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Dr. Rick Mandl - June 27, 2021
Jonah Tries To Run God
Hey church family, it’s great to be with you as we come together for worship this weekend. If you’ve been with us throughout this month of June, you know that we’ve been focusing our attention on the Book of Jonah. You remember Jonah, the runaway prophet who was swallowed by the great fish? Maybe it’s that nautical theme that caused me to take special note of the passing last month, of an actor who spent part of his acting career, playing the parts of men at sea.
The actor I’m talking about is Gavin MacLeod, who passed away last month at the age of 90. MacLeod had an acting, and musical career that spanned six decades. The first role I remember seeing MacLeod in, was a bit part as crew member “Happy Haines” in McHale’s Navy. It wasn’t exactly his break-out role, and in fact it would be one that he would later come to regret ever having accepted. But for me, Gavin MacLeod’s best role was also his longest-running role, it was one that he held for 10 years, from 1977 to 1987 he appeared in all 249 episodes in what I will always think of as his defining role, and that was as Captain Merrill Stubing, who was the Captain of The Love Boat.
Maybe the reason that I’m such a fan of that role is that my wife Judy and I Honeymooned on board the Love Boat. We didn’t know that was the way we would spend our honeymoon, that was just the way that things turned out, because as a wedding gift we were given two tickets for a Princess cruise from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera. And in case you didn’t know it, each episode of the Love Boat was filmed at sea, on board an actual Princess Cruise ship – the Pacific Princess, and wouldn’t you know it, the ship that we were sailing on for our honeymoon, was the very ship on which the entire cast and crew of the Love Boat would also be travelling with us, to film one of the episodes of that show.
As a result we got to meet all of the series regulars, including the cast of guest stars who were traveling with them for that episode. When I learned of Gavin MacLeod’s death, I had an opportunity to read some excerpts from his autobiography, the book is titled This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage through Hollywood, Faith and Life. It tells how MacLeod suffered childhood adversity: he was overweight, he was self-conscious, and his father was an alcoholic who died of cancer, when MacLeod was just thirteen years old.
A few years later, Gavin found himself as an actor, graduating from Ithaca College, with a degree in drama and working as an usher and elevator operator at Radio City Music Hall, where he met his first wife. They had four children before divorcing in 1972. MacLeod subsequently married Patti, his second wife, but divorced her as well. It was while Gavin MacLeod was filming The Love Boat in 1984, that his mother had brain surgery. He could not get away to be with her during that surgery, and he writes that he felt “completely helpless” and “more alone than he ever had been in his life.” MacLeod continues: “That is the moment when everything changed—at 7:15 a.m. on September 14, 1984. MacLeod prayed and said, ‘Jesus, if you give my mother more time, I’ll turn my life over to you. I don’t care if I act anymore. Just give my mother more time.'”
After he prayed, he sensed a voice saying, “Call Patti.” And so he called his former wife, who agreed to see him the next week. Then came the news that his mother’s surgery went perfectly, and she would be okay. Not only okay, but his mother would in fact, go on to live another 20 years. When Gavin met with his ex-wife Patti, he could tell that something was different about her. “What’s happened to you?” he asked. “I’ve been born again,” she answered. “What does that mean?” he asked. She explained salvation to him, and as a result he solidified his own commitment to Jesus Christ as well.MacLeod wrote his book to tell the story of his conversion, and its significance for his life.
In His book, Gavin MacLeod explains salvation so clearly that anyone reading it could make Christ their Savior as well. In the years following MacLeod was privileged to lead his dear friend, and fellow actor, Ted Knight to faith in Jesus Christ before Knight died of cancer, and he was also used by God to lead other actors to faith as well. He and Patti remarried, and eventually hosted a television show about marriage and transformation in Jesus. He dedicated his autobiography to “The Captain of my life, who came that I might have life and have it more abundantly.” Toward the end of his book, MacLeod writes: “The most important thing I’ve ever done is to become an ambassador for Christ. And I will always remain his ambassador.”
I love those words, because they echo the words that the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:20. It’s there that he wrote . . . “We are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
I’ve shared Gavin MacLeod’s story with you because over these past few weeks, we’ve been looking at the story of someone else, who like MacLeod, should have felt that the most important thing he had ever done, was to be an ambassador for God. Sadly, that’s not the way that Jonah’s story ends. . . .
If you’ve ever read completely through the book of Jonah then you’ve probably found the last chapter of the book to be a little bit bizarre. If you’ve been with us through this series, we’ve seen Jonah. . .
• Running FROM God
• Running TO God
• Running FOR God
In this last chapter we see Jonah trying to RUN God.
