How was your 2018? Was it fun—did you vacation and enjoy family and friends? Did you accomplish all those goals you set for yourself last New Years Eve—such as running to get in shape, or advancing in your work place, or reconnecting with someone?
Perhaps, like me, you had a few set backs. Perhaps you allowed anger and pride to steal previously enjoyable family time—again! And maybe, your main goal for the year, somehow got swallowed up by something beyond your control? I hate when that happens!
I encourage you—do not despair! God is always at work advancing His kingdom through His followers, and He is continually working through you.
God is not finished with you yet!
Twice in 2018, the book of Jonah was brought to my attention. Remember Jonah? He is the prophet who spent three days and three nights in the belly of a large fish, perhaps a whale. I know that sounds like a fairy tale, but Jonah is very real. He is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25and again in Matthew 12:38-42.
Jonah was told by God to go the enemy city of Nineveh in Assyria, to tell them to repent. However, Jonah did not like the evil Ninevites, and ran the other way. He fled to a ship, hoping to sail away from God? (sorry Jonah, but not possible!
Peril fell upon Jonah’s ship, so the sailors cast lots to see from whom the trouble arose. The lot fell on Jonah. So, reluctantly, the sailors tossed Jonah over board to save the ship; this is how Jonah ended up in the fish’s belly.
Eventually, Jonah felt saved while sitting/laying/lounging inside the large fish. (How does one recline while biding time inside the belly of a fish?)
Read Jonah 2 to better understand Jonah’s reaction:
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.
He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’ ”
And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah, though in a very distressing situation, acknowledged God as right, praised His power and admittedly returned to the One who offers salvation.
God, as the story continues in chapters three and four, did rescue Jonah “from the belly of the fish,” which could have been certain death. God gave Jonah another chance because He is the God of chances. Then, Jonah went to call on the Ninevites to redeem themselves, which they did.
The book of Jonah is very different from the other prophets of God.
Jonah’s story focuses on himself and not his prophesies, which is the format of other prophet books of the Bible. It emphasizes Jonah as flawed, just as we all are—a very good learning point! Jonah’s flaw was he heard God’s word, knew what he was asked to do, but ignored God and ran the other way. Sound familiar?
Now is a good time to put into check your anger and pride. It’s a good time to allow God to be in control of all parts of your life.
Thankfully, true to His word throughout the Bible, God loves us and always gives us another chance. . .that is till death do us part!
2018 is about to come to a close. We are about to shut the door to its past. God is asking you to receive 2019 as another chance to change you ways, just like He asked Jonah.
Do not be discouraged by set backs from the past.
Chapter three in Jonah tells how Jonah’s plea to repent reached the king of Nineveh. The king believed God’s message and his kingdom repented.
Chapter four, sadly, tells how Jonah was then upset with God that, true to His word again, God actually forgave them! Sometimes people desire judgment on others for their sin, and are not happy when forgiveness is extended.
That is what happened to Jonah. Nineveh did wrong, and he wanted the people punished, however, God forgave them as soon as they repented. But remember what I previously said about Jonah? He heard and understood what God asked him to initially do, yet he ran away to the sea. Hmmmm. . .Jonah must have short term memory loss regarding himself.
The take away here is: as long as you have breath, God will give you another chance, and another chance, and another chance. . .
Look to 2019 as God giving you another opportunity with family, friends, job growth, improved health, and much, much more. I urge you to read and listen to his word this year. Forget all that disappointment in 2018, and accept 2019 as your “Jonah”year!