Redemption in the Midst of Rebellion

Trey Garner April 17, 2016 Jonah 1:10-17

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3 ways that our Redeemer God works in the midst of rebellion

I. Our Redeemer God Pursues His Servants Even in Rebellion

A. God pursues in circumstances

Jonah 1:12 - I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.

B. God pursues using unexpected people

Jonah 1:6 - So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god.”

Jonah 1:8 - Then they (the sailors) said to him, “Tell us NOW!”

C. God pursues by refusing to let others rescue us

Jonah 1:12-13 - He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.

D. God pursues by providing His way of escape

Jonah 1:17 - And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

II. Our Redeemer God is Patient with His Servants Even in Rebellion

A. God is patient by offering numerous opportunities for change

B. God is patient by using unlikely characters to care about us

III. Our Redeemer God Rescues and Saves in Spite of Rebellion

A. God uses Jonah’s testimony despite the fact that his words and his actions did not match

1 Corinthians 8:4 - Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.

Jonah 1:14 - Then they called on the Lord and said, “We earnestly pray, O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased.”

Philippians 1:15-18 - Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

B. God helps the sailors fear and worship the Lord

Jonah 1:15-16 - So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

Take Aways

1. Rejoice that you serve a God who pursues, exercises patience, and rescues us in the midst of our rebellion.

2. Express your love toward the Lord for having such a loving character.

3. Emulate Christ’s pursuit and patience toward one another.

Manuscript

As we begin our time of study in God’s word this morning, let me invite you to turn to Jonah chapter 1, Jonah chapter 1. That's found on page 657 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you, 657. As you're turning there I want to provide some context for this morning study. Now last Sunday that was a hard-hitting, no holds barred look at the depth of the rebellion in Jonah’s heart. As we studied the text it was clear that he had become hardhearted. That rebellion in turn led Jonah to develop a hardness of heart toward his circumstances, toward the others who were suffering as a result of his actions toward the Lord himself, even toward his own spiritual condition.

That's a far cry from our annual theme this year which is Loving our World and as we thought about Jonah, we could see the call to repent. It was a call to give up our own rebellion, it was a warning to end the destructive path that rebellion so often takes. Some have argued that every sermon is able to emphasize the character of God, it's able to emphasize man’s responsibility or the pattern of salvation in history. While all those are in play in many sermons, last Sunday emphasized almost exclusively our responsibility. I hope that you have taken steps in the intervening week here that you've needed to take listening to the voice of God rather than trying to ignore what he wants to do in your life. If you haven’t done that yet the good news is there’s still time. I want to urge you to do that today.

Now, thankfully Jonah is not the only person in this story. I want to suggest to you that the Lord is active and involved in every aspect of this story. This Sunday our focus is going to shift from man’s responsibility to the character of God. This morning we’re thinking about redemption in the midst of rebellion, redemption in the midst of rebellion. While Jonah is rebelling God is working. While Jonah doesn’t care God does care. While Jonah is more concerned about running from the Lord the Lord is concerned about the people of the world. I hope this Sunday results in us loving the Lord more, appreciating Christ in our hearts and being thankful for a God who works redemption even in the midst of rebellion.

Now to get us thinking along these lines I'd like us to take an intellectual journey through a portion of the Old Testament. I want to pick up the scene in Egypt. Now the Israelites are nearing the end of about 400 years of slavery and then Moses appears on the scene, after being isolated from Egypt and from his people for 40 years of desert wandering. He explains to the Israelites that God has sent him to deliver Israel from their bondage. According to Exodus chapter 4 verse 31 the people bowed low, they worship the Lord. "Finally," they thought, "The Lord has seen our affliction and he’s going to act on our behalf," but when the first appeal for deliverance is made to Pharaoh, Pharaoh decides that not only is he not going to let people go but he’s going to give them no straw to make their tally of bricks which was a really big deal.

