Doing God’s Will, Not Ours
In light of the fact that all people serve something, why not make it the Lord God Almighty?
Today we look at the difference between serving yourself and serving Yahweh.
I say Yahweh in order to distinguish the God we, as Christians, serve.
There are so many gods.
Yes, even in this day and age there are many gods.
I think you know that.
The average, non-Christian, might not.
They might be under the illusion that they are in control of their lives.
But they are not!
No one is in complete control of their life.
This is not a psychology speech so that is enough on that.
We are here because we acknowledge that Yahweh is the God of the Bible and He is our creator and He loves and cares for us.
And we are here because we want “The God” of the Bible to give us, or help us to have, a life worth the effort.
A fulfilling, purposeful life that accomplishes much.
The text for today is the story of Jonah, who did not want to do God’s will.
“Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord”.  Jonah: 1:3
Full text: Jonah 1:1-7, 4:7-11.
It is believed that the time of Jonah is the eight century before Christ.
He is dated by his prophecy about King Jeroboam II.
His favorable prophecy about Jeroboam must have made him a popular prophet as he began his ministry.
It is assumed that since he was popular with his favorable predictions in Israel he was reluctant to go to Nineveh and tell them that God was coming for them unless they repent and Jonah did not think that Nineveh would repent of their sinful ways.
Nineveh was the capitol of the Assyrian Empire, the archenemy of Israel.
Who would ever want to save their enemy?
Four steps predominated the ministry of Jonah as recorded in the book that bears his name.
First: Jonah ran from God.
The call for Jonah to go to Nineveh was far more significant than it appears at first sight.
To go to one’s enemy would have caused a serious loss of popularity among his fellow citizens.
The average Israelite of Jonah’s day probably did not care whether Assyria lived or died.
In fact, he probably preferred the later.
Assyria was competition to Israel commercially and a potential threat militarily.
Why should the average Israelite feel any necessity to bring Assyria into favor with God?
Perhaps Jonah felt he could hear the people say, “Why waste a good preacher on those pagan people?”
With all that going on Jonah rebelled against  God’s call.
Now; Wait a minute.
Isn’t Jonah a prophet of God?
Doesn’t he know that God accomplishes his will?
That going against God will only result in problems?
He should have known this.
Jonah caught a boat going in the opposite direction.
Some scholars believe that Jonah was headed for Spain.
Maybe he thought that God was not there so God could not bother him there.
The point is: Jonah was fleeing God by going in the opposite direction.
Just like you and I often do.
When ever we do not do what God says we go in the opposite direction of his will for our lives.
To not be in God’s will or favor is to be in a foreign country.
God is always present, even when we are out of fellowship with him.
He forever stands within the shadow and keeps watch over his own.
The mighty tempest in the sea was no freak of nature but was planned by God.
When you are in the midst of a tempest see if you are out of step with God.
We can find ourselves in rebellion to God’s will.
We will never find peace with God until we are saved by Christ and obedient to God’s will for our lives.
We will never know, as Christians, the peace that passes all understanding until we are obedient to God’s will.
God may not call us to a place of service that the world considers significant, but wherever he wills for us to serve is important, and we should delight in our prompt obedience.
There’s surely somewhere a lowly place in earth’s harvest fields so wide, Where I may labor thro’ life’s short day, for Jesus the Crucified.  So trusting my all unto Thy care, I know Thou lovest me, I’ll do Thy will with a heart sincere, I’ll be what You want me to be.
Charles E. Prior
Second: Jonah ran to God.
The second chapter is a prayer of Jonah in which he gave thanks.
He had already been delivered from the big fish.
Part of the chapter is a flashback in which he described his previous condition before his deliverance.
We are not told all of the details concerning Jonah’s repentance and his eventual willingness to obey God.
The last scene we have in chapter one is of Jonah being cast into the sea and the sea became calm.
To run from God is a traumatic experience, but to surrender to him can be an equally emotional decision.
Some Christians must be chastised greatly before they will do the thing God wants them to do.
Many ministers, and laypersons alike, tell stories of how God “whipped them into line” before they would be faithful in service.
Others, of course, need only mild correction.
Jonah’s experience was, in many ways, as traumatic as that of  Saul the persecutor.
Third: Jonah did best when he ran with God.
God always gives us another chance.
We cannot be certain where the fish delivered Jonah, but the prophet was ready to listen to the call.
This second call must have been briefer, for God merely said that Jonah should do the thing he had told him to do in the first place.
The city of Nineveh was one of the great metropolitan areas of the ancient world.
The “three days” refers to the time that it took to go through the city, not the time it took Jonah to reach it from where he landed on the shore.
The message was brief.
The Hebrew is quite literal, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”
When one works with God, great blessings are available.
In fact, there is no limit to what can be done in God’s kingdom when one is fully committed to God’s will.
Elisha A. Hoffman penned these lyrics in “Is Your All on the  Altar”: Oh, we never can know what the Lord will bestow of the blessings for which we have prayed.  Till our body and soul He doth fully control, and our all on the altar is laid.
Jonah did the speaking and  God did the blessing.
The king repented.
Those who treat this story as merely a parable should familiarize themselves with the history of  Assyria.
There was a period preceding the beginning of the new kingdom under Tiglath-pileser III in 745 BC that seems as ideal time for the repentance of the Assyrian King.
Several unexplained changes in policy occurred during this century, and we have every reason to believe that some of these were brought about directly because of Jonah’s preaching.
The repentance was complete.
Personal sorrow for sin was evident.
To have an effective revival, a community needs an intense feeling of the sinfulness of sin and of the necessity to change its course of action.
The people of Nineveh were confronted with their sin and fled to God for mercy.
Fourth: Sometimes good people run ahead of God.
If most of us were writing the story of Jonah, we would leave out chapter four.
Yet God saw fit to put it in.  Why?
Because spiritual pride is an ego-fulfilling experience rather than a humble declaration of God’s purpose in judgment and his delight in mercy.
The lesson God taught Jonah by means of the gourd should say to all of us that God has ways beyond us and we must never question his judgment.
God’s purpose includes the world, not merely our small field of existence.
He made everyone and loves everyone.
Unless we understand this, we run counter to his purposes.

Jonah was a great preacher, but even in the midst of a great evangelistic campaign in Assyria, he still had the need to “grow up” in understanding the complete nature of God.
It is the same for us today so many times.
To know God’s will is not always easy.
He does not often speak audibly, but rather through his Word, the Bible, and through deep impressions that he sends to us by means of the Holy Spirit.
At the wedding of Cana of  Galilee, Mary the mother of Jesus said to the people concerning Jesus, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”  John 2:5.
This is good advice for us today.
We do not want to be like Jonah and have to be chastised like he received from God.
We need to be open to God’s leading and obedient to his calling.
Then we will live in the blessing of his approval.
And the gates of heaven will be opened up for us.
Every good thing will come down to us form our Father in heaven.
What a wonderful life we will have!

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