The Storm of Jonah

Lesson: 10
What happens when God's servants run from the will of the Lord? And what happens when they stopped running?
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It's hard to believe that this is the tenth and final presentation in this series and we hope that the Word of God has touched your lives and you will continue this study, because that's where the power is. And so we, in our heroes of faith presentation, tonight we're going to be talking about the sign of Jonah - the sign of Jonah. Now, the title for this message comes from a statement that Jesus makes - he actually makes it in the book of Matthew, Mark, and Luke - and you can read it in chapter 12, verse - oh - 39, "but he answered and said to them, 'an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will The Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." - And it goes on and says, "the men of nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here." The sign of Jonah - what is that? What does he mean? He says, 'no sign will be given but the sign of Jonah.' Now, I know, there are probably some skeptics out there that are saying, 'Pastor Doug, you can't really take the book of Jonah seriously.' Well, I do because Jesus did. Jesus stated it very emphatically that he believed the book of Jonah was real and he said there's things that we can learn from the experience and the story of Jonah that can help us in our lives today.

I remember hearing about a lady was riding a bus - she rode every day and she'd often read her Bible while she was riding on this public bus. And a man, who was an atheist, he sometimes would even get up and give her his seat - she was an older woman - and he'd stand there holding onto the bar in the bus overhead and sees she's reading her Bible and he used to think, 'oh, I can't believe people actually read and believe the Bible. And one day, after they'd seen each other several times he said, 'grandma, I noticed that I see you reading your Bible quite a bit.' She said, 'yes sir. It's the Word of God.' He said, 'now, when you read it, do you take it literally? Do you think that the things in there are all true?' She said, 'absolutely, son, I believe that every word is true.' He said, 'even the story of, like, Adam and Eve and the snake and the apple? You believe that's all true.' She said, 'i believe it. God's word says it.

' And he said, 'and you believe Noah and the ark and taking two and the whole world was flooded?' She said, 'God's word said it, I believe it.' He said, 'now you can't possibly believe the story of Jonah, that he was in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights and came out alive.' She said, 'well God says it, I believe it.' He said, 'how can a man survive inside a fish for three days?' She said, 'well, I don't know. I suppose when I get to heaven I'll ask Jonah.' And he said, 'well, what if Jonah's not in heaven?' She said, 'well then, you can ask him.' (Laughter) now when you look other places in the Bible, it actually - not only does Jesus reference Jonah, but Jonah is mentioned as The Son of Amittai in 2 Kings chapter 14, verse 25 he is called the prophet of Gath Hepher. He is a real individual that lived and his experience, though admittedly incredible, really happened. I don't know whether or not you're aware, but there was a man named James Bartley that in 1891 he was on a whaling ship called the star of the east off the Faulkland islands and it's recorded that when this 80-foot sperm whale that they had speared, breached the surface and struck one of the whaling boats, that it swallowed James Bartley. That whale also died from its wounds and so when they were dissecting the whale - they didn't realize that he'd been swallowed - when they were dissecting the whale 24 hours later, they got down to the stomach and they saw something move - they thought they it was a giant squid because that's what sperm whales eat - and they opened up the stomach and out slid James Bartley - unconscious, but still very much alive.

And they put him in the captain's quarters after cleaning him off a little bit and he finally regained consciousness and he vaguely remembered being enveloped and swallowed and pushed down this slippery tube and he was inside this dark interior and he felt like the surface shrank at his touch and then he blacked out from the heat. But that's - and he got back to england and left the sea and never returned. (Laughter) and if you go look at his grave it says right on his grave, 'James Bartley, a modern Jonah'. So some of you maybe have - remember the through the Bible radio series with j. Vernon McGee - been on for many years and he actually shared three accounts in modern history of people that were swallowed by various sea creatures and came out alive.

Some, admittedly, not for very long, but the Bible says God prepared a fish. But now we're getting ahead of ourselves. We should probably start by going to the story of Jonah - if you've got your Bibles. You might be thinking, 'how is he a hero of faith?' Stay with me. Go to the book of Jonah chapter 1, "now the word of the Lord came to Jonah" - the word 'Jonah' by the way, means 'dove' - "The Son of amittai, saying, 'arise, go to nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.

' But Jonah arose to flee to tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Now God said, 'Jonah, you're a prophet. I've got a work for you to do. I want you to go prophesy. I want you to go east to nineveh and talk to the wicked people in that great city. Tell them that they are going to be judged for their sins.

