What really matters in life?
I often ask myself this question. Amazingly, one prophet in the Bible didn’t fully understand the answer. And he may have never figured it out! But you and I can still benefit from his story. I’ll explain.
For years, I’ve taught Guarded Heart Bible College students about the life of the prophet Jonah and discovered that this topic had a surprising, profound, and humbling effect in my life and the lives of others.
I believe the truths in the Book of Jonah are more relevant to your life and mine than ever. They are also relevant to GHBC students because these servant-leaders are being equipped to serve in ministry during times that test the faith of many Christians. Whatever struggles believers may experience, knowing the truths found in Jonah will help.
Here are three truths that I want to share with you today.
FIRST, you and I need a life that’s moving toward what God says in His Word, not away from what the Bible teaches.
From the very beginning of the book, we see that Jonah was, publicly, a prophet called to proclaim truth. But he refused to live up to that calling. God told him to go to Nineveh to preach. Instead, he took a boat in the opposite direction. It was only when God overruled that disobedience by having Jonah forcibly redirected by means of a storm and the great fish that Jonah preached.
And what happened? He was angry when the people of Nineveh repented and avoided God’s wrath. The ugly truth is that Jonah hated the Ninevites. Jonah complained to God because He wouldn’t destroy an entire repentant society! The problem was Jonah’s heart. He failed to understand the grace of God and extend it to others.
Jonah despised the Ninevites, even though they were made in God’s image. That’s a big problem—for Jonah and for our world today. The world is more polarized and angrier than I’ve ever seen. As Christians, will we move toward God’s command to love our neighbors, or will we refuse? The choice is ours. It’s not easy to love, but we are commanded by God’s inspired, inerrant Word to do it.
SECOND, to grow spiritually you and I need a life that confesses sin rather than professes pious, empty words of religiosity.
You see this in Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish. Studying the text, I could tell Jonah largely pieced it together from the Psalms, which he would have memorized as a good Jewish student of Scripture. But that’s all it seemed to be—a desperate recital of Bible words. Sure, God responded—by having the fish “vomit” Jonah up on shore. The Hebrew sense of the word “vomit” is never positive! It’s always undignified. The fish did his job, and Jonah was, at least, ready to do his job and preach.
But Jonah’s heart, as we see in his response to the Ninevites’ repentance, was still hard. That tells me it’s possible to know the Bible, be able to quote Scripture, cite references, and even memorize lengthy passages—yet not live the Bible. You can have a heart that is far from God. Love is just as critical as knowing Truth. Both must be present in the life of every Christian.
THIRD, to grow spiritually you and I need a life that’s concerned about people—not things, not comfort, not convenience. At the end of the Book of Jonah, we read that Jonah was not only angry that the people of Nineveh repented but also upset about inconveniences such as a worm destroying the plant that gave him comfortable shade! I said earlier that Jonah may have never learned what really matters to God. We don’t know for sure . . . but the text ends with Jonah still hard-hearted. Jonah, a prophet of God, remained hardened to God from the beginning to the end of the book that bears his name.
As a sincere encouragement from the study of Jonah, I want to remind you of this:
- God longs for His children to follow His lead;
- God wants our heartbeat to be His heartbeat; and
- whatever God is asking us to do—we should do it.
As followers of Christ, let’s be concerned with investing in eternal things. My prayer is that you and I will look back with no regrets and say, “I invested in what mattered to God.”
To God be the Glory!