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Fish and Storms

Shane Willard

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2) Sometimes we schedule our surrender to God for: after our plans are done. You ever done that? Sometimes we schedule our surrender to God for: after our plans are done. That's what Jonah did. It wasn't that Jonah didn't believe in God. It wasn't that God wasn't his Lord. It wasn't any of that. God asked Jonah to do something that he wasn't willing to do. Jonah says: you know what I'm going to do? I'm going go to Jaffa, and then I'm going to go to Tarshish. Tarshish was at the end of the known trade route. It would have taken one whole year to go to Tarshish and back.

To travel the world for a year, you have to have money, you have to have means, you have to have opportunity. Jonah's saying: listen, I hear You Lord, but I've got some plans, and after my plans are done - then I'll come back and surrender to Your plan, or at least I'll consider it.

Maybe you're on that journey as well? Maybe you're on a journey with or from God, and you're having to turn down the volume of your conscious so you can cope? Is there any place that you know you're running from God, and can know this; if it's any place in your life that you have to turn down the volume of your conscience just so you can cope with it, that's where we find these moments.

These moments normally lead us to a moment where we can't imagine the chaos, or manage it, and we have to quit running. We know the day of reckoning is not escapable. We know that the direction of our lives is bringing it to a head. It's not that we don't believe in God, it's just we have some deals that we're going to do, and after that we'll get in alignment with our values. So we schedule our surrender to God for: after we're done with our plans.

In Jonah's situation, it's not that he doesn't understand. He hears, he understands, he says no. He was called to Nineveh, he went to Tarshish - a year long journey. Now a couple of thoughts:

1) God is generous with His grace. You look at the story of Jonah, and every single step of the way God was stepping in, whether it was to provide a fish, or whether it was to command the fish to vomit up, or whether it was to turn the hearts of the Ninevehvites back towards God, so they didn't skin Jonah alive when he showed up. Whether it was anointing the worst sermon ever preached in the history of the prophets, whether it was providing a vine, whether it was all these lessons - God was generous with His grace.

2) God was thorough with His discipline.

3) God sends storms in our lives - storms and fish - never to pay us back, but always to get us back.

Now let's look back at the scripture, and I want to sort of break down some of the key ideas. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God - this is Verse 1 - and he said: in my distress I called to the Lord. How many of us are driven back to God in our distress? You're staring at a pregnancy test? Are you thinking about money? Are you thinking about pursuits? Are you thinking about plans? Are you thinking about dreams? No - what are you saying when you're staring at the pregnancy test? Oh God, help me! You're dealing with something. You've been hiding something, so you pick up the phone to dial the number to confess something, before someone found out what you've been hiding all along - dear God. You're waiting on the results of a medical test - oh God. You're walking out of the job office with a pink slip. See distress is the very force that overpowers intellect, theology, rationale or resistance. We can have all of our arguments lined up about: why God is this, or why God is that, or why God isn't this, or why God isn't that. Sometimes all it takes is a little distress to get us out of all that, and drive us back to the person Himself.