Summary: The authentic Christian doesn't play lame games
Games People Play
I hope you've enjoyed our study of Jonah these past few weeks as much as I have. I don't know about you, but I've related to Jonah's mistakes. When he tried to outrun God, I thought of times when I've been out of the Lord's will and resisted His Word. When He conspired with others to try to out row God, I thought of times when my rebellion affected others. As he was sinking to the bottom of the sea, I thought of times when I blamed God and others for problems I created myself.
Then when he was safe in the fish God prepared, I thought of the many times that God provided for me, even when I didn't know it at the time. When God used Jonah to bring revival to Nineveh, I thought of times when God did great things in spite of me. And when Jonah's prejudice surfaced after the people repented, I was reminded that I often see people differently than God does.
Today, as we conclude our study, let's look at Jonah's severe immaturity that surfaces in the closing words of this book. As we do, we'll observe mind games he plays with God. First, in the beginning verses of chapter 4, Jonah says to God, "If I can't pitch, I'll take my ball and go home!"
Jonah 4:1-2 But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, "Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. (italics added)
Like the Prodigal's brother, those who witnessed Jesus responding to the harlot who poured the costly perfume on his feet, and the workers who labored all day in the parable of the Vineyard, Jonah wanted grace for himself but not for others.
Jonah was the kind of guy that wanted to be in charge of his own destiny-he hadn't learned to submit. He actually thought he could change God's plans! He thought that if he ran to Tarshish, he could stop the flow of God's grace.
Maybe I'm smarter than that-maybe I know that I can't outrun God or stop Him from doing His will, but sometimes, I'll have to admit, I'm tempted to take credit for what God does when I do submit. Really, what's the difference? That's just watching him pitch, but taking credit for the throw.
It would be easy for MVP quarterback Curt Warner to give a "stay with it and pull yourself up by your own boot strap like I did" speech, but he doesn't. According to Warner, much of the credit for his remarkable turn around goes to his wife Brenda, and his relationship to Jesus Christ.
At a Billy Graham event during the fall of 1999, Warner told the crowd, "It [his success] has nothing to do with how I work out in the off-season, or my diet. The secret of my success is simply Jesus Christ." (From Fresh Illustrations)
When his first mind game,"If I can't pitch, I'll take my ball and go home!" didn't work, Jonah changed games. This time he said, "If I don't get my way, I'll hold my breath 'til I turn blue!"