Lost at Sea

God speaks, I listen.

It says this in Jonah 1:1-17. It says we're going to start there. It says, "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."

By this point, there were certain people that came along as prophets and they had a specific job to do that God had called them to do. We call them minor prophets because their story happens really fast. It's really short and in the larger scope of history, it was a small blip on the screen of life. Jonah, as this minor prophet, gets this job from God and it says that God gives him a direct command, "Go and tell them they're in trouble."

That's not a great job. Couldn't God have done something a little more fun?

If you came to our day camp with our kids, I would've rather gotten like, "Go and make sure the big blow-up water slides are happening and that the people are having fun." Wouldn't that have been better? Go and tell people I love them so much that I want to rescue them. That would be a great message, but instead he says, "Go and tell them that they are so wicked that I'm going to do some things to them."

We find all throughout the Bible, there's a follower formula for all of us to understand. Number one, is that God speaks first. 

Now, I want to clarify and I really hope for you guys that you understand God is not waiting for you and I to do something so that He can act.

There's no point in time that you go to prayer or you come to God and go, "God, I just had this good idea." God looks around at Jesus and the Holy Spirit and goes, "Dear us, how did we not know that?"

See, because we picture that sometimes our ideas are the first time it was ever thought of. Sometimes we think like, "Oh, God's waiting for me to tell him what needs to happen."

God knows he's sovereign. Remember, the first thing for the follower formula is God speaks, which means we should listen. God speaks, I listen.

Here's the third point that we're going to run into trouble with in this story: and obey. That's the follower formula, that you listen to the voice of God. You wait for God to speak. You wait for God to put in your heart and push you in a direction, and then you listen and then you obey.

Disobedience usually brings you peace at the beginning.

The verse and story goes on like this:  "But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord."

Foolish, foolish man. Just imagine a little asparagus running the other way.

"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. But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold."

Disobedience usually brings you peace at the beginning.
Look, this is a guy who was running from God, and in the middle of the judgment of God being rained down upon all of the people that are on the boat, he's asleep. I'm glad I got away from that.

Now, I don't know if you've ever felt this, but when you and I are trying to convince ourselves of sin that we are going to act upon, usually there's a lot of tension.

"I Just don't know. I just don't know. I don't know. I want to, but should I? Would God like this? I know he probably wouldn't be okay, but will He forgive me? Yes, he will. It'll be fine."

We have these conversations in our head. Sometimes the tension builds up so big that when we finally act out on our decision to disobey God, it actually feels really good.

It somehow pleases our heart, our flesh, my mind is at ease. I'm no longer at tension. What you'll find out, in the long run, is while it may be peaceful for you in a moment, chaos is still going to rain down all around you.

God will use anything to reveal his glory. 

"The captain went down after him. 'How can you sleep at a time like this?' he shouted. 'Get up and pray to your god. Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.' Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit."

Listen to what Jonah says. "Jonah answered, 'I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.'"

"'What should we do to you to stop this storm?' 'Throw me into the sea,' Jonah said, 'And it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.' Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God." Now you got people who don't believe, who worship all kinds of gods and now they're praying to the one true God, Yahweh.

They called out, "'O Lord,' they pleaded, 'don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death,' because we're about to throw him over and he's going to die. We don't want to be responsible so,

"O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons." Even the unbelievers in the boat recognized the sovereignty of the Almighty God in this moment. Says, "Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea."

Here's my point on this one. God will use anything to reveal his glory. He'll use anything. He'll use your mistakes. He'll use your pain. He'll use the brokenness of this world. It doesn't have to be a pretty picture. He can make everything usable for his glory and the good of the world around.

At some points, we may look at this story and go, "God wanted to rescue a big group of people, but maybe God's intention was that this guy Jonah would be sacrificed so that everyone on that boat would know that he was God." God's ways are higher than my ways and his vision and his picture is way bigger than I see.

Now, are you ready to listen?

It says, "A great fish swallowed Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights."

I do not think it looked like Pinocchio. Like he had a little fire in there and he's just getting all toasty. I don't think so. I think he was in the middle of the guts, probably gasping for breath, hoping he could live. I have no idea. I don't even want to know because it was probably disgusting and gross.

For three days he's in there. It says, "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish."

