What to Do When Disobedience Lets You Down

Dr. Steve Viars April 24, 2016 Jonah 1:18-2:10

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3 necessary steps to begin the process of repentance

1. The fish is not the most miraculous aspect of the book

“This is the tragedy of the book of Jonah, that a book that is made the means of one of the most sublime revelations of truth in the Old Testament should be known to most only for its connection to a whale.” George Adam Smith

2. Other reasons to believe the trustworthiness of Scripture

a. Jesus’ view – Matthew 5:18

Matthew 5:18 - For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

b. Paul’s view – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

c. Peter’s view – 2 Peter 1:20-21

2 Peter 1:20-21 - …knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

3. Jesus specifically used this event to illustrate His death, burial, and resurrection

Matthew 12:40 - For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

4. The God of the Bible is purposely and incredibly powerful

1 Corinthians 15:17-19 - And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

I. Recognize the Consequences of Disobedience

The significance of the fish

A. It was a sign to the people of Nineveh

B. It was an instrument of salvation for Jonah

C. It was simultaneously an instrument of judgment for Jonah

my distress - v. 2

from the depth of Sheol - v. 2

cast me into the deep - v. 3

into the heart of the seas - v. 3

engulfed by the current - v. 3

passed over by the breakers and billows - v. 3

expelled from thy sight - v. 4

encompassed by water to the point of death - v. 5

engulfed by the great deep - v. 5

weeds wrapped around my head - v. 5

descended to the roots of the mountains - v. 6

bars of the earth around me forever - v. 6

in the pit - v. 6

fainting away - v. 7

“The belly of a fish is not a happy place to live but it is a great place to learn.”

II. Recognize the Heart of Disobedience

A. A key verse in this book – Jonah 2:8

NIV – Those who cling to worthless idols cling to the grace that could be theirs.

B. The power of idolatry

“The human heart is a factory of idols.” John Calvin

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

1 Corinthians 10:6-7 - Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them.

III. Recognize the Solution to Disobedience


Several years ago ABC News in Sacramento, California filed this report. "Employees at the 98-cent-store on Fruitridge Road in South Sacramento got a surprise when they arrived at work Friday morning. They found a man stuck upside down in a ceiling vent. Police believe 20-year-old Eric Lee Rosenberg fell while trying to break in through the ceiling of the store. He'd been stuck there for about three hours before workers arrived at 7 am and heard his cries for help. The store manager was later interviewed. Here's what she had to say. 'He said somebody pushed him down the hole. I don't know,' she said." I don't know either.

"'We just came in and saw a guy stuck in the roof hanging there.' It took the fire department a while to get him out. Not surprisingly, Mr. Rosenberg also matched the description of a suspect in a surveillance photo from a previous burglary. In fact, when the police started putting all this together they believe he had actually broken into at least seven different businesses every time coming in through the store ceiling." Can you imagine what that must have felt like to have successfully robbed six different stores using the same tactics. Then on your seventh time being stuck, stuck upside down and realizing, "Maybe this wasn't such a great plan after all."

If you research this phenomenon, I know most of you have Smartphones now so you can check out all of my stories, but if you research this, you'll find that burglars being stuck upside down in ceilings and even chimneys is fairly common. A similar event occurred in Albuquerque, New Mexico, another one in Reno, Nevada. You might say, "Hey, wouldn't it be something if a person got stuck in a chimney on Christmas Eve?" Believe it or not, that actually happened. I'm serious. It happened in Minneapolis at a place called Uncle Hugo's Bookstore.

One rather unusual aspect of that particular story was the man seriously ... Now, the man decided to remove all of his clothing to help him fit down the chimney, but he still got stuck in a chimney on Christmas Eve without any, even his Christmas jammies. I mean, nothing. Nothing. The policemen in that case, by the way, Lieutenant Mike Sauro reported, "He's not Santa Claus. He's a skinny guy." Then he said, "He's lucky he didn't get cooked." "Well, thank you, Officer, for that." By the way the burglar's explanation to the police was that what happened was, this guy said, he happened to be walking on the roof of the building ... You do that too; right? Just happen to be walking on the roof of the building when he accidentally dropped his car keys down the chimney. He was just innocently trying to retrieve his car keys. Nothing happened here. Just move on. Stuck in a chimney on Christmas Eve.

What's the point of all this? Seriously now, sometimes people find themselves stuck spiritually; huh? Stuck badly. Like the person who's been trying to live life apart from God and his word for many years. No time for church. No time for spiritual things. No time for the scripture. That approach worked for a while and maybe a long while, but now they're facing a significant trial. The game is up and they know it. They feel like they're stuck upside down in a chimney, and there's the shame and there's the embarrassment and there's the fear all rolled into one, and it's anything but funny now; huh? Just being stuck, or the person who's been toying with some sort of addictive behavior. The internet porn started out as just a harmless diversion or the booze. It was just for the weekends. The gambling was just for entertainment, but now what started out as a little pet sin has grown way out of control.

