Summary: Any time you run from God, you never go “up"; you always go “down.” God sometimes allows us to face frightening circumstances so that we will learn to trust and obey Him. It’s always best to obey the Lord right away - then we won’t be “swallowed up.”

Opening illustration: Being shocked by electricity can be very dangerous. Just ask professional golf legend Lee Trevino. He was struck by lightning while sitting under a tree during a tournament several years ago. He said, “It bolted my arms and legs out stiff, jerked me off the ground”. He went on to explain that he was sure that the lightning had killed him, at least for a moment. Lee Trevino would be the first to tell you that contact with electricity can be deadly.

However, if you were to ask my dad’s roommate at St. Mary’s hospital last year when he was in for heart tests, he would tell you that contact with electricity can be lifesaving. My dad’s roommate’s heart stopped beating in the middle of a procedure and the doctors were forced to make use of a device called a “defribulator”. They are also known as “paddles”. They send a heavy electric shock into the body of the patient in an effort to restart the heart. In this man’s case, contact with this electricity saved his life.

It’s important to keep this in mind when we look at our circumstances. Some circumstances that we think are deadly, may very well be the case because God wants to wake us up and rescue us. That is exactly what happens to Jonah. Normally, being in the belly of a great fish would be a deadly circumstance, but in this case it is that circumstance that provides Jonah’s wake-up call. [Mike Leiter, ODB]

Let us check out from God’s Word the times Jonah was swallowed up and how God intervened by turning to Jonah chapter 1.

Introduction: The book of Jonah has the makings of a great movie plot. It contains a runaway prophet, a terrible storm at sea; the prophet swallowed by a great fish, God sparing the prophet’s life, and the repentance of a pagan city. I love the story of Jonah! It’s full of drama and important life lessons. After stubbornly refusing to do God’s will, Jonah finally preached a revival service in Nineveh that would have made him one of the most successful missionaries of his time. When the people repented and turned from their wicked ways—and when God relented and turned from His anger against them—you would have expected Jonah to rejoice. Instead, he was angry that God was merciful. Why? Although he was finally obeying God by doing the right thing in the right place, he was deeply flawed on the inside.

We see in the story of Jonah that with every new generation comes the necessity of an individual response to God. No one’s spiritual life can be handed off to another; we must each choose to serve the Lord from our own heart. God’s message is as fresh today as it was hundreds of years ago: judgment for the unrepentant but mercy for the repentant. When God calls us out for a purpose, do we run away or just submit under His will? How will you respond if God calls you out of your comfort zone for a mission that is more than important to Him?

How was Jonah swallowed up?

You’ve probably heard the story of Jonah and the great fish. But did you know that the disobedient prophet was “swallowed up” not once but three times? Let me explain.

1. By Prejudice

What qualifies as Nineveh today?

• Nineveh is whatever pulls you out of your comfort zone.

• Nineveh is the place God calls where you don’t want to go.

• Nineveh is the people who have hurt you deeply and God says, “Go and give them my message.”

• Nineveh is the place God calls where you don’t want to go.

• Nineveh is danger.

• Nineveh is discomfort.

• Nineveh is whatever you hate that God loves deeply.

What do you do when God says, “Go to Nineveh,” and you hate those people? You need to think about that because sooner or later, that’s what he’s going to say.

Why did the reluctant prophet run from God?

• He didn’t want to go to Nineveh.

• He didn’t care about Nineveh.

• He didn’t think God should care about Nineveh.

• He didn’t want them to repent.

• He didn’t want a God who loved people like that.

It was perfectly fine with him if God sent them straight to hell. In fact, that was his preference. Jonah’s problem was never ultimately about Nineveh. Jonah’s problem was always with God. Nineveh is the place God calls where you don’t want to go.

In thinking about this, I pondered the excuses Jonah might have given for running from the Lord. Here are a few things he might have said:

• “God is calling me to Tarshish.”

• “They need the Lord in Tarshish too.”

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