Summary: This is the 16th of 31 devotions in a series called 'The Church Called Jonah.' This devotion is about the futile effort of the sailors to row through the tempest.
# 16 – The Futile Effort
Jonah 1:13 – “Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them.”
The word, ‘nevertheless,’ gives us a glimpse that they are going to pursue something other than what Jonah had suggested. The option Jonah had given them was an easy thing to do from a physical stand point, but it was neither a reasonable nor a humane option to follow through with. He had suggested that they pick him up and throw him into the sea; then the sea would become calm for them. This did not seem like something they could find themselves doing – taking the life of one person to save their own lives. It would take a real hard and selfish heart to jump to such a suggestion.
We’re going through very difficult times across the globe at present, with many people being infected with this virus and many also losing their lives and losing loved ones. In such times, the most important person to anyone is oneself – everybody else takes the back seat. Many doctors and health care workers are risking their lives for the noble and selfless task of saving the lives of others. Many of us don’t realise the risks they take to help save lives. (There are however some doctors who choose to quit practicing at this present time, so as to save their own lives). These workers are like the sailors in our story who are putting their lives on the line to protect the lives of other people. In the case of the sailors, the word, ‘nevertheless,’ indicates that they are not willing to take Jonah’s advice, (though he’s the one who put them in that hazardous situation), but instead are willing to do all it takes to protect both their lives and his.
What about us The Church? How are we faring when it comes to taking care of the needs of those around us? Are we going out of our way to help people during this crisis? Are we helping, serving, giving, sharing with those in need in whatever capacity possible? Or are we concerned about none but ourselves? Let’s learn from the sailors to consider the lives of other people as important as our own lives. In fact, these words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12 are often referred to as the golden rule. “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus also said, in Matthew 22:37-40: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Most of us do a great job of loving ourselves, but the problem we struggle with is loving our neighbours as we love ourselves.
The men rowed hard to return to land but they could not
Let’s look beyond the word, ‘nevertheless’ in this situation. Not only did the sailors decide against doing something (taking Jonah’s advice and throwing him overboard to die), but they also decided for something. Very often, when we decide against something, we are also consciously or unconsciously deciding for something else. It’s not wise to merely be against something without deciding for something else. In this case, the sailors were going against Jonah’s advice, and instead they were working on their own plan instead. They rowed hard to return to land. It’s these words, ‘rowed hard,’ that give us a clue about the kind of ship they were travelling on – it wasn’t a steam ship as they would not have had steam boats back then. It was a ship that was rowed by men. One can imagine the difficulty they faced fighting a losing battle against a tempest sent by God Himself.
They had come to a point in their struggle where they knew that they were making no headway and that the only solution available to them was to head back to land and that’s what they began to pursue at that point. But the harder they tried, the more difficult it seemed. When we’re up against God, it doesn’t matter how skilled, knowledgeable or experienced we are, there’s no way we can win a battle against Him. Though the sailors could see a glimpse of the power of God at work in the tempest, they did not know the enormity of God’s power, and they continued to struggle, not just against the winds and the waves, but against Him. This reminds me of Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestled with an angel of God in for a whole night. There was no way he could overcome an angel, but still he tried.