Ignite – Reset

Have you ever been really desperate? 

IGNITE TWT

Desperation isn’t pretty! We don’t like to be desperate and we often organize our lives to avoid any desperation. But did you know that desperation can actually be good for you? I want to talk about that today. We have previously looked at the life of a man called Jonah who decided to run away from God’s purpose for His life. God told him to go west and he went east. And from what happened next, we learnt the important truth that every step away from God’s purpose is a step down. (Find Sermon Here)

People have said prayers in all kinds of desperate situations but I’m not sure there’s been one quite as uniquely desperate as this; Jonah 2

From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the LORD his God’. Theologians have tried to prove that it’s possible for a huge fish to swallow a man alive. I’m not sure that’s at all necessary! It’s clear from chapter 1 that it’s God who provided the great fish and that it was a miracle. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus equated Jonah’s accommodation for 3 days in the belly of the great fish with his death and resurrection. Both events are miracles – which means they wouldn’t occur without supernatural intervention.

Imagine what it was like to be inside the belly of a fish!

It was smelly – fish can really smell on the outside so imagine how they smell like from the inside! It was dark – not much to see; 3 days and 3 nights might as well have been 6 weeks!
It was probably uncomfortable – fish bones everywhere and tight little space.
Jonah was probably nauseous – the fish was swimming constantly. Plus in the middle of all this, the fish was probably trying to digest him!

Jonah cried out to God. It’s important to understand that this was not a dignified request for assistance, but a desperate scream to God… ‘From the depths of the grave I called for help’. The KJV says ‘out of the belly of hell, cried I’.  It felt like he was in hell. The Hebrew word here is Sheol and it refers to the place of the dead.  Its inhabitants were cut off from God, and remembered by Him no more.  Jonah experienced what it feels like to be cut off from God. He was in a desperate situation! He had only 2 options…. cry out for help, or die! Jonah chose to cry out for help.

When was the last time you genuinely cried out to God for help? For your marriage, your family, your addiction(s), your finances, your impossible situation! When were you so DOWN that dignity went out of the window? Desperation can be good for you!

Although he was a prophet, it had been a long time since Jonah talked honestly with God. It’s amazing and frightening how easy it is for church people to go for extremely long seasons without having a real conversation with God. I don’t know about you but I’ve been there – so busy serving God that I’ve no time to talk with Him. Why do you think Jonah reached out to God so desperately? Well for one, he had no choice – it was either pray or die! His tough situation helped him realize just how desperately he needed God; just how much he needed a reset in his relationship with God. Desperation can lead to some really honest conversations!

This sermon is a part of a series called ‘Ignite’. It’s about how to move away from coldness and routine to a life of passion and purpose – a place where our hearts are on fire for the things that really matter. And that’s the contrast we see here; when we first encountered him, Jonah’s heart had grown so cold that he was running from his purpose and didn’t even know it. But while in the impossible situation, something happened to his heart that brought a new genuineness to his relationship with God. It’s all about the heart!

I love the fact that there is no perfect person in the bible, except Jesus! Abraham was God’s friend but he also disowned his own wife when his life was in danger and later on slept with the maid! David was the ‘man after God’s heart’ but he also slept with the wife of his most loyal friend and then killed the man to cover up the affair! Paul was the amazing man who wrote half the New Testament but he was also so impatient that when a young intern called John Mark didn’t deliver, Paul ‘fired him.’ Thank God for a merciful man called Barnabas who took John Mark under his wing and mentored him, and as a result, one of the gospels is called the book of Mark! All these so-called ‘saints’ were really messed up, weren’t they? If all are sinners, what is the difference between those who died with a cold heart and those who lived a life of passion and purpose?

The difference was in the state of the heart. For example, David’s predecessor, King Saul messed up big-time. In 1Sam.15, God sent him on a mission to completely destroy the Amalekites but Saul decided to do it his way, to keep the best animals. When he was confronted about this disobedience, he justified it and then tried to cover it up and act like nothing bad had happened. He was more concerned about looking good and about covering up the state of his heart. But later when David was confronted about his wrongdoing, instead of trying to defend himself, he put aside all his dignity and cried out desperately to God for help. Psalms 51 is his journal entry, showing his desperate prayer to God – ‘have mercy on me O God!’ He desperately cried out to God and despite him being an adulterer and a murderer, God later called him, ‘the man after God’s own heart’. Talk about a reset! The people who most powerfully live out their purpose, those who live the most passionate and impacting lives aren’t the most qualified or the most gifted but rather those who are most desperate for God. God isn’t looking for qualified people; He’s looking for desperate people!

God has a unique purpose for each of us but it will always be an expression of the general purpose we all share: to know God and to make Him known! Are you desperate to know God more? Are you desperate to make Him known, so that all those around you will encounter Him through you? Or has your heart grown as cold as Jonah’s had?