It's like trying to raise a pet lion in your garage, which is now getting bigger and bigger and bigger and demanding more and more time and more and more attention and more and more resources. The growl is getting fiercer. The claws are getting longer. You feel stuck now. You feel stuck and out of control, or this. Maybe it's a sin of omission, failing to do what God wanted you to do, so the Lord presented a ministry opportunity to you, "Arise. Go to Nineveh," and instead of seizing it, you went the other way, and you filled your life with activity, and you filled your life with busyness, and you filled your life with material things.

Even started justifying your refusal to serve God with worldly statements like, "Well, I'm just an introvert," or, "People, "They wear me out," like somebody recently said to me. Oh, really? But now you're stuck. You're stuck in boredom. You're stuck in a depression. Running from God's purposes and plans has left you apathetic and disappointed. You're stuck, so now what do you do? Now what do you do?

It could be a problem with another person that has reached the point of impasse or some other trial where there appears to be no ways out. The walls are closing in. You're in a narrow passageway that's getting tighter by the moment. We all know what that's like; right? In one way or another, to some degree or another, to be stuck, to be stuck spiritually. The good news is the Bible tells us exactly how to get out.

With that in mind, please open your Bible now to Jonah 2. In Jonah 2, that's on page 657 of the Bible under the chair in front of you if you need that. The front section, the Old Testament. Jonah 2, page 657 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. Our theme this year is loving our world. The more we come to know and delight in our Savior, the more we want to relate to those around us in a way that is missional. If God says, "Arise. Go to Nineveh," we want to be all over that opportunity in order to love the world. We have those kinds of opportunities, big and small, all the time. Do we not? If we have eyes to see, the opportunities to go to Nineveh, they're everywhere.

My family and I spent a couple of weeks down in Florida where I had the opportunity to teach a course at Word of Life Bible Institute there. Then we enjoyed some great family vacation time together. Our married daughters and their families were able to come and be with us at different parts over that period of time. Marvelous. Absolutely marvelous for sure. A week ago Saturday we flew back and had to do some things around the house, of course. Then eventually, if you know anything about me at all, if we've got a construction job going on, I'm going to be checking, because Lord knows, people can't do construction right unless I'm there, and so I wanted to check to be sure that those concrete guys had poured that foundation correctly.

I was there standing at the foundation of the [Hartford Hub 00:07:50]. Hadn't been there but a minute and a guy from the neighborhood is making a beeline right toward me, except he is weaving all over the place for sure that Saturday afternoon. He said to me, first thing out of his mouth, "I spent the afternoon at the bars up the street." First, I didn't ask him. That's the first thing came out of his mouth. Frankly, that was no surprise to me at all based on a whole lot of things. I had a couple of immediate responses to that. One, this is exactly where we ought to be. This is exactly where the Lord has called us to serve. "Arise. Go to Nineveh."

I'm so glad for the privilege of being here. These are exactly the kind of interactions that we will have the privilege of having just because we've tried to be submissive and obedient to God's mission for us. Secondly, Lord please help me to know exactly what love looks like right now. Loving our world, what's that look like right now? What does that sound like right now at this very moment with this dear man that you have brought across my path this afternoon? Loving our world.

I appreciate the great job several of our other pastors have done in teaching Chapter 1 the last couple of weeks. Aren't you glad for our staff? I am so thankful for them and their families for sure. The story so far goes like this. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and deliver a message about their need to repent, to turn around, to change the way they were living and to place their faith and their trust in him. That was an incredible command, because Nineveh was a principle city of the nation of Assyria. Those were the enemies of the Jews, of people like Jonah, because of their cruel and ruthless treatment of other nations.

Here's what the Bible says. "Jonah listened to the command from the Lord and then he promptly turned and headed the other direction." Can you imagine somebody doing that? Not listening to God but actually going the other way? The passage, by the way, makes it clear. Jonah, supposed prophet of God, was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. Well, God loves Jonah. Are you glad for that? God loves Jonah just like he loved the rebellious nation of Israel who Jonah's life and ministry was illustrating. The Lord's not going to allow Jonah's disobedience to serve him very long. Are you glad for that? A God who loves you too much to allow your running from him to work for very long. The scripture is very picturesque about what happened next. "They got hurled," that's the verb that's used, "He hurled a great storm on the ship."

