We only need to say to God, help. We need your help. And you know that’s a prayer he’s going to answer.
Last time you and I met Jonah. A man who needed an attitude adjustment like we do so often, right? He did not want to go to Nineveh. He did not want to help the Ninevites as God was asking him to do. He really didn’t want God to extend his mercy to them, so he gets on a ship and thinks he’s going to escape from the Lord God. And of course the storm comes up, but the Lord is merciful and allows a whale to swallow Jonah. Inside that whale, Jonah gets right with God. Find out how with me!
We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
Wise words from Pastor Chuck Swindoll on the Bible for Busy People. Welcome! My name is Erica. This week we’re talking about attitude adjustments. It all began because I needed to go get my hip adjusted at the chiropractor to feel better physically. I believe when we hand our attitudes over to God, we feel better mentally and spiritually, after he adjusts them. What I’m learning this week with you, is that you and I just have to be willing. I had to hop on the chiropractor’s table and allow Dr. Mattie to adjust my hip. We only need to say to God, help. We need your help, and you know that’s a prayer he’s going to answer. All right. Last time you and I met Jonah. A man who needed an attitude adjustment like we do so often, right? He did not want to go to Nineveh. He did not want to help the Ninevites as God was asking him to do. He really didn’t want God to extend his mercy to them, so he gets on a ship and thinks he’s going to escape from the Lord God. And of course the storm comes up, but the Lord is merciful and allows a whale to swallow Jonah. Inside that whale, Jonah gets right with God. He recounts his story of being thrown into the sea and rescued, and he praises God from inside the belly of that whale. All right, let’s pick up the story now in Jonah chapter three.
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7 Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8 People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9 Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
Okay, we’re going to move into Jonah chapter four now. Warning, Jonah is not happy about the change of heart in Ninevah. Verse one now.
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. 3 Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
He’s angry. Verse four.
The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
This is the second question God asks Jonah, isn’t it beautiful how the Lord is so kind to us? He asks us questions. He’s not accusatory. He’s drawing us into relationship, into the conversation.
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness,[a] not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
I love God so much. This story does not have a bright red bow that we can put on top of it. It actually ends there. We don’t know if Jonah’s attitude was officially adjusted again. We can hope because with God and his people, there is always hope. Look at the mercy God once again extends to Jonah. Maybe Jonah, I feel like God was saying, you need to understand how I feel. Let me grow this plant for you. Let me send the worm. Let me send the wind. God in his kindness and mercy is always making us more empathetic and more merciful. He’s always teaching us something through the sandpaper people in our lives. In Jonah’s case, it was the Ninevites. He despised them. They were evil. He didn’t understand God’s mercy. This same man who was rescued from a raging sea and put inside the belly of a whale for perspective, he didn’t understand why God was showing mercy to others. And before you look too harshly at Jonah. Isn’t that what we do? We want God to be slow to get angry with us, but not the people we don’t like. We want God to be merciful and compassionate to us, but not the people we don’t like. We want to receive God’s unfailing love, but we don’t want it to wash over the people who frustrate us. This is a great lesson for you and I. The next time you get angry with someone, remember Jonah. Remember how kind and merciful the Lord is, and let’s be like him. Until next time, you are really loved.
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