' But you have to know that the people of Nineveh didn't get along very well with the people of Israel any more than they do today. And can you imagine an orthodox Jew dressed as an orthodox Jew walking through downtown Saudi Arabia telling them all they're wicked and God is going to destroy them? They might not last very long. So Jonah, you could understand his reluctance. Not only that, they had been persecuted - it was Assyria that carried away ten of the tribes. They had been persecuted by the Assyrians and the last thing Jonah wanted to do was go warn them so they could repent.

He kind of thought, 'well, if God's going to judge them, I'm not going anywhere. Let him judge them.' They were the avowed enemies of Israel. And so it says he arose to go to tarshish. Now ever heard that expression 'I've been assigned to timbuktu'? That's because the furthest outpost the marines had years ago was timbuktu. They called it the ends of the earth.

As far as they knew, back in Bible times, the farthest you could go was the outer coast of Spain where it went off into the Atlantic ocean, through the gates of Hercules, they had a city there called Tarshish and when you said, 'I'm going to Tarshish', it was like saying, 'I'm going to the ends of the earth' because that's as far as the Phoenician sailors went out into the Atlantic. And so, God told him to go east. Instead, he went west. Maybe Jonah was thinking, 'well, you know, the Lord - it was a suggestion.' No, it wasn't a suggestion. God's will told him what to do, but he didn't want to do what the word of the Lord told him to do.

The word of the Lord, furthermore, said 'arise.' God's word elevates. But Jonah didn't want to do it and it says he went down. He arose to flee from tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Can you flee from God's presence? Isn't that silly? You would think that at least a theologian, like a prophet, would know that. Jonah could read what David wrote in psalm 139, "where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." You can't run from God. He sees you all the time. And Jesus said, 'those things done in secret will be proclaimed from the housetops. All things are naked and open to the eyes of whom we have to do. Again, you can read in Jeremiah 23, "'can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?' Says the Lord; 'do I not fill heaven and earth?' " So the idea he could run from the presence of God - but who knows? Maybe Jonah was thinking to himself, 'well, I'll tell you what.

I'm going to go down to Joppa' - that's where the sea port was - 'and if it turns out that there are any ships going to Tarshish, I'll take that as a sign from the Lord that it's okay that I go.' So he gets to Joppa and, sure enough, there are ships in the harbor getting ready to depart the next day. He says, 'lord, I'm going to throw out another fleece. If it turns out they've got room for one more passenger, then I'll take it as a sign it's okay for me not to do what you are saying. Sure enough, he asked and they said that they had room. And his conscience is still bothering him so Jonah said, 'lord, one more thing: if it turns out that I've got enough money for the fare, then that'll be a sign you're going to let me off the hook and I don't have to talk to the Assyrians.

Sure enough, they told him how much it was. It was just enough. By the way, it costs you to run from God. So he paid the fare and it was even nice sailing weather. So he figured, 'you know, even though the word of the Lord told me, I don't really want to do it, and God's just going to - we're going to ignore it and it'll go away.

' Has God ever told you something he wanted you to do or didn't want you to do and you think, because the sun keeps shining and the birds keep singing that it must be okay that you continue to live in disobedience? I have met people before - I remember counselling with a man and a woman - they just left their spouses and got together. They were living in an adulterous relationship and they said, 'but you know, Pastor Doug, we just - those other marriages were a mistake.' - They're still married to these other people - 'and we just see how God is blessing and it seems like everything is going better now. We have peace and it must be God's will.' I said, 'what about the word of the Lord that says, 'thou shalt not commit adultery'? And they wanted to skip over that part because they had all this circumstantial evidence it was okay. Well, Jonah thought - that's just - by the way, friends, if you didn't catch it, we can convince ourselves to believe whatever we want to believe and the devil will give you a thousand rationalizations to do what you want to do that may not be the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord said, 'Jonah, go east.

Preach. You're a preacher, that's what I want you to do.' He didn't want to. Whatever his reasons were, he didn't want to. So he's going the other direction. He's running from the mission.

And you can kind of understand. The Jews didn't do a lot of preaching to the gentiles back then. You know where Jonah leaves Israel? A town called Joppa - because he doesn't want to talk to the gentiles - 800 years later God speaks to an apostle named Peter in Joppa, he says, I want you to go talk to the gentiles - Cornelius and his family.' And Peter goes. It was the very same town of Joppa where God gave the message to Peter to go to the gentiles, where Jonah was running from the mission to go to the gentiles. And so, he pays the fare, finds the ship, goes with them to Tarshish - by the way, I have a hard time, whenever I read this - that was my mother's maiden name - Ruth Tarshis - it's a Jewish word and our grandfather says that we're related to Jonah, but he said a lot of things that weren't true, so we're not sure.

