Jonah 4:1-4 - The Importance of Consistency

Steve Viars February 28, 1998 Jonah 4:1-4

- On February 7, a 14 year old young man named Jeff Thornton went snowboarding in the San Gabriel mountains of California.
- Coming down the mountain, he was separated from his uncle in a fog that preceded a storm later that day.
- Apparently he went off the steep ski slope and was unable to climb back up.
- Over the next several days, three feet of snow fell over the rugged terrain, and the winds topped 70 miles per hour.
- Jeff had no food and huddled by a creek where he drank water to try to stay alive.

- The famous Sierra Search and Rescue team was called in, and at the height of the search, had 120 rescuers, 2 helicopters, and 2 rescue dogs...looking for Jeff.
- As the days went by, hopes for his rescue faded and the search was scaled back.
- Six days later, two of the team members followed footprints in the snow and found Jeff alive.
- A spokesperson from the Los Angeles Police Department reported that Jeff was “hungry, tired, and cold” but otherwise in good shape.
- A spokesperson from the Ski Resort said “It will be a made-for TV movie, for sure.”

- You can imagine the relief and excitement his family and friends felt when the rescuers reported that Jeff had been found.
- He was rushed to the Loma Linda University Medical Center where he was treated for frostbite, dehydration, and some other injuries he suffered during the fall....but the doctors were cautiously optimistic that his chances for recovery were good.
- I wish that was the end of the story----but several days later, Jeff developed difficulty breathing.....and went into Cardiac arrest.
- He died last Saturday, February 21st.

- Can you imagine how that must have impacted his family and friends...when things looked so hopeless when he was lost.....
- then seemed to be going so well when he was found.....
- and then everything took a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse?

- Do you know that that same thing happens to people spiritually?
- Things were going very badly in their life.....
- they were dead in trespasses and sins and those sins had brought all sorts of pain and heartache to themselves and those around them....
- and then they appeared to have made a decision for Christ......at least they said they did
- and there’s even what appears to be some spiritual growth....
- a few things start to change.....
- and you expect that to continue.....you expect them to keep getting better.....
- But then the situation takes a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse....
- in a “mild case”, the person stops growing...and becomes stagnant in their relationship with Christ.....
- in a more severe case, the person drops out of sight, they’re no longer in church, they may even renounce Christ and go back to their own lifestyle.....


- We’re talking about people who don’t persevere....
- They don’t follow through on their commitment....
- either they were never genuinely saved to begin with......
- or they certainly aren’t making the progress God wants them to be making in their Christian life today......
- they have taken a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse.
- You might ask----Why are you raising this subject this morning, PV?
- I almost hate to answer that question.....
- but that’s what’s about to happen to Jonah.

- please open your Bible to Jonah chapter 4.
- we’re in our seventh week of studying this book.

- I’m about to repeat a little speech that people who have been with us through the whole study probably know by heart.
- Jonah is not an easy book to find
- the eighth book from the end of the OT
- if you need to look up the location in your Table of Contents, please feel free to do so.

- I think its important that we give the basic story line for those who are new to the study....because we want to be sure that everyone is able to interact with the text in a way that helps you understand what the Bible is saying and specifically how to apply it to your life today.
- I’ve been trying to do that in different ways for variety’s sake...
- This morning, I’d like to attempt the two minute Reader’s digest condensed version.....
- Do you think I can tell the story of the first three chapters of the book of Jonah in two minutes or less?

- please set your watches.....
- Jonah was a prophet in Israel....
- God came to him in chapter 1 and said, Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it---because their wickedness has come up before me.
- Jonah didn’t like that idea....because Ninevah was in the country of Assyria....and the Assyrians and Jews were enemies.
- so instead of obeying God, Jonah ran from him.
- he headed south to Joppa, boarded a ship to Tarshish, and paid the fare.

- God was too loving to allow one of His children to run from Him, so he sent a storm to the place where Jonah’s ship was.
- of course the storm not just affected Jonah, but all the unsaved sailors on the ship....
- so they came and asked Jonah if he knew why this storm was happening....
- Jonah finally admitted that he was a prophet of the real God, the God of heaven and earth...and that he was running from God....and that the storm could be stilled if they would throw him overboard.