Now, here's today's news. If God is hurling a storm, that's a big one. We all got that? That's a big one for sure. In fact, the seasoned pagan sailors on that ship that Jonah had boarded to flee from the presence of the Lord are now crying out to their God. It looks like the ship is even going to break up. Finally the sailors cast lots to determine why this is happening, and, surprise, surprise, surprise, the lot falls on Jonah. They ask him and they find out that Jonah worships Jehovah, Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, the God who made the sea and the land. They can't believe it. They say in essence in Verse 10 of Chapter 1, "What are you thinking? What are you thinking? What can we do to stop the storm?"

It's interesting. Understand this about Jonah's heart. He takes the martyr's route right then. What should he have said? He should have said, "It's not something that you can do. It's something that I need to do. I need to repent, and so I need to bow my knee on the platform of this ship and repent." However, that's not what he was ready to do, so he said, "Cast me overboard and the sea will become calm." Amazingly, the sailors didn't want to do that. Man, if I were there, I'd be like, "Fine. Thank you for telling us. See you later." No. They kept rowing. The storm got worse. Finally, they cast him overboard, and the storm immediately ... You understand what God does? It's like, immediately and miraculously seized and done.

Picture this, these Phoenician sailors, "They bowed down," the Bible says, "... and they sacrificed not to their pagan gods that had let them down but to Jehovah, the God of the Bible," proving that God will ultimately be glorified either by blessing those who obey him or by judging those who don't. We all got that? The question then becomes, "Hey, hey, what happened to Jonah? What happened to Jonah?" Maybe we could ask this. What would have happened to Jonah if you were God? I don't know about you, but if it were me, this would have been a lot shorter book only needing one more verse, "Glug, glug, glug. Jonah met his maker at the bottom of the sea." I'm glad you're not God and you're probably pretty glad I'm not.

Let's read what happens with the real God. Jonah 1:15 to get a running start here. "They picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea and the sea stopped its raging." Are you picturing that? Do you think God can do that, by the way? "Then the men feared the Lord," Jehovah. These Phoenician pagan sailors now fear Jehovah greatly and they offered a sacrifice," to whom? To the Lord, to Jehovah, Yahweh. "They made vows, and the Lord, Jehovah, appointed a great fish that swallowed Jonah. Jonah ..." Picture this, "...was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights." How pleasant would that be? "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord, his God, from the stomach of the fish." You can pray from anywhere. Do you know that?

"He said, 'I called out of my distress to the Lord, to Jehovah, and he answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol. You heard my voice. You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All your breakers and billows passed over me, so I said, 'I've been expelled from your sight.' Nevertheless, I'll look again toward your holy temple. The water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me. Weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but you have brought up my life from the pit. Oh, Lord, my God, when I was fainting away I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you into your holy temple."

Key verse right now. Verse 8, "Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness," or, as the NIV translates, "Those who regard vain idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs, but I will sacrifice to you at the voice of thanksgiving that which I vowed I will pay." Salvation is from Jehovah. Salvation is from the Lord. Then and only then the Lord commanded the fish ... You know God can do that ... and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry ground.

We're talking this morning about when disobedience lets you down. It will do that, or say, "I don't like that title." Then substitute "rebellion." When rebellion lets you down ... You say, "I don't like that." When running from God lets you down or when apathy toward the mission that God has given you to or toward people of another ethnic group lets you down ... From these verses I'd like us to see three necessary steps to begin the process of repentance. Friends, this chapter is all about repentance, and one of the things that marks a person who is heading the right direction from the person who is not is whether or not you've learned to repent well. There it is, and you've learned to repent quickly, and you've learned to repent thoroughly. This chapter could really help us. Three necessary steps to begin the process of repentance.

Before we get into that, though, I realize we probably better talk about the 10,000 pound whale in the room. Do you want to do that? Or whatever kind of fish it was. I recognize we will have people in our services today that would say to me something like if you were just being straight, "Do you really believe that this event literally happened?" The answer to that is, "Of course." There it is. "Of course I do. Of course we do," but let's talk about that for a minute. One is that the fish is not the most miraculous aspect of this book. I agree with commentator George Adam Smith, who wrote, "That's the tragedy of the book of Jonah, that a book that has made the means of one of the most sublime revelations of truth in the Old Testament should be known to most only for its connection to a whale."

You may say, "What would be more miraculous than the fish?" Well, for starters, the fact that a holy God was willing to extend grace to a country like Assyria and a city like Nineveh, that by any standard these people were known in the ancient world for their wickedness and their brutality. God could have wiped them off the face of his earth with absolutely no warning at all. Remember, his grace endures forever, and so he sends one of his prophets to communicate with them and encourage them to repent. Friends, that kind of love, that kind of grace, that kind of mercy, that's what's miraculous. It makes the whale look like a guppy in comparison; huh?