(Laughter) "but the Lord sent out a great wind" - you know how everything changes? He's fleeing from the presence of the Lord, "but the Lord sent out a great wind" - now this was the sailing season. It was supposed to be good. Everything looked fine - "...and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his God, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load." - Now, I mentioned earlier I lived on a sailboat in the Mediterranean for a while and we actually got in one significant storm going from northern Africa over to Spain and it was pretty frightening. It was in December and the boat that we were on was feet long and the waves were so big that the nose of the boat would go down in the trough of a wave and part of the wave would roll over the boat from bow to stern, washing things overboard and we were all clinging and everybody was seasick and this was a modern vessel and you're out there and you feel very vulnerable when you're out there.

The Mediterranean, on a map, is only that big. But you get out in the middle of it and you can't see shore anywhere. It's a big sea and it's dark and the water was cold and people were scared. And so whenever I read this I think this was an even bigger storm in a more primitive ship and these were experienced sailors and they were praying and they realized their lives were at risk. They're making this journey for profit and gain, but they were so afraid they're throwing all the valuables overboard.

'What profit it is it to you if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?' What good is the business deal if you're going to lose everything? So they were willing to unload and they began to throw all the cargo into the sea even though it was a great loss, because they thought, 'what's more than life? What is worth more than life?' And they're praying - and then it says 'but' again. The sailors are praying - the sailors are sacrificing - these are the pagans - but the Jew, who's supposed to know God and know the truth, he's down in the lowest part of the ship and he's fast asleep. Everybody around him is praying. Everybody around him is making a sacrifice. They're calling out to God and the prophet of God is sleeping.

Now you know the - many of the Jewish scholars believe that Jonah is a type of the Jewish nation - it's a true story, but there's a lot of symbolism in these true stories because God called the Jewish nation to be a witness to the nations around them, but they sort of became preoccupied with their own comfort and their own prestige. And while the other nations were looking for God, they were often sleeping and ignoring their responsibility. By the way, that would also be an analogy of the church in the modern times. The world around us is lost and we get together for our social gathering once a week. They're praying, trying to figure out what in the world is going on and we're snoring.

What does Jesus say? The ten virgins were sleeping before the bridegroom came. And so, Jonah's fast asleep. He's not just asleep, he's fast asleep. Now Jesus said, 'no sign will be given but the sign of the prophet Jonah.' You have to pause right there considering our message this morning about Jesus on the sea. Jesus asleep in a boat during a storm when they were afraid they were going to perish.

Jonah asleep in a boat during a storm when they were afraid they were going to perish. Very simple connection there that we shouldn't miss. So the captain comes below deck. He's looking around for anything else they can throw overboard and he finds a snoring hypocrite. He comes to him and he says - verse 6 - "what do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.

" The very same words that were spoken to Jesus: 'master, carest thou not that we are perishing?' No sign'll be given but the sign of Jonah - but there's more - if you order now - get your credit card out - no. (Laughter) so they said to one another - he comes up deck and he's rubbing his eyes and going, 'oh no, I was afraid of this.' He knows right away when he sees this howling storm. It's a supernatural storm that came out of nowhere. Jonah knows in his heart that smooth sailing was just - God was giving him time to repent - he waited. "And they said to one another, 'come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.

'" You see, they did everything physically they could do to save themselves. They threw everything overboard, they battened down the hatches, they're doing all they can and now they're just at the mercy of this relentless, howling storm and he said, 'this is a supernatural storm. The Gods are angry with someone on this boat, trying to destroy this boat.' You know why that storm came to Jesus on the sea? I believe it was a supernatural storm. I think the devil wanted to send Jesus down to the bottom but he couldn't do it because God was watching over him. And the same time, they knew there was something supernatural.

'Let's cast lots.' They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Now very quickly, what that was - in Bible times they had a way of like drawing straws. They would have like a jar that had a narrow opening and they would put all of these black stones in there and one white stone, depending on how many people they were casting lots with. They'd shake it - kind of a like a lottery - they'd put their thumb over it and they'd drop out one stone and whoever got the white stone, you were the one that was busted. You were the one that picked - and one by one they're going around and probably Jonah was the last one and out comes the white stone and they all look at him and he looks up and he knows.

He's been running from the Word of God. Matter of fact, he 'fesses up. They said to him, 'please, tell us' - they're all firing questions at him - "...for whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation?" Usually when the weather's not - when the weather's bad you don't turn to the person next to you and say, 'what did you do?' (Laughter) right? But this is no small storm. This is like a supernatural storm and the boat is creaking and groaning with every new wave and they figured at any moment it's going to bust to smithereens. "What - what is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? What are your people?" They're just firing questions out and finally he says, "I am a hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.

