Summary: What effect do self-centered people have on our world. This message looks at Jonah’s rebellion and his resulting self-pity.
Introduction: In 1945, Cliff Barrows made a proposal of marriage to his girlfriend Billie. Together they scraped together enough funds for a simple wedding and two tickets to a city with a resort hotel. On arrival, however, they found the hotel shut down. Stranded in an unfamiliar city with little money, they thumbed a ride. A sympathetic driver took them to a grocery store owned by a woman he knew. There the newlyweds spent their first night in a small lightly furnished room above the store. What a disappointing start to their marriage that night must have been! Certainly they had greater expectations than sleeping in a musty bed above a grocery store. I wonder if Cliff and Billie questioned God’s providential leading as they considered their situation. Who could blame them really? I’m sure that many of us have felt the same way at various times in our lives when God did the unexpected.
It seems to me that you can tell a lot about a person by how he or she responds to adversity. As a matter of fact, I would say that trials are really an accurate tool to assess the quality of one’s faith. Everyone faces trials at one time or another. The Bible tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust (See Matthew 5:45) and that we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials (See James 1:2). If you are not currently undergoing a trial, don’t worry, you will be soon. In the passage that we’re looking at this morning, Jonah is forced to endure a painful outcome of his preaching to the Ninevites: They repented and now God as relented sending calamity to them! His response to their good fortune reveals a lot about his own heart...it was filled with sinful, self-centered pursuits, an obvious sign that he was walking in the flesh (See Galatians 5:20). What can we learn from Jonah’s experience? Let me share with you three observations about self-centered people.
I. Self-Centered People are Self-Deceived People. "No one deserves grace and mercy as much as me." Few would ever admit this, but most of us, at one time or another, have lived by this belief. It is human nature to underestimate the impact of our own sin, while overestimating the impact of others. Chapter four begins with Jonah expressing his great displeasure at the sudden turn of events at the end of chapter three. According to one commentator, this verse could have been translated, "To Jonah it was a disaster, a great disaster!" The Ninevites turned from their evil ways and God, instead of destroying them, had compassion on the 120,000 people who lived there. While I would not feel comfortable trying to argue that the sin of the Assyrians could possibly be understated (Their wickedness was so great that God would not tolerate it any longer.) I will, however, try to persuade you that Jonah was downplaying the wickedness of his own heart. Remember that in the first chapter Jonah was on his way to Tarshish because he was unwilling to take the Word of God to the people living in Nineveh. He was eager to see 120,000 people perish under the judgment of God. Listen to the note of disappointment in his words: "O 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." There was no room for grace and mercy in the heart of Jonah when it came to his enemies though these attributes completely encompassed the heart of God. They deserved what they were getting. They were evil. But was Jonah any better? When given the task of preaching to the Assyrians, he ran from his responsibility. He simply didn’t care that an entire city full of people would die (Contrast this with Abraham who bargained with God for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah -- See Genesis 18:20- 33). Yet God was gracious and merciful to Jonah. He did not perish when the sailors threw him overboard, but he survived in the belly of a great fish. Alas he was given a second chance, the same outcome that he was doing his best to prevent from happening for the people living in Nineveh. They were not worthy of mercy and grace. Application: Have you ever made the same assumption as Jonah: That you deserve God’s favor, while others do not? Christians must be careful to guard against a feeling of spiritual superiority as God’s children. What makes grace so wonderful is that it is unmerited and available to all. We would do well to remember that if faith is the means of salvation, grace is the motive for which God offers it (See Ephesians 2:8-9). No one deserves it, but it is in the nature of God to act graciously toward those He loves. Warning: It is another spirit that derives great pleasure over the suffering of others (See Luke 9:51-56).