The people then respond to Moses, the deliverer for whom they had been waiting for 400 years and they say, may the Lord look upon you and judge you. Sounds like they are really glad to have him there doesn't it? They evidence a heart of rebellion. God then miraculously brings 10 plagues and delivers his people from the Egyptians. In other words God was working in the midst of his people’s rebellion. That happens in the year 1445 BC. Then, after this final plague when Pharaoh finally relents and lets the people go, the people began their march away from Egypt only to be trapped between the sea on one side and Pharaoh’s Army on the other side.

Even though God had demonstrated his ability and his plan to powerfully deliver his people, they rebelliously complained again, saying to Moses, "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? It would’ve been better for us to serve the Egyptians than for us to die in the wilderness." Despite their rebellious complaints, God delivers them again and defeats the Army of Pharaoh at the same time. Then s the people begin their journey away from Egypt they can’t find food, they can’t find water. Well that leads to more complaining, more rebellion. Again God delivers them by providing both food and water. Then people make a golden calf and begin to worship the calf as if it was the calf that had delivered them from Egypt and God continues to faithfully lead them.

In fact by the end of the book of Exodus, God fills the tabernacle with His presence. Incidentally there is a life-sized model of the tabernacle in our gymnasium this morning that Jan and Jack Faker to our Faithful Children’s Ministry leaders have constructed over there to help the Bible come alive to our first and second graders. If you have the opportunity I want to encourage you to take a look at that. I think it will be an encouragement to your hearts, but God is faithful, even in the midst of his people’s rebellion.

A few months later, the Israelites they send spies into the land of Israel, but rather than follow Joshua and Caleb who encourage them to pursue the Lord and to take up his call, the people rebel. God, faithful in spite of the rebellion of the people he works to raise up a generation that would serve him and he brings the people into the promised land. Then what happens? Remember the judges? How the people rebelled against the Lord time and time again and how God repeatedly raised up judges to deliver his people from the oppression of the other peoples in the land? Then what about the kings of Israel?

God sent prophet after prophet who judged His people to repent as king after wicked king led the people into greater idolatry and rebellion. As you read the Old Testament, one of the points that we see most clearly is just how gracious, how compassionate, how slow to anger and how forgiving our Lord really is. Even when his people rebel he brings redemption. Now Prophet Jonah, he lives around 775 BC. That means Exodus happen roughly 650 years earlier than Jonah and throughout those 650 years, the Israelites had seen many evidences of the Lord's redemption in spite of their rebellion. That’s exactly what we find in Jonah chapter 1. Yes, Jonah was rebellious and we need to make sure that we guard our own hearts so that we don’t become like him, but as we're reading this text we have the opportunity to see a God who's really good at redemption in the midst of rebellion.

He's had 650 years of practice with the nation of Israel, so with that in mind let’s turn our attention to this morning’s text. Let’s look at Jonah chapter 1 and we're going to begin in verse 1. Here's what the word of the Lord says, says 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 Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, so he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them, but Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen asleep. The captain approached him and saying, "How is that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your God. Perhaps your God will be concerned about us so that we will not perish." Each man said to his mate, "Come, let us cast lots so that we may learn on whose account this calamity is struck us. They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.

Then they said to him, "Tell us now on whose account has this calamity struck us, what's your occupation, where do you come from, what's your country and from what people are you?" He said to them, "I’m a Hebrew and I fear the Lord, God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land." Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, "How could you do this?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord because he'd told them. They said to him, "What shall we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?" For the sea was becoming increasingly stormy, and he said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea, then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me the great storm has come upon you."

However the men rode desperately to return to land but they could not for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. Then they called on the Lord and said, "We earnestly pray oh Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us for you oh Lord have done as you have pleased," so they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the Lord greatly and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish 3 days and 3 nights.

Now from this passage I believe that we can find 3 ways that our redeemer God works in the midst of rebellion. The first way is that our redeemer God pursues his servants even in rebellion.

I. Our Redeemer God Pursues His Servants Even in Rebellion

Now last week we looked at this from the perspective of Jonah. In verse 4 we read, the Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so the ship was about to break up. It was as if God through the storm was trying to get Jonah’s attention with a gentle, "Jonah? Jonah? Jonah?" but Jonah was unstirred. Then in verse 6 it says that the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you're sleeping? Get up and call on your God. Perhaps your God will be concerned about us that we will not perish." God used the captain to take things to another level.