" Right? When he says he's the God that made the sea. You see, they had all these different Gods and he wanted to be clear 'i worship that God who made everything all your Gods are made out of. I worship the God of Gods.' "Then the men were exceedingly afraid," - you know, after they woke up Jesus and he calmed the sea, it says they were exceedingly afraid - "then the men were exceedingly afraid and said, 'why have you done this?' " - That's a good question: why would you run from God? The Bible says every good and perfect gift is from God. Would God ever ask you to do something that is ultimately bad? Think about that. Why would you not do his will then - if God'll never ask you to do something bad? Because we don't trust him? Or we worship our ideas more than God? Why did he do this? He never gives an answer - "for the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

Then they said to him, 'what shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?' - For the sea was growing more tempestuous." The longer they waited it looked like they were running out of time. Every time the boat went down in the trough of a wave, more water came in and they were probably bailing with all their might and still the boat was getting lower and lower in the water and it looked like the next wave was going to be the last one. And Jonah said something peculiar, "pick me up" - verse 12 - "and throw me into the sea; then the sea will be calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me." This great tempest is because of me. You know why we have all this trouble in the world? Because the devil hates Jesus.

The devil wanted Jesus' place. There's a great battle between good and evil. You and I are the pawns. I know we don't like to think of it that way but the devil knows that Jesus loves us so he wants to hurt Jesus by hurting us. This great battle is because of me - throw me - "nevertheless, the men rowed hard to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more" - you wonder how much more tempestuous can the sea get.

It keeps saying 'more' 'greater' 'more' 'greater' - it grew "...more tempestuous against them." You know, in the two stories of Jesus on the sea, one they wake him up, the other they row. Here the men wake up Jonah and then they row - trying to save themselves. They're more civilized than the average pagan because you'd think, 'well, why don't they just throw him overboard?' But they say, 'we don't want to do this, that's inhumane.' So they're doing all they can to try to save themselves. They rowed hard to return to land, but they could not. They're being washed further and further out to sea.

"Therefore they cried out to the Lord" - they knew the next wave was going to be their last and they thought, 'well, what have we got to lose?' - "...they cried out to the Lord and said, 'we pray, o lord, please do not let us perish for this man's life," - God so loved us that he gave his son that we might not perish because Jesus gave his life - "and do not charge us with innocent blood;" - you know what pilate said at the trial of Christ? 'I don't want to be guilty of this man's innocent blood.' Were they casting lots at the cross? Were they casting lots for Jonah? Jesus said, 'no sign'll be given but the sign of Jonah - "for you, o lord, have done as it pleased you." You read the prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 53 and it says 'it pleased the Lord to bruise him for our sake.' 'Lord, you've done as it pleased you.' So was Jonah a willing sacrifice? He said, 'you must throw me overboard.' And they got six men or so and they each grabbed the hands and the feet of Jonah and they said, 'one' and they swung him out and back. 'Two' they swung him a little further. 'Three' hurled him over the side. And when he hit the water, instantly the waves began to flatten out and the wind stopped like it had put on brakes and there was a great calm. The sea ceased from its raging.

Did Jesus calm the sea? Does Jonah calm the sea? No sign'll be given but the sign of Jonah. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly. Do you remember when Jesus calmed the sea? I already talked about it, but here it says it again: "then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered sacrifice to the Lord and took vows." When Jesus calmed the sea they said, 'what manner of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?' Then it goes on to say, "now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah." I can see it, just as those men are praying - they're wondering what happens to Jonah and they see this big looming shadow come up from the abyss and it swallows the prophet. They see the flip of a tail and it goes down. God had prepared a fish and Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.

Have any of you heard about what happened to Harrison Okene in may 24, 2013? A Nigerian cook miles off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria, was on a tugboat - 12 men in the crew - they were doing some tugboat work for a big chevron tanker and some rogue wave, I guess they call it, it came along in the night - it was already rough - capsized the boat and sank it in 100 feet of water - true story - and most of the men died immediately. Harrison was actually asleep - it was about 2:00 in the morning when it happened. He just woke up and found himself getting pitched around inside his cabin, which was down in the low part of the ship and he realized the boat was upside down and going down and the pressure was rising and things were bubbling up and he just - there's no way to swim down and get out, so he retreated further up 'till he came to the last little pocket of air in this capsized vessel that settled down on the bottom. Of course the lights went out and he was in the dark and he was there for three days in an ever-diminishing pocket of oxygen. Just before this all happened - that day - his wife, a Christian, had texted him a Scripture for him to claim a promise.

