The Importance of Consistency

Steve Viars May 15, 2016 Jonah 4:1-4

→ Click to view the Sermon Outline

Jonah 2:8 - Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

Jonah 3:5 - Then the people of Nineveh believed God, and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

3 truths we need to know and apply if we want to have consistency in our walk with Christ

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

I Corinthians 4:2 - It is required in stewards that a man be found....faithful.

A. Remember the power of habits

“Habit” - the capacity to learn to respond unconsciously, automatically, and comfortably.

Jeremiah 13:23 - “…accustomed to do evil.”

B. Know four basic truths about a believer and his habits

1. You’re no longer enslaved to them because of the transforming power of God

Romans 6:17-18 - 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.

2. You now have the Word of God that can help you build right habits

2 Timothy 3:16 - All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…

3. You must work at developing consistency

1 Timothy 4:7 - ...exercise yourself toward godliness.

4. If you don't work at this now, the struggle is going to get worse

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…

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

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

Manuscript

Several years ago, 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, 3 feet of snow fell. The winds top 70 miles per hour. Jeff had no food, he huddled by a creek where he drank water to try to stay alive.

The famous Sierra Search and Rescue Team was called in. At the height of the search, they had 120 rescuers, two helicopters, two rescue dogs, looking for Jeff. As the days went by, hopes for his rescue faded and the scale was actually scaled back. Then 6 days later, two of the team members followed footprints in the snow and they found Jeff alive.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department reported that Jeff was hungry, he was tired, he was cold, but otherwise he was in good shape. A representative from the ski resort said, "It'll be made for TV movie for sure." You can imagine the relief and the excitement his family and friends felt when the rescuers reported that Jeff had been found.

He was then rushed to the Loma Linda University Medical Center and was treated for frostbite and dehydration, some other injuries he suffered during the fall. The doctors were cautiously optimistic for his chances for recovery. I wish that was the end of the story. Several days later, Jeff developed difficulty breathing, he went into cardiac arrest, and died the following Saturday.

Can you imagine how that must have impacted his family and his friends when things looked so hopeless when he was lost. Then they seem 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 the same thing happens to people spiritually? Things were going very badly in their life. They were dead in trespasses and sins as the scripture describes. Those transgressions have brought all sorts of pain, all sorts of heartache to themselves and the people around them. Then they appear to have made a decision for Christ. At least they said they did.

There's even what appears to be some spiritual growth, a few things started to change and you expect that to continue. You expect them to continue to get better, heading the right direction over a long period of time. Then the situation takes a sudden and an unexpected turn for the worse.

In a mild case, the person stops growing and becomes stagnant in the relationship with the Lord. In a more severe case, the person drops out of sight but no longer in church. They may even renounce Christ and go back to their old lifestyle demonstrating that they never really knew him to begin with.

The Word of God teaches us that one of the signs of a person having a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ is consistency, is faithfulness, is perseverance, is dependability. The theologians refer to that as the doctrine of the preservation or perseverance of the saints.

That doesn't mean perfection. We all struggle and sometimes it's three steps forward and two steps back but if you put their spiritual growth or their spiritual service on a graph, the median line is going to be heading northeast, is going to be clear evidence of progress, growing consistency in the things of God over the long haul.

You might ask, "Why are you raising this subject this morning?" It's because the story we've been studying the last several weeks is about to take a dramatic and shocking turn for the worse. It illustrates well the importance of consistency.

With that in mind, I want to invite you to open your Bible now to Jonah 4. Jonah 4, that's on page 658 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you if you need that this morning. Jonah 4 or page 658 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you.

Our theme this year is Loving Our World. This spring, we're studying the life of Jonah because, unfortunately, he did exactly what we hope everybody around here is not going to do. He chose to be a loveless prophet in ways that were and are astounding and especially sad. This is a sad book. Frankly, this is a sad chapter. In many ways, his life was an illustration of the nation of Israel and what they had done with the mission that God had given them. They were loveless.

I realized different people have entered this study at different points, what we'll have folks who are brand new with us this morning and we're so very glad. Here's a short story just to get us all up to speed in preparation for Jonah 4.

Jonah was one of God's servants. He was one of God's prophets. The Lord came to him and said, "Arise. Go to Nineveh. I want you to proclaim a message of repentance and potential forgiveness to them." For you or I, that'd be pretty straightforward. That's what prophets do. That's what he should have been commanded to do.