- They eventually did that...and the sea was stilled, the sailors repented and believed in God.....
- Jonah went down in the sea, where he was swallowed by a great fish God prepared for him....and spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.....
- finally he came to his senses....repented of his sin, asked God’s forgiveness....
- God forgave him....had the fish vomit Jonah up on dry ground....and even gave Jonah his job back.
- this time Jonah obeyed....he went to this wicked city....told the people about God and their need to repent of their wickedness.....
- and the whole city, from the king on down, repented in sackcloth and ashes....asking God to forgive them, which He did.

- that brings us to chapter 4, where we would expect Jonah to be nothing but ecstatic.
- God had done from the Ninevites in chapter 3 what He had done for Jonah in chapter 2.
- they had each repented....they had each experience the mercy and blessing and forgiveness of God.
- you would expect Jonah to be worshipping God for His kindness and compassion....
- in short...you would expect Jonah to finally start living.....
- to finally start heading in the right direction....
- to start building some right habits....to add some more good choices to the few he’s already made....
- in fact, you really expect this....you expect Him to say --- Lord, can I now go back and tell my own people Israel about your mercy, about what has happened to me and what has happened to the Assyrians, in hopes that Israel will repent as well.

- you expect Jonah to get better....but he’s about to take a terrible turn for the worse.
- read Jonah 4:1-4

- This morning I’d like us to think about three truths we need to know and apply if we want to have consistency in our walk with Christ.
- The first one is this:


I. Understand That Success One Day Does Not Guarantee Success The Next.


- Any person who reading Jonah chapter 4 for the first time would be absolutely shocked.
- And that’s exactly how the writer wants this to impact us.
- I. Understand That Success One Day Does Not Guarantee Success The Next.

- Now, had Jonah made a couple of good decisions?....Yes.
- It was great that he was willing to repent in the belly of the fish....
- It was great that he was willing to obey God and go to Ninevah....
- But friends, there’s a big difference between a couple of good choices, and a lifestyle/lifetime of good choices.

- God is not looking for quarter-milers....He’s looking for marathoners.
- He looking for people who are seeking to build habits of consistency.
- he’s looking for people who are in for the long-haul.
- As Paul said in I Cor. 4:2 --- It is required in stewards that a man be found....faithful.

- Now we need to pull over here and park for a few moments.
- what we’re seeing in this section of the book of Jonah is critical to our walk with Christ.
- now you might say---Why?
- Why is committing ourselves to growth and service for the long haul such an important component of our relationship with Christ?
- Why is what we’re seeing in the life of Jonah....this “up and down-ness” so bad...something we want to avoid at all costs?
- here’s the answer ---- because of the power of habits.
- you say, what does that have to do with Jonah?
- Jonah had made a couple of good choices...but he hadn’t come close to breaking a lot of his bad habits.

- let’s talk about this.....
- God has created human beings with the wonderful capacity to build habits.....
- “Habit” - the capacity to learn to respond unconsciously, automatically, and comfortably.

- you say -- why is that wonderful?
- Because we’re able to get a whole lot more done in a day because we don’t have to consciously think through every step.
- Most of what you did in going from waking up this morning...to getting to church (on time I’m sure) was done habitually.....
- did you consciously think through how to button your shirt....how to put on your shoes.....its all done by habits....a wonderful blessing of God.

- now, like every other blessing God has given us, as unredeemed people we used that capacity sinfully.
- so as unsaved people we were habituated to sin.
- Jeremiah 13:23 says it this way.....”You were accustomed to doing evil....”
- would there be anyone who would want to argue with that fact?
- some of us could cuss like sailors, huh?
- it was habitual.....

- some of us would lie like the rug.....and just on and on.....
- we were habituated to doing evil....

- well, what happens when a person comes to know Christ?
- Are all of those habits washed away?
- do we start over with regards to habits?....... Not at all.

- now, you might say, well, what is true about a believer and his habits?
- let me give four quick answers to that question......

1) You’re no longer enslaved to them.
- That’s an important theme in Romans chapter 6...... where Paul said - But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. [verses 17-18]

- so one of the great things about coming to Christ is that you no longer are enslaved to those sinful habits.
- by the way, if you’ve never come to know Jesus Christ.....we want to invite you to do that today.
- its impossible to have the kind of consistency in life that we are talking about without first becoming a Christian....without first repenting of your sin and asking Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord.