Despite his issues, Jonah didn’t try to justify his actions. Instead, he cried out to God for help and when he did, God heard him. Verse 2 continues ‘from deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.’ IT’S ONLY WHEN WE REACH THE END OF OURSELVES, THAT WE EXPERIENCE GOD’S MERCY. God knows the sound of the person who calls because he truly needs Him and He does not withhold His mercy. As long as we are still trying to manage our own lives and to look good, God will never force His way in to reset our lives. God isn’t looking for qualified people; He’s looking for desperate people!

Jonah had tried to run away from God’s purpose. But he had only managed to run away from God’s peace! Now he remembered the peace of God’s presence, the joy of being exactly where God wanted him to be – and he missed it.  He knew that he deserved judgment but he also knew that God’s love and mercy endure forever.  God still loved him.  And like the prodigal son, Jonah decided to come back home. He recommitted his life to God.  Maybe he wondered, “Can God really accept me back after all I’ve done? Would He still want a relationship with me? Can He still use me?” He knew he did not deserve mercy, but he had nowhere else to go. And so he decided to come back to God. It was time for a reset!

What happened after Jonah did this?  We notice that his circumstances didn’t change and he is still in the fish but we notice a change in his perspective. Now he is full of hope! Despite how difficult things still are, God has lifted him from the pit of despair.  And we realize that GOD CAN RESTORE YOU TO A LIFE OF PURPOSE NO MATTER HOW FAR AWAY YOU’VE RUN. God isn’t looking for qualified people; He’s looking for desperate people!

From that point on, there was a genuine relationship between God and Jonah. He had the assurance that God was hearing his prayers. Despite being in the worst position ever, Jonah felt the joy of knowing his prayers were going right up to heaven. That difficult space you are in could lead to some of the sweetest times you’ve had with God – if you let it.

Perhaps you have been a believer for many years but your heart is not where it should be. Like Jonah, you have fallen away from your first love for Jesus. You pray beautifully and look the part but deep inside, you know your love for God today is a shadow of what it used to be. This message is for you. God is more concerned about the state of your heart than about what you can do for Him. He wants to reignite your passion! Perhaps you only started following Jesus recently- my prayer is that you will always live a life characterized by a desperate pursuit of God and His purpose for you! Or maybe you haven’t yet made that ultimate decision to follow Jesus. I want to let you know that whatever your aspirations and ambitions, you’re here on earth ultimately for a life of purpose. And that purpose is to know God and to make Him known. Stop trying to manage your own life and give it back to the one who gave it to you. Choose to live a life whose highest priority is God’s priority for you. God isn’t looking for qualified people; He’s looking for desperate people!

How do we press reset? How do we cultivate the type of desperation for God that will lead to our hearts catching fire?

CUT LOOSE – Jonah let go of all the things that kept him from being where God wanted him to be.  He called them ‘idols. An idol is something that is adored – that’s why we talk about ‘American Idols’. But the biblical definition goes further and describes it as a gift from God that replaces God in your life.  It’s a good thing – because God’s gifts are always good – but when it keeps you from being 100% sold out for God, it’s an idol. Idols compete with God and extinguish your passion. What are the idols in your life?  Maybe it’s your career, or your studies, or marriage, or your possessions.  Or maybe it’s even your ministry! God doesn’t want 99 ½ of you.  It’s only when He has all your heart that you begin to experience the life you were created for.  If you want God to ignite your heart, you need to cut loose all idols… it’s not easy, but He’s willing to help you if you desperately cry out to Him. His grace is sufficient for you trust him and cut loose. God isn’t looking for qualified people; He’s looking for desperate people! 

CULTIVATE THANKFULNESS – All through this time, Jonah did not know that the fish would ever vomit him out. It felt like he was in his last hours. But right there, in the middle of his crisis, he began to thank God for His mercy. Even though his circumstances had not changed, Jonah chose to be content in gratitude to God.

We all have our ‘belly of the fish moments’. And at such times, it’s so easy to complain! We complain about our studies, our job, our lecturers, our spouse, the economy, our family … it’s always someone else’s fault! Paul tells us in 1Thess.5:18 ‘give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’.  If you want God to ignite your heart, begin to actively be thankful when other around you are grumbling. Allow your desperate moments to draw you closer to God. Pray ‘thank you Lord for this situation; it may be difficult but I know you are changing me into what you want me to be’. Putting aside complaining and cultivating thankfulness moves the focus off us and onto God and creates the stage for Him to work in our situation. God isn’t looking for qualified people; He’s looking for desperate people! 

COMMIT EVERYTHING – Jonah’s thanksgiving became a springboard from which he could now serve God.  Because of his gratitude for Gods salvation, he promised to serve God in whatever God wanted. Before he had served on his own terms but now he was serving on Gods terms. This is where we all want to be; where we will do anything, stop anything, and go anywhere to live out God’s ultimate purpose for us, which is to know Him and to make Him known. God isn’t looking for qualified people; He’s looking for desperate people!

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