She said, 'claim this promise today - psalm 54, "remember me o God, deliver me." And he kept saying that over and over again. Meanwhile, they sent a Scandinavian - it wasn't a rescue crew, it was a salvage crew to recover the bodies and they - going down in a hundred feet of water they had special gear that was tethered to the top and they had cameras on so they're navigating their way through and they're trying to find the bodies and they make their way up - they'll start at the bottom and they'll work their way out. They - Harrison is just figuring it's all over now and he describes it - all he had was a liter of coke that bobbed up to the surface. That's all he had to drink for three days and the salt water was beginning to burn his skin and his tongue and in the darkness he could hear the fish beginning to work on his shipmates that had died. It was a terrible experience.

And then all of a sudden he's praying and says, 'lord, take care of my family.' He figured nothing was going to happen - three days - 72 hours - and the water began to turn green and then light and he didn't know if he was hallucinating and he saw bubbles and then he saw something coming up and he didn't know if one of the scavengers was coming up for him. Meanwhile, the recovery crew, they're going through the remains of the ship looking for bodies, which has got to be a pretty spooky thing to do. And they're going around and you can hear them breathing, you can hear the bubbles and all of a sudden a hand comes down and grabs one of the divers (laughter) and you can hear him yelp (laughter) and then he realizes this person is still alive in this pocket of air. He says, 'we have a survivor!' And it was quite a maneuver to get oxygen - first they pumped oxygen in so he'd stay alive and then they had to decompress him and bring him up, but he survived and he hasn't been to sea since. (Laughter) but can you imagine what it would be like for Jonah three days and three nights? By the way, you know, I need to explain that.

People often wonder about the three days and three nights. They say, 'wait a second, what day of the week did Jesus die?' Who knows? What day did he die? Friday. Friday, correct. That's why they call it good Friday. And he rose when? Sunday.

Early in the morning Sunday. So you've got Friday night, Saturday night, and this is Sunday morning - Jesus said, 'as Jonah was three days and three nights' - it's very clear - very explicit. How do you get three nights out of that? And I've seen people try to move the day of the crucifixion and they - they do all these things to try to accommodate - by the way, this is only found - the three days and three nights part - in Matthew chapter 12. They make a common mistake of assuming, when it says 'the heart of the earth' that means the tomb. Jesus says, 'as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, The Son of man will be in the heart of the earth.

' When you say the Lord's prayer - thy will be done 'in earth' does that mean the tomb? See, Jesus had always been protected by God from the assaults of the devil. Whenever they tried to stone Jesus or throw him off a cliff, angels protected him. He just passed through their midst. But after the last supper when Christ said, 'now is the hour of darkness' and he prayed 'not my will, thy will be done.' That night The Father withdrew his protection from Jesus and the mob came and they beat him and they tied him up and he began to suffer. For three days and three nights Jesus was paying the penalty for the sins of the world.

See the penalty for sin is not just death, it's suffering and death. And Jesus took the suffering during his trial and during the beatings. That was before he ever got to the cross. It has nothing to do with the tomb. Three days and three nights Jesus would be - the word is 'cardia' - 'in the heart' - it's where you get cardiac - of the earth.

He was in the clutches of this world and the devil is called the prince of the world. Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night - three days and three nights he was paying the penalty for our sin - the suffering and death. You understand that now? So you don't need to move the crucifixion day, it still works with the biblical understanding. So there from the belly of the fish Jonah prays - like harrison okene. Now this is one of the reasons Jonah is something of a hero for me.

At what point do you give up and think there's no more hope? I mean, if I was in the storm and I know this storm is happening - these guys throw me overboard - I would think, 'oh well, I'm getting what I deserve. If someone's got to go, it's got to be me. All this trouble happened to them because I'm running from God.' Jonah realized that he nearly killed everyone on that ship because he was running from God. Have you ever considered your decision to serve God or run from God not only affects you, but it will affect people around you. Amen.

Christ has made it very clear that your decision to run from him or to follow him will react and react again in saving or destroying lives around you. No man is an island and if you make it to the Kingdom you will see on the streets of gold, people that were no doubt influenced by your positive decision. And if you're in the lake of fire and it creeps up around your ankles, you will see people that were influenced by your decision. What kind of decision - what kind of influence are you having? Jonah realized 'they're being lost - they're perishing - because I'm running from God.' I would have given up at that point, but Jonah now, he's going on this unscheduled tour inside this sea monster - you want to know who the first submariner was in the world, that would be Jonah - but they didn't give him a porthole. And so - you know, I've often thought, if Jonah was alive inside the fish, what if the fish had some hors d'oeuvres before Jonah? You know, have a few jelly fish - you ever been stung by a jelly fish? I have.