This last chapter of the book of Jonah is kind of messy. If we could just end the story of Jonah at chapter 3 we’d have a great story of God FIRST giving Jonah, and THEN giving the people of Ninevah a second chance. They both repented and we could say, they all lived happily ever after. Unfortunately - - - or maybe we should say fortunately, God doesn’t sugar coat His Word or His people. He gives us the good, the bad and the UGLY. Jonah’s behavior in Jonah chapter 4, is definitely ugly.
Let’s read what it says. “This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: ‘Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. Then God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?’ ‘Yes,’ Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” - Jonah 4:1-11
You read that story and your reaction might be: WHAT A WHINER! Jonah’s anger seems like a joke. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to feel anger toward God, but having your favorite plant eaten by a worm? I’m guessing that that one is not going to make your list of top 10 reasons to get angry at God. But there are other reasons that we have.
I want us to look at some of those and then we'll circle back and look at the reason Jonah was so angry. Read through the pages of scripture and you'll see a variety of people - - - angry at God for a variety of reasons. You may not be able to relate to all of these reasons but chances are you’ll relate to at least one of them.
So let’s put it in the first person... I get angry with God when:
1. He doesn’t do what only He can do.
The best example of this is demonstrated in the Book of Job by a character whose name we are not given, so we’ll just call her Mrs. Job. In Job chapters 1 & 2 we see the conversation between God and Satan that results in Job losing his children, his wealth, and his health. But Job wasn’t a single dad, he had a wife who had also lost her children, and her wealth, and who is now having to watch her husband go through unbearable physical suffering. Out of her grief comes anger – The target of that anger is God.
After all, HE IS THE ONLY ONE who could have stopped the calamity that had struck her family. So she cries out to her husband, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” - Job 2:9
Some of us can relate to Mrs. Job. Horrendous things have happened in our lives, or the lives of those we love and we don’t understand why God didn’t step in and do something. We’re angry at Him and we lash out. I think Mrs. Job responded in a very human way. She vented. Job’s response to his wife’s anger is almost super human in its demonstration of faith.
“Job replied, ‘You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?’” - Job 2:10
Powerful words, but not words I’d recommend you say to someone who is reeling from a great tragedy in their life. I think a much better response to someone who is angry with God because He didn’t do something only He could do, is found a few chapters later in Job 6, and it’s interesting that these are instructions that Job himself gives his friends as he begins to see that their so called comfort really isn’t comforting at all. He says to them. . . .
“Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my cry of desperation? - Job 6:26
In other words, Job is saying to his friends, “Don’t tell me not to say what I’m saying, Don’t do to me what I did to my wife.” "Don’t correct my speech. I’m in the depths of despair and it’s out of my pain I’m venting." "Don’t hold me accountable for these words, I’m not even sure what I’m saying." "I’m out of my mind with grief. My words belong to the wind, let them go”
His wife might have appreciated it if he had taken his own advice! What should WE do when OUR ANGER at God springs from tragedy in our lives? We need to let the people of God show us the love of God.
Job 6:14 tells us. . . "For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty."
The best thing we can do for someone who is experiencing this type of anger. . . Particularly if that anger is happening in close proximity to calamity in their life is to shower them with kindness, to be God’s hands and feet to them. To demonstrate through our actions, the character of God as revealed through the people of God. They may not be ready to hear Bible verses but we can speak God’s truth into their lives THROUGH OUR ACTIONS and THROUGH OUR PRESENCE. The time may come to lovingly confront attitudes of anger or bitterness toward God but our immediate response should be kindness. Another time I might get angry at God is:
2. When I feel abandoned by Him.
There are several characters in the Bible who felt this way but I’d like us to consider for a moment, the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called to deliver a difficult message to God’s people and this did not make him the most popular guy around, it actually got him in a heap of trouble and he becomes angry. He expresses his feelings in Jeremiah 20:7-8 where Jeremiah says, God, I did what you wanted and look where it’s gotten me. I’m a laughingstock. I’m being mocked. God, where are you in all of this?
We get an even better picture of how Jeremiah is feeling in Lamentations 3. There he says. . . ."Even when I cry out to God and call for help, He shuts out my prayer… I have become a laughingstock to all my people, their mocking song all day long has filled me with bitterness…I have forgotten what it’s like to be happy…My strength has perished and so has my hope from the Lord.” - Lamentations 3:8-18
Jeremiah is feeling abandoned. He’s feeling deceived by God. That’s made him bitter, and angry, and hopeless. Sometimes we feel like Jeremiah. We’re going through difficult times and we feel like God isn’t around, or if he is around, He doesn’t care. We can’t see Him in the circumstances that are going on around us and we sure can feel His absence. So what do we do?
