Jonah 4:4-11 - Misplaced Values - Misplaced Passio

Steve Viars March 7, 1998 Jonah 4:4-11

- This morning I’d like to begin our time, as I often do, by asking you a few questions.
1) What makes you the happiest?
- When you think back over this past week, or over the last couple of weeks...to the times when you were especially happy....what was it that made you happy?

2) On the other hand, what kinds of things make you most angry? (not that those two things are perfectly opposite....but it will become apparent in a bit why I would ask about these two in particular...)
- So when you think back over this past week, or the past couple of weeks....to the times when you were especially angry...what was it that made you angry?

- Now let’s push this another step....
- Do you agree that we make choices / decisions based on these evaluations....
1) If we believe something / someone will make us happy, we’re likely to pursue it....
- or to like it, to want it, to go after it
2) On the other hand, If we believe something / someone will make us angry.....
- we’re likely to avoid it, to dislike it, to not want it.

- so would you agree that ...a. We set up values.....and... b. We act on those values.
- I think we would all agree with that......

- Now here’s a haunting thought.....
- what if those values were wrong?

1) What if the things that really make me angry are things I shouldn’t be getting angry about?
2) What if the things that really make me happy are things that I shouldn’t be getting happy about?

- We’re talking about ----- Misplaced Values and Misplaced Passion.
- and how having these areas out of whack can severely limit a person’s effectiveness for God.

- Now, why do you think I would be raising this issue this morning?
- If you been able to be with us the last several weeks you probably already know the answer to this question.....

- I’m raising this issue, because that’s what’s about to happen to Jonah.
- let me invite you to open your Bible to Jonah chapter 4.

- Many of you know the next part of this discussion by heart....but let me repeat it for our friends who are new.
- This is not an easy book of the Bible to find.
- it’s the eighth book from the end of the OT.
- if you have trouble, your Bible has a table of contents that will tell you the exact page number on which Jonah is found.
- now, in order for all of us to understand the verses we’re about to study today, we need to know at least a little bit about what has transpired up to this point.
- I don't want to take too much time doing this....so let me give you a quick “Yes/No” quiz to walk us through the story line......
- If you know the story already, this will be the easiest quiz you’ve ever taken.....
- If you don’t, this should be a good way to quickly bring you up to speed....
1. Did God tell Jonah to go to Ninevah?
Yes.
- Jonah was a prophet of Israel and God wanted him to a city in a foreign nation and tell them to repent of their sin, and that forgiveness was available if they would place their faith and trust in the God of heaven and earth.
2. Did Jonah go?
No.
- Ninevah was in the country of Assyria, the Jews hated the Assyrians, so Jonah refused to do what God said.....instead he ran from God by heading south to the city of Joppa....boarding a ship heading to Tarshish, and paid the fare.
3. Did God allow Jonah to run from Him without consequences?
No.
- God “hurled a great wind on the sea”....so much so that the unsaved seamen on the ship came to Jonah and asked him if he knew why this calamity had fallen on them.
4. Did Jonah tell the men to throw him overboard?
Yes.
- He explained to them that he was a prophet of the true God of heaven and earth, and that he was running away from God....which totally shocked these unsaved seamen....and the way to stop the storm was to throw him overboard.
5. Did the men do it?
Yes.
6. Did the storm stop?
Yes.
7. Did this result in the unsaved seamen placing their faith in God?
Yes.
8. Did God make any provision for Jonah?
Yes.
- which was a fish, which swallowed him, and where he spent the next three days and nights.
9. Did Jonah repent in the belly of the fish?
Yes.
10. Did God forgive him?
Yes.
11. Did God give Jonah his job back?
Yes.
12. Did Jonah obey and go to Ninevah?
Yes.
13. Did the Ninevites repent?
Yes.
- the Bible says that amazingly, as Jonah went to this pagan city that was known for its ruthless treatment of other nations...that when Jonah told them that they had to repent of their sin and trust in the true God or that their city would be overthrown in 40 days.....
- that the whole city repented....from the king on down....
14. Did God forgive the Ninevites?
- Yes.
- God will forgive anyone, regardless of their past, if they will genuinely turn to Him.
15. Was Jonah happy that the Ninevites had repented, and that God had forgiven them?
- No.
- in fact the Bible says that he was angry....and he lashed out at God because He was willing to forgive these rotten pagans.....
- and the last words we studied from the mouth of our Lord went like this.....
- Jonah, do you have good reason to be angry?
- now, with that in mind....let’s read the next series of verses...READ 4:4-11.

