Disobeying God's Mission

Steve Viars April 3, 2016 Jonah 1:1-3

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Matthew 28:18-20 - And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

4 principles to help us fulfill the purpose God has given us

I. God Gives Each of His Children a Mission

A. Throughout biblical history

1. The call of Abraham – Genesis 12 – the beginning of the nation of Israel – 2100 BC

2. The lives of the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph – 2100 - 1845 BC

3. After Joseph – The children of Israel in bondage in Egypt – 1845 – 1445 BC

4. Moses – The exodus and wilderness wanderings – 1445 – 1405 BC

5.  Joshua – The promised land – 1405 – 1385 BC

6. The Judges – 1385 – 1040 BC

7. The Kings – Beginning in 1040 BC

8. The Reign of David – 1000-970 BC

9. The Reign of Solomon –  970 – 931 BC

10. The division of Israel into southern kingdom (Judah) and northern kingdom (Israel)

B. It is true of you and me today

John 15:16 - You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

“Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, Book VII

II. Sometimes God Directs you to Do Things that are Not Easy to Do

A. God was commanding Jonah to go and minister to his enemies

B. The book of Jonah is a great missionary story

Acts 1:8 - You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth...

Ephesians 2:14 - For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation…

Ephesians 2:16 - …and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

C. Part of Jonah’s problem was that he was a racist

Jeremiah 32:17 - Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.

III. God Loves and is Concerned about People who are Sinning

Jeremiah 18:7-8 - At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.

IV. You Have to Decide if You Will Joyfully and Obediently Participate in the Mission God has Given You

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Yesterday, I had the privilege of leading the memorial for Jay Hostetler. Jay and his wife Nancy were long-time attenders here. Nancy was Barry Redding's mom, if that helps you make the connection. I often ask families to help me as I'm preparing for a memorial service, by sending me words or phrases that they think best describe the way God allowed that particular person to live, or to send some short vignettes, either humorous or serious, that illustrate the way God allowed the person to live. That helps me as I prepare a service, and Jay's daughters told me this. They said, "Dad had a big heart, and he wanted to see the best in people. He was Christmas shopping one year, and when he returned to his far, he found a man trying to break in with a coat hanger." Remember when we used to be able to do that? Not that you did, but it was possible back in the old days.

"Dad acted as though he was going to the car parked nearby, and he casually asked the man if he had locked the keys inside. The man replied that he had, and he kept working. Dad held up the keys and said, 'Maybe you should try these.' The man was frozen assuming Dad would call the police. Instead, Dad asked why he went this route, and the man explained he had lost his job and just wanted to have something to give to his son and daughter for Christmas. Dad took him back into the store and helped him pick out a gift for each." Don't you love the last few sentences of that story? "Instead, Dad asked why he went this route, and the man explained he had lost his job and just wanted to have something to give to his son and daughter for Christmas. Dad took him back into the store and helped him pick out a gift for each."

There's a person living every day through the lens of the mission that God had given us. What that story illustrates is, you never know, you just never know, when you might have an opportunity to accomplish that mission. Which means, you have to have what God desires at the forefront of your mind, and then constantly be looking for opportunities to be His hands, to be His feet, when called upon to do so. What a classic line. Maybe you should try these. This year, we're talking about loving our world, and last Sunday, we completed our study of the gospel of Matthew by thinking about the king's commission, those wonderful Easter versus about the instructions of our resurrected Savior.

"'All authority has been given to me,' Jesus said in the Great Commission," Matthew 28. "'All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations,'" even those who might be breaking into your car at the time. "'Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I've commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.'" We love the world, if you're serious about that, we love the world, but by accepting, and obeying, and enjoying God's great commission, to make disciples of all the nations ...

This morning we're beginning a new study, of a man who was given a ministry assignment from the Lord just like we are, to go and talk about repentance and forgiveness to a group of people that, in his case, he and his nation despised. People of a different ethnicity. This man decided he knew better than God. Can you imagine anybody ever doing that? He decided he knew better than God, so he went the opposite direction. He was a loveless prophet, and to say the least, in case you're thinking, "I'm gonna run from God and see how that goes," well, to say the least, things did not really go well for him.

