Summary: Men have always struggled against God but God wants to win men to salvation and prepare them for eternal life.
Man Vs. God Jonah 1:1-3
INTRO.: The words of our text are typical of the story of the struggle which has always gone on between man and God. The book is the story of a man who thinks he knows more than God and will, in spite of everything, do things his own way and govern his own life.
First Jonah defies God, then the sailors pit their strength against God. Next, the Ninevites surrender to God. Finally, Jonah again confronts God for being too forgiving. This little book is just one chapter in the ongoing story of conflict between God and His creature, man.
I. Men have always fought against God.
A. In the Garden of Eden:
1. Adam and Eve had perfect fellowship.
2. Satan promised them equality, they "bit."
3. God responded with a penalty, but man’s rebellious spirit was not changed. The next sin was murder. It kept getting worse until God had to send a flood.
B. The entire history of the Jewish nation is the story of a struggle with God:
1. They started complaining immediately after leaving Egypt. Ex. 14:10
2. They complained all through 40 years in the wilderness and even suggested a return to Egypt
3. Once in the Promised Land, they rebelled against Him and built altars and shrines to pagan deities.
4. They provide a warning to us: I Cor. 10:7-11.
C. Daniel’s life under three foreign kings was one battle after another as those kings fought against God.
1. Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, both Babylonian kings, and Darius, the Mede all fought against God and finally surrendered.
2. The outcome of Shadrach’s, Meshach’s and Abednego’s encounter with Nebuchadnezzar is recorded in Dan. 3:28ff.
3. When you go up against God, He always wins. We may think we are doing well without Him in this life, but there will be a reckoning.
II. Just as He wanted to win the citizens of Nineveh, there are some of us He wants very much to win.
A. Saul of Tarsus is an example:
1. He persecuted the Church, believing in all sincerity he was serving God in doing so.
2. Until Jesus appeared and said, “I am Jesus Whom you are persecuting.” Then he knew he had been fighting against God.
3. God had been “goading” him all along but Saul fought against God. It wasn’t easy. Acts 26:14
4. Finally, when Saul lost his war with God, he won.
B. God will win. Every knee will bow. Phil. 2:10
1. He sacrificed His Son. He isn’t likely to give up.
2. He will judge the world by His Son. Acts 17:31
3. The great final conflict between man and God is seen in the book of Revelation. God wins!
C. God enlists the help of Christians to help win others.
1. He wants them to be convinced with Good News, not by force when it’s too late. Mark 16:15, 16
2. He calls upon His people of all ages to share the Good News with others
3. The main thrust of the book of Jonah is to show God’s heartfelt yearning to save all people.
4. There is one group God doesn’t want to save: the saved. But He has something in mind for us nonetheless.
III. Others, He wants to improve: once we surrender to God, the struggle goes on. We just change sides.
A. As God works on the Ninevites, He works on Jonah:
1. The story is a growth experience for Jonah.
2. The storm at sea, the fish, the vine are all signs God wants to change Jonah.
3. God wants Jonah to grow and share His passion for the lost.
B. After Saul surrendered, the struggle went on.
1. His flesh continued to struggle against God Rom. 7:21-24.
2. God sent many “growth opportunities” his way. He was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, etc.
3. He learned his lesson well. We must depend on God. II Cor 12:9, 10.
C. God is always trying to teach us some lesson:
1. ILLUS.: I conducted a funeral for a gay man who died of AIDS. He was never as close to God as when he faced imminent death. His rebellious spirit was broken. He gave up the fight.
2. His problems were caused by his own foolish rebellion against God, but God used them to bring him closer to salvation.
3. God is always working in our lives. Every experience is a growth experience if we allow it.
4. He wants us to share His passion for the lost and He wants to take us into His Presence forever.
CONC.: I knew him 40 years ago and knew his struggle against God. He raced his outboard motor to disturb the morning service. Laughed at his wife and children for going to Sunday School. Finally, through his children, God reached Bill and he surrendered his life to Jesus. He became very active in the Church and was an Elder.