He was like "Jonah, dude get up." Still Jonah was unmoved and then in verse 8, the sailors had finally had enough. They said to him, "Tell us now, on whose account has his calamity struck? What is your occupation, where do you come from, what is your country, from what people-" I mean it's like they’re interrogating him right? They're done playing around. This week, we're going to cover the same material along with the additional text from verses 10 through 17 but we're covering it thinking about God’s perspective. As I discussed each point, there ought to be a growing sense of thankfulness in our hearts that the Lord behaves like this to us as well. In other words as we make our way through this text, your heart ought to say thank you Lord for loving me, for being compassionate to me, for pursuing me even when I didn’t want you to.

In Jonah 1 we read a rather important phrase, the phrase is from the presence of the Lord. Literally in Hebrew this phrase means from before the face of the Lord. Jonah was trying to run from the Lord to a place where God could not see him and rather than let Jonah run, the Lord pursues him. The passage teaches us that God pursues us in our circumstances. The two most obvious circumstances are the storm and the casting of lots or as Pastor Green called the game of go-fish. The text tells us that Jonah is well aware that the storm is for him. Verse 12 says I know that on account of me this great storm is come upon you.

Now what catches my attention this time around is the redeemer God who pursues Jonah. Jonah may have believed that this plan would work. He may have been like, "Hey, if I just go to the other side of the world then God will just have to assign another person to go and preach to Nineveh. I mean know that if you’re not a good steward of the ministry opportunities that God gives you then he’ll likely give those opportunities to someone else and I'm just going to be a really bad steward. I mean after all the Lord has a bunch of other prophets, what about Amos or Hosea? I mean these guys would love that opportunity but that’s not what God has in mind. No, instead God pursues him, God even allows the casting of lots to show the crew that what Jonah and the Lord already knew. Namely that Jonah was the problem and that the Lord is pursuing him.

When you focus on the Lord’s perspective in this text you see a gracious and compassionate God working to get his child's attention. We also see that God pursues us using unexpected people. Verse 6, God uses the captain, "How is it that you're sleeping? Get up and call upon your God." Verse 8, then they the sailors said to him, "Tell us now." It’s likely that Jonah probably didn’t know these people very well. They were probably strangers to him but has God ever used somebody like that to get your attention? To make a point in your life?

I'll tell you a rather embarrassing story about myself. This happened several years ago. It was during a time when I was overseeing The Passion play and it was also during a time before our community center existed. Our church parking lot looked very different. We didn’t have that entrance off of State Road 26 so the only two ways in and out of the parking lot were these curb cuts on County Road 550 and I was very busy that week of The Passion play, all kinds of responsibilities. I was here at the church early in the morning and I had to get down to the long center for a thing we call level tech, where you set what all of the different lighting cues in The Passion play are going to look like and so I had to get down to the long center but I leave the church at a time when all of the parents or Faith Christian school are arriving to drop off their kids.

There's this long line in the parking lot and I've got to get out of the parking lot and I don't know what I'm going to do. The way things worked at that time is those cars filed in a single line past the north entrance to the school. I'm like I don't have time to wait in this single line. I've got to get out of here. I get around the line and I make my way into what is essentially my own lane to the right of that line and I start driving toward the exit from our parking lot when one of the parents who I'd never seen before, he stops me from going forward. He says, "Hey, what are you doing? There aren't 2 lanes. There's one lane, you need to follow the rules."

I say to him something very stupid. I say, "It’s okay, I’m one of the pastors here." At which point he says to me, "Then you ought to be setting a better example." I am telling you I still feel the weight of those words on me, that I was like a dagger to my heart and he was absolutely right to say that to me, because I was being a poor example. I was using my position, my busyness, my circumstances as an excuse for doing what I thought I justifiably ought to be allowed to do that. The Lord really taught me that no, you are special but you’re not more special than anyone else and you shouldn’t get special treatment. You need to follow the rules and especially as somebody who has aspired to the office of an overseer, you need to be setting a good example for other. God used that lesson in my life greatly but I'd never seen that parent before, to my knowledge I’ve never seen him since. He was a complete stranger, for all I know he was an angel but what God use that in my life in a powerful way.