- now, we need to have this new part of the story line in our minds....
- God had been willing to forgive the Ninevites when they repented and placed their faith in Him...
- Jonah responded to that by being angry......
- God’s question to Jonah was....Do you have good reason to be angry?
- We have no record of Jonah answering that question, which he very well may not have....instead he went out the outskirts of the city to see if maybe the Ninevites wouldn’t follow through on their repentance, and then maybe God wouldn’t follow through on his forgiveness, so that maybe he would get to see God’s judgment rain down on this city....and if that was going to happen.....you better believe he wanted a front row seat.
- so he goes out and builds a booth, a temporary shelter in the dessert outside the city.

- the problem is, sitting in a temporary shelter in the dessert is rather uncomfortable, so God, because he is a God of mercy and compassion, APPOINTED a plant to grow up over Jonah and provide him with shade.
- and the Bible says that this had a real emotional effect on Jonah....verse 6 says....”Jonah was extremely happy about the plant” / one translation reads /Jonah was deliriously happy.

- then God appointed a worm to attack the plant....to do to the plant what Jonah wanted God to do to the people.....
- and Jonah still didn’t get it.....so he became angry again, and depressed again....and he said to God, “Death is better to me than life....”
- and God again asks.....”Jonah, do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?”

- now, we’re going to stop at this point in the discussion....but here’s why these words are so important....
- we are listening in on God counseling someone.....
- on God patiently, and carefully, and skillfully, and lovingly trying to help one of His children to change.
- and listen, this opportunity is priceless......
- because here is one of God’s servants who is heading the wrong direction....
- he’s messing up in a big way.....
- and we get to hear God’s diagnosis......
- we’re learning not just the what, but the why.
- and since every one of us wants to be exactly the opposite of Jonah.....we want to make decisions that are right....
- we want to make choices that take us in the right direction.....
- that help us be faithful, and effective, and pleasing to God......
- we want to find out exactly what Jonah did wrong, so we can avoid it like the plague.
- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for three lessons we can learn from Jonah’s misplaced passions:

I. Often We Fail Because We Try to Change the Wrong Things.

- When we think about the story we just read.....[or one of the stories from your life you thought about when I asked you the questions I did in the introduction]....we could think about it in different ways.

- For example [on easel 2], we could talk about the events....or what the other people in the equation did.
- In this story, I’m thinking primarily of God’s willingness to forgive the people of Ninevah.
- God allowing the plant to grow to shade Jonah....
- God allowing the worm to eat the plant, etc.

- We could also talk about [on easel 4], your behavior...or the principle person in the story’s behavior.
- in this case, it would be Jonah going out to the outskirts of the city....
- Jonah speaking the way he did to the Lord.....
- Jonah building a booth to find shade from the sun, etc.

- We could also talk about [on easel 5] your emotions.....
- in this case, we’re talking about Jonah’s anger.....
- or Jonah’s happiness....”delirious happiness” as one writer put it....
- or his anger again....

- now, this first principle we need to see from these verses is....often times we fail in being what God wants us to be.....or doing what God wants us to do...or saying what God wants us to say......
- because we are trying to change the wrong thing.

- For example, had you been able to interview Jonah at any point during this story in chapter 4....and asked him....
- Jonah, what’s the problem?
- Jonah, what needs to change here?
- Jonah, everything would be OK if what happened?

- Which one of these three easels would Jonah have pointed to?
- number 2 [Events / Behavior of others]
- he would have said....the problem here is God.....
- the one who needs to change here is God.....
- He shouldn’t have been willing to forgive these wicked Ninevites.....
- he shouldn’t have let that worm eat MY plant....God is the One who is wrong....

- do you agree with me that we could have gotten Jonah into a passionate discourse about how wrong God was?....and how he was the problem....and how He’s the One that needed to change?
- yes, Jonah would have been passionate about that....and Jonah would have been passionately wrong.
- let’s look at this from a different perspective....
- when someone in our world today is having problems...which one of these easels is often going to be the one that gets addressed.....
- the emotions.....
- all the attention is focused on helping the person feel better.

- this person feels badly....let’s put something in their mouth to make them feel differently.

- they feel panic....we’ve got a drug for that.....
- the child can’t sit still...we’ve got a drug for that.....

- a less sophisticated form looks like this.....
- I’m going to do whatever I have to do to feet good......
- so a person drowns himself in alcohol.....
- or takes drugs.....
- or overeats.....
- or partakes in illicit sex or pornography......

- all of which are attempts to change the situation by changing the emotions.

- so in these first two scenarios.....there’s no question that there’s a problem....
- but the person will fail because they are trying to change the wrong things....

1) In number one.....all of the energy and horsepower is put into trying to change the circumstances, trying to change the events, trying to change the behavior of the other person....
- which in many cases is impossible.....
2) In number two....all of the energy and horsepower is put into trying to change the feelings, or the emotions.....
- which again, at least if we’re talking about change in any lasting way, is impossible.