Also consider some other reasons to believe in the trustworthiness of your Bible. What did Jesus say about all of this? Jesus now. He said it assuredly. "I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, at one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till it's all fulfilled," speaking in that case about the Old Testament. In other words, he was saying, "It's all true," that it's all true," not just to the very letters. Get this. Not just to the letter but to the breathing marks in the Hebrew language over the letters. It's all true, and it will come to pass, not that that would need anything else, but what about Paul?

The apostle Paul said, "All scripture ..." an intelligent man. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God," theopneustos. "It's breathed out by God. It's profitable for doctrine, reprove, correction, instruction and righteousness." Why? "So that the man of God may be complete." You need it. You need it all. "Thoroughly equipped for every good work." Friend, how much scripture did the Apostle Paul consider to be inspired? All of it. We need it all in order to be equipped for the ministry God has for us.

What about Peter? Peter knew a little bit about fish, didn't he? What did Peter say about this? He said this, "Knowing this, first of all, that no prophecy ..." What are we studying right now? An Old Testament ... "No prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man." What human being would have wrote this book? "Prophecy never came by the will of man but wholly men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." He had seen enough of the work of God to be able to believe everything recorded in the word and more. He long ago stopped believing in the power of God.

Also this, don't forget this about this particular book. Jesus specifically used this particular event to illustrate his death, burial and resurrection. Here's what he said in Matthew 12, 'For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish ..." That's what Jesus said. "... so will the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." For the person who would say, "I don't believe the story of Jonah literally occurred, we would have to say back, "Jesus certainly did." There's no way a fair reading of that passage would lead to anything other than the view that Jesus believed that the story of Jonah literally happened. Why else would he use it as an illustration of the most important event in all of human history, namely, his death, his burial and his resurrection?

We would also say this. I realize you have to decide what you believe. That's fine. That's fine. Listen, the God of the Bible is purposely and incredibly powerful. If you want to take this demonstration of the power of God out of the Bible, what's going to happen next? What else are you going to take out? My guess is you're going to want to take out the virgin birth, and you're going to want to take out Jesus' miracles on earth, and you're going to want to take out his bodily resurrection. If God is not powerful enough to do all of those things, why in the world are we here this morning? Why did I get up? Why did you get up?

Paul said this about the resurrection. He said, "If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile." What are we doing here? You're still in your sins. Now we've got a problem. Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ, those who have died have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we of all men are the most pitiable.

Now, listen, you want to talk about a miracle that is much more significant than Jonah and the whale? Now, this is not going to sound nice, so sit back. It's finding a way to get your sinful soul to heaven. You say, "Well, that didn't sound very nice." Your sin is not very nice. By the way, neither is mine. What is it honestly going to take for your sin to be forgiven by a God who is whole? Just thinking about it, do you believe that? If God is truly wholly and for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God ..." All. There's that "all" word again, that means that something incredibly powerful is going to have to occur before you can get to heaven, incredibly powerful for our sin to someday be forgiven. I'm really glad. Are you not? The God of the Bible is purposely and incredibly powerful, and what all God's people say, and we need that badly, we need that badly.

With the time we have remaining, let's go back to this passage. "In faith ..." What did they name this place, by the way? "Doubt Church?" "We'll Believe It If You Can Prove It Church?" No, no, no. "Faith." "Faith." Let's look for three necessary steps to begin this process of repentance and recognize the consequences of disobedience.

I. Recognize the Consequences of Disobedience

Many times that's where it starts. What's God up to here? Think about the significance of this fish. I know people like to mock this. You understand, God does not do anything ever by accident. Do you ever find yourself smiling at the sovereign hand of God in your life? "I see that now, Lord."

We had an important pastor and deacons' meeting this past Thursday night where we were talking about a lot of potential projects. You want to talk about, "Arise. Go to Nineveh." We're on that. It's interesting. In my Bible study, that's morning, surprise, surprise, surprise, was just the next step in my Bible study plan that was laid out at the beginning of the year was the construction of the Temple of Solomon. I'm reading thought that text just laughing. Do you ever do that? "Lord, you crack me up." I do think it's right to say things like that as you see his sovereign hand at work.

What about this fish? It was no coincidence. For one thing, it was a sign to the people of Nineveh ... Do you know that history tells us the people of Nineveh worshiped a fish Goddess named Nanshe along with another god that was half man and half ... anybody want to guess? Fish. It was an act of pure grace for God to use a fish in the story, so these people of Nineveh would have clear proof of the power and the supremacy of the God who was calling for their repentance and their allegiance.