It hurts. Have a few sea urchins and some octopus to, you know, get the little stickers on you in the dark there, inside the fish's digestive system, surrounded by all that sushi (laughter) in the dark - little bioluminescent things flashing - 'what's that?' - You know, sea urchins jabbing you and - it must have been miserable. I know we're joking about it, but can you imagine how miserable that was? It's describing the sufferings of Jesus. Three days and three nights but Jonah, even in that, he prayed from the bottom of the mountains. Now if there's a place you can run where God can't hear your prayers, it would not be joppa or tarshish or timbuktu.

But I think, if you're inside a whale, in the dark, at the bottom of the mountains, that would be about as far away from God as you could get. Can you picture, geographically, any way to hide better from God than to try and sneak off in the digestive system of a fish at the bottom of the mountains and see, 'maybe he'll forget about me.'? If, you know, this is wonderful because if God could hear Jonah's prayer from there, is there hope for you? Amen. And yet, from that predicament, Jonah prayed. And he had to pray patiently. Sometimes your prayers aren't answered right away.

If I was in that I'd say, 'lord, help me now!' (Laughter) an hour later I'd say, 'how long o lord?' And a day later I'd say, 'i don't know if I can last much longer.' He probably didn't sleep very well. God made him pay for what he did, but he prayed and he kept praying and he sent his prayer to God in his temple. "I went down" - verse 6, chapter 2 - "to the moorings of the mountains;" - the place where the mountains are tied off - "the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet you have brought up my life from the pit, o lord, my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to you, in to your holy temple." Through Christ, you are always a prayer away from the temple of God. You and I can come boldly before the throne.

Was Jonah in trouble because of what someone else did or what he did to himself? Don't we often get into trouble by making bad decisions? Yes. And yet, in spite of the fact he caused his own misery - God could have said, 'look, you made your bed, sleep in it.' But he prayed and God forgave him. And the Bible says, "so the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." God is so good - he could have burped him out and made him swim to shore. (Laughter) but once he forgave him, he brought him up special delivery. He gave a God-inspired heave and out came Jonah.

And I heard one pastor say that just goes to show you a hypocrite will even make a sea monster sick. (Laughter) now Jonah's thinking, 'wow, that was something I will never forget. That made a memory. Now I'm going to go back home. I need a little r&r after this experience.

' But before Jonah even dried off, the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time. Now does God modify his message or is it identical to the word the first time? And he said, "arise" - you know, when Jonah runs, he goes down. When God's word comes it says, "arise, go to nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." So does Jonah argue now? He figures, 'look, I'd rather die in nineveh than go back to sea.' (Laughter) "so Jonah arose and went to nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk.

" Now this passage here is a little bit mysterious to some of the writers and you'll notice some versions say 'three-day's journey in extent' others are wondering 'three-day's journey from where the lord came to him again.' I, frankly, believe the latter. I think wherever Jonah was when the word of the Lord came to him, he had nineveh three days away. Because even you and I walking five miles an hour - there's no city in the world where you walk three days and it's like 150 miles across. And ancient nineveh was big, but it wasn't that big. It was three-day's journey from where he got the message and then he entered the city a day's journey - listen very carefully - no sign'll be given but the sign of Jonah - three day's journey - he enters the city a day's journey - there were 24 hours in a day, 12 hours a day, 12 hours a night - so that's three and a half - you still with me? And he preaches in 40 days the city would be destroyed.

Three and a half and 40. How long did Jesus minister? Three and a half years. Three and a half years. Did Jesus say, when he wept over Jerusalem, he said, 'this generation will not pass away till all' - what's a generation in the Bible? 40 Years. the Lord told Moses that the children of Israel would wander 40 years until that generation was consumed because they did not believe.

Jesus preached to his own people for three and a half years - a day in prophecy is what? Some of you know that - a day is a year - that that generation would not pass away and judgment would come. When was Jerusalem destroyed? 40 Years later in 70 ad. Jesus said the people of nineveh will rise up against this generation because they repented at the preaching of Jonah and a greater than Jonah is here and I'm going to preach, not three and a half days, but three and a half years. And if you don't repent in 40 years, judgment is going to come. He said it's a sign to this generation.

You want a sign. Here's your sign. Read the book of Jonah. This is what's going to happen to God's people if they don't repent. It tells us about the patience of God, but do you see what I'm saying? Now Jonah, I guess he must have been pretty scary, because he went to nineveh and he started preaching.