With that in mind, open your Bible now to Jonah Chapter 1. Jonah Chapter 1. Obviously, that's in the Old Testament. That's in the front section of your Bible, and if you don't have one with you, just pull out that one from under the chair in front of you and turn to page 657 of the front section. That'll bring you to Jonah Chapter 1. Jonah Chapter 1, or page 657 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. I recognize some of you might say about now, "I've never read or studied an Old Testament prophet before. I have no idea about the history, or the geography. I certainly believe any of this would have any practical application, to where I am living today."

Let me just say at the outset. We plan series like these to include people who are brand new to studying God's word. If you would say in your particular situation, "You know what, I came to church for the first time ever last Sunday, and now I'm here, and boom, Jonah. What?" Listen. We prepared for you in mind. I want you to know that. Let's also not forget that we have the Holy Spirit of God. There's some good news, huh? Who seeks to teach us His word, and to help us take the next step on our spiritual journey. There's a big difference between something being challenging and something being impossible, and I think you're going to see that this is much more understandable and much more relevant, that some might initially believe.

With that in mind, let's read the first three verses of Jonah Chapter 1 this morning. "The Word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise. Go to Nineveh, the Great City, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me. But," We don't need a "but" right there, do we? "But Jonah rose up the flee to Tarshish, the opposite way, from the presence of the Lord." He went down to Joppa. He found a ship which was going to Tarshish, he paid the fare and he went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. That's as far as we're going to get this morning. We're talking about disobeying God's mission, disobeying God's mission.

I want to present to you that, from these verses, we can find four principles to help us fulfill the purpose that God has given us. It's really helpful to us, to follow what we just studied last week on the Great Commission, now to think about this particular passage, and think about it in light of what we studied last week. Four principles to help us fulfill the purpose that God has given us.

I. God Gives Each of His Children a Mission

First of all, God gives each of His children a mission, and this book is the story of something that God wanted to accomplish in a particular city in His world. Right out of the blocks, we need to observe that when God chooses to act, He often does it through the life of a man or a woman that He has called for that task. You agree with that? He uses people.

Are you a people? You qualify, then, for this message. God gives each one of His children, and that's true throughout biblical history. I realize you might say now, "Where does Jonah's life and ministry fit into Old Testament history, to the history of God's chosen nation?" Every student of the Bible ought to have a basic timeline of the events of scripture, and I want to go through this quickly this morning, but this is the kind of thing worthy of committing to memory. Everybody get that? If you would say, "You know, I really can't think my way through the Old Testament," I'm going to give you now the primary steps in the history of Israel in the Old Testament. You might have to turn off the box. You've probably watched enough basketball games for ever, anyway.

You see, you might have to turn that off, might have to worry a little bit less about your dandelions this week, and study the Word of God. Don't you love a pastor who helps you with these things? By the way, it would have been really good if you would have said, "Yes, you're right, Pastor, and I love you for saying that." Some of you are just thinking it, I know, so I got the vibe. I just didn't get the word, but anyway. Throughout biblical history, so let me walk through this quickly. You might want to think about this. If you were just asked to stand to your feet right now and give the ten primary steps in biblical Old Testament history, what would you say?

Let's do this together. It starts with the call of Abraham in Genesis, Chapter 12. That was the beginning of the nation of Israel, and by the way, all these dates are rounded just for sake of ease. The beginning of the nation of Israel, about 2100 B.C., when God comes to a man, and He makes a covenant with him, a threefold promise. I know everybody here could give the three provisions of the Abrahamic covenant, right? The land, and seed, and blessing, where God says to this couple, this man who had no children at the time, "I'm gonna multiply your seed into a nation, and I will give them a promised land, and I will bless you and through you, bless the nations."

That man's name was Abraham, and again, 2100 B.C. You could think your way through the rest of the book of Genesis. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, so 2100 B.C. through 1845. If time permitted, I'm obviously doing this in shorthand, we could talk about all sorts of other men and all sorts of women that God used to accomplish His plan during that particular time. After Joseph, the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt for 400 years, 1845 to 1445 B.C., a period of terrible slavery. Which, by the way, God chose to end with a courageous mother, who hid her baby boy ... See, she had a mission, didn't she, just like Jonah had a mission, but she took hers. This little boy eventually grew up to lead Israel out of Egypt. Who was that?