Where Jonah is concerned, the captain and his crew were strangers but they weren't just strangers. We also know that they weren't even followers of the Lord and these passages tell us that they'd been crying out to their respective gods with absolutely no result, yet God uses them in order to pursue Jonah. In fact versus 10 to 11 make a very interesting point, then the men became extremely frightened and said to him, "How could you do this?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord because he had told them, so they said to him, "What should we do to you that the sea should become calm for us?" See now the sailors have got all of the pieces.

They're like, "Oh, now we get it. You’re running from the presence of the Lord. You told us that before but now you tell us that you’re running from the presence of the Lord, the God who made the dry land and the sea. That means he’s in control of this storm, that means it’s all your fault." They get it now and since Jonah had turned away from the storm, God then pursued Jonah using the unbelieving people in the boat. We see that the Lord didn’t have to do this. During that game of go-fish when the people were casting lots, the Lord could’ve sent a wave that had ejected Jonah from the boat but he chose to orchestrate all of these events to clearly demonstrate that he was the one pursuing one of his servants.

We also see that God pursues by refusing to let others rescue us. Jonah chapter 1 verses 12 and 13 says that he said to them, "Pick me up, throw me into the sea, then the sea will become calm for you for I know on account of me this great storm has come upon you." However the men rode desperately to return to land but they could not for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. That's a very interesting section here, by the time we get here the basic plan of action has been established. The events that have taken place, they were designed to expose Jonah. At this point he has been exposed, so he can’t hide, he can’t sleep at the bottom of the boat anymore like it's somebody else’s problem.

The solution becomes clear to Jonah, "Feed me to the sea." That's Jonah's solution. Now I just can’t resist making a comment about this, is that really the answer? I mean really, is the right answer to the storm problem and the casting of lots problem, the calling on your God problems, for them to throw Jonah as a sacrifice to the sea? On one hand the answer is well yes because it worked and that’s Jonah’s answer but on the other hand is no, that’s not the answer. When we sin what does God want us to do? Repent right? That’s God’s answer. You see how different God’s perspective and Jonah’s perspectives were? But Jonah is not ready to repent and so the plan is now in place. Jonah is the problem and he must be thrown overboard.

There is many ironic things that happen in the book of Jonah and this is one of them. Even though Jonah wants to be thrown overboard, that is an unacceptable solution to the sailors. The sailors decide that land is close enough for them to try to make it back to port. Their cargo is in the sea anyway, it doesn’t help them to get to their original destination but man if I had been one of the sailors on that ship, that would not have been my first response. I would have wondered if Jonah had any money on him before he was drowned. I mean he wasn't going to need it right?  After all I just finished throwing all of the cargo from my ship that was going make me money into the sea because of Jonah.

Amazingly though, God's working in the sailors' hearts. The sailors are determined to make one final rescue attempt for Jonah which is wild because Jonah has proven that he doesn’t care about the sailors. I mean he has known all along that he is the problem but he didn't volunteer to jump into the sea to ease their burden. No, he made things miserable for them. Despite Jonah’s attitude toward the sailors, the sailors care for Jonah. There are times when I read the Bible and I just wonder how would this situation have turned out if things had gone down differently. What if the sailors had been able to reach the shoreline? What would become of Jonah? Would his ministry career have just ended? Would he have died in relative seclusion? What would happened to him?

God is too loving and gracious to allow that to happen. Jonah was running from the Lord but the Lord was pursuing Jonah. Rather than let him reach a place of security, he intensifies the storm leaving the sailors no choice but to follow Jonah’s advice. In other words Jonah tried to sleep the storm away and God would not let him. Jonah try to hide during the game of go-fish and God would not let him. Now the sailors are trying to give Jonah a way out and God will not let them. That’s because our God is a pursuing God. We see that God pursues by providing his way of escape.