- well, does that leave us with simply trying to change our behavior?
- for example, the parent who’s two children are fighting over a toy.....
- is the issue simply....change what they are doing?
- who had it first?
- Johhny, go get another toy......

- and does the fact that that kind of intervention has to be repeated over and over and over tell us that perhaps behavioral modification alone is not what God desires?

- and all of us have tried to change that way.....
- I’m never going to ______ again.....(examples)

- some of us too often end up like Jonah.....where we’re not accomplishing what God wants us to accomplish......
- we are not being productive servants....

- because we’re working overtime trying to change the wrong things.....
- and I imagine that most of us wouldn’t have to go back too far to think about examples of how we put way too much horsepower into trying to change one of these things alone.
- now, that brings us to the second key principle that flows out of this text:


II. God Wants Us to Let Our Emotions Reveal the Condition of Our Hearts.

- What was the key question God asked Jonah repeatedly in this text?
- Do you have good reason to be angry?

1) Not --- “Stop being angry” ---- try to change the emotion.....
2) Not even --- “Stop the behavior associated with anger” --- try to change the behavior alone
3) Not --- “Your anger is OK because of the difficult circumstances you’re facing” --- so try to alter the circumstances.

- no, let these emotions reveal the condition of your heart.

- now, did you notice that there are two empty easels/
- why is that?
- its because there’s at least two more components of this equation......

- here’s what they are.......
1) [Easel 1] Your core values.....your core beliefs.......the things that are most important to you....
- what you prize, or cherish, or love the most.

2) [Easel 3] These values, then, “fuel” or “drive” your thoughts or interpretation of events.

- the proof is that people do not respond to the same exact event in the same way.
- true ---- are people robots / machines....where everyone responds to the same event in the exact same way?

- let me try to illustrate that.....
- let’s say that you’re involved in management......
- and you have two employees who are making the identical mistake on their jobs.
- and you have known each of them for the same period of time....
- you have the exact same kind of relationship with each of them....

- so it comes time to talk to them....to confront them about the area of their job performance that they need to work on.
- now, since you want to be sensitive, you choose to confront them separately in your office.
- and you think through carefully what you’re going to say....and how you ought to say it...you take time to pray about the situations....you actually write out the essence of what you’re going to communicate.

- now, you bring each employee in separately....and you confront them both the exact same way......
- are you guaranteed, then, that their response will be the same?
- we’ve controlled number 2 (events---in this illustration your confrontation of them)
- does that then guarantee that their behavior---what they’re about to say to you.....
- and their emotions-----how they’re going to feel about the confrontation will be identical?
- what’s the answer --- no, of course not.
- then what’s the big unknown?
- the big unknown is.....how they are going to think about what you’re saying to them....
- how they are going to interpret////mentally process the event.

- and what’s that dependent on?
- their core values or beliefs.

- see, the employee who’s core values are things like.....
- I want to be the best employee I can be.....
- I value people who are honest with me.....
- I know I’m not perfect yet and I can be helped with constructive criticism......

- that kind of person is going to respond positively to the confrontation.....

- but the employee who’s core values are things like.....
- I want everybody in my life to conclude I’m perfect....
- I work harder than anyone else around here and everybody better acknowledge that....
- Being confronted is the worst, most painful thing in the world....

- well, it doesn’t matter what words this boss uses....it doesn’t matter how kind he tries to be....or how patient......
- this person is going to pout, or blow up, or become defensive.....

- and you can bet that this person is going to leave the office being upset at whom?
- the boss.....
- and being critical of whom?.....the boss.

- a person like this will never get any better until they stop trying to change their circumstances, or change their emotions alone, or even their behavior alone.....
- Jonah, do you have good reason to be angry?

- in other words, Jonah, there is something wrong with your heart.

- that’s why Proverbs 4:23 says -- Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

- here’s another way of thinking about this principle.....
- let’s say that this cup is filled with water.....and I knock the glass causing the water to spill.....
- why is there water on the floor?

- because of the knock?
- no, there is water on the floor, because there was water in the cup.....
- had there been orange juice in the cup, there would be orange juice on the floor.

- God wants us, just like He wanted Jonah, to let our emotions reveal the condition of our hearts.

- now, if you’re tracking with all of this....a good question to be asking about now is....
- well, what should my core values, or core beliefs be?
- well, before we answer that question, let’s ask a different one....
- what were Jonah’s?
1) I must have a God who does things my way.....
- when everyone in my life does things my way, then I’ll be happy....
- and if they don’t, they I have a right to explode......
- that’s pride, isn’t it?
- yet how much of our anger finds it root in the sin of pride.

2) What does the happiness reveal about Jonah’s heart?
- I value personal comfort......
- I value ease, I value my needs being met.....
- Jonah got deliriously happy over a plant that kept the sun off of him, so he could comfortably watch a city be judged by God.
- Jonah’s values were either sinful....or shallow.