Yeah, that was Moses. You think about Moses, the exodus, and the wilderness wanderings, 1445 to 1405. After Moses came Joshua, leading the children of Israel into the promised land, 1405 to 1385. You understand, I'm glossing over all sorts of stories of great men, and great women, who were given a mission by God, and unlike this loveless prophet, they accepted what God wanted them to do. They accepted their mission, and then did well. We have the period of the judges. Fascinating stories of men and women God called to minister for Him. I just, in my own Bible study reading, personally finished reading the book of Judges. So very, very sad, but so very, very helpful. Some of these judges turned out to be faithful, reliable servants, men and women. Men and women. Did you know that? Some did not.

There was the period of the kings, beginning in 1040 B.C. Who was Israel's first king? King Saul. Who was the second? Yeah, King David from 1000 B.C., roughly, to 970. David's reign is unique for a lot of reasons, but especially because of where that fits into the reign of the Messiah. Next came David's son, whose name was Solomon, so 970 to 931 B.C. Think about all the men and all the women that God is using. In 931, a terrible event occurred in the history of God's people. It was the division of Israel into the southern kingdom and the northern kingdom. They moved so far away from God that they actually divided, and so at that point, you have two nations. You have the southern kingdom, which came up to the top of the Dead Sea, which was renamed Judah, and they kept their capital in Jerusalem. It's right at the northern part of the Dead Sea. That's where the city of Jerusalem was and is.

The northern kingdom, they kept the name Israel, and they set up a rival capital, and even a rival system of worship, in the city of Sumaria. What we have now is God's chosen nation, the one that He made all these promises to, beginning with Abraham, now it's divided, for the most part, living in very sinful ways. What did God do? Here's the end of this part of the history lesson. What did God do? He did two things. For one, he sent the prophets to encourage the people to repent. Do you realize that? You say, "I don't want to hear about those prophets." You realize you've just taken out a significant percentage of your Bible, because a lot of our Bibles contains the words of the prophets.

Some of those prophets ministered to the southern kingdom, the kingdom of Judah, prophets like Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Micah. Some administered in the northern kingdom, like Josiah, and Amos, and Jonah. Aha, aha. Did somebody just say Jonah? Yeah. Jonah was a prophet from God, administering to the northern kingdom, late in the 700s B.C. Here's the main point. I know I went through that quickly, and I am serious. You say, "Are you serious about us memorizing that?" Listen. You memorize gold statistics. You memorize recipes. Okay. Don't be fussing at me. I would encourage you, because I hope you're planning for the rest of your days, to be a growing student of the Bible. Right?

I would encourage you to have a ... This will help you at Bible study. In fact, someday you'll say, "I am so glad Pastor [inaudible 00:14:50] encouraged me to memorize that. I love him." Just apparently not today, but I would encourage you to do that. The main point. The main point is, when God wanted to act in a particular way, large or small, large or small, He selected a person, and He called him or her to a particular task. Friends, that's true of you and me today, right? God gives each one of His children a mission, and we have a place in what God is seeking to accomplish today.

I want to ask you seriously, just between you and me for a minute. Do you really believe that? You really believe that God has a mission for you. I would ask you this. You pretty fired up about that? You pretty glad that God has a mission for you? Think about this. Before we have Jonah's story of the mission God gave him, what if we asked you to this week, to write out the story of the mission that God has given you. How would that story go? How would it read? It'd probably begin with some people God used to draw you to Christ. That's where your mission story begins, just like Moses's story begins with the life of his courageous and faithful mother, or the story of Samson began with the lives of his godly parents. It begins with somebody.

The story of your mission begins with those God used to bring you to Christ. You glad for those people? You glad they were faithful to the mission that God had given them? Absolutely, but now, you've come to Christ. I'm just asking you, have you identified the mission that God has given you? Jesus said it this way in John 15:26, pretty clear here. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit." There it is, "And that your fruit should remain." That's the beauty of it. We're talking about eternal issues. Eternal issues, that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.

