Summary: When Jonah was in the depths of despair, he remembered who he was. That saved him from his dilemma.
In The Midst of Your Struggle
(Don't Forget Who You Are)
Jonah found himself in a situation that many people today find themselves in. They have at some point in the past heard the voice of the Lord calling them, instructing them, and leading them. But through the process of time, for whatever reason, they find themselves out of the will of God and struggling.
In Jonah’s case, it was an act of direct disobedience that brought his troubles. Sometimes we do that too. In other cases it’s just life itself that deals the cards of distress to an individual. The Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust alike. It really is not important how we arrived at our current situation. It is enough just to admit that we are in trouble and even more important that we can acknowledge that we need help.
Jonah was in trouble and needed help. It’s obvious. And, when we read the rest of Jonah’s story we can see that he did survive this horrible situation. I chose these two particular portions of scripture to read in your hearing today because I think that they reveal something that is extremely important if we are to survive in our time of struggle. In all that Jonah did that was wrong, there is something very critical that he did right.
First, look at Jonah chapter 1 and verse 8.
8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?
The storm is about to send the ship to bottom of the sea. These experienced seamen are pale with fear. They begin throwing everything that can be spared into the sea in order to lighten the ship and hopefully save their lives. In the process of grabbing boxes of merchandise and sacks of grain they come across a sleeping Jonah. They grab him by the shoulders and shake him to wake him up.
I don’t think it took more than a couple of seconds for Jonah to recognize that he was in what was probably the most dangerous situation that he had ever been in. He was about to go down with the ship.
The seamen on the other hand were shocked that Jonah had been able to sleep through all of the thunder, lightening, yelling, cursing, and praying that had been going on all around him. They immediately begin to question him.
“Why are you sleeping? Do you know why we are in this dilemma? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? Tell us about your background? Who are you?”
All eyes were on him. Jonah knew he was in trouble. He knew why the storm was raging all around him. Then he opened his mouth and answered. Please notice what he says. I think it is pivotal in the narrative of Jonahs story.
Verse 9 says: “And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.” We will come back to this in a moment. Just remember what Jonah’s reply was to their questions.
If you have read the story of Jonah, you know that they end up casting him into the sea. The storm subsides. The seamen go their way. And Jonah is swallowed by a great big fish.
The second portion of scripture that we read earlier actually happens in the belly of the great fish. It describes Jonah’s plight in vivid detail. He says, “The floods compassed me. The waves were over me. The seaweed was wrapped around my head. And my soul fainted within me.” Jonah was at the very point of death when something extraordinary happened.
Let’s look at chapter 2 verse 7: “When my soul fainted within me I remembered….”
This is epic. This is the same thing that caused Jonah to answer the seamen in response to their inquisition. And this brings me to the title of this sermon today. In the midst of your struggle, don’t forget who you are.
When Jonah responded to their questions he was actually saying, “You want to know who I am? I am a child of God! I am chosen – hand-picked by God, Himself! I know Him! And even more importantly, HE knows me. That’s who I am!”
In chapter 2, Jonah again remembers… and he prays. Because he knows, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven…” (2Ch 7:14)