He walked up and down the streets, '40 days and Nineveh will be destroyed.' And instead of them killing them - he probably had that wild look in his eyes as the guy that had just been through a fish (laughter) probably had a little octopus tentacle sticking out of his coat and, you know, looks like he's been bleached and - you've been through an experience like that and you look different. (Laughter) and, you know, God's prophets already, you know, they wore camel skin and leather belts and were a little wild and here Jonah now has just gone through that. He says, '40 days.' And he goes up and he camps on the hill. Next day, '39 days.' '38 Days.' The people in Nineveh are beginning to get convicted, 'you know, we are pretty wicked. If I was God, I'd destroy me too.

' And pretty soon it reaches the King that there's this Jewish prophet pronouncing judgment. '25 Days.' '24' - And, you know, that would be unnerving as he did his countdown every day going up and down the streets saying, 'judgment is coming because of your sins.' the King pronounces a proclamation and man and beast repent. They put sackcloth on man and beast. They don't eat. They don't drink and there is the greatest revival and turning to God that is seen anywhere in the Bible - from the most reluctant evangelist in the Bible.

And you wonder if God can use you. Jonah didn't even want to preach. It's the shortest sermon - '40 days and nineveh will be destroyed.' Pretty short sermon. But when you've got the Spirit of God and if the lord tells you to go, he will prepare the hearts ahead of time. The whole city turns from their sin.

The whole city repents. And there are hundreds of thousands of people in the city. And then Jonah goes up on the hill - I'm summarizing the story for you - he goes up on the hill and when he gets counting down after his last message - he's made a little booth up on the hill and he's watching. He wants to see fire come down on nineveh like it did on sodom and gomorrah. He said, 'alright lord, I've warned them.

I went through a lot. Now here comes judgment. And after the 40th day, nothing happens. He waits another day. Nothing happens.

Now Jonah's feeling like, 'now I really look like a hypocrite.' Instead of rejoicing that God has shown them mercy because they repented - doesn't that tell us that God is more willing to save? God's not just wanting to judge people, he's wanting to save people. You know the amazing thing about the story of Jonah? Everybody in the story of Jonah is listening to God except Jonah. (Laughter) the storm listens to God, the fish listens to God, the sailors listen to God, the captain listens to God, it says even the people of nineveh - they listened to God. And there's this great revival - there's this great repentance and the one who's the most difficult in the whole story is Jonah. The book of Jonah talks about meteorology, entomology, zoology, sociology - it just covers just the whole spectrum.

But you know what the most important message is in the book of Jonah? Is that God has a calling for each one of us. Amen. God called Jonah with a work to do to save others and sometimes human nature - we're reluctant to do what God is calling us to do. And when Jonah ran from the will of God, it went very badly and it not only went badly for him, it went badly for those around him. And when Jonah surrendered to the Word of God and went to do what God told him to do, people that were doomed were saved.

Once Jonah surrendered to the Lord in that boat and he said, 'I'm the cause. Throw me overboard', the sailors found peace. When Jonah surrendered and he went to Nineveh, a whole city found peace. And God had to reason with Jonah. In the end of the book he said, "should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?" Jonah was worried because his gourd plant died that was giving him shade.

He didn't care. Sometimes we're more concerned with our daily inconveniences than with the millions of people around us that are lost. Now you know why I saved this message for last? We've been talking about the stories - heroes of faith - that deal with salvation. We made several appeals for people to come to Jesus that you might be saved. But why does the Lord want to save us? Why did he save Jonah? He saved him and then said, 'I've got a mission for you.

Go and tell the people that are perishing that they might be saved. The most important thing in life is that you come to God - Jesus calls it the great invitation. Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden - he invites us to come to him. But he doesn't stop there. The last thing the Lord says in Matthew 28 is 'go ye therefore and teach all nations.

' All of life is involved in those two great endeavors. It's like your heart is constantly taking in and it's giving out. And that's how life is. We receive from God and then we give for God. The great commission is summed up in our coming to Jesus - this is the vertical relationship - and then we go for Jesus.

I always feel a little like the pope when I do that. We come to Jesus and we go for Jesus (laughs). But it is - it's the vertical relationship and then it's the horizontal relationship which does form a cross. The cross is talking about love for God - what's the great commandment? Love the Lord with all your heart. And what's the second one? Love your neighbor.

And so, as we talk night after night about our coming to God, don't stop there because if you don't use your Christianity, you lose your Christianity. When God gives you something to do to tell others, don't be afraid. Jonah was afraid. Last thing in the world he expected was the biggest revival in the Bible. I mean, Noah saved eight people.