- now back to our question.....what should my core values / core beliefs be/
- there’s not only one right answer to this......
- but here’s some good ways to start.....
1) The glory of God......
- whether therefore, you eat, or drink, or whatsoever.....(I Cor. 10:31)
- the chief aim of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

2) Another truth you could add to this is.....
- Growing Christlikeness....
- I want to become more like Jesus Christ....and if it takes some difficult events brought into my life in order to motivate me the most to become more like Christ....then bring those difficult events on.

3) Ministry to others.....
- personal pleasure and ease take a distant second to ministry to someone else.

- see, if you want to be a productive servant of God, unlike Jonah....then you have to do business with what is going on in your heart.

- let me try to illustrate this with something that happened to me recently.
- you know that financial planners encourage you from time to time to contact the Social Security administration and get an estimate of what your Social Security benefit look like when you retire....just as part of your overall strategy for retirement planning.
- I did that recently...its free....and I was curious about what that might look like thirty years from now in my life.
- I filled out the form...and several weeks later, I got the report...which was a total shock....
- now I probably need to preface this with telling you that pastors are a little bit touchy about social security to begin with....because we are considered self-employed for purposes of social security....
- which means we pay our taxes quarterly and we are required to pay 15.3% of our gross income directly to Social security, right off the top, with no deductions allowed.
- so we pay thousands of dollars every year to the IRS for Social Security, on the assumption that they would take the first few dollars we send them and pay a competent clerk to carefully enter the four payments we make each year into a computer.
- so, I got my statement....for some years that we’ve been here in Lafayette, the Social Security Administration has no record that I earned any income....or that I paid any taxes.
- Other years, they show me making far more income than I make...and having paid far more taxes than I paid.

- do you see, that my response to that situation is going to reveal how important bringing glory to God is in my heart?
- and how important me taking steps to become more like Jesus Christ is in my heart....
- and how important being a testimony to someone else is going to be in my heart....

- Jonah, do have good reason to be angry?
- Guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life.
- out of the \abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

[could develop -- counselee -- Pam - good week....my husband was unfaithful to me]

- now, I need to ask you a couple of key questions at this point.
1) What does your anger reveal about your core values?
- Is Jonah the only person in this auditorium who needs to hear the question....Do you have good reason to be angry?
- Is Jonah the only person who needs to let the way he handles his anger reveal things that need to change in his heart?

- or would you need to say to the Lord, in the quietness of this moment...Father, please forgive me for not carefully guarding my heart.
- I’ve been trying to change everyone else. or trying to change emotions, or trying to change behavior alone.....I need to give more careful attention to my heart.

2) Let’s turn it around....What does your happiness reveal about your core values?
- What can we learn from this plant Jonah got deliriously happy about?

- Some of our happiness doesn’t necessarily reveal hearts that are sinful, as much as it reveals hearts that are shallow.

- Is it wrong to be happy when your team wins the ball-game?
- No....but if that’s what makes you happiest....there’s something deficient about your heart.

- Is it wrong to be happy when I enjoy a great meal.....of course not....but if that’s the bright spot in your day...what’s that say about your heart/

- Is it wrong to be happy about the stock market hitting another high?
- No, but is that the best things you’ve got going?

- one writer said of Jonah....Its the choice between guards, or souls.

- Pastor Dutton was telling me about someone who gave a testimony in their evangelism class Wednesday evening.
- the assignment the previous week was to ask someone what their purpose in life was.
- so this class-member asked a co-worker that question....and the person broke down crying....I’m such and such years old...and I don’t know.

- and this class-member was reporting how glad he was, with tears now in his eyes, for the privilege of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
- if we cultivate our heart with godly values...it is going to have a significant effect on what thrills us, and what upsets us.

- let’s conclude this morning with this third principle.....


III. Takes Steps to Cultivate Your Heart

A. By being sure you’re saved.

- friend, the kind of lifestyle we’re talking about this morning is only possible through knowing Jesus Christ.
- when a person repents of his sin and trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, he is given a new heart.....
- that’s the only way to live the way we’re studying this morning.

B. By asking the right questions of your emotions.

- the question God asked Jonah is one we can ask ourselves.
- why am I getting angry?
- what makes me happy?
- does this reveal a heart that is sinful...a heart that is shallow?
- or a heart that is well-tended?

C. By filling your heart with the Word of God.

- In Proverbs 4:4 God says "Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.

D. By cultivating godly friendships.....

- your companions will have an incredible impact on your core values......
- Proverbs 13:20 - He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.

E. By listening to godly music.

- you can’t fill your heart with worldly values all day and expect your heart to spew out anything other than .... worldly values.

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