Are You too Familiar with Jonah's Story?


The call of Jonah was exceedingly hard. And we'll never get the best out of Jonah's story if we separate ourselves from his struggle.

I don't know many of you, but I do know something about you:

You're familiar with the story of Jonah.

Who hasn't learned of the man who got swallowed by a big fish!

But are you too familiar? Has the story of Jonah become such a routine part of your Christianity that you forget to ask what God wants you to learn through this narrative?

I'm afraid that often in the church, we have informed brains and unchanged hearts. You and I know stories and verses and theology, but we fail to apply them to our everyday faith.

I'm about to ask you to put yourself in the shoes of Jonah and read the story in a brand new way.

Jonah is in the Bible because we are like him. And God wants to lovingly teach us important lessons, just like He did with Jonah.

I want you to think about your own life. Where is God calling you to do something hard? Where is God calling you to something out of the comfortable way you’d like to live life? Who are hard people God has put you near? What are hard things God is calling you to do? Where are you struggling to do the hard things God is calling you to do—hard things with your money that doesn’t actually belong to you; hard things with your time that doesn’t actually belong to you; hard things with the people around you that aren’t actually possessions for your happiness? What hard thing is God calling you to? And how are you responding to hard call of God?

Can I be honest with you? Your Christianity is not defined by Sunday morning, when you’re throwing your head back and singing some kind of worship song. That’s the easy call of God. That doesn’t define your Christianity at all. It never has. And you shouldn’t evaluate how close you are to God and how much you’ve surrendered to his plan because you can attend a service and get excited about great music and great teaching.

It’s Tuesday night when someone is bugging the stuff out of you, and God has chosen for you to live next to a person who in every way irritates you, that how much you’re surrendering to the call of God is made clear. Because God says you’re supposed to love your neighbor as yourself no matter what.

When God calls you to not treat your money as your own—and you don’t have much, and having a little money isn’t an excuse to not be generous and not be supportive of the plan of God—how are you responding to that hard call? When God chooses something to enter your experience that you would’ve never planned for yourself, something that’s hard and difficult, when the unexpected and unwanted and the unplanned enters your door: how do you respond? Do you question the goodness of God? Do you question his presence? Do you look over the fence and envy somebody’s life? Or do you say, “You’re Lord! You can lead me anywhere you want to leave me. My rest is not in my circumstances. My rest is in you.” How are you responding to the hard call of God?

I want to say to you, as I read Jonah, I’m more like this man than I’m unlike him. And it’s easy to look at Jonah and say, “I would’ve never run from God!” and be a runner every day of your life and you don’t know it. And I’m concerned that my self-righteousness will not allow me to get the message out of Jonah because the first thing I do is separate myself from him. I say, “No way Paul Tripp’s a Jonah! Look, I’m in ministry! I preach! I write books!” Yet I can sit in a moment where my wife hasn’t agreed with the glory of my stunning thinking and say nasty things to her. And at that moment, I’m a runner just like this man. The call of Jonah was hard.

Think about the message he was called to communicate. How would you like to go to an exceedingly evil city and the single message you’re supposed to communicate is judgment? How’s that for a happy, attractive job description? You just go, and you walk the streets of this evil city and you announce that there’s a God who’s about to mete out judgment on it? There’s nothing about this call that’s attractive.

And we’ll never get the best out of Jonah if we separate ourselves from this struggle. God’s going to call you to do hard things. And it’s in those moments when you have a measure of the degree of the surrender of your heart to God. Not in the easy moments. Not in those beautiful, warm, community worship moments. But in the moments when I’m facing thing I don’t want to face, and God is calling me to do what it’s not naturally for me to do. It’s not natural for me to uproot my life and go to people I have nothing in common with and speak a message that they don’t want to hear.

Let’s not be too hard on Jonah. Jonah is in the Bible because he’s like us. Put your name there, and confess with me right now, that there’s probably evidence somewhere in your life where you’re a runner.


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