Jonah chapter 1 verse 17, and the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish 3 days and 3 nights. God wanted to rescue Jonah but he wants to do so in His way. In this case the Lord appoints a fish to swallow Jonah. Now there’s a lot that’s already written about Jonah living in the belly of a large fish. I'm going to leave that to you to do some study on your own but please notice that this is yet another sign that God is actively working in every aspect of this whole story. God is orchestrating each and every event and we're reminded that God is not just sovereign but He's compassionate. He’s graciously pursuing Jonah each step of the way.

There are 2 really important application points here. The first is that Jonah, like all of the books of the Old Testament, points in some way to the person of Jesus Christ. God sent His only son into the world in order to pursue sinners, to pursue the rebellious. When Jesus came, even though He was fully God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, he took on humanity with its frailty. He suffered as a man and endured the plan of His father including death on a cross. Jonah was willing to die to avoid the plan of God whereas Jesus died so that He could fulfill the plan of God.

You see friends, we could not get to God on our own so the Lord in the midst of our rebellion, he decided to pursue us. Romans 5:8 says but God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. I hope that produces in your heart a real desire to thank the Lord, to love the Lord, to serve the Lord and to glorify the Lord because He graciously and compassionately chose to pursue you. The second application is essentially the same point made by Psalm 34 verse 80. Oh taste and see that the Lord is good. This morning I would encourage you to think of a time in your life when the Lord pursued you. Maybe your experience was like Jonah. You knew that God wanted you to do something but you refused. Rather than let you go the Lord graciously pursued you. Maybe you can think of a time when you were living in rebellion against God and you didn’t even know it. You were ignorant of it at that time but the Lord kept pursuing you.

For me that happened when I was 19 years old, a freshman in college. A guy from campus Crusade for Christ, complete stranger, didn’t know him from Adam, there is a theme running here. He met with my roommate Nathan and myself. He sat down and he asked me a strategic question, one I'd never considered before. He asked, "On a scale of 0 to 10 how sure are you that you’re going to heaven?" Now I'd been a pretty good kid. I mean I hadn't done the smoking and the drinking thing that a bunch of other kids in high school that I’d been around had done so I was pretty moral guy. In response to this 0 to 10 question, feigning humility I said well about an 8. He said to me, "There’s only two numbers on that skill that matter, 0 and 10. Either you’ve trusted Christ as Savior and Lord or you haven’t. All the other numbers, they're all zeros," and that was like wow, I’d never heard anything like that before but I wasn’t ready to repent.

See that was the storm in my life. God had to send other things in my life so God sent- well this is rather pathetic but God sent unrequited love into my life. It sent me into a deep depression. I didn’t know how to handle things, I thought there was never going to be any more joy in my life for me because this person didn’t feel about me like I felt about her. God worked through that to help me understand boy, if you can’t make it through this situation on your own, how on earth are you going to make it to heaven on your own? It caused me to think back on what that guy from Campus Crusade for Christ had talked to me about a year and a half earlier and that’s what motivated me to trust Christ as Savior.

That’s one way that the Lord's pursued me, how has he done that for you? Can I encourage you to thank the Lord that he doesn’t leave us to our own devices. Can I encourage you to rejoice that God graciously pursues us. I want to encourage you to worship Him this morning in your hearts. Praise Him that he’s a God who pursues His people even in the midst of rebellion. The second major emphasis that we find in this text is that our redeemer God is patient with His servants even in rebellion.

II. Our Redeemer God is Patient with His Servants Even in Rebellion

In addition to pursuing us, I'm also very thankful that God is patient with his servants in the midst of rebellion. God is patient by offering numerous opportunities for change. After reading Jonah 1 multiple times I think I understand that God wanted Jonah to repent, I think I get that.

He wanted him to acknowledge his sin and to turn, to fulfill the mission that He had called Jonah to but somewhere along the line it really would’ve been easy for the Lord to get frustrated with Jonah. I mean Jonah was given many opportunities to change and up to this point he has refused every single one of them. He had time before he got on the boat, he had time as they were first pulling out of dock, he had time when the storm first started raging, he had time when the captain approached him, he had time when the men wanted to cast lots, he had time when they demanded answers, he had time before they threw him overboard. We see all of that. God is patient also by using unlikely characters to care about us.

