Ignite – Reach

‘Was there ever a time in your life when someone treated you far better than you deserved? 

Ignite

We live in a world where nothing in life is free and you work for what you get. If you want something, you hustle for it! We work in an organization for a few years, bring in some big clients, bring in the money, solve problems and we begin to feel that we deserve some respect around the place! It is about time they gave me an intern to be serving me tea and handling my calendar. It is about time they gave me an office or a car or a pay-rise. Its about time people began to recognize the value I bring… I mean ‘they should know people’!

Most of us believe that we have earned what we have and we’re suspicious of people who get things that they didn’t work for! That’s why if the government does something unexpected, we are sure they’re just campaigning for the next elections. And when someone treats us better than expected, we begin to wonder what it is exactly they want. We wonder what exactly they’re setting us up for!

So if there was ever a person who was treated better than he deserved, it was Jonah. Jonah 3 

In chapter 3, we find ourselves back where we began. God gave Jonah the same message he’d given him the first time. This was the same Jonah who had defied God and gone west when God said go east. This is the same Jonah who had run as far as he could from God’s purpose for him. True, God had forgiven Jonah when he finally cried out desperately for help. But if God chose never to trust him again, we would not be surprised!  If God said ‘I forgive you’ but appointed someone else for the Nineveh mission, He would not have been unfair.  Yet God, in His mercy, decided to give Jonah a second chance.

Let’s put this in your context; what would happen if one of your colleagues at work was caught embezzling cash from the office? He probably would be fired and taken to the police! What if he said he was really, really sorry? He may be forgiven and not charged but he certainly wouldn’t still have a job and if he did, it would not be near the cash office! If you are a student, what would happen if one of your classmates was caught cheating in his exams? He/she would certainly fail the paper and most likely be discontinued from the degree course! But what if he/she said they were really, really sorry and would never do it again? I don’t know – maybe they’d eventually let them back into school. But they would certainly fail that paper! Chances of being reinstated in the same position of trust are very slim, even when we repent. And yet that’s exactly what God did for Jonah.  He not only forgave him – but he trusted him fully once more. He treated him as if he never sinned!

OUR GOD IS THE GOD OF A SECOND CHANCE. And Jonah is told once more… Go to the great city of Nineveh. God seems to be saying, ‘Even though you were a rebel against me, I’ve not only forgiven you Jonah, but I’ve restored you to your position of trust. I don’t know what Jonah’s response was but if it was me, I’d have thought… “What? You’re trusting me?  After all I’ve done?”  Jonah didn’t deserve a second chance but God gave him one anyway. And this time, Jonah didn’t hesitate! He went where he was sent.

We have failed God at one time or another. And we’ve cried out to God to forgive us. But even after God has forgiven us, we often relegate ourselves to the bench. We think God can’t use an untrustworthy person with issues like me– at least not in the same way that He’s using some seriously saved looking people around me! But here’s the thing – God doesn’t just forgive – He restores to a position of trust and purpose!

 If you believe you deserve the worst in your life because of the things you have done, then you are wrong. If you are still wondering whether God can forgive you because you ran away from him, let Jonah’s story be an encouragement to you that our God will not only forgive you, but he can also restore you. If you need that kind of restoration by your father in heaven, then I’m glad you’re reading this blog post. But even after he has forgiven and restored you, there is a certain kind of response that we need to have and we learn this from Jonah; that is quick obedience. Jonah understood that he couldn’t blow up another chance and so he traveled the 800km journey, and preached to the Ninevites.

Clearly, it was not Jonah’s eloquence or charisma that convinced people. Something supernatural was at work here. God had gone before Jonah and prepared the Ninevites hearts, making them ready for the message.  All Jonah had to do was say the words God had told him…God did the rest. ‘Do your part, let God do His’.

I wonder if Jonah felt overwhelmed as he preached to the people of Nineveh.  After all, Israel was a tiny and weak nation compared with Assyria, the largest & most sophisticated country in the world. Perhaps he wondered if he was qualified enough; if people would laugh at his strange accent or dismiss his ignorance or even be angry at him for preaching about their downfall! Whatever his fears, Jonah preached exactly as God directed him. And then, the strangest thing happened! The whole city turned to God.  They began to cry out for mercy and to humble themselves before God.  They seemed to believe even before Jonah finished his message! What an amazing ending to this chapter. God forgave Jonah and he restored him to a position of trust and purpose, Jonah’s response was that of quick obedience to go do what God had asked him to do, and we see that a whole nation was restored back to God. Jonah did his part and that allowed God do His. Do your part, let God do His!

What is your part? The story of Jonah is closer home than you might think. What is your response to God’s mercy and restoration in your life? How does God want you to live in light of the fact that there are people around you who do not know Him? What is the fate awaiting the Ninevites in your life if you don’t do your part in bringing them to God? Whether it takes 40 days or longer, the sad reality is that the bible says their fate will be the same as that which the Ninevites were facing.

God have mercy! Yes – He wants to have mercy. But you must do your part! And when you do your part, God moves in and does His. V.10 says, ‘When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He Had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He Had threatened.’ When Jonah preached in obedience, the people of Nineveh realized their sin.  They humbled themselves before God and asked for His mercy. And the amazing thing is that as a result, God changed His mind! Can God change His mind? Clearly yes! He’d said they would be destroyed in 40 days. But because of one person’s obedience, God spared a whole city from destruction. An exceedingly great city! 3 days across! Saved! 120,000 people owed their lives to the obedience of this one man. Many lives had been impacted for eternity. Just because one man did his part and let God do His! Do your part, let God do His!

So what is your part? It has to do with your purpose, which as we’ve learnt is to extend God’s influence and bring people back to Him. God loves lost people. God wants to help lost people find life and purpose and meaning. But He will never force his solutions on them! God only goes where He is invited. And the way we play our part for Him to be invited is by inviting others to experience what we’ve experienced. In that sense, we have a huge responsibility. As forgiven people, God has made us primarily responsible for the eternal destiny of our family members, friends, neighbors and our colleagues at work. You are God’s plan A for the salvation of those around you!

Is that a little bit over-whelming for you? The good news is that there is only one Savior and its not you or me. Do your part, let God do His!

The bible tells us that there are 2 things that last throughout eternity: God’s word and people. Everything else is temporary. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut; to start to think we are here for our education or here for our families or here to get married. I’m not saying these things are bad but they are simply gifts to help us invest in what is eternal. And yet many times we forget this and we begin to live for small, temporary things!

There was once an eagle who thought he was a chicken. For some reason, he had been hatched along with chicken eggs.  And so he grew up among the little chicks, looking down, scratching the ground and searching for worms. That’s all he knew to do… And yet every once in a while, he would hear the high pitched cry of an eagle way up in the sky. At such times, his little heart would beat faster, and he would stretch out his wings and begin to flap them filled with the desire to fly. But just as he would begin to lift off, he would remember that he was only a chicken and he would fall back to the ground, doomed forever to look down, scratch the ground, and search for worms.

Are you investing your life in what is eternal? Are you constantly seeking to influence the lives of those around you for eternity? If you were to die today, would you say ‘Yes, I have invested in the things that will outlive me!’ Or are you content to live an ‘ordinary Christian life’ scratching around for the worms of earthly possessions and comforts? Matthew 6:19 says do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, there moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be

Because of Jonah’s obedience, a whole civilization was saved. Its time to stop living for things you can do by your own strength! God is calling you to restore our broken continent. It’s your time to go out into your home, office, county and nation and to bring God’s love to people! Do your part, let God do His!

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