Category Archives: Meaningful Monday
At some point you’ve probably heard Newton’s law of motion: an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
While this applies to the physical world, it also has a deep spiritual application. When we’re running from God, headed in the wrong direction spiritually, sometimes it takes a robust God-balanced force to stop us in our tracks.
Jonah knew all too well about this spiritual law of motion because God sent a violent storm to stop his action of running. His story is often related to disobedience, and it most certainly is, but perhaps the most significant story told here is the story of redemption. Restoration for the heartless prophet, salvation for the helpless sailors, redemption for the sinful city, and resolution for you and me.
God Provides A Way Out
But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah 1:17
While God sent the storm that threatened the lives of Jonah and the sailors, we see in Jonah 1:17 that He also provided a way out. Two things had to happen first though. In verse 12 Jonah said, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea and it will be calm. I know this is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah immediately knew why the storm raged on and how to change it. As soon as he confessed his sin and accepted the consequences, “the Lord provided” the way out. We serve a faithful God who not only forgives us but purifies us when we confess our sins. God’s ultimate purpose for sending the storm wasn’t to destroy Jonah but to restore him.
- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
- I acknowledged my sin to You, my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; You forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5
God Of Second Chances
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. Jonah 3:1
Have you ever wondered why it took sinking to the bottom of a great fish for Jonah to cry out to God? While I’d like to believe I would have immediately cried out instead of saying “throw me overboard,” there have been times I’ve looked consequences right in the face and continued in motion at the same speed, in the same direction. I’ve sat on the throne trying to control it, superficially creating my own second chance. Rather than confessing to God we often try to make our way out, leading us further from God and deeper into consequences. Once Jonah asked for forgiveness, grace flooded the fish’s belly and washed away the gap between God and Jonah. By seeking forgiveness and surrendering our plan to Him, we bridge the gap sin creates between God and us. We’re aligned with the Father’s heart and in a receiving position for our second chance.
- Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3:19
God Uses Our Failures
At this, the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. Jonah 1:16
With God, not a moment of life is wasted. He knows that we’ve all fallen short of His glory and yet He continues to choose us. Even when we disobey and fall flat on our face, God can use it to reach others. Jonah’s failure as a running prophet led to the salvation of the terrified sailors. They looked to Jonah for answers to the storm, but they ended up finding the Savior who silences the storms. For Jonah, what started off as a failed attempt to run ended up being the greatest ministry route. Trust that the Divine Author is writing and perfecting your faith, even rewriting your failure into fruit. God’s purpose for your future is far bigger than your failure.
- The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” Jonah 1:11
- Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
God delights in a truly repentant heart. With a contrite heart, He can take your failure and make it flourish. He can use it to restore you to a greater understanding of who He is and how much the Father loves you so He can use you in ways you never thought were possible; ways that bring restoration to your soul and a story of redemption for others.
- In looking back, do you see a time when God sent a strong unbalanced force to intercept your path? What was the outcome?
- Do you currently need a “But the Lord provided”?
- Is there an area you’re trying to create a way out rather than relying on Him for the way out?
- Are you searching for answers to the storm rather than the One who silences the storms?
- Have you watched God transform your mess into a message? Share with someone who might need the assurance.
“What is she doing?!” I thought, stomping on the brake.
By any driving standard, she appeared to be avoiding bright orange cones on an obstacle course. In a last-ditch effort to turn left rather than right, she darted across three lanes of traffic. Distance between her car and mine became top priority!
As I approached the red light, I couldn’t help but notice two kids and a mound of stuff piled in her out of state SUV. What I perceived as a drunk or distracted driver turned out to be a lost woman looking for a gas station.
Unlike this woman, Jonah knew exactly where he needed to go but chose to drive the opposite direction. Fueled by his hatred and driven by expectations, the distance between him and his calling became the only priority on his list. Jonah piled his mound of preferences into the boat and darted across the sea.
But have you ever wondered why God sent Jonah? Why would He send Jonah (dove), son of Amittai (truth) when he wanted nothing to do with truth descending on this large city?
Oftentimes, God sends us on assignments to peel back the layers of our calloused heart.
For Jonah, that meant God was sending him to the heart of a wicked Assyrian empire while calling out the wickedness in Jonah’s own heart – pride and hatred.
Idols Of Preference
God’s deep desire was to lead the Ninevites with cords of love and kindness. To lift the yoke of sin from their neck and bend down to feed them with His nourishment (Hosea 11:4).
And that’s why Jonah chose to run to Tarshish. Not because he was afraid but because he knew that God was compassionate and gracious, abounding in love (Jonah 4:2). Jonah understood that if God was sending him, He was redeeming them. Preferring God’s fierce anger over compassion, he wanted this great enemy of Israelite finished off – once and for all. His deep preference for judgment became a worthless idol he clung to.
Elevating his preferences above God’s desire, Jonah allowed the view of his assignment to taint the higher perspective.