Jonah saved a whole city. And if God could use Jonah, as reluctant - and, you know, he probably wrote the book so he admitted that 'i was a reluctant prophet.' He understood what was wrong. If he could use Jonah, can he use us? Amen. If he could answer Jonah's prayer, can he answer our prayers? Some of us, like Jonah, have run from God and we're - we might be inside the whale right now going through some hard times - going through some struggles. And maybe we need to have one of those experiences like Jonah, where we reach the bottom.

Talk about reaching the bottom - and we say, 'lord' and we surrender to him. Jonah made a complete surrender. He was willing to do whatever God wanted him to do and when he did that, God then was able to turn everything around and God was able to use him. He has a plan for each one of you. You know, we are so thankful that you've been tuning into this program and learning about these heroes of faith, but I always feel a little mixed sadness at the end of a series like this because I just - I fear that people are going to think, 'okay, it's over.

Now what do I do?' Friends, I'd like you to think of this as just a new beginning. Amen. The Bible is full of truth that God wants to reveal to you, but you won't find it unless you search for it. But he promises, if you seek, you will find. the Lord has a plan for everyone's life and I can guarantee you that God's plan involves using you to touch the lives of others.

If you're willing to do his will, he has a work for you to do. It doesn't matter where you are in life. It doesn't matter what your station, it doesn't matter what your education is. It's interesting that God could use Jonah - Jonah, you could say, was a fisherman. He caught the biggest fish in the Bible.

(Laughter) and Jesus used fishermen too, didn't he? And he wants to teach all of us. He says, 'follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.' You may not be one yet and say, 'i don't know how I could ever be used, lord, to reach other people.' That's what I once thought. Who would have thunk (laughter) that God could use me? But he says, 'follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.' And he will use you to say - can you think of anything that will be of more value than getting to the Kingdom? I mean, sometimes I'll talk to pastors and I'll tell them, 'I'm thankful for doctors but everybody a doctor ever treats will someday get old and die. I'm thankful for builders. I like houses that are built well.

I'm thankful for mechanics, but every house and every car - everything is going to burn up in this world. The only thing that is going to last forever in this life are souls that are transformed by the power of God. What you do for God, in your life, to serve him in this life is the only thing that is really going to matter at the end. Amen. And the Lord has a work for each one of us to do, but we've got to come to him and surrender and say, 'lord, I'm willing to do your will.

' I'd like to make a special appeal at the conclusion of this series. God has a big plan for each one of you, but it all begins by coming to Jesus. The Bible says, 'whosoever will come unto me, he will receive.' You come just like you are and then he gives you his spirit. And it may not all happen in one day, but he'll give you a work to do. He wants to use you to reach others and there is nothing more valuable than that.

And when you get to the Kingdom, what a joy it will be forever and ever to see people that are there because you decided to surrender your life to the Lord. You know, we want you to keep studying and, if you don't mind my saying so, if you go to the amazing facts website, there are more Bible studies there we'd like to encourage you to take. Not only do we want you to do the Bible studies, we're hoping that you'll share the Bible studies with other people - that you'll continue to study. Keep watching 3abn - you're going to see other inspiring programs. But you need to stay involved.

Spiritual health is like a muscle - if you don't use it, it gets weak. It'll atrophy. Use your faith every day. There are three secrets to strength as a Christian. One is physically, you've got to breathe - you need to pray.

You need to eat - you need the bread of life. You need to exercise - you need to use your faith and share it. These are three basic principles. It's like in the sanctuary, if you know that. In the holy place they had the light - you've got to let your light shine.

They had the bread - that represents the bread of life - the Word of God. And there was the altar of incense - that's prayer. Those are the three secret weapons if you want to have a vital Christian life. And so, when this special series - that's what we're praying for everybody. We'll spend time - I've only skimmed the surface.

There are so many other heroes of faith and there's so much more in each one of these stories, friends, but you've got to decide 'i want to seek God first.' (Soft piano music) often when I sign a book, sometimes I'll put a Scripture in there - it's Jeremiah 29:13 and it says, 'you will search for me and you will find me when you search for me with all your heart.' Can you think of anything that would be worth more than searching for God? First question in the Bible, God says, 'where are you?' First question in the new testament man says, 'where is he?' We have been separated from God because of our sins and God sent his son into the world - Jesus is, of course, the ultimate hero of faith. God sent his son into the world. He is desperate to save you. Would you like to be saved? Amen. He says you come to him, he won't refuse you.

It doesn't matter if you're at the bottom of the mountains. Could we pray together, friends, and ask him once again? Father in Heaven, lord, we're thankful for the simple story of Jonah. How, if we come to you just as we are, you'll accept us and forgive us. And that you can save us from those low points and bring us into heavenly places and use us to reach others. This is our prayer that you'll do for each one of us, lord, and we ask it in Jesus' name, amen.

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