Summary: How Jonah’s attitude is reflective of our attitude.
The Jonah Attitude
Scripture: Jonah 1-4
I want to tell you a story I read in an email. There was this man who died and went to heaven. When he got there he was concerned about some of the things he saw. First it was as beautiful as he had imagined, but then, with great surprise, he saw several people that he knew while he was alive on earth. When he looked at them he noticed how quiet they were. Jesus noticing his surprise asked him about it. The man points out his next door neighbor who never talked to him and said he could not believe that man was in heaven. Next he pointed out the town drunk and the mean store owner, both of whom he could not believe made it into heaven. He went down the list of people in heaven that he was surprised to see. Finally as he rationalized why they were so quiet, he said that they were probably quiet because they recognized that they did not deserve to be there and they were happy and grateful for what they had received. Jesus looked at the man and explained to him that all of the people he saw were happy and talking just moments before. When the man asked why then was they quiet Jesus replied "Because they are surprised to see you here." The moral: we should be careful how we size up who is going to heaven and who is not. I share this story with you as a lead in to the second part of my message about the Jonah attitude. From last week remember that a person with a Jonah Attitude believes they can pick and choose those things of God that they do. They also believe that even though there is something they should do that is good they do not have to do it.
I. Jonah In The Belly Of The Fish
In chapter one, Jonah told the sailors that in order to save the boat they needed to throw him overboard. Although they initially resisted, they finally complied and threw him over. Once again, God in His goodness saved Jonah. God could have let Jonah drown for his rebellion, but God still wanted to save the people of Nineveh and He needed Jonah. So, to save those people, God saved Jonah. God prepared a large fish to swallow Jonah and keep him alive. Imagine what Jonah went through in the belly of that great fish for three days. You’d think after that experience that he would have been a changed man. Well, let’s see if that was the case. One thing I want to stress at this point in defense of Jonah is that his limited beliefs about God were part of his motivation. You see, during his time the Israelites believed that God was limited to the temple, that He was not really everywhere. Also they believed since they (the Jews) were the chosen people, God’s grace was limited to them. He had to go through a transformation in thinking in order to carry out his assignment.
In chapter two after spending three days and nights in the belly of the fish he cried out to God. In his prayer he recognized that God was not limited to a single location and that His grace is for more than just the Jews. In verse eight of chapter two he says "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." At this point he is recognizing that God is the God for everyone, not just the Jews. When he comes to this realization, God had the great fish vomit Jonah out onto dry land. After He gets to the dry land, he goes to Nineveh to deliver the message. A person with a Jonah Attitude will know to call on God when they are in trouble. Although they may have caused the trouble, they still expect God to get them out. God is full of grace and will often lead us out of troubles, but that does not mean that there are not consequences that we will face. A person with a Jonah Attitude will sometimes come around and do what God is telling them to do, but they are not happy about it. When Jonah arrives in Nineveh, his attitude continues to show.
II. Jonah In Nineveh
Jonah goes through the city telling the people that they would be overthrown in forty days, they would be destroyed. Jonah does what God tells him to do but he is not happy about it. His attitude was more like a child that you ask to do something and they fuss about doing it only to do it with an attitude. Jonah told the people what God wanted them to know, but he did it with an attitude. A person with a Jonah Attitude will be able to get things done but they will gripe and complain about it to the point where you’d rather do it yourself just so you would not have to listen to them complain. When a person with a Jonah Attitude is asked to do anything that is an inconvenience to them you can expect them to complain; ask why they have to do it; seek alternatives means to get it done and finally, when all else has failed, do it with an attitude. We see this often with our children, especially if they think they have done more than their sibling. You’d expect it from a child, but when you see a grown person doing it there is something that is just not right with that. Again, most people would choose to do something themselves than ask someone with a Jonah attitude to do it. Finally, after they have completed the task they were asked to do, they look at you with the attitude that you should be grateful that they did it; grateful that they gave you some of their precious time and how you should feel guilty for even asking for it.