by Polly Gwinn

The book of Jonah is more than a fascinating account of one man’s futile attempt to run away from God. It is a story of God’s love for even the most unlovable, despicable people we can imagine, and our responsibility to tell them the Good News (MLSB). The book is about the call of Jonah and his attempt to maneuver God. His path was a downward one just as all disobedience to God can only lead downward. Jonah was the only believer in the True God on board this storm swept ship and had a responsibility to be light for God. However, since he was fast asleep from exhausting brought about from running from God, his light was not shining. The storm was all around and the heathen mariners called out to their false God to no avail. Everyone on board needed the help of the one true God yet the only one who could have made a difference was sound asleep.

The conditions of this world are no different from those aboard that ship. The world is engulfed in a great storm; people are perishing and looking for answers to life’s questions, but the Christians are sound asleep. Notice in Jonah 1:8 the sailors asked Jonah; "what is your job"? If you listen carefully you might hear the world ask you the same question; "what is your job"? The answer may be found in Ezekiel 3:18; "When I say to the wicked, 'you will surely die,' you must warn them so they may live. If you don't speak out to warn the wicked to stop their evil ways, they will die in their sin. But I will hold you responsible for their death".

One of the last things that Jesus told Christians to do here on earth was to "go". Now many of us go but we do not carry anything with us. Take the Word of God with you and "make followers of all people in the world. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you" (Matthews 28:18-20). Do you understand where God is sending you to tell others about Him? Maybe you will not have to travel far; to a family member, next door, co-worker or maybe just to give the Christian sleeping next to you a nudge! The world may not act like it but they want a living, praying, serving, wide awake church and Christian friend. You are their light and your life should reflect good things so that the ones that are around you will give praise to your Father in heaven (Matthews 5:14-16). Remember the little song you learned as a kid called; "This Little Light of Mine"? Jesus was born as the light that would "shine on those who live in darkness, in the shadow of death. It will guide us into the path of peace" (Luke 1:79). Paul expressed a passion for the unsaved and wrote about patience and encouragement and the love we should have for our neighbors (Romans 15:1-8). He admonishes believers to wake up from our sleep because we are living in an important time (Romans 13:11-14). When is the last time you let your light shine? "God uses us to spread His knowledge everywhere like a sweet-smelling perfume" (2 Corinthians 2:14); we should share with those we love (1 Thessalonians 2:8); we should always be ready to answer everyone who asks about our Lord and Savior (1 Peter 3:15-16).

The sailors asked Jonah where he came from and with a "boy, am I ever ashamed of myself" attitude, he admitted that he was a child of God from the Promised Land of God. The Scripture does not say that he was embarrassed, but it would be hard to stand up for God after you have just blown your testimony. They knew he was running away from God in total disobedience (Jonah 1:10). As Christians, we must never allow ourselves to forget who we are and what we have been called to be, which is to speak for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), preach Christ to each person (Col. 1:28), using the gifts given by Christ through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:11-13). In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to the ten virgins that fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom (Matthews 25:5). When THE Bridegroom comes (Revelastions 19:7) we do not dare be asleep, but do we dare sleep when we are supposed to be living in light (Ephesians 5:8-14)? Jesus said to "occupy until I come" (Luke 19:13) but this does not mean to occupy a seat or a pew in the church. The dictionary definition of the word occupy is to dwell in, take up space or to employ yourself. The Biblical definition is to do business or to work, put to work your talents and gifts that God has provided you and to buy and sell (meaning to get a return or increase as in to further the Kingdom of God).

Jonah was asked; "where do you come from? From what people are you?” Have you been asked similar questions as in; "what church do you attend"? If you are running away in disobedience to God can you truly answer that you are "in the Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians. 12:13, 20, 27)? Has your disobedience or uncaring attitude caused your testimony to become silent causing others to ask; "do you attend church”? That’s gotta hurt! Like Jonah, our citizenship is in the Promised Land (Philippians 3:20) and we eagerly await the Savior to come and transport us home (1 Thess. 4:16-17). It is by grace we were saved by the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 2:8, 13) and we ought to match up with our bloodlines. Although we cannot and were not saved by our works, we were created to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). It is hard to read the Word of God to find our purpose with our eyes closed!

Notice when God sends us to witness, He has the person prepared to receive His message. Before He sent Jonah to Nineveh, He sent two plaques of famine and floods and a total eclipse of the sun. These were considered signs of divine anger and may help explain why the Ninevites responded so readily to Jonah's message after rejecting others. The sad truth is that the world would prefer that we and God leave them alone. There will be a day, however, when they will point an accusing finger at us and demand to know why we slept while they perished. We need not only to wake up but to get an urgency to speak to the lost, for the day is coming when we will no longer be able to work (John 9:4). Side note: Jonah did not like the Assyrians in Nineveh! He knew if he preached to them they would have the opportunity to avoid God’s wrath. Jonah actually wanted to see God punish his enemies. One of the marks of a true prophet was that his prophecies always came true (Deuteronemy 18:20-22). Jonah had said that the Ninevites would be overthrown and if this did not happen, then Jonah would be looked upon as a false prophet. His fellow Jews would be mad at him for preaching a message that brought salvation to their enemies. Before we judge Jonah too much, maybe we need to look at our own lives and examine how we respond to the Lord working out His will in our lives. Are we angry when God goes against "our plan" for reaching (or not reaching) someone. If you are harboring thoughts such as these, beware! You may end up in the belly of a big fish!

Upon finding that Jonah was the one causing the storm at sea, the sailors asked him; "what should we do to you"? Jonah gallantly said; "just pick me up and throw me into the sea"! I kind of stumbled over this scripture a bit, not quite understanding it. If Jonah was convinced he was the cause of the storm, why then did he not just fling himself overboard? Why did he put this burden on someone else's shoulders? Then I realized that this plan of action would cause the shipmates to call on the name of God for mercy (1:14)! Even in the midst of our disobedience, running from our responsibilities and sleeping on the job, Jesus saves!

The Christian Counter