Summary: God places each of us in our Nineveh: work, school, where we live and like Jonah we cannot see the big picture so we ignore our calling and sail away from our Ninevah - and then the storms.
As you know, years ago when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had a business on the side cleaning Aquariums. I did ok, I was a young man struggling along with my business and one day I was at my aquarium wholesaler and I ran into a man who was in the same business, except he knew what he was doing. Well we hit it off and went out to lunch and he gave me all kinds of great advice about running an aquarium maintenance business. Of all the advice he gave me the most surprising was this: “The aquarium business is NOT about the fish”.
I said, “What are you talking about, the aquarium business is all about the fish, what else is there?”
So he asked, “When you go into a bar to clean their aquarium, doesn’t the bar tender take you aside and talk to you about what is going on in his life?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And when you go into a dentist’s office doesn’t the receptionist talk to you about her problems?”
“Every place you go to clean an aquarium, isn’t there someone who takes you aside and tells you about their problems and asks for your advice?”
“oh, yes they do…”
“That’s because, it is not about the fish. It is about sitting down and spending time with people. It is about spending five minutes cleaning the aquarium, and twenty five minutes listening to someone’s problems and talking about their suffering. It’s not about the fish. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you will be successful.
Brothers and sisters we need to walk away with two things this morning; First,
The book of Jonah is not about the fish. Yes it is about the fish…but it is not about the fish – it is about you and me, about our spiritual blindness, our spiritual arrogance, our fear of things unknown, and the grace of God available to us, even after we have acted like jerks.
Second, the job you work at, the school you attend, whatever it is you do during the week – that’s not what it is about. The office you are in, the job site you are assigned to, working hard all day to get the job done…as a Christian, that is not what it is all about. It is about relationships, it is about the people’s lives around you, it is about advancing the kingdom of God right where God has placed you.
You are placed where you are in life by God – it is no accident that you rented or purchased the house you are in. It is not by your genius and great skill that you have obtained the position you have at work or volunteered for, or the board you are now serving on….it is by the hand of God. Now, you are there to get the job done, and to get it done well, but all of that in the kingdom of God, is secondary. Your primary function at work, in the neighborhood, at school is to serve those around you in the name of Jesus Christ, and to do whatever God calls on you to do for them. You are the preacher at work through how you live your life; you are the open Bible they see everyday; you may be the only shot they have at seeing the power of Jesus Christ in action. You are Jonah called to your Nineveh.
How many here work with people who are not Christians?
How many here have neighbors who are not Christians?
How many here shop at a supermarket, that only Christians shop at?
Have you ever wondered why that is? I mean, why don’t all the Christians in Anchorage live in the same neighborhood, go the same schools, shop at the same store or even all work together at the same place? Certainly God could make that happen, couldn’t he – but he does not. God spreads us out across this city, across this great state, sprinkles us here and there and says, get to work building my kingdom, living so well that those who He places us next to will stop us and say, “you know, I just have to say there is something about you that is so great, I was wondering, what is it?” “Well, let me tell you about Jesus.”
Because it is not about the fish.
Jonah. I just love this book. It is as we will see in the next few weeks, it is so powerful in its content, it has so much to teach us. It is going to be great.
So Jonah, he receives a message from God – Go to Nineveh – and he gets on a boat and heads the opposite way. Why in the world would he do such a thing? Actually, it is quite complicated, it is not anywhere near as simple as it first appears when we read these few verses. The first thing we need to know it that Jonah is no dummy, he is not just running away from God, there is much more to it. There are a number of issues that influence Jonah’s decision to disobey God, well look at those in a few minutes. For us there are a number of issues that can complicate our lives and then we make poor spiritual decisions, and we turn away from God. We lose focus. We do the opposite of what God calls us to do, even those of us who have proved faithful in the past. Remember: past faithfulness does not guarantee future faithfulness. This is our life; this is the life of Jonah.