That mission has various facets. Some of you are in school. Are you thinking about that from the perspective of the mission that God has for you right now? Remember, we saw that last week in the Great Commission. Remember, we learned about participles last week. "Go, therefore," is a participle. In the Great Commission, "As you are going," is the implication of that, so if you're in school, why does He have you in that school, or on that team, or in that class, or with the friendships that God has given you? Do you think about your friendships through the lens of God's mission? Are you trying to impact all of your friends in a spiritually positive way? Oh, I hope the answer to that is yes.

If you're married, what mission does God have for you there? Even if, by the way, you didn't really know God or consider His mission when you were married. I recognize some people come to Christ after they're married. I get that, but to whomever you're married ... I'm not talking about how many times you've been married. I'm not talking about any of that. I'm asking you about the person you're married to right now. I promise you, God's will for you is to have a positive spiritual impact on that person's life. Are you thinking about your marriage through that lens? Why has God placed you in the job you have? I'm certainly not talking about you witnessing on the boss's time. That's not what I mean at all, but many times, if you see yourself there to work wholeheartedly as unto the Lord ...

By the way, I talk to a lot of employers. Man, are we living in a culture of people who don't know how to work. Please tell me, if you're not a hard working person, tell people you go to church somewhere else. I shouldn't be lying. You're already lazy. You might as well add lying to it, and I'm off my notes, but I'm just saying, please tell me, if nothing else, if you say you know Jesus, every morning you wake up and you work hard. You say, "My boss doesn't notice." It doesn't matter. Wholeheartedly as unto the Lord. That's an important part of your mission, and here's what I believe. If you're just working hard for God, and you're trying to advance the purpose of the place where you work, that's going to stand out in this culture, and you'll have plenty of opportunities on your breaks, or at a lunch hour, or on your own time, to be able to speak for Christ, if you're looking at your job through the lens of what is the mission that God has given?

Why did God put you in your neighborhood? Why did He bring you to this community? Why did He bring you to this church? Some of you enjoy writing. There really may be some value to sitting down and writing out your mission story. We got one here from Jonah. His did not go well. If we wrote yours, if you wrote yours, how would it read? You say, "I don't think I'm gonna write it out." I'm asking you, do you at least think in these terms? Jay Hostetler thought in those terms, and he was ready. Bam. Guy breaking into my car, an opportunity to minister. Do you think in those terms? Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I love this little poem. "Earth's crammed with heaven." Do you believe that? There's the mission right there. "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees takes off his shoes, worships. The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries."

That's exactly right. If you say, "Pastor [inaudible 00:20:58], I agree with this. I can identify some aspects of the mission that God has given me good." Good. We need to point this out. Sometimes God directs you to do things that are not easy to do.

II. Sometimes God Directs you to Do Things that are Not Easy to Do

Is that right? Any Jewish person reading this book would have only gotten to the word, "Nineveh," in Verse 2, before drawing a very obvious conclusion. Uh-oh. Uh-oh, God wants a Jewish prophet to go to Nineveh? Here's why. Earlier we said that as God's people move further and further away from him, 931, after the division of the northern and the southern kingdom, most of those kings, if you know those books of the Old Testament, were very wicked men.

The nation dividing and fighting one another was a terrible thing. God's chosen nation dividing, divided and fighting one another. The northern kingdom actually setting up a rival capital and a rival form of worship. That was an abomination, an abomination. We said, God responded in two ways. He went the prophets to clearly communicate His Word to His people, so nobody could ever say during that time, "Well, nobody ever told me." No, no, but here was the second response of our Lord to the wickedness of His people. God allowed pagan nations to rise up. Yeah, that would eventually be used as an instrument of judgment on Israel if they would not repent.

Do you know who the emerging secular power was during the time of Jonah's ministry? It was the nation of Assyria, and they were known for being cruel. They were known for being harsh. They were known for being ruthless, and interestingly enough, one of the principle cities of this godless nation was the city of ... Anybody want to guess? Yeah. Nineveh. Let that sink in. God was commanding Jonah to go and minister to his enemies. In case you're saying, "Well, I'm not gonna care about my mission at work, because of the nature of the people I have to work around." Seriously? God was commanding Jonah to go and minister to his enemies. It'd be like God telling a Jewish man today to go to Iran, go to Syria, or a lot of other countries, for that matter.