The problem was Nineveh was a principal city of the nation of Assyria, the arch enemies of Israel especially at this particular point in history because the Assyrians, they were on the rise, they were known for treating other nations with ruthlessness, with brutality.

Frankly, Jonah did not want to go and speak to them about the possibility of them repenting, the possibility of them being forgiven by God. He disobeyed God. Can you imagine that? "Arise. Go to Nineveh." He disobeyed God. He had it the other way. Scripture says he boarded a ship, headed for Tarshish, and he paid the fare.

The Lord loved Jonah. Are you glad for that? Even while he was rebelling, just like the Lord loved the nation of Assyria and just like the Lord loved the nation of Israel, and just like he loves you and he loves me even when we're heading the wrong direction. The Lord loved Jonah. What did he do? He didn't allow Jonah to rebel against him with us without some sort of consequence, so he brought some very difficult things into Jonah's life to help him turn it around.

Finally, amazingly, Jonah repented. He made a very powerful statement in his prayer of confession when he said this: "Those who cling to worthless idols, forfeit the grace that could be theirs." There's a verse worthy of memorizing. There's one worth putting on the dashboard of the car and the refrigerator and the computer at work. "Those who cling to worthless idols, forfeit the grace that could be theirs."

By the way, if you really dig into that portion of the book, it wasn't perfect repentance. I get that, but who's is? The marvelous thing was God forgave him. Are you glad for that? Are you glad we have a God who is like that? God forgave Jonah and amazingly he even restored Jonah in chapter 3 to his original ministry assignment. Fine. Now you're on track. Get back with it.

Then we saw last week, here's what happens then. The amount of progress that then can be made is amazing because now God's blessing the direction you're going, you're working with God's purposes instead of against them. That culminated in the words of Jonah 3:5. "Then the people of the Nineveh believed God." Think about that. The nation of Assyria, the arch enemies of the people of God. Then the people of Nineveh believed God and they called the fast and they put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

In fact, if you study that text carefully, even the beast has sackcloth on them. I have no idea how that works. You got cows moo with sackcloth but that's it. That is how that sounded, by the way. That's in the original Hebrew. They called the fast and they put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

You read down through the rest of the chapter, so it's fascinating. It's one of the greatest evidences of repentance, one of the greatest revivals in the entire history of the Bible, Jonah 3 and you see that the obedience of Jonah finally coupled with the repentance of the people of Nineveh, coupled with the blessing of God produces a spiritual revival and that entire city that was phenomenal in every conceivable way.

What do you expect then to read in chapter 4? "And they all lived happily ever after," right? Jonah rejoiced, that the same forgiveness that he had received had now been extended to an entire city or Jonah was humbled by the fact that God allowed him to be involved in the spiritual progress of those he had formerly considered his enemies or that Jonah was now ready for his next ministry assignment. "Send me to another people group. Send me to a different nation, people of a different ethnicity. I'm ready for my next Ministry assignment." His life forever more was characterized by consistency and faithfulness and perseverance and dependability. That's what you'd expect, right? Absolutely. Surely.

Let's pick up the story in chapter 3 verse 5 just to get a running start, chapter 4, but you need to strap in because this roller coaster is really going to twist now. I'm at Jonah 3:5. "Then the people of Nineveh believed in God and they called the fast and they put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, Assyria now, he rose from his throne. He laid aside his robe from him. He covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes."

"He issued a proclamation and it said, 'In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, do not let man,'" or what, "'beast, herd,'" you see he's telling the truth, "'Or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water.' But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way, from the violence which is in His hand, who knows, that God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish. When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it but," what do you mean but? "But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry."

"He prayed to the Lord and said, 'Please, Lord, it was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this, I fled the Tarshish for I knew that you were a gracious and a compassionate God slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.' The Lord said, 'Do you have good reason to be angry?'"

The story has taken some unbelievable shifts. Just as soon as you think you have Jonah figured out, he darts off in the other direction; or just when it appears that he might finally be back on track, he says something or does something that messes everything up again.

You know if we’re honest  We might too say, "You know? Too often that's true of me." Maybe not to the same degree but faithfulness is such an elusive thing. Could you at least say that this morning? Faithfulness is such an elusive thing.