And if we’re honest, most of us can pinpoint a time when we’ve run from the task God called us to, preferring to sit on the sidelines where fear, rejection, motives, and desires remain unchecked. We fall victim to expectancy, blinded by our comfort zone, status quo, ambitions or goals. But in doing so, we forfeit – give up, surrender, sacrifice – the grace, favor, and generosity that could be ours (Jonah 2:8).
Storms of Interception
I suppose Jonah had a short memory blip when he climbed into the boat with his fleeting heart. As a Prophet, he’d read David’s Psalm 139:7-10 many times, “Where can I flee from your presence?” Or, what about Jeremiah 23:23-24 declaring there are no secret places that He cannot see. Jonah couldn’t hide in the middle of the sea under a boat deck, and we can’t hide under the deck of our hearts.
God knows all. He sees everything. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m glad. I’m glad God seeks us out in our hiding.
And so, God sent a violent storm and allowed it to rage on until Jonah came out of his “hide and seek” spot (Jonah 1:4).
This storm set the platform for God to intercept Jonah and encounter the sailors. It intercepted Jonah’s deep slumbering mission and encountered the sailors’ dormant souls.
Sometimes, God sends a storm to change our direction, but we snooze through the winds shouting for us to “WAKE UP!” and waves attempting to crash our plans.
But the more we run, the more lost we become and the louder the storm rages (Jonah 1:11). Will we obey and receive the blessing or disobey and live with regret?
Unfortunately, storms are not limited to times of disobedience. If you’re currently treading deep waters, rest assured, whether or not disobedience causes your storm, He is with you in the midst of it (Isaiah 43:2).
Swallowed By Consequences
Disobedience rarely affects us alone and blinds us to the possibility of consequence. Running from God is like a hole in a ship. Though it may start slow, it’s only a matter of time before you sink. Because, ultimately, the rebellion of man is the rejection of God. Ravi Zacharias said, “Sin (aka disobedience) will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.
– AFFECTS OTHERS – Jonah’s decision to run placed the sailors in harm’s way, with a ripple effect extending to their family and future generations. Not only was their boat being ripped apart, but they threw their cargo into the sea to lighten the load (Jonah 1:5). His storm became theirs.
– STEALS YOUR TIME – For Jonah, he lost at least three days in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17). Grumbling Israelites lost 40 years in the desert (Numbers 32:13). And, David suffered a lifetime with his son (2 Samuel 12:14). Don’t spin your wills trying to fix it yourself, cry out to God.
– LOST OPPORTUNITY – Countless stories of missed opportunities pen the pages of Scripture, but the one of Moses and Aaron stand heads above the rest. After facing Pharoh, parting the Red Sea, and marching across the desert, they missed the blessing of entering the Promised Land as a result of disobedience (Numbers 20:12). One of life’s greatest regrets is missing a life-changing opportunity because it was covered by the wrong one.
Every day we are faced with the junction of following or running the other way. Whatever assignment God is leading you to, He will guide you through. Like Jonah, it might smell a little fishy, and you can refuse the job, but it won’t change your calling.
Join me next week as we discuss God’s redeeming work when we return to the right course – His course.
- Has God given you a divine assignment that makes you cringe with disgust or shrivel up in fear?
- Are you headed to Tarshish right now – the opposite way of God’s leading?
- Do you find yourself distracted by expectations or preferences? If so, is there an underlying heart issue?
- Is there a time you tried to “hide” from God? In reading Psalm 139:7-10 and Jeremiah 23:23-24, is that even possible?
- Are you currently facing a storm? Commit Isaiah 43:2 to memory.
- Have you experienced swallowing consequences? Looking back, could your surrender have lessened them?
There I sat, anxiously awaiting the doctor. Something the nurse asked left me fishing for answers in what-ifs racing at top speeds through my head.
As quickly as she disappeared through the slightly jarred door, my mind drifted back to first-grade. I could hear the flutters of my speeding heart while every emotion within screamed – RUN! As the door opened and I took my first step inside, my heart hinged on my classmates’ responses. Gasps followed by soft whispers filled the room. I can’t say I blame them. After all, other than Halloween, how often do you see a fiery redhead sporting a pirate’s patch on one eye?
Moments later, the doctor walked in jolting me from the vivid memory. “Have you had a recent eye injury,” he asked, peering over the manila folder.
“Not unless you consider an occasional poke with a mascara wand,” I chuckled, restlessly shifting in my chair.
I knew my vision had worsened throughout the years but, beyond being a lazy eye, I never gave it much thought.
Now, sitting in the doctor’s office decades later, the flutters came rushing back as my heart hinged on the doctor’s response. Butterflies with dragon-sized wings pelted my stomach as he discussed the degenerative eye disease, leading to blindness. Stressing the need for surgery, he explained a new procedure rather than a complete cornea replacement. But, still in the youthful stages of review, it didn’t come without a laundry list of casualties.
