It is hard to believe that it just 7 more days before the Presidential Election! It has been a long and ugly road to the White House. I don;t know about you but I have has my fill of listening to the rhetoric of each presidential hopeful as they have made their case why they are the answer to America’s problems. I don’t consider myself extremely political, but I do value my freedom to vote and have exercised that right by participating in early voting. I pray that everyone reading this will do their part as well and cast your vote November 8, 2016! If you live in the United States, you are blessed to be able to have you voice heard! No before you get nervous, this is not going to be a political post that tries to sway you one way or another., I would just urge you to pray for wisdom as you make your choice. What I would like to discuss is the hard work that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have done to achieve the honor to live in that big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue…enduring the time away from family, endless speeches and handshakes at town hall meetings, the character attacks and the incessant criticism from anyone and everyone with a microphone or computer. I don’t think that I could handle that kind of life, but the never-ending pursuit for power and prestige is somehow worth the pain and public scrutiny that they will endure not only after November 8, 2016 passes and the job has been won; but for the next 4 to 8 years as every action they do, or don’t do is dissected under a microscope.
Today we will dig into this idea of the “Never-Ending Pursuit,” but unlike Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, we will unpack what really matters in this life and what should consume our time through the life of a well-known Old Testament prophet named Jonah. You may think to yourself, Jonah? Isn’t that a children’s story? Yes…while it is without a doubt a common Sunday school story, the life of Jonah has many life lessons to learn from. My wife and I have been reading the story in our quiet time and were astonished by the lengths that God went to in order to not only redirect His prophet, but also a to save a morally bankrupt people but wait, I am getting ahead of the story. Let’s pump the brakes and start from the beginning…
As a messenger of God, Jonah delivered the Word of the LORD to the Israelites during the reign of King Jeroboam II “who did evil in the sight of the LORD” and lead the northern Kingdom to commit great acts of evil. (See 2 Kings 14:23-25 for more on him…) Jonah was God’s man, a light to His chosen people. In Jonah 1:1-3 it says:
Jonah Runs from the Lord
“The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.”
Nineveh was an Assyrian city that was renowned for their brutality, but instead of heeding God’s direction, Jonah got onto a ship bound for the city of Tarshish, which you can see by the map was in the complete opposite direction from Nineveh. But what Jonah did not expect, and what we can learn is that God will never give up on us. As the story unfolds, God sent a mighty storm in verse 4 which threatened the ship and the lives of sailors. The sailors went down below and woke up Jonah and casted lots to see who was the cause for this sudden tempest on the sea that was about to destroy them. After discovering that Jonah was the reason because he was running away from God, they asked him what they should do…His response in verse 12 has always surprised me…
“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
I don’t know if I would have the courage to say that but it shows what a connection Jonah had with God to know that He would calm the waters if Jonah would surrender. Surprisingly, the sailors tried to fight against the waves but to no avail. In the end, Verses 15-16 tells us…
“Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him.”
Could you imagine what that scene must have been like? To see a raging squall become still in an instant. I love the next verse, “The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him.” Isn’t God amazing? The storm that was intended to re-direct Jonah back to the mission he was given, in the end touched the lives of these sailors who in return vowed to serve God! Verse 17 however is what we all remember, and is probably one of the greatest cliffhangers in the bible to end a chapter!
“Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”
Three days and three nights in the belly of a fish! What must have that been like? Complete darkness, extreme cold and probably rancid odors. But worse than being swallowed whole by some monstrous fish, I believe is surviving the trauma knowing that you are there because of your own disobedience! Chapter 2 recounts the amazing prayer that Jonah pours out his heart to God. Within those 9 verses, he recognizes his mistake and repents of his disobedience. And…in another phenomenal ending to a chapter, verse 10 gives us God’s response from Jonah’s prayer:
“Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”
The New American Standard Bible translation gives a little more description…
“Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto dry land.”
Jonah repented and God instantly released him to return to the mission he was called to do initially. We will not go through the rest of the story but I encourage you to go read the whole story of Jonah by clicking here…(it’s only 47 verses so no excuses…hahaha!) There are two things that we need to put on the sticky side of our brains…First and foremost…God is the God of Second Chances! Nineveh was a wicked city, worthy of destruction…but God sent Jonah to preach to them about their coming destruction instead of just wiping them from the earth. As a result of Jonah’s preaching, the Ninevites fasted and repented and God spared the city. He forgave Jonah in the belly of the great fish…He extended mercy to the Ninevites…And He is ready to extend grace to you and I regardless of whatever we have done in the past…There is nothing that God cannot, or will not forgive! All God wants is a relationship with you and I. In Titus 3:3-5 (NLT), the Apostle Paul gives us this powerful truth!!
“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But — When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”
The second truth to gleam from the life of Jonah is that God will move heaven and earth in order to pursue you and me! You see the “Never-Ending Pursuit” has nothing to do with us but rather how God is always coming after us. There is a song we have been singing on Sunday mornings in Church by John Mark McMillan called “Heart Won’t Stop,” which so beautifully captures God’s pursuit of us…
There is not a man or a beast, nothing on the land or underneath, Oh nothing that could ever come between, the love you have for me
I could lay my head in Sheol, I could make my bed at the bottom of the darkness deep, Oh but there is not a place I could escape you
Your heart won’t stop coming after me, Your heart won’t stop coming after me, Your heart won’t stop coming after me
Nothing will stop God from pursuing us…so what should our response be? 1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) says:
Charles Stanley had this commentary on this verse…
“We must not stop pursuing and obeying God. We will not accomplish much if we do not embrace the Lord’s purpose for our lives and carry this purpose out with consistency, dedication, and discipline.”
Our purpose in life should be to live a life of dedication and discipline in response to God’s “Never-ending pursuit!” We should pursue and obey God and attempt to reach as many people as we possibly can for His kingdom! To run the race or live the life impacting those God has placed in our lives!
Before we did the “25 Days of Thankfulness” in December, our longest stretch was a four-part series called “Marriage & Money” which if you are interested you can check out the first installment by clicking Here. In the final post called ★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Bonus ★, we shared about the secret to success, which are three simple actions that have tremendous power…Prayer – Word – Worship.
In the coming weeks we will have an emphasis on each one of these worthy pursuits that we help us understand that we need to keep Praying, keep reading the Bible and keep Worshiping that will help us to run the race! I will close with this beautiful promise from Lamentations 3:22-25 (NLT) that God is faithful if we will pursue Him…
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in Him!”
The Lord is good to those who depend on Him,
to those who search for Him.
If you are interested, you can check out the first installment called
that covers the Pursuit of Prayer!
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