Like Jonah, many of us struggle to embrace God’s will for our lives. Although I know that listening to God is always the best choice, I also know that it is rarely the easiest choice. Don’t let reluctance prevent you from fulfilling His purpose.
Jonah the prophet was a man who heard the voice of the Lord. The Bible tells us that God spoke to him and gave him clear instructions: “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” Jonah 1:2, NKJV
But Jonah had a problem—he didn’t want to do what God was asking him to do. The next verse tells us that instead of obeying God, Jonah “arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
Jonah said no to God and ran in the opposite direction. Many of us are like Jonah. We receive a clear word from God, but we are either quietly rebellious or openly disobedient to His command. Often our reluctance to obey causes serious problems.
We see in Jonah 3:4, that citywide revival occurred in Nineveh when Jonah finally obeyed God and proclaimed, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh will be overthrown!” The people believed the word of the Lord, and the king instructed all citizens—rich and poor—to fast and give up their evil ways. The entire city turned back to God.
When God saw what the Ninevites did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion. God did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened through Jonah. His mercy triumphed over judgment.
Jonah was not happy with the Ninevites’ response. He was upset that they had repented and their city had been spared. Jonah wanted to see the Ninevites get what he thought they deserved. He had obeyed God’s command but he had no compassion for the people of Nineveh.
But problems occur when our stubborn will refuses to fulfill the plan of God. When we decide we want God to do things our way and only our way, we set ourselves up to miss the blessing He intends.
Jonah’s resistance to doing God’s will caused several problems. One of them was delay. If you postpone obedience, you delay the will of God for your life. Basically we are dragging our feet as we serve Him. If we would let Him take us with Him, the Holy Spirit could move much faster.
The real problem with delayed obedience is that it becomes disobedience. We can believe ourselves to be very spiritual—but if we have forgotten what the voice of the Lord has whispered to us in the past, then we are deceived. God does not forget, and He does not change His mind.
If we are not totally committed to the Lord and filled with joy about what God wants us to do, it will negatively affect our families or our marriages. It is unavoidable. If you are not in the will of God and are refusing to do what the Lord tells you, there will be an influence on others that is not good.
We see in Jonah 1:8 that in Jonah’s case, the negative influence was very evident. The boat he was in began to sink. A big storm came, and the people asked, “For whose cause is this trouble upon us?”
“When we are not in God’s will, we become the main problem, not the unbelievers around us. It was not the idol worshipers in the boat who were the problem at that moment.”
It was the servant of the Lord who was hiding from the will of God. Through our disobedience we become the problem and create new and unnecessary crises.
In Jonah 1:11, the men on the boat asked, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?” But instead of saying, “Let’s hold hands and repent before God and pray,” in verse 12 Jonah said, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea.”
He was ready to die rather than comply with the will of the Lord. So they threw him into the ocean, and a big fish came and swallowed him without killing him.
Jonah 2:9 shows us that when Jonah was trapped alive in the belly of that big fish, he began to pray and repent. Then he said, “I will pay what I have vowed.”
Finally, after being inside the fish, Jonah was willing to go where God had directed. In other words, Jonah finally agreed to give God what he had promised. He had a change in behavior but not in attitude.
Many people comply externally with the vision but inwardly their hearts are not there. When our hearts are not in sync with our actions, there is no enjoyment.
Jonah never became an official backslider. He never quit believing in God, never stopped being a part of God’s family. But his heart was far from God’s will.
Maybe you are an active church member and do not consider yourself a backslider. Yet, like Jonah, you have persistently resisted the voice of God. You may even be confused about the will of the Lord.
Disobedience will always bring confusion, but obedience will bring clarity. The way to pierce through the fog created by disobedience is to begin to take steps of obedience one at a time.
God sent Jonah to Nineveh. Where’s he sending you?
Emily Edwards is a staff writer for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.