ACCOMPLISHING GOD’S WILL
* When to get to the end of this life, what is it that you hope will be your legacy? Is it your wish that people stand over you and say, “he was a good family man?” or “she was a good cook?” or “he was his own man?” or “she was a great business woman?” While these have their place, are these the legacy we desire to be remembered by?
* Personally for me, it is my wish that some of these things might be said as an afterthought, but what I HOPE can be said is this, “He wanted to see God’s will done.” Yes, it may cost popularity, opportunity, and even status, but at the end of it all, my heartfelt desire is to fulfill God’s will and purpose which He has given to me. I hope, trust, and pray, that this same desire is present in each of us.
* Every time I read God’s word I am amazed at the places and people which bring this truth home to me. We have been slowly working our way through Jonah on Wednesday nights. Tonight we find our study picking up in verse 7. Candidly I desired to look at verse 7-8 tonight, but after prayer and study, we will read verses 7-15. In the MOST unusual way, we will discover that God is sovereign and can use every situation and set of circumstances in our lives to accomplish His will. (read)
* Your first question is “how in the world can this passage of scripture tell us about God’s will or the accomplishing of God’s will?” I believe this text teaches us (among other things) seven actions which, if followed, will ultimately lead us to accomplish God’s will. Admittedly, these sailors didn’t really understand what they were doing, but God is sovereign and leads us when we are unaware of His hand. For the informed, I believe we can learn and employ these principles and move toward His purpose.
* Be quickly reminded that these guys were in a storm, a life-threatening storm.
1. Work Together – The HCSB begins verse 7 with, “Come on”. Most every translation (not paraphrases) use the word ‘come.’ Let’s not get over “spiritual” about this call. These were veteran sailors who understood the nature of storms. They knew all about the normal, run of the mill storms and generally, could navigate their way through them. However, they knew this to be an unusual storm (as it always is when God’s sends it) and as such, they would need an unusual plan to survive.
* I submit this is a principle which the church today must learn. If we are to survive the storms and struggles which God sends our way, we must come together and work together. The call is “come” or “come on”.
2. Develop A Plan – What was their plan? The decided to cast lots. Casting lots is mentioned approximately 70 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New Testament. Lots were cast about sacrifices, lands, selection, and much more. In Proverbs, Solomon writes, “the lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is from the Lord.” First of all, the lots could be all sorts of things, stick, rocks, dice, and more. Next, this was an accepted way of discerning God’s will in the Old Testament. They fiercely depended on God to control the lot.
* Whether we like their plan or not, we need to consider a couple of things; a) they choose a method that was trusted during that time, b) they trusted the outcome, c) Obviously, God controlled the result.
* It is amazing how many people seem to believe that God is a “God of the last minute.” Planning is not evil.
* As Believers, let’s never forget to “Pray for His Plan.”
3. Engage your Plan - There is an old adage which says, “Plan your work and work your plan.” Whether inside or outside of a storm, it is needed that we plan and work.
* These men did not just “say” let’s cast lots, they actually followed through. They took the rock, sticks, or dice and did it. Truthfully, in the middle of a storm you may resort to some things that you may not otherwise do.
* When the lots were cast and they had an answer, they;
4. Asked Questions – When I read verse 8, I am reminded of all the Perry Mason, Matlock, and CSI shows which I have watched. They were asking questions to discover the truth. When we ask questions, what we ask may not be the most important issue. The most important issue may be “why we ask the questions.” These rapid fire questions may well demonstrate that their motivation was fear and not truth. There were not prepared for the answers they would get. I submit that many times we are looking for neither truth nor information but simply relief. Ask the right questions with the right motivation.
5. Listen for God – Look at verse 9. In the answer Jonah gave, these men had enough information to come to God. In your time of distress, in your struggle, and in your stress, God may speak to you in a way of that you are not expecting. Obviously they caught the enormity of their situation and that God had placed them in the storm because verse 10 says they were even ‘more afraid.’ Thinking about it, I wonder if these pagan sailors understood more about God than we seem to. How long since we have been afraid of the storm He’s sent?
6. Ask more Questions- Remember that these guys “heard from God” but they didn’t “respond to God.” To hear from God & not respond is a dangerous situation.
* Do you know what happens? “The storm keeps getting worse and worse.” Whenever we hear and don’t respond to God – the stress, struggle, and sorrow will continue to grow. Like the sailors show, at this point it’s time to ask one more question, “What should be do?” This is a huge question because upon hearing a direct answer I am faced with only two choices, to obey or not obey. There is not middle ground.
* They asked the question of Jonah and didn’t like the answer. I wonder how often we do that. We ask God a direct question and he gives us the answer we don’t care to hear. Jonah said, “thrown me in the water” and they didn’t like that even though the man of God had given them God’s answer.
* They attempted everything they could do in their own strength and it was to no avail. Frequently we have to attempt everything we can before we do what God says.
7. Respond to God – I don’t want you to miss this. To accomplish God’s will, Jonah HAD to get into the belly of the fish! Once Jonah determined to run from God, there was only one destination where he would come to Himself. For Elijah, it was under the juniper tree. For the prodigal son, it was in the pig pen. For Jonah, it is in the belly of the fish. Where is it for you?
* As soon as they responded, the sea stopped its raging. Could it be that the reason our sea rages around us is because we have yet to respond to the voice of God?
* ONE SIDE NOTE – Wait until next week and be reminded that when we are obedient all kinds of good things happen. God Himself sees to it.