INTRO: How many of us have made some New Year’s resolutions? This is a time when folks have a starting point to be a better person, to turn, and go a different direction whether it’s physical like getting into shape or losing a few pounds. It can be relational, I’m going to be a better friend, or I’m going to be a better spouse.
Today: Since it’s the New Year, I wonder what the Lord would like us to work on. What are some New Year’s resolutions he would make for our lives?
TITLE: New Year’s Resolution
TEXT: Jonah 4:6
I. Background. Jonah was a prophet of God who some would say was the first missionary.
A. Unwilling servant. The word of the Lord came to Jonah to go to Nineveh.
1. Jonah refused. In fact he totally ran in the opposite direction to avoid doing God’s will.
2. He jumps on a boat headed for Tarshish, so the Lord puts up a roadblock, causes a giant storm. The crew panics, starts throwing everything overboard trying to save the ship.
-Finally they toss Jonah overboard at his request because he is the cause of the storm. Question: What could be so bad that you’d take your own life?
-Here is the reason. Jonah 4:1-2, "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ’0 Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish, I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity’"
B. Jonah knew that God was a God of love—as Jonah put it, a God abounding in love. And God was going to show the Assyrians, Israel’s enemy, grace.
1. When you think about God, it’s amazing how much he loves people. A city of the worst of sinners, these people were known for their cruelty.
2. This is why Jonah did not want to go to these people. They were the enemy of Israel. -A cold ruthless nasty people to the Jews.
3. Nonetheless God wanted Jonah to go to them. So as Jonah tried to kill himself by drowning, God said not so fast. So he provided a great fish to swallow Jonah alive.
-It was time for the attitude adjustment. God won, Jonah said he would obey.
4. Jonah went and preached a 7 word sermon and the whole city repented.
C. Jonah’s true nature revealed. Jonah goes outside of town and builds a little shelter waiting to see what happens—perhaps God will destroy them.
1. The Lord continues to teach Jonah by providing a vine to grow to give him shade. Jonah was very happy with the vine because it did something for him.
-The Lord sent a worm to eat the vine to teach Jonah a lesson.
a. Lesson: Jonah could only care for something that benefited him. He cared for this vine because it gave him shade. When you think about it Jonah did nothing in return. He didn’t feed or water it, he just received.
Thought: What a pitiful role model of a missionary. It’s about my needs and cares rather than yours.
-This is not how to live your life as a Christian.
2. Even in this we see the greatness of God - who was reaching a people who did not know him and was also dealing with a very selfish prophet.
-A man who loved a plant more than a fellow human being.
TS: This brings us to the first New Year’s resolution we should make.
II. To love more. I believe this is worthwhile resolution. Just imagine if everyone took on this challenge, "to love more." Everything would improve—marriages, families, relationships.
A. The Lord tells us through his word that the greatest virtue is love. The apostle Paul calls it the most excellent way.
: Imagine if you could speak in tongues of men and angels, what a wonder that would be, but if you have not love - so what (as my dad would always say, whoopee)
: Imagine if I had the gift of prophecy and could fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, all the people who’d seek my wisdom (fame and fortune), but you know if I don’t have love - whoopee.
: Imagine if I had faith that could move mountains, what I could do to help mankind. But you know if I don’t have love - what good is it.
: Imagine if I gave all I possess to the poor they’d be poorer, but let’s pretend I’m a billionaire and I gave it to the poor and I didn’t do it in love - I’ve gained nothing!
: Imagine I surrender my body to the flames because I believed so much in something that I literally gave my life in a horrible death. If I don’t have love - I’ve gained nothing (whoopee).
B. There are far too many Christians like Jonah.
1. They can only love when things are going their own way. That is, they will love when someone else is doing something for them, like Jonah and the vine.
-This is the way the world teaches us to love. You do something for me and I’ll do the same for you (you wash my hands and I’ll wash yours). You help me and I’ll help you.
Thought: The eventual outcome of this type of love is failure or breakdown.
-Because I’m a human being, there will be days I’m not going to wash your hands and as a result you’re not going to wash mine (thus the downward cycle of destruction begins).
2. Let me give you a couple of illustrations.
John is so in love with Hillary. He was so attracted to her. Every one of John’s friends thought Hillary was gorgeous. She could have been a model, well-kept, nice figure, and so beautiful. Well after 10 years of marriage Hillary went from a size 3 to a 33. She went from being well-kept and professional to an overweight depressed TV addict. John has just informed her he does not love her anymore. The reason, the vine stopped giving shade.
Karen married Bill. He was popular and athletic. He had everything going for him. After several years Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was only a short period after that Karen ended up leaving him. Why, because the vine stopped giving shade.
Point: These are not examples of the kind of love I’m talking about for a New Year’s Resolution.
-I’m talking about a love that circumstances don’t affect. Simply, God’s love that he shows us, an agape love that has no strings attached.
3. We can see this type of love throughout the scripture.
: Parable of the prodigal son. A father giving his son what he asked (portion of the inheritance). The father loved him enough to let him go rather than trying to smother him and hang on to him. As he let him go, he didn’t give up on him. I believe he was constantly praying for him. You can see his thoughts were for him because when he returned, he was waiting for him, watching in the distance.
: See it in the birth of Christ. He was born to save mankind. That we see him taking the sins of the world upon himself, taking our place when we were his enemies.
Point: That’s the love we need to strive for in our New Year’s Resolution.
TS: You might be thinking, OK I’ll try to love more but where do I start.
III. What am Ito love.
A. I need to love God more. Heaven forbid we end up like the church at Ephesus who lost their first love.
1. Let us love God the way he wants to be loved not the way we think he should be loved. That is religion.
-Some practical ways to do this.
: Obeying him, follow the way the word tells us to live.
: To spend time with him, quality time (not doing some activity we like and oh by the way God are you here).
: Being the best representative we can be—casting off our old way of life and following the new way.
TS: What I also know, to love someone is to love what they love. God loves people. B. So the second thing I can love is people.
1. The Lord loved people so much he died for them. He put their needs and desires above his own.
2. We need to love people the way God loves them.
-A simple way to do this is to tell them about the kingdom of heaven. Tell them the way of salvation, introduce them to Jesus.
-Give them a cold cup of water (help them out). When you know they’re in need do something for them.
Conclusion: New Year’s Resolution
-To love the Lord with all your heart, soul, being, and to love thy neighbor as thyself.
: If we can take some steps toward this objective imagine how much better off things will be.