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. You understand that the reason that this is in the Bible is not to shame you or to shame me. God is telling the truth about what happened in the life of one of his prophets to suggest to us: "You don't have to go to Jonah chapter 4." In the power of Jesus Christ, you can have hope that you can be the anti-Jonah, that your life can be characterized by consistency and faithfulness. There are certain steps that you need to take. There are certain things that need to be in place if you're going to stay out of Jonah 4.

Three truths we need to know and apply if we want to have consistency in our walk with Christ. First of all, understand that success one day, it doesn't guarantee success the next. Everybody reading Jonah 4 for the first time would be absolutely shocked. This is one of those I-didn't-see-that-coming kind of moments. That's exactly how the writer wants this to impact us. Understand that success one day does not guarantee success the next.

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

Had Jonah made some good decisions? Yes. It was great that he had that willing to repent in the belly of the fish. Although, we pointed out that's somewhat shallow. It could have been better but it was great that he at least did that. It was great that he had been finally willing to obey God and go to Nineveh.

Friends, there's a big difference between a couple of good choices and a lifetime of good choices. You understand? God is not looking for quarter-milers. He's not. He's looking for marathoners. He's looking for people who are seeking to build habits of consistency. His looking for people who are in this for the long haul. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:2: "It's required in stewards that a man be found faithful and in the power of Jesus Christ that is possible."

We need to pull over and park here for a few minutes for sure because what we're seeing in this section of the Book of Jonah is critical for our walk with Christ. You might say, "Well, why is that?" Why is committing ourselves to growth and service for the long haul such an important component of our relationship with the lord and why is what we're seeing in the life of Jonah does this up and down is so bad? Why is this something that we want to avoid at all cost? Here's one answer. Remember the power of habits. Remember what the Bible tells us about this aspect of anthropology that the power of habits.

You might 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 bad habits. Let's talk about that. God has created human beings with the wonderful capacity to build habits. You know that? You could define that as the capacity to learn to respond unconsciously, automatically, comfortably. That's part of the way that were made. You might say, "Why did you call 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. You just do things habitually.

Most of what you did in going from waking up this morning to getting to the church house on time, I'm sure, most of what you did from waking up this morning to getting in your spot you did habitually. Did you think consciously about every step involved in brushing your teeth? You did brush them, by the way, didn't you? I hope you're in the habit of doing that. That's rather complicated process. You probably weren't even looking, were you? The whole process of getting dressed, did you button your shirt from the bottom to the top or from the top to the bottom? You don't even remember. You weren't looking at all, weren't you? You did button them, right? You weren't even looking.

That's habit. Again, that is a blessing from God allowing us to be much more efficient because we don't have to think consciously through every step like every other blessing that God has given us has redeemed people. We use that capacity sinfully. We become habituated to sin.

Jeremiah 13:23 says it like this: "We become accustomed to doing evil." Anybody here want to argue with that fact-accustomed to doing? Some of us, we could cuss like sailors. Habitually, came out of our mouths before we knew Christ. Some could  lie like a rug just on and on. Why? We were habituated to doing evil.

What happens when a person comes to know Christ? Think about that. Are all of those habits absolutely washed away? Do we start over when it comes to habits? No, not at all. Know these four basic truths about a believer and his or her habits. One is thank the Lord you're no longer enslaved to them because of the transforming power of God.

That's an important theme in Romans 6. One of the more important passages in all the New Testament on how a Christian grows where we learn that the great news: "Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin," there it is. "You're enslaved to sinful practices in your heart," the way you think, ruts in the road that are taking you the wrong direction, desires of your heart, ruts in the road taking you the wrong direction; habits of speaking, you just blurt it out again and again; the habits of acting. "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 over time slaves of righteousness."

One of the great things about becoming a Christian is you're no longer a slave to sinful habits. That's why, by the way, I would say to you this morning that if you've never trusted Christ as Savior and Lord I would urge you to do that today. Christ died on the cross to make it possible for us to never live in Jonah 4. Christ made it possible for us through the power of his shed blood for the efficacy of his Redeeming Grace to put us in a place where we're growing in faithfulness. It's required in stewards that a man be found faithful and it's possible to do that in Christ.