They might say, "They wouldn't have believed what Jonah would have subsequently reported to them any more than we would." Well, think about this. What do you think Jonah's skin looked like after three days in the digestive juices of a fish? Yeah. Some Bible students believe, I don't know, that Jonah's altered appearance along with possibly the testimony of the sailors ... Don't forget those guys. They had seen a lot too. Made Jonah's story not just believable but likely. Just like in the previous chapter, God using this storm being an instrument of grace to the Phoenician sailors who worshiped the god of the sky. Now the Lord directing a fish the way he did communicating a huge message to the people of Nineveh. The point is this was not an accident. Don't be mocking the sovereign hand of God is the point of that.

It was also an instrument of salvation for Jonah. I realized somebody's going to say, "God was really jamming Jonah up here." Really? Really? Think about this. For one thing, why was Jonah in that situation to begin with? Purely his disobedience; right? It did not have to get here, and I would encourage you to write that down in your mind. Many times when we're facing the consequences of our own disobedience we start lashing out at the Lord or lashing out at other people. It didn't have to get this bad. You could have repented while you were on the deck of the ship, so you're in the water because of your own sin and rebellion, but also this. Once he was in the water, if God didn't do what he did, what was the alternative?

You realize the fish was good news for a guy who didn't have another ride to the shore. What's amazing is, it shows the beauty and the wisdom of God is that that fish was an instrument simultaneously of both salvation and judgment. Admittedly, it was anything but pleasant; huh? Why? Why? Don't miss this. Because at the beginning Jonah had not yet repented. I understand some people scoff at the fish. This part of the story demonstrates the wisdom and the perfection of God's plan for his people.

Why is all this important? I'll tell you why. We will undoubtedly have men and women listening to this message who are running from God. Let's just be honest about it. Either in the sense that you're clearly doing things that displease him, those are called sins of commission, or running in the sense that you're not doing things he wants you to do. Those are called sins of omission. I realize you might in your mind scoff at me right now, "Yeah, but I haven't seen any negative effects yet. I've gone down that chimney six consecutive times. I robbed that store that exact same way. Gotten away with it every time. I'm running away from God. I'm in the bottom of the ship. I'm having a pleasant snooze just like Jonah in Chapter 1." Really? Really? I just say this to you, my friend, I hope you like the smell of fish from the inside. I hope you like the smell of fish.

Have you taken time this morning or as we've been studying this book and just imagined what this three-day experience would have been like? If there was ever a place where we needed a scratch-and-sniff page on our Bibles, they ought to start publishing those. Why do I have to think of everything?

Listen, that's what it took in Jonah's case; huh? The word "Then" in Verse 1 of Chapter 2 is crucial. Jonah had to experience these consequences for three days and three nights before he was ready to do what he should have done all along. When he finally prayed, he spoke about the consequences. Did you see it? He talked about "My distress and from the depths of Sheol, and I was cast deep into the heart of the sea, engulfed by the current. I was passed over by breakers and billows. I was expelled from your sight. I was encompassed by water to the point of death. I was engulfed by the great deep. I even had weeds wrapping around my head."

When that happens, maybe God is trying to get your attention. "Dude." "Descended to the roots of the mountains, bars of earth around me forever. I was in the pit. I was fading away." What in the world is going on here? Why is Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days? The answer is he's learning. Welcome to a front row seat in God's theology class. He's reflecting. He's rethinking.

One writer said, "The belly of a fish is not a happy place to live, but it's a great place to learn." It's a great place to learn. The book started with a clear command from God to his servant in the first two verses, and then Verse 3 begins with the unfortunate word, "But ..." "But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish." Why? Because he had convinced himself that his way was better than God's. He had convinced himself that doing God's will was optional. He convinced himself that he could do what he wanted to do and get away with it. He could go where he wanted to go and get away with it. He could be what he wanted to be and get away with it. The first step to Jonah getting out of this jam is coming face to face with consequences. The belly of a fish, it's not a happy place to live. It's a great place to learn.

By the way, as a little sidebar, you might say, "Hey, hey, was Jonah's repentance genuine? Is Jonah's repentance the ultimate model of what our repentance should look and sound ...?" That's an important exegetical question. Here's I think the answer that we would give. "No, but it was a good start." That's the answer. Think about this. One, have you ever repented perfectly of anything ever? Before we get too hard on Jonah, can we just back up and look in the mirror for a minute? No, it wasn't perfect, but ... Yeah. We also would say it's not what it could have been, in part, because did you notice how self-centered it is? He's talking about all the consequences of the sin to him. Who's he not talking about? What about the consequences of his sin to those Phoenician sailors? What about the consequences of this apathy to the people he was supposed to be going and ministering to? It was shallow. It was heading the right direction, but it's shallow for sure.