The moment I feel most lost, it just might be God's moment of rescue. You ever heard that thing sometimes you got to hit bottom before you can find your way back up? I don't know the belly of a fish, pretty low. I don't know what that feels like. I don't know what that looks like, but I know I've seen it all around where people hit-- They've been feeding their natural desires, their appetites, the things they want to do, the things they want to be.

I'm doing this. I'm doing that. I'm living for me. I've talked to multiple people over the last two weeks who have just gotten lost in feeding their own selfish desires and appetites. At the end of it, it led to nothing but destruction.

You finally get to that moment where you feel like you're the most lost you've ever been. You can't get any lower, you couldn't sink any deeper. You couldn't find yourself in a worse position or a worst place. Maybe that's the moment where God says, "Now, do we get to do this together? Now can we figure this out? Now, are you ready to listen?"

Here's one thing I would give us to pause and remember, real freedom and power exists in surrender and repentance. It's surrender that is the greatest power. It's so hard for us to imagine. It should be the power comes when I assert my authority, my dominance when I set myself in place to be the one. Yet, that's not what really the story is. It's surrender.

Jonah to Jesus

Living a life of passion equals embracing God's compassion. If you want to live a passionate life, a life that takes you places you didn't know you could go, a life that sparks up your day, a life that you are excited to wake up again in the morning, then start living with the compassion of the living God.

When you start tapping into and understanding how compassionate your living God is and what he wants to do in you and through you and for you and with you, you begin to experience the power and presence of God that does something and changes the way you see the world.

If you want to live a passionate life, want to have a purpose, want to have a reason, tap into God's compassion. He saw the people. He sent somebody, he said, "Get out of this. It's not good that you would keep doing this. Stop feeding your appetites."

I could go into all the filthy, dirty, nasty stuff that Nineveh did. They had amazing rulers and powerful kings, and they had people that were in charge. There's murals to them. There's still things that exist today that were from that time period. As you look at it and recognize the immense power and the immense play that they had in the world, one guy who got puked up onto the seashore and came out and said, "God's going to judge you," changed everything because they heard what he had to say.

I believe that when you and I live our lives in a way where we actually start caring about the world the way that God does, man, all kinds of passions will be unlocked in your life. They're not just the feudal appetites that we feed, but it's the presence of God at work for his glory and the good of this world.

The story behind the story in all of this is the groaning of all creation for a savior.

Nineveh needed rescue. They just didn't know it. They needed somebody to tell them, "Stop doing what you're doing. God is not pleased with you." They went, "Really? Okay, we'll, change."

It happens like that over and over again in the text of Scripture. Jonah, just like Jesus, was sent to deliver a message of salvation. Aren't you glad Jesus didn't run the other way? He took on the challenge. Jonah was one of those precursors and someone that God sent to say, "This is what it's going to look like when the Savior comes." See, Jesus, unlike Jonah, perfectly fulfilled God's plan and willingly sacrificed himself for our redemption.

Just as Nineveh needed to repent to turn to God, we must acknowledge our need for Jesus and accept salvation in Christ.

We're Nineveh. See, it never works out that we're the cool kids in this story. It always works out that we're the most messed up group. You and I have to acknowledge our place in this story to say, "God, I surrender. I give you my life and I want to do what you want me to do and I want to be what you want me to be." How do we do that? You take that formula. God speaks, I listen, and then I obey.

You recognize that disobedience may bring peace for a little bit of time in your life, but in the end, it will always lead to chaos. You recognize that God will use anything to reveal his glory because some of us sit there and say, "Yes, but I'm such a mess. There's no way God wants to use me right now. If I get some things together, then they'll let me do this." This isn't like a marathon training regimen where you got to make sure and put in your miles before you show up for race day. He goes, "No, just surrender your life to me and I will prepare you for the things that I have for you to do and I will clean you up as we go."

We got to recognize that the moment I feel most lost is usually the moment that God has sent his greatest rescue and that real power and freedom exist in surrender. We're not Jonah, we're Nineveh. We need Jesus, the ultimate savior who offers forgiveness, restoration, and eternal life. Here's what I encourage you to do. For each and every one of us, we desire to have passion and excitement for our lives. We want to do the things and be the things and have the opportunity. Would you and I look fully in the face of God and say, "Help us to understand your compassion in a way like I never have before so that I can really surrender and let go of my life and live for your purpose."
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