If you've never trusted him as Savior and Lord, why not do that like today? Because my guess would be your tired of the roller coaster, or say, "I'm not on a roller coaster. I'm on a direct train downward." Either option isn't particularly good I would urge you to place your faith and trust in Christ today while you have the opportunity to do so. One of the literally hundreds of things that would happen to you, the moment you place your faith and trust in Christ is you're no longer enslaved to the power of wrong habits. You also have the word of God that can help you build right habits.

By the way, the Holy Spirit, taking up residence inside of you, making it possible for you to understand and apply his word. Remember what 2 Timothy 3:16 says about the power of the Word of God? All Scripture, all of it, even Jonah, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God is breathed out." What inspiration of God means: it's profitable. Even a book like this it's profitable. For what? For doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. God's word was designed to help you break sinful habits, to put them off, then to put right habits on in their place.

Are you ready for this? You might want to sit back or you might want to sit up.. If you're going to work at developing consistency, here's a critical verse that helps us understand how to build habits of consistency. You have to exercise yourself toward godliness. In other words, you have to work at it. I'm not saying apart from the Grace of God, I'm not saying apart from the strength of the Lord, but we have and I'm very concerned about this theologically, an emphasis in places in the Evangelical church, even some that are fairly respected and respectable in other aspects of theology that have certainly taken the Doctrine of Grace to an extreme as if you have no responsibility in the process. That's heresy.

Again, in the power of God, you are responsible to exercise yourself toward godliness. That is not legalism. That is Christian duty. If you want to be a person who's consistently pleasing God, who's consistently growing, who's consistently heading the right direction, you have got to work at it. You're working at putting off wrong sinful habits and replacing them with godly ones to keep yourself out of Jonah 4.

I realized we're going to have people all over the map spiritually this morning. I get that. Someone will say, "Pastor Viars, let me tell you something, let me tell you something. I have been in church now two Sundays in a row." Bless God for you. We have little angel halos at the Welcome Center to issue to you on the way out. We're glad. Maybe I shouldn't be cynical about that. Praise God for two. Now work at making it three. Exercise yourself to Godliness. You have to work spiritually at becoming a consistent person.

Others will say, "Pastor Viars, I've been faithfully serving the lord for 25 years." Praise God for you. What do you think I'm about to say? Now work and making it 26. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, you decide that: "I wanna be the anti-Jonah. In the power of God, I never want to get into the goofiness of Jonah chapter 4."

Now I also need to say this. Regarding sinful bit, if you don't work at it now, I'm telling you, this struggle is going to get worse. Say what? What do you mean? How could it get worse? Follow the grammar of this important verse. It's Ephesians 4:22. There's habits again. "In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is," fascinating grammar, present active participle, "Which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit."

What's the point of that? This residual and sinful habits we bring into the Christian life is not a stagnant pond. I can drain whenever I choose. If I am not aggressively seeking to grow as a believer, I can actually be adding more bad habits to the heap or letting the ones I already had grow stronger and more formidable so that the struggle is actually going to get worse in the future if I don't get at it now.

You might be here this morning and you're messing around with some sinful habit that you either brought into the Christian life or you added to the Christian life. You thought, "I can get rid of that anytime I want." No, you can't. It's being corrupted it's getting stronger and stronger. You're setting yourself up for Jonah 4 if you're not already there.

I've been in Brazil this week, in the City of Manaus, Brazil, on the Amazon River. Fascinating place. A fairly large city but you can't get there by road, you can't get in or out. What they're accustomed to doing, we're not going to go somewhere, if they're not  going to fly, they're taking the river. It's amazing –the different forms of transportation on that river are absolutely amazing. I had a great time, absolutely great time.

The way the conference worked, they started the sessions early in the morning but then they take a period of time off in the afternoon because that's the way the typical person in that part of the world just lives. It gets so hot at that place, that near the equator. Everybody just takes several hours off for lunch and a nap.

I say, "Hey, I'm gonna suggest that to my boss." You go right ahead. Then they come back and we had our teaching sessions. They would go to 11:00 at night and so you plan your sessions for the cool of the days. In the afternoons, we had some time just to do some things. They took a group of us on this high-powered speed boat on the Amazon to a floating restaurant on the Amazon River. Totally fascinating.

You might say, "You get to do all kinds of fun stuff." I know it's a racket. It is a racket. After we ate lunch, it was fascinating, little monkeys running all over the place with little baby monkeys on their backs. They're just so cool, so cool for sure.