See, we all agreed a moment ago that God gives each one of us a mission, just like Jonah. I hope we also recognize that sometimes, God gives us a mission that, it's just difficult. It's just difficult, and what this means is, the book of Jonah is a great missionary story. That's what it is. If there's any question that God loves all of the nations and want all nations to come to Him in repentance and faith, look no further than this book. By the way, that's just a precursor to what we read about the New Testament church, that God desires the church to be an overtly multi-ethnic organization. Acts 1:8. "'You should be my witnesses,' Jesus said, just prior to ascending into heaven." This was right after the resurrection, but before the ascension. "You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea," and where?

You understand by the time the New Testament was written, Jewish people hated the Samaritans because of what I suggested they had done. Sumaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth, that's why there's such an emphasis in the history of the early church about maintaining unity among the ethnic groups, because God loves all the nations, and He wants His people to do the same. In fact, early in the church, that came up, in Acts Chapter 6. Remember, you know that the church was born in Acts 2. Please tell me you know that, and so by Acts 6, there's actually an ethnic problem that's raised. Do you remember what it was? There was the issue of people being, widows being served food. There arose a division in Acts 6, the Bible says, where some disciples were suggesting that their widows were being neglected over against widows of other ethnic groups.

What did the church do? What did the apostles do? They didn't throw up their hands and say, "Listen, creating a multi-ethnic body of people, we're supposed to love the nations as part of our mission is too difficult." No. They found a solution to the problem. You remember what the solution was? The institution of the office of deacon. That was done to continue to build multi-ethnic relationships in the early church. Paul spoke about that extensively in the book of Ephesians, where he said, "For Jesus Himself is our peace, to as made ... " What? "Both Jews and gentiles." One, he's broken down the middle wall. That's the mission God gave us, and places like Matthew 28:19 and 20, Acts 1:8, and we're on it, hard or not.

There's it. We're on it, hard or not, because Jesus is our peace, and listen to this verse. "That he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross." What were we singing earlier? [singing 00:26:36] Hopefully you're singing it better than that, but we were singing that, right? We were celebrating the cross, and the empty tomb just last Sunday, and we should have been, but what are the practical implications of that to the way you live, and the accomplishment of your mission and mine? That He might reconcile them both in one body, through the cross, thereby putting to death ... Putting to death, what? The enmity between them. That, by the way, is why missions is so important to this church.

I was really happy to start receiving these pictures this week. This is from the Dominican Republic, and that's Tim [Catron 00:27:22]. Isn't that Tim? Am I right about that? I didn't recognize him in that hat at first. That's Tim Catron. It's almost like he and Debra need another one of those, but I mean, there's folks from our church. They were down at the Dominican Republic, and the reason was because there's an orphanage there that we have a marvelous relationship with. In fact, we have a sister relationship between them and Vision of Hope, because they're asking us to provide training for their staff, and so several of our staff from Vision of Hope went down to the Dominican Republic, along with another group of persons from our church.

The way it worked, there's the entire group, and so they were providing the training for the staff in the Dominican Republic, in Santiago. The rest of the team was working with the children, providing a vacation Bible school type. There's 80 orphans living there, and so they were working with the children, providing a vacation Bible school-type experience for them, freeing up the rest of the staff to receive this training. I absolutely love that picture right there. That is such a marvelous example of exactly what we're talking about. By the way, I was in that orphanage just a couple of months ago. It's a little rough right now. It's just been built, so no, the walls aren't painted yet, and the floor doesn't have anything on it right now, and so it's a little bit rough. They're doing the very best they can, but this was a sacrifice for our team to go. There's absolutely no question about that.

See, this is the polar opposite of being Jonah. By the way, do you see any frowns on any of these faces? "I did the mission, and I don't like it." No. No, those are faces of what? They're faces of joy. Why? Be like this. Don't be like Jonah. That, too is one of my favorite pictures that was sent to me. I've been right in that very spot, and for people from our church to give up time and whatever sacrifice was necessary in order to make that possible. My, oh my, oh my. We'll develop this portion of the book later on, but I just want to ... We have to understand, why did Jonah not take the mission and instead, flee the other direction? It's because he was a racist. He didn't want to risk the danger of ministering to his enemies, but this book is going to make this idea crystal clear. Jonah did not want God to love, or care about, or make any offers of salvation to people of any other ethnic group than his.