- now, a second answer to this question about a believer and his habits is....
2) You now have the Word of God that can help you build right habits.
- remember what II Timothy 3:16-17 says about the power of the Word of God.....
- All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.....and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (what’s right, wrong, how to get right, how to stay right)
- God’s Word is designed to both help you break sinful habits....to put them off
- but to also put right habits on in their place.....

3) A third piece of this puzzle is found in I Timothy 4:7....and I’d like us to take the time to turn to that passage this morning.....
- please keep your hand in Jonah because we’ll be back there....
- but here’s a critical verse that helps us understand how to build habits of consistency....
- READ I Timothy 4:7

- what’s the point --- you’ve got to work at it.
- if you want to be a person who’s consistently pleasing God....who’s consistently growing....who’s consistently heading the right direction....
- you’ve got to work at it.....

- and I’ realize that we have people all over the scale here this morning....
- some will say...PV, I’ve been in church two Sundays in a row...for the first time in my life...
- great!....that’s a great start....now work at making it three....

- some will say....PV, I’ve been faithful in God’s house 25 years....
- great, God wants you to work at making it 26.

- see, exercise yourselves to godliness.
- we saw graphic examples of that during the winter Olympics.....
- how do those skaters do that?
- how do those skiers do that?
- how do those sledders do that?

- the answer....they’ve trained and trained and trained....
- and worked and worked and worked....and practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced....
- and exercised and exercised and exercised.....until solid habits have been built....

- not like Jonah...a couple of good days and then he quits.....
- no, solid habits.... the capacity to learn to respond unconsciously, automatically, and comfortably.

- now one more answer to this question about the relationship of believers and habits...
4) If you don't do what we’re talking about this morning as a believer in Jesus Christ....the bad news is....the struggle is going to get worse.
- you say --- worse, how could it get this worse?
- let’s let Ephesians 4:22 help us....for sake of time I’ll just quote it....
- Ephesians 4:22 - that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
- what’s the point of that?
- this residual of sinful habits we bring into the Christian life is not a stagnant pond I can drain whenever I choose....
- If I’m not aggressively seeking to grow....as I believer I can actually be adding more bad habits to the heap.
- which is going to make it harder to be consistent for God if I ever choose to try.

- now, what’s the overall point so far?.....Don’t be like Jonah.
- I. Understand That Success One Day Does Not Guarantee Success The Next.
- its not enough to make a couple of good choices on a couple of good days....
- God wants people who are marathoners.

- Now you might ask this.....does it ever get easier?
- what’s the answer to that question?

- Yes...and no.
- it gets easier in that the longer you build a right habit in a particular area, the easier in it to automatically respond properly in that area.
- so there are a number of people here this morning who would say....you know, I really used to struggle with alcohol in the past....that’s not an issue with me any more.
- or, my spouse and I used to really get into it before....now I think he’s kind-of cute.
- I’d kind-of like to give him a little kiss right now.....

- that’s the “yes” part of the question --- does it get any easier.
- the “no” part is --- the more you grow in holiness, the better you come to know Jesus Christ....
- the better you know Jesus Christ....the more you see additional ways you need to grow and habits you need to break....
- so we’re talking about a lifetime of growth and change...resulting in more and more habits of faithful living.

- that’s why we read verses like Hebrews 5:14 - Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

- you might ask -- well, what would the implication of all of this been to OT Israel.
- well, we’ve seen all through the study that what Jonah was doing as a person, Israel was doing as a nation.
- and one of the best phrases to describe their history was....On again, off again....on again, off again.....there was no consistency in the way they lived.

- what about you and me?
- the obvious application screams out of the text, doesn’t it?
- Are you building habits of consistency in your walk with God?

- I am convinced, my friends, that there are some folks in our church who especially need to hear this......
- they’re on again, off again....on again, off again.
- they start and stop...start and stop.....
- but there’s not the kind of growing consistency that God wants.....

- Is there a particular area in your life where that is especially true?
- If so, I would encourage you to drive a stake in the ground.....and say to God that with His help....you intend this year to take solid steps toward building right habits in that area....
- Lord, my attendance at church has been sporadic....but that’s going to change....
- my prayer life has been sporadic....I’m going to build better habits....
- I need to do a better job of controlling this tongue.....this year I’m going to do it.
- I’ve thought about getting some counseling help a hundred times and I’ve never done it.
- Whatever it might be, God wants us to be building habits of faithfulness, habits of obedience.