Jeremiah CHOSE TO REMEMBER what He KNEW ABOUT THE CHARACTER of God even though he didn’t see that character demonstrated in his circumstances. In Lamentations 3:21-24 we read, “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I will hope in Him.”
There will be times in our walk with God when we MAY FEEL LIKE He has abandoned us - - - and that MAY CAUSE US TO FEEL hopeless and angry. During those times we need to HANG ON TO THE TRUTHS WE KNOW about God. He is faithful, He keeps His promises. He said He wouldn’t leave me – and he won’t. We need to fill our mind with that truth, keep it in front of our face. Our CIRCUMSTANCES may not change but our PERSPECTIVE will. Let’s go BACK TO THE BOOK OF JOB for the next point.
I get angry with God...
3. When I feel like I don’t deserve what’s happening to me
If you’ve ever felt that way, or maybe if you feel that way right now, take a page out of the playbook of God’s servant Job. Job in scripture is commended for his patience in the face of tremendous suffering. And we see example after example of his FAITH in the midst of great loss: Job was the one who said "Shall we accept good from God and not trouble? The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” "Though He slay me yet will I trust Him"
But Job’s FAITH, as strong as it was, was not unwavering. Read though his story and you’ll also see glimpses of the ANGER and FRUSTRATION he sometimes felt at his undeserved suffering. In Job chapter 7 and verse 11 he says. . . “I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."
In Job Chapter 9 Job complains that there is no umpire available to judge between him and God, and the implication is that if there was an umpire available he would rule in Job’s favor. The umpire would see that God is being unjust in this situation. In Job Chapter 10 Job says, I will give full vent to my complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. He goes on in that chapter to assert that it would have been better if he had never been born. Even in chapter 13 - - - the one where he says, "Though He slay me yet will I trust Him," Job goes on in the next breath to say, nevertheless I will argue my case to His face.
What's going on here? Simply stated, Job feels like he doesn’t deserve what God has allowed to happen in his life and he doesn’t deserve the comments of his misguided friends. Again and again. Over and over and over again, Job states his case. “I’m not guilty, I don’t deserve this” “It’s not fair!” “I didn’t sign up for this!” And God listens, and for chapter after chapter he allows Job to vent, and finally, all the way in chapter 38 God answers Job, but I don’t think it was the answer Job expected.
God said to Job, "I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Where does light come from, and where does darkness go? Can you direct the movement of the stars? Can you direct the sequence of the seasons?"
For the next three chapters God goes on like this, and finally Job speaks in chap. 42. vs. 2-6. Basically Job is saying – God you’re right. You’re God. Who am I to question you? Even if you answered me I wouldn’t understand that answers. He ends that section by saying. . . . “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” - Job 42:6
Sometimes the antidote to our anger with God is the realization of the hard truth that God is God and you and I are not. Our memory verse for this week is Isaiah 55:8-9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God is God. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. He is not accountable to us, we are accountable to Him. Our questions won’t always be answered and we’re going to have to be okay with that. Sometimes that just has to be enough. I get angry with God. When He doesn’t do what only He can do
• When I feel abandoned by Him
• When (I feel like) I don’t deserve what’s happening to me.
And then forth, I get angry with God. . .
4. When I compare myself to others
I get angry with God when I compare myself to others and wind up feeling cheated. Of course the problem with comparison, is that we always tend to compare ourselves TO OTHERS WHO HAVE MORE than we do, RATHER THAN THOSE WHO HAVE LESS.
Let me give you another reference to write under this one. Matthew 20:1-16. This is the story of the workers in the vineyard. I’d encourage you to read it for yourself, but for right now I’ll summarize it for you. A certain landowner needed workers to work in his vineyard. At the start of the day he went out to the place where the day laborers gathered, and he hired a group of them to work at the customary rate for one day’s work. A couple of hours later he went back to the place where the day laborers gather, and he hired a second group. Only this time he didn't name a pay-rate, he just said, "Come work for me and I'll take care of you - - - I'll treat you right" He repeated this process a couple of hours later and then again a couple of hours after that… Until finally he went and hired a 5th group of workers just one hour before quitting time. When it came time to pay the workers he instructed his foreman to pay them starting with the last group hired. Much to their surprise, when the last group hired (the ones who had only worked for one hour) were paid, he gave them a full day's wages. They were amazed, and of course all of the others who had worked longer, and were waiting to be paid, ASSUMED that they would be paid more, because... well, because they had worked longer. They were SURPRISED, and may I say ANGRY, when they saw that this landowner was paying everyone, whether they worked one hour or whether they worked 12 hours, the same pay - - one day's wage.