Weeks past and as surgery drew near, my initial “sign me up” attitude dwindled like the last flickering of a candle’s wick. Increasingly, I became more nervous about the relatively new procedure still under FDA review. Questions played ping-pong ball with my emotions, and I was not winning the game.
Fear was flattening my faith.
With two friends praying over me the day before surgery, God deposited a sweet word deep into my soul that no casualty could steal: “Esther, you’ve been so concerned with the FDA’s lack of approval you’ve forgotten who I AM. You have the FDA’s approval – your Father’s Divine Approval. Walk by faith in Me not by sight in your circumstances.”
In my fleshly attempt to work things out, I had begun to live by sight not faith; placing my trust in humans with limits rather than my limitless God. The fear of losing my eyesight was blinding me from seeing Him, clouding my vision of His faithfulness. When the doctor walked out that day, the enemy walked in. Depositing fear into the unknown crevices, he created division. When the dense fog of fear rolled in, the visibility of His deliverance rolled out.
Faith had to become my sight.
Faith had to direct my actions, steer my thoughts, and stampede all over my fear. I had to change my view from how bad my perceived circumstances were to how GREAT my God is. Like David in Psalm 43:5, I had to instruct my heart, not allow it to guide me.
What about you? Has disappointment and uncertainty fogged your vision of God? Are you facing circumstances that are blinding you from His faithfulness? Do you have a misplaced trust in someone or something rather than God?
God is calling you into deeper waters with Him; waters where fear of unknown circumstances seems overwhelming. It’s in the storm you realize you can walk on water above the waves of circumstance, but you have to walk out of the boat. When fear of your situation roll in unsuspectingly like waves tossing your boat of normalcy, flatten your fear with F.A.I.T.H.
F – Focus On His Faithfulness
Even when your faith is drowning in a sea of circumstance, He remains faithful. Keep God’s faithfulness as the center of your attention. Psalm 36:5 says, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” Although there is no end to the heavens and His love for you is limitless, His faithfulness is seen as that of the sky. So meditate on His faithfulness in your past or from the multitude of stories found in His love letter to you – Scripture.
- Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Psalm 36:5
- The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
- If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
- You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
What you focus on you magnify, so choose to magnify His faithfulness.
A – Ask For His Strength
When you feel drained by what you see, draw strength from His mighty power. His power is complete, and He will not fail to rescue those who call on Him. There is no one like Him to help the powerless against the mighty giants of fear (2 Chronicles 14:11). All power and might are in His hands; hands that freely give to you. Lean on His strength to lift your shield of faith; extinguishing the flaming arrows of the enemy intended to bring destruction (Ephesians 6:16). His power, strength, and might are made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So give God your weakness, and He will give you His strength.
- He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29
- Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10
- God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
I – Invite His Will
Denying yourself, picking up your cross and following His will is seldom easy. Understanding, not only does God KNOW the plans He has for you (Jeremiah 29:11) but that NOTHING can come against those plans (Proverbs 21:30) is freeing. When your compass is lacking, ask Him for direction. He promises to give you all the wisdom you need and make your path straight. Seek to fulfill His will, His righteousness, His kingdom, and every other puzzle piece will fall into place.
T – Thank And Praise Him
Gratitude and praise is the doorway for seeing the miraculous. Thanking Him doesn’t mean your problems don’t exist, only that you believe more in your God than the swirling circumstances ripping through your life. Thanksgiving opens the door for His presence and weeds out complaining thoughts. Praise is the key to unleashing His presence in your life and over your situation. Thanksgiving and praise release God’s peace, giving you a heavenly perspective for your earthy issues. Ultimately, this sacrifice – offering of self-denial and surrender – is God’s will for your life and makes it easier to “I” invite His will into the situation.
- Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and makes a way; I will show him the salvation of God. Psalm 50:23
- Devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
- Through Him, then, let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15
H – Hold Tight Hope
Don’t lose heart. I’ve been there too. His eyes are on you. He sees your struggle, tenderly holds onto your hand, and faithfully leads you through the valley. Blessed are YOU who trust in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. YOU will be like a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not fear when heat comes (Jeremiah 17:7). Stand with me, friend, as we fix our eyes not what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Hold tight to hope; it is the firm and secure anchor for your soul.
Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Psalm 3:2-6
- May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
It’s been three weeks since surgery and, wouldn’t you know, nothing I was concerned with actually came about. The enemy will use any crack to seep lies of defeat and misguided trust in an attempt to flatten, cloud, and blind your vision of God. But faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17), so repeat these steps as often as you need – out loud! God’s Word is the most powerful weapon against fear and defeat, and it does not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
The Lord is on your side so do not fear (Psalm 118:6). As Elisha prayed, I pray that your eyes are open to see there are FAR more for you than against you (2 Kings 6:16)!