Ignite – Recalibrate

Ignite

This whole month our series is called ‘Ignite’. We’re talking about how to move away from dryness and routine to a place where our hearts are on fire for the things that really matter – to a place where we’re living lives that really count. We’ve been studying the life of a man called Jonah who like many today decided to RUN away from God’s purpose for His life.

Normally, when you achieve something bigger than you’ve ever achieved before, you feel good about yourself! Because of Jonah’s preaching, a whole city of 120,000 people had been completely transformed. You’d think he’d be completely over the moon! However, chapter 4 begins on a very different tone

v1- But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. Now Jonah wasn’t just displeased, he was greatly displeased. Why was he so unhappy? v2. He prayed to the LORD ‘O Lord, is this not what I said I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God; slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3. Now O Lord take away my life, for it is better for me to die that to live!

So why is Jonah angry? Well, it seems that he felt God was just too soft on bad people. I mean God, these Ninevites are corrupt and murderous people! How do you just forgive them and ignore what they’ve done just because now they say they’re following you!

Now you may not have a strong opinion about this – perhaps you’re one of those really saved people who genuinely prays for evil people to be transformed by God. But the reality is that for almost all of us, there are certain people whom we don’t really feel anything for. It seems they fit in a special category. There’s US – normal people, and there’s THEM! And because we have no love/sympathy for this person/people, we find it hard to care about them. Maybe we don’t hate them – we’re just indifferent! ‘I don’t care if they go to heaven – I just hope they’re not my neighbor!’ These are the people whom we feel nothing for.

V4-5 But the Lord replied “Have you any right to be angry?” Jonah went out and sat at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.

Jonah ‘waited to see what would happen to the city’. You see, he hadn’t really expected THEM – the Ninevites – to turn to God. He had expected them to reject the message, so that God would destroy them. Even when they turned to God, he didn’t trust that their actions were sincere. It was only 3 days down and 37 to go… God would soon see how insincere they were and destroy the city. And Jonah wanted to be there to see it!

Well at this point, God provides – three things. v6, Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head & to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. The vine grew up overnight, Jonah had nothing to do with it; he just woke up and there it was. His little shelter was not adequate to protect him from the hot desert sun, and so the vine was a welcome relief.

(i) v.7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. First it was the fish and then the vine; now the bible tells us that God also provided this worm!

(ii) v.8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.. So the sun blazed on Jonah’s head, it blew dust into his eyes – but there was no vine to protect him. Jonah was depressed and physically weak. v.8b He wanted to die, and said, “it would be better for me to die than to live”. Interestingly, the 1st time Jonah wished he was dead in v3 where he felt God was treating the Ninevites – THEM as only Israel – people like him – deserved to be treated. Now again he wanted to die because he felt God was treating HIM (one of the good guys), as only THEY deserved to be treated. v.9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”  “I do”, he said. “I am angry enough to die”

And here we come to the real heart of the matter. Jonah had made two mistakes that we too can easily make today.

 Jonah thought that he deserved god’s blessings!Maybe Jonah figured he deserved God’s blessings. Sometimes we too feel we have a right to receive blessings from God. After all I’ve done for you, Lord, surely I deserve no less from you! And so we find ourselves expecting that God owes us. We begin to think that our blessings are a compensation for serving God. We expect God to only ask us to do what is safe, convenient and comfortable. If it’s difficult or uncomfortable or scary, then it can’t be from God! Yet God never called us to live a safe life! God called us to live a fearless life! When our comfort, convenience or safety begin to determine for us where/when/how we will serve God, our focus has become the gift, not the giver. So mistake #1, Jonah thought he deserved God’s blessing… But mistake #2 was

Jonah was more concerned about his own comfort than about the eternal destiny of the Ninevitesv.10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine; though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight”. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and, many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city? 

I love how gently God deals with Jonah, even as He rebukes him. He’s saying, “Come Jonah, let’s discuss this vine for a moment… Why are you so concerned about it? You didn’t plant it. You didn’t make it grow. YET, you care enough about losing it that you are angry enough to die!

“Now”, says God to Jonah, “think about ME and the people of Ninevah.” I made them. Every one of them. And they didn’t spring up overnight. They’re a huge city! And you don’t care if they’re destroyed? If you’re going to be concerned about a vine that you didn’t create and that sprung up overnight, then surely I can at least be concerned about the 120,000 people in this great city who don’t know right from wrong?

You see, those things we’re concerned about… those things we spend so much time praying about… that promotion, that visa, that business deal, that spouse, they are all good! God is glad you’re concerned about them. But recognize this one thing. All these gifts are simply tools to help you achieve God’s purpose! To spread His influence on earth and to bring lost people back to Him. While I like my blessings, my prayer must always be – Lord, make me passionate about the things that You are passionate about! 

It’s easy as a Christian to do the Jonah thing – sit comfortably in our churches and wait for God to destroy our sinful cities! To feel nothing for those around us in our homes, estates or offices. To care nothing about other nations around us, only praying for and caring about our own comfort. To happily come to church and attend life group, comfortably safe in our own salvation while all around us, lost people continue to be lost.

But you know, the only reason that God left us here on earth was so that we can spread His influence on earth and bring people back to Him. That’s the only reason you don’t go to heaven the minute you become a Christian! We’re not here to acquire wealth; when we die we’ll leave that all behind. We’re not here to get education; we won’t need that where we’re going because the bible says we’ll have perfect knowledge! And we’re not here to get married and have children because in heaven there is no marriage! All these things are only there to help us fulfill our purpose, which is to spread God’s influence and to bring people back to Him across the whole world! Lord, make me passionate about the things that You are passionate about!

God says, ‘ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession’. Unfortunately, my own prayers are often, ‘God give me money for this’ or ‘God make me more comfortable and successful’. But God’s blessings are too big for your pockets! The more we understand His passion & concern for lost people, the more we too will dedicate our lives to go out of our comfort zones, to our relatives and friends and neighbors and colleagues, indeed to the ends of the earth, to wherever there are people do not know Christ. To those people that God is so concerned about. And the more we will pray, ‘Lord, make me passionate about the things that You are passionate about!’

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