They took me to this place that had, they have this huge-you can imagine the fish on the Amazon-huge fish. One of the fish that I'd just eaten one for lunch and it was really delicious. They got to be 200 pounds. They had this huge mouth on, kind of like an alligator. That's a really interesting looking fish, gray with this big red spots. They took us to this place that was basically a floating dock with a deck on it. Then on the center, there was like a fish tank. It was just actually part of the Amazon River they were letting again.

In this fish tank, if you looked over this rail and there were some of these fish swimming around. Some of them huge, some of them smaller, beautiful looking fish for sure. What they did, they would give you if you wanted to, this little cane pole and they have a rope off the cane pole. They would put a little fish. They'd tie this little fish on this cane pole.

One of the pastors took one of them and I'm standing there -  you know, the smart American who's not going to be wowed by anything – and He takes this cane pole and he puts it over right above this fish and kind of looking at it  and then, bam, they grabbed that fish and it sounded like dynamite and shocked the fire out of me. I'm really glad they weren't taking a video of me because I probably screamed like a girl. Nothing against the girls. Don't be sending me emails about that. I just wasn't ready for that bam – I mean it was like dynamite bam.

You realize you might be messing around with some sinful habit as this with this cute little things swimming around. It's getting ready to bam you. You're allowing that habit to get stronger and stronger and you don't even realize that what the word of God would say, if you want to be out of Jonah chapter 4 up and down, you've got to work at it and you've got to work at it now or the struggle, it's going to get worse. It's going to get worse.

The overall point, thus far, is understanding success one day, it doesn't guarantee success in the next. It's not enough to make a couple of good choices on a couple of good days. God wants people who are marathoners. Can I just ask you? Is there a particular area in your life where, right now, you're struggling with inconsistency? Is God talking to you right now?

You realize that's why we have books of the Bible like this. Is God working on it in your heart? If so, I would encourage you to drive a stake in the ground and say to the Lord that, with his help, you intend this year to take solid steps toward building right habits in that area. "O Lord, my attendance to church has been sporadic. That's gonna change. My prayer life has been sporadic. I'm gonna build better habits there. I need to do a better job of controlling this tongue this year and I'm gonna do that. I thought about getting some counseling help but I've never humbled myself. I am going to do that."

Whatever it might be God wants us to be building better habits of faithfulness that our habits of obedience. By the way, if you wouldn't just do that because of your love for God, can I encourage you to do that for the frustration that will come in the lives of people who are called upon to follow at your leadership, if it's up and down and up and down?

If I'm talking to any husbands right now and you are not building habits of consistency, do you know how hard it is for a wife to follow a husband like that? If you're a parent and if you're up and down and up and down, do you realize how hard it is for kids? If you're a boss and your employees never know on a given day what you're going to be like, do you know how hard that is?

You ought to do it out of your love for God but you also ought to do it out of your concern for the people in your life who are called upon to follow you at your leadership. You also ought to do it because of the potential ministry that God has for you, that it's going to require a level of faithfulness. Why would you not care about the people that you could potentially win to Christ or faithfully disciple if you would just grow to the point where you are a dependable individual in the power of God?

Understand that success one day does not guarantee success in the next. A second principle that flows out of this text, it really explains Jonah's lack of consistency. You want to get to the heart of it? Here it is. Deal as completely as you can with the issue of who's going to be God. Jonah finally explains in this verse of what's been going on in his heart and it is bizarre.

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

Did you see it in verse 2? Right in the middle, "Please, Lord, Jehovah. Was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this," that is the repentance of Nineveh in chapter 3, "I fled to Tarshish for I knew that you're a gracious and compassionate God. And I don't like it," at least when you're doing that to others. "I knew you were slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and one who relents concerning calamity."

What do these words tell us about Jonah's heart? It's amazing. He's still not willing to let God be God. After all the miraculous things he's seen Jehovah 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. I think one of the most amazing aspects of this entire story is it wasn't a matter of Jonah not knowing what God was like. It's a matter of Jonah not approving of what God was like.

In that effect, is what we read in verse 3. How lame is this? "O Lord. Please take my life from me, for death is better to me."