They were angry - - - they grumbled. . . . Why?
Was it because they didn't get what they bargained for?
No, because they got exactly what they bargained for. They were angry because others who hadn't worked as long were getting the same reward. They were happy with what they had been given until, they compared what they had with others who hadn’t worked as long but had been given the same, and suddenly they felt cheated.
We do the same thing. We serve God faithfully and we’re even enjoying that service but then we look around and see others who aren’t doing anything and we begin to think, that’s not fair, why should they get to go to the same heaven I do, if they’re not willing to serve like me? When we fall into this type of anger with God we’re forgetting one big, important fact: NONE OF US DESERVE WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN US.
The Bible is clear: We are all sinners, we are all dead in our sins, even the best things we do are like filthy rags compared to the holiness of God. None of us deserve salvation based on who we are, or what we’ve done. You don’t, I don’t, nobody does.
Titus 3:5 says. . . “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness but according to His mercy.”
When I feel cheated by God I need to take some time to consider: What does God really owe me? The fact is He owes me nothing but He has given me what I don’t deserve. The ability to have a relationship with Him and all the blessings that go along with that. Now that we’ve seen all of these other reasons for being angry at God let’s get back to Jonah. Jonah was angry with God, and sometimes we’re angry with God
5. When I don’t understand God’s heart for the lost
Jonah had been given a job by God. He didn’t want to do the job. He ran the other way. He realized his error, God forgave him and gave him a second chance. The concept of repentance and forgiveness should have been fresh in his mind. I’m sure he appreciated God’s forgiveness toward him - - but he didn’t want it to be shared with the Ninevites.Jonah called the Ninevites to repentance and they repented. God withdrew His threat to destroy them but Jonah doesn’t rejoice in the mercy and goodness of God – he pouts. He says, “God, I knew you were going to do this. I knew You’d forgive this people if they repented. Now, just let me die. Death is better to me than life.”
Jonah chapter 4 and verse 5 says. . . . "Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city.”
What was Jonah waiting for? What did he think would happen? We're not told. I think that maybe he was waiting for the happy ending to this whole story, and when I say "Happy Ending" I mean "Happy Ending" from Jonah's perspective. Maybe, just maybe this repentance of the Ninevites was a bad dream and maybe God would smite them and send them all to hell, and then Jonah could be happy. That didn't happen. What was Jonah's reaction? ANGER. He said, "I'm so angry I wish I was dead"
Do you know what's interesting? THERE ARE ONLY TWO PRAYERS that are recorded for us that Jonah prayed to God. THE FIRST is from the belly of the great fish, and there Jonah cries out, "God please. . . please, please, please, let me live. . let me live. . . let me live. God please, give me grace, give me grace, give me grace." THE SECOND PRAYER is here in Jonah 4, and it's in response to God's grace. Jonah looks at what happened in Nineveh and he cries out, "God you gave them grace. . . you gave them grace. . . you gave them grace. . . Now let me die. . . Let me die. . . Let me die. . ."
Jonah’s response to the repentance of the people of Nineveh, is a reminder of the truth that very often as Christians, we are a lot better when it comes to SINGING about AMAZING GRACE than we are at extending it to others, or celebrating those who receive it. JESUS, when he saw lost people WEPT over them. He saw them as helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd. JONAH, when he saw lost people said, "Let them burn in hell Lord. . . that's what they deserve." Jonah wouldn't cross the street, much less travel to Nineveh to share the message of God's grace with them.
Ask yourself. . . When it comes to the lost around you, are you more like Jesus or like Jonah? Make it really personal and practical. . . Who do you know, who doesn't know Jesus? Are you praying for them? And looking for opportunities to share the message of his grace with them?
Ladies - - - do you care more about your MANICURE than your MANICURIST?
Men - - - do you care more about your golf score than your golf buddies who don't know Jesus?
IF YOU'VE GOT A JOB, do you care more about your paycheck than your co-workers?God cares about LOST PEOPLE more than anything. So much he sent his son to die for them. So much that as the good shepherd he's willing to leave the 99 sheep to go and search for the one that has wandered away.
SPIRITUAL MATURITY isn't just how many Bible verses I can memorize and recite back to you. SPIRITUAL MATURITY is when I care about what God cares about. Let’s ask him to help that be our attitude. Would you pray with me?
From Series: "See Jonah Run"
The story of Jonah is really all of our stories. Each of us can look back at some point in our lives where we have attempted to run from God. And what many of us runners have discovered is while we can run from God, we can’t outrun God! In this series, we will rediscover the amazing grace of God for each of our lives.
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Jonah Runs From God
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