The fact that the sailors tried to row Jonah to shore is another amazing picture of God’s patience. Those men, they had no real obligation here. What’s happening is like way above their pay grade but they're quite literally along for the ride on this journey. The Lord is sovereignly intervening in his creation. He’s using circumstances as a tool to motivate Jonah’s repentance. Again I find some very important application points for you and for me in this section. Are we thankful for the patience of God in our lives? Are we thankful that our redeeming God doesn't treat us as our sins deserve? Do we find ourselves wanting to get close to the Lord because of His patience in our lives?

I know for fact that some of the people come to this church are living with or are very close to a rebellious person. Last Sunday didn’t make a difference in that person’s life, Wednesday made no difference, neither did any Bible reading that was done this week. Those rebellious people did not repent so what do you do? I want to encourage you to first be thankful for the patience that God has given you and then I would encourage you to follow the example that the Lord gave you and be patient with others.  Ask the Lord to help you love your spouse, love your child, your boss, your coworker, your neighbor and to be patient with them just as the Lord has been patient with you. Now not only have we seen that our redeeming God pursues us and that He's patient with us but this passage also teaches that our redeemer God rescues and saves in spite of rebellion.

III. Our Redeemer God Rescues and Saves in Spite of Rebellion

God uses Jonah’s testimony despite the fact that his words and his actions did not match. I mean there are pieces of irony in the book of Jonah and in chapter 1 in particular. I mean I already mentioned that the sailors' concern for Jonah is one of those ironies, since Jonah doesn’t really care about them but another irony is found in Jonah’s testimony and with what God does with Jonah’s testimony. The text tells us that Jonah had communicated to the sailors that he was fleeing from the Lord so they knew that Jonah was living in rebellion against God but remember, these are pagan sailors each worshiping their own God. They don’t necessarily have a strong connection to the Lord Himself.

In verse 9 after Jonah can hide no longer, he says that he fears the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land. Now that is an amazing testimony because Jonah’s life at this point does not match his words. Those are the words of a hypocrite and yet God uses this testimony to explain to the sailors that there is one true and only God in this universe. The apostle Paul makes the same point in first Corinthians chapter 8, where he says therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world and there is no one but God. There is no such thing as a real idol, it's just an object made from material that God created.

As the sailors ponder Jonah’s words they come to an amazing conclusion, there is only one God and it is the God who controls the sea and the dry land, it is Jonah's God. The God of this rebellious person, it is the God who they asked not to hold them accountable for Jonah’s death. Notice their words again in verse 14, then they called on the Lord and said we earnestly pray oh Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us for you oh Lord have done as you pleased. Now the sailors are calling on the name of the Lord and they are admitting the sovereign character of the Lord, you have done what you pleased, and they’re asking God not to hold them responsible for Jonah’s life. That is remarkable. The Lord chooses to use the words of this rebellious prophet in order to change the minds of these sailors.

It reminds me of how Paul responded in Philippians chapter 1. He says, some to be sure are preaching Christ even from envy and strife but some also from goodwill. The latter do it out of love knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice. Paul is chiefly concerned that the gospel be shared, quite frankly he doesn’t care whether the preacher is a perfect example of gospel centered living. He just cares that the gospel message is being shared with as many people as possible as quickly as possible, because he knows that God is a redeeming God and who knows maybe this one message delivered by this rebellious person will lead to someone’s redemption.

In Paul’s mind God uses the proclamation of the gospel message to redeem and he’s going to let God decide how to handle each of the individual preachers. I think we should be thankful for that. Aren't you thankful that you don’t have to live a perfect life for God to use you in mighty ways? Now I'm not suggesting that we should be lazy about our spiritual health, I’m just saying that God can use people like you and like me even if we don’t fully have our act together. Yet there’s this idea among many people that I’m not good enough, I'm not as gifted as him or I'm not as smart as her, I just don't match up and because of that God can’t use me or can’t use me yet.

