Summary: God cares only about our obedience, will we make it "easy or hard?"
Easy or Hard – Your Choice
* When Deb and I were younger and living in Florida, there was a commercial on TV put out by a mechanic’s shop. As I recall, he would pitch his oil change service for a “low price” and would then hold up a burned valve or crankshaft (illustrating the coming problem for NOT taking care of your car) and would say, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” All of my life I have heard these types of phrases.
* Either “pay me now or pay me later”, or “you want this to be easy or hard?” And they would always end with, “It’s your choice.”
* My dad had his own phrase. It was, “Don’t make me say that again!” But I would like to explain this process which I know so well. As a boy, I well remember that my dad had an irritating quality. When he wanted me to do something, he simply told me to do it and he expected it to be done. Additionally, he felt no need to explain himself. He was dad, the breadwinner, and the boss (when mom wasn’t around), so he walked heavy and wielded a big stick. By the way, when he said to do something there was a timetable on it. NOW! Not in a few minutes or a “let me finish this” mentality, but do it now. Oh yeah, if I didn’t do what he had told me to, he would apply the belt of education to the seat of knowledge. (you already understand that this was meant as motivation) When he was finished “motivating” me, he would always finish the ordeal with the same words, “Now, go do what I told you do and don’t make me tell you again.” Incidentally, at this point I was very MOTIVATED to not force him to speak about this again. (Got me?)
* Isn’t it interesting that when I read Jonah chapter 3 I see that my dad may have learned his motivating “Fathering” skills from God? So tonight, let’s read Jonah 3:1-3 and see this “easy or hard” choice.
* Do you have the correct picture of Jonah? He received a call from God. Had he responded correctly, life would have been much easier. Instead, He resisted God’s call and even ran from the call. Is there anyone among us who has not received God’s call and ran from it? Whether it was a call to salvation, a call to service, a vocational calling, or even another type of ministry calling and we ran from it, what were the results? Did things go easy or hard?
* Honestly, anytime I have ran from God’s call, I have found myself in the proverbial belly of the fish.
* Back to Jonah; He received the call, resisted the call, ran from the call, and wound up in the bottom of the sea in the belly of a fish. What a picture! Why do we have to be knocked down before we’ll look up? Candidly, God will make some things easy if we will let Him. It was in the belly of the fish that Jonah “came to Himself.” He realized his own helplessness, recognized who was in control, and he requested help. When He did this, God responded.
1. The Compassion from God – Verse 1 reminds us just how compassionate our God is. He is the God of the second chance. Like this or not, God expects obedience. When we are disobedient it is only the grace, mercy, and compassion of God which keeps Him from dropping the hammer. By the way, He can drop the hammer. Remember Acts 5? Annanias and Sapphira dropped dead because they lied. God does have limits, but isn’t it great that God is a compassionate God, who is slow to anger?
2. The Consistency of God – We have heard, read, and even believed for years that our God is the alpha and omega, that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but somehow we forget that applies to His callings. I have a friend who is now a pastor in Kentucky. When he sensed God calling him to move into the pastorate from being a staff person, he had a church who dealt with him and, because of the influence of an unscrupulous member, voted down calling my friend as their pastor. So they went and got someone else to be their pastor. He stayed there 9 months and was fired. Now the church was in turmoil. Eventually, they went back and called my friend. That church has her best days while he was there. Make no mistake; once God calls you, the best choice is to respond.
3. The Commitment to God –In the aftermath of being in the belly of the fish, Jonah (whether he wanted to or not) was obedient. He went where he obviously didn’t want to go, did what he didn’t want to do, and God (as we will find out next week) responded. God doesn’t care about our opinion, only our obedience. He doesn’t care about our comfort, but our character. Easy or hard, it’s your choice.