Summary: This sermon illustrates 3 characteristics of a shallow relationship with God, as demonstrated by the prayer and life of the prophet Jonah
(SLIDE # 1)
THE RUNNING MAN: SHALLOW IN THE DEPTHS
As a kid, I always had all of these theological questions in my head. I was raised in church and was given a pretty good Christian education between home, Sunday School, and Church, but I had these certain questions that floated around in my head all of the time that I tried to get answered. Here are a few:
If God is all knowing does he know what I will be doing when I am 30?
Does God know every decision I will make?
Can people look down from Heaven and see what I am doing right now?
Does God know my every thought?
What constitutes a full fledged sin and what does God see as an honest mistake?
Will God accept my prayer of forgiveness on my death bed no matter what I have done?
How many times will God forgive me? Is there a number on this forgiveness thing?
Now on the surface, these questions look like innocent questions that any kid might have. They look like questions that even some adults might ask who are trying to seek out how to live a better Christian life.
But that wasn’t the reason I asked these questions. I wasn’t seeking out the answers to gain a deeper theological knowledge of God or Christianity. I wasn’t trying to live a more pious life, and hoping to use the answers to bring me to a better understanding of God. I wasn’t honestly searching out the answers to these questions to better understand the depths of God’s love for me.
I WAS TRYING TO PLAY THE SYSTEM! I WAS TRYING TO SEE HOW FAR I COULD GO AND STILL DO WHAT I WANTED.
Even though the questions sound great on the surface, they were superficial, they were SHALLOW!
The WORDS didn’t reveal the intent!
As we continue to look at the book of Jonah, I want to remind you that there always seems to be more to what Jonah is saying than is on the surface. Jonah is always running from something (obedience, responsibility, actions, attitudes) and as we begin to dig deeper into his words we find that he is very shallow.
Today I want to look at Jonah 2. Jonah 2 is a prayer that looks very much like a Psalm of praise. Personally, I have to wonder if Jonah really orated this beautiful Psalm while in the belly of a fish or if it was much less formal at the time of the incident, and it became more poetic when he later wrote it down. I cannot imagine saying such sophisticated prose while being in the slimy belly of a fish. Either way, I believe it is scripture and I believe it is an historical event, not a metaphor as some believe.
So, if you have your Bible with you today, turn to Jonah Chapter 2. If not, if will be on the screen for you
(SLIDE # 2)
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Now, one thing we have going for us in 2015 is knowing the rest of the story. Most of us have read the story and know what happens and how Jonah acts in the end. And as beautiful as this prayer seems on the surface, there is an air of insincerity or shallowness in Jonah’s prayer.
It’s kind of like an inch of newly fallen snow on a trash heap, it is beautiful until you stir it up a little (Bob Deffinbaugh).
****Today, I want to look at this prayer and show you 3 characteristics of a superficial relationship with God.