Who Do You Turn To When You Hit The Wall?
From the Book of Jonah
We left Jonah in a bad spot yesterday. You thought you had a bad week, imagine you were in Jonah’s shoes? Jonah’s story is our story. Just like he ran away from God, how many times have we run away from God? God in his great love for us finally chases us down, not to pay us back, but to win us back.
When we run from God we think we can out run Him.
But when the music dies, the lights are out and you are staring up in the ceiling in your bed in the middle of the night, you know things are not right between you and God. Things are not right between you and you. You know that someday you are going to have to stop running. Eventually you are going to hit a wall. The pain of your decision will eventually catch up to you. The pain that you have caused your parents, the pain that you have caused to your spouse or kids and most of all, the pain that you have caused to yourself.
The last verse that we talked about last week was 2:1
Jonah began to pray.
Isn’t true in our distress, as a last resort we begin to pray.
Ours back are against the wall, a relationship is falling apart, finances are in shambles, sickness of some sort, you begin to pray like you have never prayed before. Regardless of how you justified your behavior in the past, you find yourself in distress and the only person you can turn to is God.
Isn’t that amazing. No matter how smart you think you are or slick you think you are, the moment you are broken, when you are busted, found out, you are discovered, and no place else to run, in your distress, you call out to God. It overpowers our intellect, our reasoning, over powers our theology, over powers our resistance.
Jonah in his desperation cries out. Always remember, God listens to the desperate cry for help, from desperate people, who are in desperate circumstances, that is amazing. Your heavenly Father listens to your desperate cry for help, in his desperation, Jonah learns some basic principles inside that fish. Principles that we need to be reminded of every single day.
- Inside the fish, Jonah recognized his utter dependence on God.
Listen to the desperation in his voice:
“I cried out for help” [2:2],
“I said, ‘I have been banished’” [2:4], and
“As my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord.” [2:7].
When Jonah exhausted hope, God moved in.
- Inside the fish, God stripped the wayward prophet of both his pride and prejudice.
[2:8]. God removed all spiritual distractions. Raw emotions. What you see is what you get.
- Inside the fish, Jonah submitted to God without reservation [2:9].
When Jonah got alone with God the voice of God became loud and clear.
Famous quote by C.S. Lewis: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
God is generous in his grace to those who are in desperate situations. It’s a daily invitation to come back. At this point, Jonah has clarity of mind that it was God who sent the storm. It was God who sent this calamity.
Here’s an interesting thought, at what point do you think Jonah started to repent? When he was in the fish for the first full day, or second day. I don’t think so, I think the repenting process started when sailors picked him and started saying one and a two and a …. stop
Do we throw on two or three?
I think before he ever hit the water he repented.
God I’ll go to Nineveh, I’ll go to Narnia, I’ll go wherever you want as long as you want me. He is a new man. It’s not until we feel the pain of our decisions will we begin to wave the white flag.
Associate rebellion and pain.
Rebellion leads to pain.
Rebellion doesn’t just lead to personal pain but pain to others who we are connected to us.
Jonah’s rebellion not only affected him but the crew. The crew lost a tremendous amount of money because they had to hurl their cargo overboard. Now their lives are in danger.
Why? All because Jonah is running from God.
Whether you realize it or not you put other people in spiritual danger when your rebel from God. Whether or not you realize it you bring your junk into other people’s lives when you are running from God.
I don’t know about you, but I have enough junk of my own to be carrying around.
Tony Evans said, if you are going to be a fool, be a fool by yourself, don’t go messing up everyone else’s situation because of your foolishness.
Rebellion leads to pain not only to yourself, but to others.
Sometimes discipline needs to be thorough to reassure that we will never run again.
Because God loves you, his discipline is not to pay you back, it is to win you back and to ensure that you will not continue to run.
Sin has consequences. It brings scares, physical, emotional, and spiritual. God’s main desire is that he wants to prevent you from running out on that highway of sin. Because he knows the dangers that await you.
Just like a parent knows the danger that awaits a five-year-old child if he was to go outside by himself and wander up and down the sidewalks. So God allowed Jonah to rattle around inside a fish, three long days and three long nights.