"Just take my life. If God isn't doing things the way I want them done, he allowed my enemies to repent. So instead of entertaining the thought that maybe I'm wrong and maybe He's right, that maybe I need to change and He doesn't." Instead, he's going to start the pity party. "Poor me. I'm just gonna pout. I'm gonna stop up. I didn't get my way so I'm taking my ministerial ball and I'm going home."

The very important implication of that to what we're studying this morning is you will never develop habits of consistency and your walk with Christ unless you have dealt decisively with the matter of who your Lord is going to be. That's what transformed the disciples.

When they become convinced that Jesus Christ was truly the resurrected Lord, until that, what were they like? They were petty. They were unpredictable. They were fighting over who was going to be in charge when Jesus was gone, that they all denied Him, they all fled. They wouldn't believe the story the lady's told about the fact that the tomb was empty. After they became convinced that Jesus was alive, after they became convinced that He was their rightful Lord, they were transformed into a force that would soon after accused by the secular and the religious officials of turning the world upside down.

What I'm saying is there is a direct correlation between Lordship and consistency. There'd be people here this morning who were here last Sunday and they'll be here next Sunday and short of some illness or something else that might occasionally take them away every Sunday. They're going to be in God's house worshiping 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.

It is his day. There are people here who are committed to integrity in the workplace. They work hard. Whether the boss is looking or not, day after day, they can be trusted. They are consistent. You can count on them. Why? It's because Jesus is their Lord. We can walk 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.

By the way, if you're married to a person like that, I hope you're way thankful. Don't you ever say, "He is so predictable. He's boring. Waking up every morning and going to work, coming home at night and mowing the grass, so boring and predictable." Seriously? That is not boring. That is faithful and you ought to grab him around the neck and smooch his face off. It's right there in the text. In fact, if you can't hold it till lunch time, do it right now. Do it right now. That's totally off my notes, by the way. Surprise.

I'm thankful for a lot of people who are the exact opposite of what we're seeing in Jonah. Because they're not still trying to haggle around with whether God is really qualified for His position. Listen. When that is in place, what does that consistency position you to do? See  what happens if you were to rewrite Jonah 4 in a positive way.

In your bulletin today, you have a series of thank-you notes from our friends in Cuba which are illustrative of the dozens and dozens of letters like that that we received. Regardless what your political opinions are about that country, we would all agree with this biblically, would we not? God loves the people of Cuba and so we want to as well. If loving our world doesn't mean that, it doesn't mean anything.

We had an opportunity earlier this year because of our growing friendships in the Dominican Republic to take a survey trip to Cuba and because we're glad. We're glad that God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness for them. We're glad He's that for us. We're glad He's that for them. It's very easy for us to feel compassion toward the men and women that we were meeting, especially the pastors and their families who had been faithfully laboring under communism, very little training, very little resources.

Then there was the opportunity for two of their leaders and their wives to come here in February for our biblical counseling training conference which provided us an opportunity to send eight suitcases back and four briefcases back packed with all sorts of things that might be a blessing to our friends, especially the technology that would allow them to study the Word in an entirely different way. Also then to be able to send a trainer back and actually educate them on the use of that software. On your bulletin today you have, as I said, a series of thank-you notes from the pastors and from their families.

Here's the point: By being anti-Jonahs, by loving individuals of other ethnicities, because you understand Jonah was a racist. He did not want the people of Assyria to hear about the mercy of God. By choosing to be anti-Jonahs, by loving people of other ethnicities, you made an eternal difference in the lives of people you may never meet this side of heaven.

Think about this. Think about the emotional effect of that. I hope you would say this. There were a few things that bring my heart greater joy and bring our family's heart greater joy than being able to love and serve somebody else in need around the world. That brings us great joy. I hope you read those notes this morning and rejoice and what God did in and through you. It's the opposite of what happened with Jonah living like a racist, living in loving fashion to others leads to depression. You see that? "Oh, take my life."

You, as a result of loving the men and women in Cuba and now reading how it impacted them, you say, "I love life. I love the new life that I have in Christ. What a great thing it was to participate in that and I can't wait till the next opportunity comes along." There's joy in serving Jesus. I would just ask you this morning: does the amount of Joy full consistency that you possess in your Christian Life reveal a firm commitment to the lordship of Christ?

Now, third principle that flows out of this text is let God's mercy to you impact your mercy to others.