Also, when you compare, it's interesting, you compare Jonah's repentance to the repentance of the Phoenician sailors in Chapter 1 or the Ninevites in Chapter 3, the pagans do better than the man of God, which is a sad lesson. Also, if you've read this book already, you know by the time you get to Chapter 4, Jonah's subsequent choices, they are so bizarre. Really, it's one of the strangest chapters in all the Bible. We'll eventually get there, but for all those reasons we would say, "No, this is not the model of repentance." In fact, it's an example of the Nation of Israel and the way they were responding to their Lord. At least he did something. At least he did something without continuing to harden his heart. The big picture here is running from God's not funny. I know our world likes to laugh at it. I hope you're not laughing. Running from God is not acceptable. It's not an option. It's not tolerated. Running from God stinks. That's what Chapter 2 is all about. It stinks. There's nothing worth paying the price that Jonah had to pay.

Friend, if you're not heading the direction that God wants you to, what lesson do you think the Lord wants you to learn today? What steps do you think he wants you to take? Before you think this is all about behavior when we talk about repentance, think about the second idea. Recognize the heart of all of this.

II. Recognize the Heart of Disobedience

See, Jonah's prayer moved from consequences to the root of the matter in Verse 8, a key verse in all of this, and shame on me. This is my fault. The way that's listed in your handout if you have one of those, is actually misquoted. Again, it's totally up to Pastor Jonah here. I messed that one up. The verse reads like this in the NIV, "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."

You might say, "Pastor Viars, are you saying that Jonah was an idol worshiper?" Let me answer that question with a question. Had he been worshiping God in any real, meaningful, practical way? Had Jonah been worshiping Jehovah with his life? No. Then what alternative does that lead? Is there such a thing as neutrality when it comes to the matter of worship? No. God's made us worshiping beings. Do you realize that? All of us will either love and worship him and serve him well, or we'll worship and serve someone or something else.

A fundamental question for every one of us to consider is who or what will you worship, not on your doctrinal statement, but in the whoop and wharf of your life. Who or what is your god? What do you want? What do you desire? What do you seek? What are your goals and expectations? Where are you looking for security really, for meaning, for happiness, for fulfillment? What do you think would make you happy? What do you fear? What do you worry about? What do you love? What do you hate? How do you define success? I'm saying this morning that Jonah, it's not just a matter of poor behavior with the hands. Jonah was a functioning idolater in his heart.

John Calvin said this, "The human heart is a factory of idols." In other words, if I do not control my heart and life with biblical truth, my heart will regularly produce things to take the place of God and his will. Jonah had been focusing on "my way" and "my plans" and "my agenda" and "my will," and so when a new ministry opportunity came along, "Arise. Go to Nineveh," because that was going to be hard and because it went against his grain, the idolatry in his heart led to the running in his feet. Jonah needed to come to a place of recognizing that about his heart and admitting that about his heart. You might say, "Was that easy for him to admit that?" Is it easy for you? Is it easy for you? It took three days in the belly of a whale before he was willing to do that.

I've been in this pastor business for a long time, seen a lot of stories, and I've seen a lot of them play out over time. I'll tell you, one of the things that marks, I said at the beginning, one of the things that marks whether a person is heading the right direction or not is whether or not you've learned to repent, whether or not, when you mess up, whether you own it. Own it quickly. Own it thoroughly. Own it comprehensively. There are some men and women who will do anything instead of repenting. They immediately start blaming their sin on everybody else. They immediately try to minimize what it was that they did. They immediately want to run. They immediately want to hide. They'll do anything in the world instead of repenting. What you see is that road is heading them further into the belly of the fish, further in the belly of the fish. There's going to be more and more consequences because of that refusal to repent, more and more consequences because of that disobedience and rebellion.

Here's the bottom line. When you just push the "Pause" button on that story for a moment, you can honestly say, "Do you recognize if you had just taken a fraction of the time and energy and resources that you have put into blaming this on everybody else and minimizing and running, if you'd just taken a fraction of it and just repented. Own it. Own it quickly. Own it exclusively. Own it thoroughly, comprehensively. By now those relationships could have been reestablished and your position could be reestablished. I know it would have been hard to repent, but now things would be in such a better position. Instead you're still, you're still in the belly of the fish for one reason. You won't repent. Not just because of your poor behavior but because of your idolatrous heart. See, those who cling to worthless idols, that they forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

Why is this in the Bible? Why is this in your Bible that God gave to you? Paul said this when he was talking to the Corinthian church about that. He said, "Now, these things ..." talking about the Old Testament. "Now these things became our examples to the intent ..." There's a reason for it "... that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted, and do not become idolaters as were some of them." See, part of getting unstuck, if that's what needs to happen for you, is thinking not just about the behavior that needs to change but more importantly the desires of the heart that have been making that change seem so elusive. Solomon said it like this, "He who covers his sin shall not prosper, shall not prosper today, tomorrow, three years from now, ten years from now. He who covers his sin shall not prosper, but he who confesses," Chapter 2, "and forsakes them, shall have mercy."

