. It reminds us that God’s grace in our life is unrelenting… Communion is all about changing our perspective.
Some of you have taken communion for years in a ritualistic way, or religiously… But communion is a special time for us because it allows us to see what Jesus did on the cross for us. It reminds us that Jesus body was broken to heal our brokenness. That God spared nothing to have a relationship with you. God didn’t send His son to die on a cross for religion. NO! He died so that God could know you, and you could know God.
In the next few moments I’m going to give you an opportunity to acknowledge what we really see… That Jesus body was broken for me. That he died for me and you. Today we are going to take a minute at the communion table to ask God to change the way we see and what we see.
Let me pray…