I think it's a terrible shame that one of the most segregated hours of the week in most communities is 11:00 on Sunday morning. I do, and I think we ought to do everything that we can in our power to change that, and that's one of the reasons we're doing what we're doing in the north end of Lafayette, is to do everything that we can, to the degree that we should, to love everyone in our town, regardless of their ethnicity. Let's step back and look at the larger point. It's easy for us to do the Monday morning quarterback thing. It's like, "Come on, Jonah. What was your problem?" Let's be honest and try to put ourselves in his sandals. This was an incredibly difficult ministry assignment.

By the way, don't say this. God always does that to people. He always jams you up. That's why I don't want anything to do with His mission, because it's always bad. No. No. In fact, did you know, this is not the first time we read Jonah's name in scripture? Did you notice that? The first time, you might want to jot this down and read this this afternoon. It's Second Kings 14:23 to 27. That passage tells us of a period of time where the king and the people of the northern kingdom were behaving in incredibly sinful ways, and God, in His infinite grace, chose to bless them anyway, and He sent a prophet to announce that good news to them. Who do you think the prophet was?

Yeah. It was Jonah, about as cushy a prophetic assignment as you could receive. He did that. Now he's back at the prophet's union hall, and the next assignment is about as difficult as they come. Arise, go to Nineveh. Go to Nineveh. Bring that into our context, my guess is that part of the mission that God has for you is not easy. You understand. I should probably clarify this. I'm not suggesting that God is speaking audibly to you, and tell you your mission with that level of specificity. That's not the way it works, but when you take ... Here's how it does work. When you take the grid of His word, and you lay it over your current circumstances, and then you throw in all of your gifts, and all of your experiences, all of your strengths, all of your opportunities, if you're trying to be tuned in at all to what the Spirit of God is doing in your life, you probably have a fairly good idea of your mission.

Has it registered to you yet that often God asks His servants to do things that are uncomfortable, that are sacrificial, that are hard. One of the things I appreciate about this church family is historically, this church has been willing to take on challenges. Right? For example, we just finished the passion play. We started that 27 years ago. It was hard when we first started it, and there was a lot of fear. There was a lot of uncertainty. A lot. This church family stepped up and did that. The Living Nativity as an example. Let's have an outdoor evangelistic opportunity, at Christmastime, in Indiana. We did that, and God has blessed it, and blessed it greatly.

When this church started a Christian school, there was a lot of risk, a lot of things that we could talk about here. Vision of Hope. Let's have a residential facility for young ladies who are struggling with unplanned pregnancies, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse, and self-harm. Let's not just have it on our property, but let's integrate those dear young ladies into our church body. Because this church family was willing to do that, now we have an opportunity in the Dominican Republic. Feel sorry for me. Talking about bad ministry assignments. I have to go and teach at a Bible college. In fact, I'm going to be going the next couple of weeks, in Florida.

I'll be in Florida with our family, doing some family vacationing as well the next couple of weeks, but when I go to Word of Life, both in Florida and New York later on this year, I have the opportunity to recruit interns for Vision of Hope. We asked them to do a one year internship here, but now I have the privilege of telling them, "If you want to, you can do a one year internship at Vision of Hope, and then do an international internship at a place like the Dominican Republic," because those places are asking us to send them trained leaders. My point is, you take a risk, and God blesses it in some incredible ways.

Hey, you want some takeaways, don't you? You want some takeaways, because you're thinking about your mission right now. I know that you are. Good. In your program, there's a list of class, our spring Faith Community Institute classes. Why not look at those, not from the lens of, "What do I want to take, or what's convenient for me?" Instead, to think about a friend that you could tell about these classes and offer to go with them. Arise, go to Nineveh. I would encourage you to do that. Think about it specifically now, in your situation. You also have a sheet in your bulletin about Serve 16, where we're seeking to recruit our children's workers for the next year. Are you glad for Pastor Garner? You realize we have one of the finest children's pastors you could imagine ... In fact, he just appeared, as if this sermon is anywhere near over.