III. Recognize the Solution to Disobedience

Thankfully, there is a solution to all of this. Friend, God does not want you to remain stuck. Do you believe that? God does not want you to be kept in the belly of the whale any longer than necessary. When Jonah finally got to Verse 9, God was more than willing to move him to Verse 10, "Then the Lord commanded the fish and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry ground." I realize that may not sound like the most pleasant experience in the world, I can assure you those are some of the sweetest words Jonah ever heard. "I'm about to get vomited."

Can I ask you again, is there any sense in which you're running from God, either by commission, doing things you know he doesn't want you to do, or by omission, failing to do what you know he wants you to do, like you've never trusted Christ, the Savior and Lord, and God keeps bringing these Christians into your life, a family member, a coworker, someone who's been talking to you about the need of repenting of your sin, trusting Christ, the Savior and Lord, and you are so stubborn, you're running from God. The people that he's placed in your life are trying to bring you to a place of repentance.

Friend, if you've never trusted Christ, I want to urge you to do it today. I know it's hard to repent. Listen to me. You're either going to die in your sin and you're going to be separated from God forever, or you're going to repent and acknowledge your need and place your faith and trust in him and be forgiven of your sin and have his righteousness placed on your account, so the day you die, boom. You are in heaven because our God is a powerful God. Why not repent and believe today? Today.

You're a Christian and you're running. You're at odds with another person in your life. You know what the Bible says about communicating with that person. You know the Bible says you ought to try to be reconciled with that person. You don't like that idea. You certainly don't feel like it. In fact, you're enjoying your bitterness. You're telling everybody in the world about it. You're enjoying your little private pity party, so you've clammed up around that person. You're giving the slow freeze, blah, blah, blah. Are you running from God? Why not repent of that?

The Lord's placed someone around you who doesn't know him. You know you ought to talk to them. You know you ought to be concerned about them. You know you ought to reach out to them, but there's a knot in your throat the size of a basketball, and you've come up with 200 reasons why you're not the person to talk to them or all the ways that they're not going to listen anyway. Arise, for crying out loud, and go to Nineveh. Go to Nineveh.

Maybe it has to do with the next step in your sanctification process, your growth. You know the Lord commands you to be baptized. That's not something this church came up with. That's something Jesus came up with. There is no such thing in the New Testament as a person who's in a right relationship with Jesus Christ but who has not publicly demonstrated their faith by believers. That is just the way it is. Arise and go to Nineveh. Go right away.

You need to be a member of a good church. It doesn't have to be this one, but it ought to be some. There is no such thing in the New Testament as a person who's in a right relationship with God who has not come under the love and care and authority of a local church body. That's the way God, the God of heaven, designed his church. Some of you have been putting that off. Arise. Go to Nineveh.

We have this Intro to Faith class over at Faith East starting this Wednesday night. Why not do that and at least get your questions answered. Listen, this is not some sort of a fable. This isn't a bedtime story to put us to sleep. It's the word of God to motivate us, to be what God wants us to be, including making choices that at times are hard. Arise and go to Nineveh. Maybe it's the next step in your service. This has got [Serve 16 00:44:04] written all over it. You know that? This book does. I'm really glad to tell you that 90% of the service positions for the next year in our children's ministries are filled. That's great. Thank you for doing that.

Thank you for those of you who arose and went to Nineveh, but some of you, God bless you. You've got the spiritual gift of waiting till the last minute. You do. It's incredibly how strong that gift is in your life. How about today? By the way, some of you are sneering at me right now. Let me just tell you something. Have you noticed I got new glasses? That's right. I'm wearing glasses now. Here's what that means. I can see you a whole lot better than I used to be able. I can see you over at Faith West right now. That's right. That's how powerful these glasses are. By the way, you look much more beautiful and handsome than I ever realized, by the way. I just want to be sure unless this come off as negative or snarky. Listen. Arise. Go to Nineveh. If God wants you to serve in that particular way, why not? Why not embrace the mission that God has given?

One more thing. Back up for a minute and think about this book globally. You know what the best plan of attack is? Just obey God right away at the very beginning and not have to go through all of this? Right? That's one of the great aspects of living for God. I want to encourage you to look at this summer missionally, constantly be looking at the opportunities to arise and go to Nineveh big and small, and seize them right away. Would you look at your summer that way?