Three days were not just random days,
Jesus compared the three days of Jonah to the three days he will be “heart of the earth” Apostle Creed, He descended into hell.
Look at how Jonah describes it.
While offering this prayer, Jonah often quoted from the Psalms.
Although he did not acknowledge the chapter or verse, he allows the Word of God to permeate his thoughts.
Notice at specific references.
- “Your billows swept over me” [2:3] Compare with Psalm 42:7.
- “I have been banished” [2:4]. Compare with Psalm 31:22.
- “Engulfed me up the neck” [2:5]. Compare with Psalm 69:1.
- “My life was fading away” [2:7]. Compare to Psalm 147:3.
- “To Your holy temple” [2:7]. Compare to Psalm 18:6.
Verse 8 Read
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Key verse Read verse, giving up idols.
When you run from God it means that you are running to something, someone, some opportunity, pleasure, entertainment.
Timothy Keller wrote a powerful book: Counterfeit Gods
“The human heart is an idol factory that takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.
When we run from God and we dedicated our youth, or some season in life to get a hold of it, when we finally seize our idol, we come to the stark reality that is not what we were expecting. Our hearts still have a huge hole inside.
What you wanted and what you were pursuing, was not worth what you gave up.
* You gave up a close and intimate relationship with God.
* Harmony and peace in your life. You have distance yourself.
* Healthy relationship with family members
* Physical health
* Clean conscious
At that point the Holy Spirit gives you a moment of clarity when you look at what you have finally achieved, you grasp, and realize that it is just a worthless idol. You traded a worthless idol for the experience of having that intimate relationship with a loving Father.
In your despair, pain, grief, where do you turn to?
Do you cry out to that false idol for help? I don’t think so.
Madeleine L’EngleL American writer best known for young-adult fiction, winner of the Newbery Medal.
A very strong Episcopalian
Someone has altered the script
My lines have been changed…
I thought I was writing this play.
Like Jonah, who is running away, we think we were writing the script but only to realize that someone has altered the script. Who do you think is altering the Script? God. Jonah is thinking that he is writing the script only to find out that God is altering it.
Now the only living thing that had any common sense in this story is the fish.
While Jonah was rebelling, the fish was obeying.
God told the fish, Hey fish, I got this fool who is about to drown and I need for you to pick him up.
Sure enough just as he was sinking, the fish shallows Jonah.
The Bible says, the fish brought him to dry land. They are in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, while Jonah is trying to get himself right with God, the fish obeyed God by bringing him to dry land.
The only dry land mentioned is Joppa.
Jonah paid money to run away from God. God gives him a free trip back to Joppa, his place of rebellion.
Jonah, where are you going to go now?
Verse 9 God came to the Jonah the second time.
Aren’t you glad God gives second chances?
Thankfully, we serve the God of a second chance.
* Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and God covered them.
* Moses murdered a man and God called him.
* Elijah quit and complained then God re-commissioned him.
* Peter denied the Lord and then God used him at Pentecost.
* John Mark deserted the mission team yet God moved upon him to write the second Gospel.
The sooner you learn the lessons that God wants you to learn, the easier your life will be. God is not going to let up until you finally put into practice in what he’s trying to teach you.
God is the God of the second chance.
John Ortberg tells a story from Philip Yancey book entitled: What’s So Amazing About Grace?
In a chapter called “The Lovesick Father,” he retells this story in a way that just wrecked me when John used it in one of his sermons: So, I thought I share it with you.
A young girl grows up on a soybean farm outside Decatur, Illinois. Her parents do not much care for the music she listens to or the clothes she wears or her nose ring. She does not much care for their values of their church.
One night they had a major blow out. Of all the arguments she has had, this one was over the top.
She goes to her room, slams the door and locks herself in. (Can anyone relate to that?)
When her dad knocks on the door, she screams, “I hate you!”
She decides to run away. She decides to run away to the most rebellious, permissive, non-family value state in the Union.
Want to guess which one that is? California.
She decides to run to the most rebellious, permissive, non-family value city in that state. Want to guess which one? San Francisco.