I was going to say this when he wasn't here, but I'll say it now he's here, because I'm not going to change. He's one of the finest children's pastors in the country. I am so very, very ... That's true. Not just that. He helps our staff in incredible ways. He's a very gifted individual, could easily senior pastor anywhere in this country. Here's the thing. If you want God to give you resources like that, then you better follow their leadership. Was there anything unclear about that? If we want to reach the north end for Christ, part of that is ministering to the children who live in the north end. What I'm encouraging you to do, here it is. I'm encouraging you to be a three service Christian at Faith East, meaning you're going to a worship service in one of our hours, you're getting involved in an AVF, because you need those kind of relationships, and there may be a lot of mission opportunity there. Thirdly, you're signing up to serve in a children's ministry.

I realize that's a sacrifice. [singing 00:36:41] Is that what we were singing? What kind of lame Christianity do we want? I hope we would say, "If that's part of the mission God has given me, I'm on it. I'm not it." There's also a brochure in your bulletin about a new banquet that we're having for our counseling center. We've never done that before, but I want to encourage you to consider participating, meaning I'm encouraging you to come and consider giving. The reason is because the counseling center is the one that's taking on the responsibility both for the men's ministry and for our mission to Cuba, and Latin America. In order for them to do that, it's going to require more funding. Arise, go to Nineveh.

I would suggest to you this morning that when you choose not to be like Jonah, but instead accept the mission, there's great delight. You say, "Oh, prove it." I can prove it. You know what that is right there? That's a picture of a pastor in Cuba, and his wife. Do you know what is in front of him? The gifts that you sent to them. They just arrived and were distributed. Here's what this pastor said. He said, "We never thought we were gonna be ... " He's holding a little boy's shoe, by the way, for his son. "We never thought we were gonna be so blessed. We've been in the ministry for a few years now. We've always been praying that God would help us dress our son." They make $20 a month as pastors in Cuba. He said, "We can't stop laughing and crying out of emotion, joy, and thankfulness to God for His blessing."

Aren't you glad you participated in that? Is there anything you could have invested your money in that would be better than that? He also sent us that picture. You know what he's sitting in front of? A brand new computer that you provided, but more importantly, loaded with high powered Bible study software, and by the way, it's not internet-based. That's why it was so important for those computers to have such heavy memory, because all of that, hundreds of resources, searchable in the original language, is loaded on that computer. Here's what he said. "There's 20 leaders from our district coming to our theological training center in our church every week. We've had a very hard time preparing lessons we're teaching these leaders. Now, with this computer, it's a different story. We can't wait to have a [inaudible 00:39:02] software training next week, so we can serve more efficiently the people in our ministry and in our community."

Don't you love the fact that there's mission opportunities in Cuba? Aren't you glad for the people in this church, who when they were told, "Arise, go to Nineveh," what did they do? They rose, and they went to Nineveh. Thank you for doing that. Really, a lot of it comes down to how you feel about assignments that are tough. Everything I just enumerated, how do you feel about ministry assignments that are tough? It's like being in the army. The commander lines up the troops. He says, "I need somebody to deliver a message behind enemy lines." Are you the kind of person who steps forward, or who looks at your shoes?

Remember this. When God trusts us with assignments that are hard, He'll also give us the grace to accomplish them. Jeremiah 32:17. "Ah, Lord God, behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you." Jonah should've remembered that, and maybe people like you and me need to remember that, as we consider the mission that God has given us. Something else we need to see from this passage, that might explain why God sometimes gives us assignments that are hard. God loves and is concerned about people who are sinning, right?

III. God Loves and is Concerned about People who are Sinning

In Verse 2, you may have noticed the way God described Nineveh to Jonah. What did He call it? He called it that great city, and time doesn't allow us to look at that theme, but that goes all the way through the Bible.

For example, in Chapter 3, Verse 1. Again, it's the great city. In Chapter 3, Verse 3, it's the great city. Why is it that God continues to refer to Nineveh as this great city? Look right in the back of your Bible, or right in the back of the book of Jonah. Chapter 4, Verse 11. Here's why. "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, that great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who don't know the difference between their right hand and their left?" See, Nineveh was a great city in the mind of God because of the great number of people there. Were they sinful? Yes. Were they evil? Yes. Were they wicked? Yes. Did God want them wiped off the face of this earth? No. Did God hate every last thing about them? No. God wanted somebody to love them enough to carry a message of repentance and faith to them. God wanted them to repent and believe, so that He would not someday have to judge them.