I'm really glad for this group of teenagers and leaders who are heading off to a mission trip to Albania. That's not going to be an easy trip, but that church over there asked us to send them a team of teens. "Send some of your teens." Okay. They wanted us to do that, and I'm glad for those who are rising and going to Nineveh. Think about if a church is in the habit of embracing the mission God has for you, easy or hard, what that looks like over time.

I'm leaving this afternoon. I've been in town a couple of days. It's time to go somewhere. I'm leaving to go to Louisville this afternoon and will be there for a leadership colloquium the next couple of days with men and women from around the country who are going to be gathering together on the campus of Southern Seminary to talk about ethics and biblical counseling. We're upgrading our standards in that, so we're going to have an extended discussion and study about all of that.

I realize for those of you who are new, "So? Southern Seminary?" Southern Seminary, a school that 25 years ago was thoroughly liberal, the largest seminary on the planet, a seminary that would have scoffed at the idea that the word of God has answers for everyday life. They are hosting a leadership colloquium from around the world. Why? There's people in this church ... Dear people, the older people, the people in this church ... I learned that down in Florida, as if I'm any different. Listen, they've been faithful for a long, long time. God said, "Arise. Go to Nineveh," and they did, and they did, and they did, and they did. They took whatever flack was necessary, and now God is blessing that.

If you avoid, we want to be the anti-Jonah. That's the point, and there are some men and women who are just like that. The week after that I'm scheduled to be in Manaus, Brazil. Here's why that's so important. We've been trying to do training in Brazil for years, and God has blessed that incredibly, along with some other really good people. We were in Águas de Lindóia. That conference has gotten so big that it's completely maxed out of pastors who want to learn how to use the sufficient Bible to help others. Then we went to Fortaleza, another key city. That is now maxed out. Now we're going to the Amazon. Now we're going to Manaus. I have the privilege of representing us in that place at that inaugural conference. Why? Because of the faithful men and women around here who historically have said, "We're going to be anti-Jonahs. When God gives us an opportunity for ministry, arise and go to Nineveh."

I mentioned we had our pastor and deacons meeting this past Thursday night. We were going over all sorts of projects considering whether that's what God would have us ... I wish I had time to talk to you about all of that, but right in the middle of that deacons' meeting, 7:15, I get an email from my friend, Kike Tores down in Mexico. They, by the way, are asking us to come down there around Thanksgiving and do a week-long conference. We're going to split it up. They said, "Listen, we have so many people from Columbia, from Panama, from Ecuador, who are wanting to come. Would you come? We'll just do it all at once," which you realize you do that and then where are you going to be going next.

Kike emails me, and he says this, "Hi, Steve, I need to share with you this because you're an important part of it." Right now in their building, "Right now five biblical counseling sessions are happening simultaneously in our counseling center for God's glory." He said, "This is amazing. Thanks for your faithful work in Christ that impacts other countries for God's glory using this approach to ministry." Don't you love that, where men and women are trying to be faithful to the call that God has given them. Loving our world, that's what it looks like.

I realize, you might say, "I wish you wouldn't have preached on Jonah too, because my kids are here and they're going to be embarrassed by this. They're not going to want to believe. I'm not sure I want them to believe that." You know, that's what Dietrich Bonhoeffer's father thought. One of the things I did in Florida, if you've not read a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor-theologian in Germany in the 1940's who was martyred because he attempted twice to assassinate Adolph Hitler as a Christian pastor in Germany who became aware of what was happening to Jewish people and gave his life in order to stop it. Bonhoeffer's father was a renowned psychiatrist. His father was an unbeliever, his mother as well. They were unbelieving people, raised four children. They wanted them to learn culture, so they started reading them the Bible.

Dietrich actually started believing the Bible and became a follower of Jesus Christ. Dr. Bonhoeffer, his father, was very concerned about that, because Dietrich started saying, "I want to be a theologian. I want to be a pastor." Dr. Bonhoeffer, this renowned psychiatrist, who though he was not a Nazi, was actually used by the Nazis to examine people before they executed them. Dr. Bonhoeffer said, "I hate to see my son start believing in these fairy tales, because you're going to waste your life on ideas that no one is going to believe 25 years from now." Guess what's happening today. Millions and millions and millions of people around the world are gathering to study and worship Jesus Christ, the God of the Bible. There's not a person on the planet who believes what Dr. Bonhoeffer was teaching in 1940 about psychiatry.

Listen, the grass withers. The flower fades, but the word of our God, including the Book of Jonah, the word of our God, it stands forever. Arise. Go to Nineveh. Let's stand together for prayer, shall we? Father in heaven, Lord, we thank you for your word. We really thank you for your word, and we thank you that you're so powerful that you sent your son to die for our sin. Lord, I pray that we be looking for opportunities all over to love our world by proclaiming and living that message we pray in Christ's name. Amen.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

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