Delaying the inevitable

You’d think if you heard God’s audible voice, you’d listen.

But, Jonah obviously had hearing problems.

When God told him to preach to the Ninevites, not only did he flee to Tarshish by boat, but then he begged to be thrown overboard so he could die rather than obey God.

As graceful as God is, I imagine he allowed a blue whale, which can hold almost 200,000 pounds of food and water in its mouth, to gobble him up.

After delaying the inevitable for three days, he finally gave in and repented.

Then, God sent him on his way to Nineveh as He had originally planned.

When he arrived, a miracle happened: The Ninevites repented.

According to The Message Bible, everyone in the town – “rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers”– fasted and wore burlap in order to avoid their impending destruction. But when God showed the Ninevites grace just as He had shown Jonah, Jonah was ticked off.

“God! I knew it – when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!” he told God in the midst of his temper tantrum (Jonah 4:1–2).

The funny thing about his anger at God is that Jonah knew his trip to Nineveh was unavoidable – he said it himself!

He only managed to delay doing the thing he dreaded most. Even being thrown to a watery grave didn’t shield Jonah from what God had asked him to do.

I’ve found myself in Jonah’s shoes a lot lately.

I give God flimsy excuses to try to avoid what I know I should do. But, as a result, I only make matters worse and end up doing exactly what He’s called me to do a short time later.

I forget that God is sovereign and that His ways are bigger and better than my own.

Recently, God forced me to deal with something I tried to forget about for years. When God finally wedged me between a rock and a hard place and made me confront the issue, it was scary, and it hurt. A lot. Now, that He has taken care of it, I think back on all the years I could have been free of the issue, if I’d just had the courage to deal with it a long time ago.

By delaying an uncomfortable situation, we actually make things harder to deal with in the future – and we waste precious time.

But, when we put on burlap (figuratively speaking) and cry out to God to take care of what’s inevitable anyway, He does an amazing work.

When we repent and depend on Him, Joel 2:14 says,“Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.

I’m sure that everyone reading this can think of a difficult conversation they’ve been meaning to avoid. Or perhaps a tough decision they’d rather not make right now. Maybe God has called you to forgive someone or ask someone for forgiveness, but bitterness or pride seem easier to swallow.

Whatever God has brought to your mind, remember that God brings all things to light – whether we like it or not – for His glory. God exposes things to make things right, to make us repent, to make us grow and to set us free.

Talking about the inevitable makes me think of a few friends, colleagues and acquaintances whom I have seen veer off of God’s path. Many times, I have held my tongue as I watched them inch farther and farther away from the things of the Lord. Instead of pointing things out when I had the chance, I stayed silent. Why? Because speaking out might cause them to dislike me or, worse, point a finger at me instead. 

Yet, James 5:19–20 tells us, “My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back, and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God” (The Message).

In this verse, God commands us to put our fears aside and speak words of truth to our friends and family members – even if it’s painful. These words are not often comfortable or welcomed. They sometimes accompany tears or result in bitter backlash. And they almost always follow a phrase like, “I don’t know how to say this …”

But, as Proverbs says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).

Did you get that last Proverb? When we keep our mouths shut and let our friends continue on in their sin, we’re basically their enemies.

When we sin, the consequences are also inevitable. But, if a friend speaks up and points us back to the Lord, it can make all the difference.

We can also be considered enemies to our friends and loved ones when we avoid uncomfortable conversations about the Gospel. Jesus is coming back, and, one day, God will judge everyone according to their deeds. We know it’s going to happen, because Jesus Himself told us it would happen.

And if His Word isn’t good enough, I don’t know whose is.

 

But, we still let fear, doubt and “timing” keep us from telling our loved ones about His life, death, resurrection and ultimate return in glory. We also like to skip those little details about hell, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

When we avoid telling our friends the Truth, it’s like we’re avoiding going to Nineveh, just like Jonah. He had the information they so desperately needed, but ran anyway.

Despite his rebellion, Jonah’s trip to Nineveh was never canceled; it was simply delayed.

In the same way, Jesus’ return has been “delayed” – but only because He is patient with us.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9 tells us.

Let’s take courage and call upon the Lord for strength to face the inevitable, before it comes to swallow us up like the blue whale. Thankfully, God’s love and grace are as unavoidable as the situations we currently face.

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