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

When you think about what's transpiring in this story and you want look at Jonah and say, "You ingrate!" If God did not possess the very qualities you're criticizing Him for, you would be at the bottom of the sea. Why are you jealous of God doing for Ninevites what He also did for you?

Jonah, if you've not been impacted by now, by God's grace and mercy in your life, I don't know what it would take. You want to say that to Jonah but not long before we stop thinking about Jonah and start thinking about us. We have an instrument of salvation that's even more meaningful than Jonah's. It's called the cross. It's called the crown of thorns. It's called the mocking and the spiting. It's called the nails. It's called the blood. It's called darkness falling on the face of the earth. It's called Jesus Christ crying out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

It's called the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. It's called the veil of the temple being rent in two. It's called the empty tomb. It's called the Risen Savior. It's called the Free Gift of Salvation to all who repent and believe. It's 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. Friend, that kind of gift, that kind of Savior, that kind of Lord, He's worthy of our consistency. He's worthy of a lifetime of faithfulness.

As I said, I just returned from Manaus. It's fascinating, fascinating city. We've been working with our missionary families and really exciting, a group of key national leaders there and providing conferences on biblical counseling and soul care because they've asked us to. We started about a decade ago in the city of Agua de Lindoia. That conference center became so packed especially with pastors. There were  rooms so they started a second conference in the principal city of Fortaleza.

That conference site has now outgrown Agua de Lindoia. They're expecting a thousand people there this summer. A pastor from the city of Manaus said, "Come all the way down to Agua de Lindoia." He asked this group if they would take the training to his city of Manaus. They agreed to do that. I actually don't think they even need Americans anymore. They like to have Americans. They like to have our church involved.

For some reason, it lends some credibility to what – I don't understand it. I don't necessarily like it but that's the way it is. If we can serve them in that way at this time, fine. You understand the dynamic. Anybody who's 50 miles away from home with a briefcase is an expert, and so fine. It was fabulous. Over 200 people, a ton of pastors there for the inaugural conference. That's unheard of.

It illustrated exactly what we're talking about today in two ways. One is that the pastor of this church is actually serving at his church was started by Randy Richner's grandfather. I realize that might not mean much to some of us but Randy Richner and his wife Cindy are missionaries of our church to Brazil. Randy was one of the men who taught with me. He was from the south part of Brazil. He flew up and he was one of our teachers, along with Sasha Mendez, Flavio who's taught here many times. They were the ones doing this conference.

Randy Richner's grandfather went to Manaus back in the 30s. He graduated from Baptist Bible Seminary which is now Baptist Bible College. He immediately, as a single man, went to Manaus and started a church there. By God's grace, bought a piece of property that, in the sovereignty of God, is now worth millions of dollars. It was the perfect buy.

Then, started a strong church that began starting other churches up and down the Amazon River. That church and the ones they started have now started 75 churches. A number of the pastors, who were there at that conference that I just had the privilege of speaking at, were from the churches started as a result of the faithfulness of one man. Can you imagine going to a country like Brazil? Can you imagine being a missionary in the late 30s and then the 1940s?

Think about what was happening historically. They said German U-boats were actually coming up the Amazon. I don't fully understand that historically but that's what they told me and yet you had one man who was a faithful godly missionary. Look at what has resulted because of his consistency.

Also, when you think about Brazil, this church has supported missionaries to Brazil for a lot of years now. The people like the Moores, Bill and Nancy Moore; people like Randy and Cindy Richner; people like Al and Kim Yoder. There are people in this church – this is the other part of faithfulness – there are people in this church you could say, "You know what? I've been praying for those missionaries for years, day after day after day after day. I've been quietly giving to support their ministries day after day, week after week, month after month."

I'm here to tell you, "God blesses faithfulness. God blesses consistency. God blesses those who are the anti-Jonah. And God blesses those who want to live a lifetime of consistency." It's required in stewards that a man be found faithful. There's great joy when you allow God to build that in you. Let's pray together, shall we?

Father in heaven, Lord, thank you for including this sad story in your Bible. Thank you Lord for giving us truth that isn't here to discourage us but it's here to help us think about the alternative. I pray for and thank you for the many in this church family who are growing in consistency. Father, for any who would be with us today who don't know Christ, I pray that they would trust Him today. More for that person who is heading the wrong direction, is inconsistent. Lord I pray that they would do business with whatever is stopping them from developing this pattern we're discussing. We pray this 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