Jeremiah 18. "At one moment, I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, to destroy. If that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I plan to bring on it." The point is, God loves and is concerned about people who are sinning. Let me pause and just ask you to consider some applications. I'm wondering about the person that may be here this morning who doesn't know Jesus as Savior and Lord, who doesn't have a personal relationship with God. I would just ask you, are you latching on to what we're learning about from this text? If you've been thinking, "Well, God hates me. I've messed up so bad. God can't use me. He just has his hammer of judgment over my head. He can't wait to bring it down."

Listen, I can prove you that that view is wrong with one word. Jesus. God sent His son to pay the price for your sin, so you would not have to. A God who would love the Ninevites, who is patient, and merciful, and loving with a city like Nineveh, will be patient, and merciful, and loving with a person like you. I would just ask you, isn't it time that you trusted Him? Isn't it time to have a personal relationship with Him? I want to invite you to do that today. Christian friend, what about the matter of loving those who might be dramatically different than you, or who might not have everything about their life together yet?

I received a delightful, delightful note this week from a pastor friend of mine over on the west side, Dan Teefey. Dan serves as the chair of the Board of Lafayette Transitional Housing Corporation, which is a secular organization that serves homelessness. He talked to me about a banquet they had Thursday. Listen to his. By the way, we were talking about something else, and he said, "We had an event last night for donors at one of LTHC's facilities." He said, "We had a young woman give her testimony about how Lafayette Transitional Housing has housed her and helped her get on her feet." Listen to this. "She spent a good deal of her talk, though, also telling everyone about how Faith Church and its Bible study at the facility has changed her life. God does wonderful things through the folks at Faith following Jesus."

Listen. I'm not nervous about preaching on Jonah, in part because there's a whole bunch of people who are unlike Jonah running around this church. I want you to know I'm so thankful for the men and women who were given a mission from God, and they're on it. If that's what God wants me to do, regardless of the challenge, I am on it. We all have to decide if we're going to joyfully and obediently participate in the mission that God has given.

IV. You Have to Decide if You Will Joyfully and Obediently Participate in the Mission God has Given You

You know this? I really believe this. Living with a mission is fun. Do you believe that? Following the mission together that God has given us, it's fun. It's fun.

You want one more pictorial proof of that? Here it is right here. You know who that is? Remember? That's Tina. Tina started 30 years ago at the seminary where I taught a few months ago, as the cook. She taught herself, taught herself in Cuba, she taught herself Hebrew. That seminary was taken twice by the communists, twice, and they came back one time when it was taken. The city made it to city dump, so they had to come back and clean up their seminary property, and start training students again, pastors from around the nation. I remember saying to Tina, I said, "Hey, Tina. Did you know they have computers now that have Bible study software in your language, in Spanish, where you could also access Greek and Hebrew, and study the Word of God, and have so many books loaded on it, you could cross reference them, but would that be helpful to you?"

Honestly, she looked at me as if I had come from a different planet. She's sitting there in front of the new computer that you provided, and next week, she's going to have training on that software. Here's what she said. "Do you have any idea what having a new laptop with programs that could help me teach biblical Greek in Hebrew? This is awesome. This is amazing." She said, "It's like having a dream cherished for many years come true today." Isn't that the kind of person you want to be? Bringing dreams, making them come true to marvelous people around the world. I thank you for your faithfulness. We had a situation. Arise, go to Nineveh, and a whole bunch of people around here said, "Well, I'm gonna arise and Nineveh if that's the mission God has for me. I'm on it."

Let's stand together for prayer, shall we? Father in Heaven, Lord, thank You for this story about Jonah. Lord, here's a man who was given a mission, and went the other one. Help us not to be like that guy. Lord, I pray through the power of Christ that we would joyfully embrace the mission You have given, hard or not. Father, I pray that this would not just be a sermon. Lord, I pray that every person here would make specific application to exactly where they are living. Would You help us do that, in Christ's name? Amen.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video