Have you ever had a big moment in life? A pivotal experience that forever shaped you? Maybe it was a decision you made or a decision made for you?
God is doing something IN you, so that He can do something THROUGH you. God is calling some of you to lead others to find Jesus. We are a student ministry that is passionate about IMITATING Christ and INFLUENCING the world with the love of Jesus.
This is true in the story today. We will be looking at the story of Jonah. Jonah was willing to do what God wanted in his own country, but refused to answer the call of God to a foreign land to a people different from his own.
What can we learn from the story of Jonah?
1. Jonah viewed people differently than God (Jonah 1-2:3).
God called Jonah to preach to Nineveh, the capital city of the nation of Assyria, one of the greatest enemies of Israel. Jonah was horrified that God wanted Him to preach to the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. They were the Taliban of this time of history. Jonah’s fleeing doesn’t just point to him being afraid of Nineveh, but his lack of compassion. He fled west, the opposite way from Nineveh and the presence of God, or so he thought…
A huge storm hit: Jonah 1:4: “But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.”
The ship’s crew was scared to death! The terrified crew cast lots, determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First they tried rowing to shore, but the waves grew even higher. Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm.
Jonah 1:12: “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” Jonah 1:17: “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”
Jonah was swallowed alive by a large fish. God worked supernaturally in creation for Jonah.
The truth is that God is a PURSUING God…
2. You can’t run from God.
Jonah hit ROCK BOTTOM. Sometimes, this is the only way God can get our attention! Jonah is at the lowest point of his life. At the bottom of the sea in the belly of a FISH! Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer:
Jonah 2:9-10: “But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone. 10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”
Jonah learns that God’s plan is the only way. His mission from cover to cover in the Bible is that…
3. God wants all people to be saved.
Jonah 3:1-2: “Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
People’s lives were changed. They responded to the truth about God and turned to Him. It was not the end of the story. Some believe the Ninevites paid attention to Jonah because of his bizarre appearance. They speculate that the whale's stomach acid bleached Jonah's hair, skin, and clothing a ghostly white.
Just as we think the story is over, Jonah becomes discouraged (Jonah 4:1-3). Jonah realized His hard heart, narrow mind and lack of love for others. Although he was telling others about Jesus, He missed the truth that God wants all people to be saved:
Jonah 4:1-2: “This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.”
The story ends with God telling Jonah that He is a compassionate God. I I believe one of the reasons the story is left open-ended is because I want us to realize we are to write the ending of the story with our lives!
Matthew 12:40: “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”
Jesus was born into one of the most difficult times of history. The Romans were in charge. He would face ridicule, persecution and isolation. Jesus came with the greatest love to make a way for us to be saved. God is doing something in you so that He can do something through you.
God is using situations, circumstances and events in our lives to help us see His purpose. God wants to grow you to be useful to help others experience His love. We live in a dark world. We need reflect the light of Christ into the darkness.
- Personal Ninevah: Do you have anyone that you would NOT share Jesus’ love with today? Sharing God’s love to people far from Him (John 3:16). Love all people from all backgrounds, race, and cultures!
- Running from God: until you realize that you can’t run your life, only Jesus can. Is God allowing you to come to the end of yourself in order to surrender to Jesus?
Element of Fun: The students played the game, “Play it by Ear.” It was a fun game to watch!
Music: Relentless, Search my heart, Sins of My Youth, Set a Fire (closing)
Favorite Moment: Listening to stories of small group leaders talk about how their students were discussing God's Word and opening up to changes in their lives. Stories of life change are what it is all about!
What’s Next: We are finishing the series, “Old School” as we talk about Abraham and Isaac with the High School students.
To watch any of the series messages, check out the vimeo page