When she gets there, she is much lonelier than she had anticipated, but she soon meets a man who drives the biggest car she has ever seen. He gives her a ride. He buys her lunch. He shows her the city.
He gives her some pills that make her feel better than she has ever felt, and she wanted to feel good really bad.
She realizes how much life and fun her parents have been robbing her of. This good life goes on for a month, two months, a year.
The man with the big car (she calls him “Boss”) teaches her a few things about what men like. It’s a side of life that she never knew in Decatur, Illinois. The parties and the penthouses and the gifts and the glamour are like being in another world for her.
After a year, the first signs of illness appear. It amazes her how quickly the boss turns mean. Before she knows it, he turns her out on the street. No money; no clothes; no car; no parties.
She is alone.
She uses what she knows on the streets to get whatever money she can, but she looks gaunt and thin. The men she is with now are no longer wealthy and generous, and sometimes they’re dangerous and cruel.
All her money goes to support her habit. She eats whatever she can find. She sleeps on a metal grate or a park bench.
One night as she lies awake listening for footsteps, suddenly everything around her looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She is a little girl, lost, cold and frightened.
Her pockets are empty. Her clothes are rags. Her stomach is hungry. She needs a fix. Her eyes are filled with tears. Then her mind flashes on a single image…her home in Decatur, Illinois, when summer comes, and the fields are so green you can hardly take all that life in. “Oh God, why did I leave? My dog at home eats better than I do now.”
She is sobbing, and she knows that more than anything else at that moment she wants to go home.
She finally works up enough courage and calls her parents. No answer. Three straight calls. Three straight connections with the answering machine. Twice she hangs up without leaving a message.
The third time she says, “Dad, mom, it’s me. I was wondering about coming home. I’m going to be on a bus. It will pass through sometime around midnight on Tuesday. If you’re not there, I’ll just keep on going to New York. Just wanted you to know.”
The whole time on the bus, she can’t turn off the questions in her mind.
* She wonders if they even got the message.
* She wishes she’d given them more warning.
* She wonders if they’ve given her up for dead.
* She keeps thinking about what she is going to say to her father.
* She keeps rehearsing this little speech in her mind.
“Dad, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I know it was my fault, not yours. Can you forgive me?”
She hasn’t apologized for anything for years.
The bus pulls into the station, and the driver says, “Fifteen minutes, folks. That’s all the time we have.”
Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She looks in her little compact mirror, tries to brush her hair and get the lipstick marks off her teeth.
She sees the needle marks in her arms and wonders if her parents will notice…if they’re there. She walks into that bus terminal at one o’clock in the morning in Decatur, Illinois.
She has imagined a thousand different scenes in her mind, but not one of them prepares her for what she sees because there inside those concrete walls around those plastic chairs, in that bus terminal in Decatur, Illinois, stands a group of 40 people, brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and one dog.
They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing kazoos and cheering for her as if she were a hero coming home from a war. There is a giant hand-painted sign saying, “Welcome home” taped all the way across the back wall.
Standing in front of that crowd with a tear-stained face and a trembling smile is the father whom she told she hated the last time she saw him. She can’t bring herself to look him in the face as she starts her little speech. “Dad, I’m so sorry. It’s my fault.”
He puts his hands on her face, and he raises her eyes up to him. He begins to laugh and cry so hard his whole body shakes.
“I know,” he says. What he used to say to her when she would cry when she was a tiny little baby, “I know, I know, I know. No need for another word. You’ll miss the party. We have to have a party.”
Because God loves you, his discipline is not to pay you back, it is to win you back and to ensure that you will not continue to run.
Maybe there is someone here who is running from God who needs to come home.
Someone that you love very much is far from God.
1972 Love Song: Little Pilgrim
Little Pilgrim walking down the road of life
I find that in your heart, you’re just a lonely one
The message was originally addressed to the people at United Baptist-Christian Church in Lewiston, NY. It bears the weaknesses and strengths of oral delivery. Its purpose is to assist people in their personal bible study and provide preaching and Sunday School resources for people involved in church ministry.
Pastor Vince Eisaman
For More Sermons from United Baptist-Christian Church, CLICK HERE