Folks, that kind of thinking is based in fear. It's totally focused on self, it is a rejection of both God’s power and His grace. I’m convinced that a lot of people reject the opportunity to be useful in Christ's service because they are afraid. We see this particularly in children’s ministries. You didn't think you were going to get out of here with another mention of that did you? A lot of people treat children’s ministry service like it’s a scene from Monsters Inc. the Pixar movie where all the monsters are terrified of children because they think if a child touches them they’re going to die? That’s how some people think about children’s ministries. A lot of people reject the opportunity to serve in children’s ministries because they are afraid of children, they’re afraid that they won’t be any good with kids, they’re afraid that the kids won’t listen to them as if they listen perfectly. They’re afraid that it’s going to stretch them beyond their comfort zone, they’re afraid of making a commitment.

Instead of stepping out in faith, they step back in fear. As you know this month they we're conducting our serve 16 campaign and if you're a member of our church we're asking you to help us reach kids and families for Christ by signing up to serve in our children’s ministries in some capacity. I mentioned to you that our greatest need is for folks that van serve as class leaders or class assistance in one of our summer time ministries. We also need folks that can serve in a toddler’s classroom during the school year but there are many other positions available as well. Let me say it this way, the Lord is making you aware of both an opportunity and a need within his church. If you have the ability to meet that need, let me encourage you. Don't be like Jonah, don’t run from the opportunity to be used by Him.

Let's thankful for the chance to be used by Him. In this text we also see that God helps the sailors to fear and worship the Lord. Jonah chapter 1 verse 15 and 16 says, so they picked up Jonah, threw them into the sea and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the Lord greatly and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. I believe that these verses are crucial for us. God allows the sailors to see firsthand that He truly is the God of the universe. They cried out to their gods to no avail back in verse 5 but now God uses the testimony of His rebellious prophet and the circumstances of the storm in order to bring the sailors to a point of repentance, to a point of salvation.

Can I just say to you, if you are here today and there’s never been a definite point in your life when you've acknowledged your sin, you've acknowledge the fact that you’ve been running from God and you've cried out to Him for forgiveness, you've cried out in faith, in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as your only hope of heaven. If you’ve never done that, don’t be like Jonah. Don’t run. Let this be the day when you repent. It’s awful living inside the belly of a fish whether literally or figuratively. Don’t let that be you and if you have questions about that I guarantee you, I would love to talk with you about that. Any one of our pastors would love to do that. We've got a bunch of other people in this room who would love nothing more than to share with you how you can make certain that you're on your way to heaven.

Let's talk about takeaways. The first take away is that we should rejoice that you serve a God who pursues and exercises patience and rescues us in the midst of our rebellion. At the beginning of this message I mentioned that sometimes our focus is on man’s responsibility and sometimes we focus on the character of God. I would encourage you praise the Lord this morning for His compassion toward you. Then I would encourage you, express your love toward the Lord for having such loving character. Relationships grow as we move in one another’s direction and they decline as we move away. The closer you draw to the Lord, the sweeter the relationship you'll have with Him. Draw close to the Lord this week.

Then I’d encourage you to emulate Christ’s pursuit and patience toward one another. Some of you are in very difficult circumstances right now. A rebellious person is leaving destruction in their wake and you are the collateral damage. It's easy to develop a callous, insensitive heart. In other words in the midst of calling someone a Jonah in your life you can become one in the process. Ask God to help you remain patient with that person, ask God to help you be used by Him to pursue that person, pray for that person and ask the Lord to do a redemptive work in that person’s life as He has done in yours.

Let's go before the Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, thank you for the message of your word that you are a patient God, that you are a pursuing God, that you care for us Lord even though when we don’t deserve it, so Lord I pray that you would help us to emulate your character, to seek to show your patience, your love and to pursue the other people that you have placed in our lives so that they might experience the same kind of compassion that you have shown us. Would you help us to rejoice in your character and to seek to be used by you. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Trey Garner

B.F.A. - Musical Theatre, Texas State University
M.F.A. - Acting, Purdue University
M.Min. - Grace Theological Seminary

Pastor Trey Garner joined our staff in 2001. He and his wife Deb were married that year, and they have two children. Trey oversees our Children’s Ministries, which serves infants, toddlers, and K-5th grade students. He also provides pastoral care for our 8:00 a.m. worship service.

Read Trey Garner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Garner to Faith Church.