Summary: This is the 7th of 31 Devotions in a series called 'The Church called Jonah.' These devotions are based on the book of Jonah and are meant to make a comparison between Jonah and The Church of today.
Jonah 1:5 – “every man cried out to his god and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load.”
And threw the cargo…
We just saw how the mariners, each cried out to his god to help them out of the terrible situation they were in. Now we see them going one step further.
• No other gods but One
Notice it says that “every man cried out to his god and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea.” It looks like they did both things at the same time – they cried out and threw the cargo into the sea. It doesn’t seem like they prayed to their gods and waited to see if they would come to their rescue before they decided to do something about it themselves.
For those who don’t know the Lord personally, and for those who worship other gods, there’s no way they can have a testimony of their ‘gods’ intervening in their lives and bringing about a solution to their situations or a change to their lives. And the reasoning is simple – if there is no other God than the Lord God Almighty, the Great I Am, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, there’s no way that prayers to anyone else but Him, can be answered. It seems like they were also aware that their prayers were going nowhere and so they simultaneously did all they could to ease the situation they were in. This seems like a very sad predicament for anyone to be in – to have a problem, to cry out to the one they thought would be able to help and to not have a response.
• Prayer and Work
It seemed like they had come to a point in their understanding about their gods, where they realised that nothing much happens when they pray, and so they immediately also work things out themselves, which then begs the question, “Why pray?” Had they been through experiences like Moses and the people of Israel had been through in the wilderness, like the terrible situation where the Red Sea was ahead and Pharaoh’s army was behind, and had they heard the words that Moses spoke to the people in Exodus 14:13-14 “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace,” then perhaps they would have cried out and just waited. But like I said earlier, they were crying out to no one. If one is crying out to ‘no one, then no one will come to help, and sadly, that’s exactly who helped them – no one. May I add a little note here - if not for the Lord’s intervention the life of us The Church, we’d still be praying to ‘no one.’
When we look at the above two scenarios – the mariners on the Mediterranean sea, and the people of Israel at the Red Sea, (not too far away), we find two different approaches to handling problematic situations. One was praying and working and the other was merely waiting on the Lord to work on their behalf. There’s something we can learn about praying and working from these two incidents. Just because Moses told the people of Israel to stand still and wait for the Lord to fight their battle at that point of time, does not mean that every time we The Church encounter difficulties, that we are to merely pray and do nothing to help solve the problem. There are times when we need to pray and do nothing, and there are times when we need to pray and are supposed to do something about the situation as the Lord leads.
Take Noah for example. When God told him to build the ark because he was about to destroy the world, he could have taken the easy way out by merely praying and asking the Lord to change His mind about destroying the world, instead of taking the tough road of obedience to God, and building the ark so that he, his family and the animals and birds could be saved. We The Church need to know when to only pray, when to only work and when to both pray and work.
All too often, in my growing years, when I was immature in my faith in the Lord, I had a warped understanding of prayer and work, and very often I’d find myself praying about things I should have been working on. For example, while in school, when I needed to study hard to pass my exams, I would prefer to rather pray that the Lord would lead me to study answers to questions that He knew would appear in the question paper, (not knowing then that God is just and doesn’t work that way), so as to minimise the effort I took to study. As you can imagine, I was so wrong in my approach and I had to face the consequences of my lethargy and careless praying. Here’s a quote by Augustine, concerning praying and working. “Pray like everything depended on God and work like everything depended on you.” But we need to know what situations call for what kind of response.