- now, there’s a second principle that flows out of this text that really explains Jonah’s lack of consistency, and its this....


II. Deal as Completely as You Can With the Issue of Who’s Going to be God.

- Jonah explains to us in these verses what’s been going on in his heart.
- do you see it in verse 2?  (pick it up at “Please, Lord....through the end of the verse)

- see, what do those words tell us about Jonah’s heart?
- he still is not willing to let God be God.
- after all the miraculous things he has seen God do in this book....
- he still wants to be in charge....
- he still wants to be the judge....
- he still wants to call the shots....

- and a challenging thing was....it wasn’t a matter of Jonah not knowing what God was like....it was a matter of Jonah not approving of what God was like.
- and the net effect of that is what we read in verse 3....
- Just take my life.....
- God isn’t doing things the way I want them done.....
- so instead of entertaining the thought that maybe I’m wrong and He’s right....
- that I need to change and He doesn’t....
- instead Jonah starts the pity party.....
- poor me....I’m going to pout.....I’m going to stub up....I didn’t get my way so I’m taking my ministry ball and going home.

- and the very important implication of that to what we’re studying this morning is --- you’ll never develop habits of consistency in your walk with Christ unless you have dealt decisively with the matter of who your Lord is going to be.

- you know, that’s what transformed the disciples.....when they became convinced that Jesus Christ was truly the resurrected Lord.
- until then, they were petty, and unpredictable....
- they were fighting over who would be in charge when Jesus was gone....
- they all denied Him and ran....
- they wouldn’t believe the story the ladies told when they came back and reported that the tomb was empty....

- but after they became convinced that Jesus Christ was alive....that He was the their true Lord...they were transformed into a force that was soon after accused by the secular officials of turning the world upside down.
- there is a direct correlation between Lordship and consistency.
- There are people here this morning who will be here next Sunday, and the Sunday after that....
- and short of some illness, or something else that might occasionally take them away....every Sunday they’re in God’s house worshipping Him, and serving Him, and singing about Him, and learning about Him?
- why?...because He’s their Lord.
- He’s in charge.....He’s running the show....Its His day.
- they don’t have to make a decision about that....do you want to go to church tomorrow Ethel?...well, what’s on Meet the Press?

- there’s folks here who are committed to integrity in the workplace....they work hard day after day...they can be trusted...they’re consistent....you can count on them....why?
- Because Jesus is their Lord.

- and we could walk down through all the spiritual disciplines....
- consistency in prayer, consistency in the Scriptures, consistency in witnessing, consistency in their marriage, consistency in friendships....and on and on and on...
- the exact opposite of what we’re seeing in Jonah....

- why....because they’re not still trying to haggle around with whether God is really qualified for Hod position.

- Those of you who have been here for a while have heard me say this many times but I was helped greatly by a plaque that said....
- you need to remember two things....
1) There is a God....
2) and you’re not Him.

- Can I ask you this morning....Does the amount of consistency you posses in your Christian life reveal a firm commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?

- now, a third principle that flows out of this text is.....


III. Let God’s Mercy to You Impact Your Mercy to Others.

- you think about what’s transpiring in this story, and you want to look at Jonah and say....
- you ingrate.....
- if God did not possess the very qualities you’re criticizing Him for, you’d be at the bottom of the sea.
- why are you jealous of God doing for the Ninevites what He also did for you?

- Jonah, If you have not been impacted now by God’s mercy and grace in your life, I don't know what its going to take.

- we want to say that to Jonah.....but its not long before we stop thinking of him, and start thinking of.....us.
- we have an instrument of salvation that was even more meaningful than Jonah’s.


- its called --- the cross....
- its called ---- the crown of thorns....
- its called --- the mocking, and the spitting....
- its called --- the nails....
- it’s called --- the blood....
- its called --- darkness falling on the face of the earth...
- its called --- Jesus Christ crying out, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?...
- it’s called --- the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ....
- its called --- the veil of temple being rent in two....
- its called --- the empty tomb....
- its called --- the Risen Savior....
- its called --- the free gift of salvation to all who will repent and believe....
- its called --- God has made Him, who knew no sin, TO BE SIN FOR US, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

- that kind of gift....that kind of Savior.....that kind of LORD.....is worthy of growing consistency.

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 they have three children. 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 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