When God calls you to do something and you refuse, you find yourself in a state of conflict. In the book of Jonah, God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, but he runs the other way and takes a boat to Tarshish instead. This brings about some serious conflict in Jonah’s life.
Just as God wanted Jonah to love Nineveh, He wants us to love San Diego.
Jonah knew that the Ninevites were a wicked people, and he also knew that if he preached God’s word to them and they repented, God would forgive them. Jonah didn’t want God to give his mercy to these people, so he turned away.
Just as God wanted Jonah to love Nineveh, He wants us to love San Diego. We can look to the story of Jonah as a lesson on what not to do when God sends His call to love a city.
1. Resolve your God conflict by running to God.
Jonah pays the fare to board a ship to Tarshish, but as soon as the ship is at sea, God sent a great storm on them.
And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah 1:7
If you run from God, will have conflict with God himself—and you can’t hide from God! You have probably heard the verse, “If God is for you, who can be against you?” But as we see in the book of Jonah, if God is against you, who can be for you?
If you have chosen to fight with God, you are on your own. Sure, you can accomplish some things; you may start a business, have a family, even find financial success. But one thing you will never achieve on your own is a sense of peace. You can have everything, but still have nothing.
Are you where God wants you to be, doing what God wants you to do? If not, run to Him and resolve your conflict.
2. Resolve your personal conflict by speaking the truth.
So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.
And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah 1:9-12
Are your actions consistent with your testimony of faith?
Jonah’s life is in conflict at the moment. He knows he belongs to God, and he claims his faith in the Lord, yet he knows he is running away from the very God he fears and that the great storm is because of his disobedience.
So considering this, reflect on your own walk with the Lord. Are your actions consistent with your testimony of faith? This doesn’t mean that you will be perfect, but simply that you seek to do God’s will. You listen when He calls you, and you are willing to do as He asks. As Pastor Miles reminded us, the more quickly you get God’s work done, the more quickly the blessings come.
3. Resolve your interpersonal conflicts by asking for forgiveness.
Because of Jonah’s sin and running from God, other people (the men on the boat to Tarshish, as well as the Ninevites who were not receiving God’s message of love and forgiveness) suffered .
You are probably aware of how other people’s sin have affected you. Maybe you grew up around alcoholism or drug use, divorce or teen pregnancy, and if so, you know that sin affects more than those actually committing the sin. Take it from Jonah: you don’t want to be the one intentionally going against God and unintentionally bringing pain to other people.
Take stock of your relationships. Are there people you have hurt? Settle your differences and seek forgiveness. Is there someone to whom God wants you to express His love? Go and do it! Maybe God is not blessing you in other areas of your life because you have not been faithful in these.
Also, remember that God did not have to use Jonah, but He wanted to show Jonah some things in the process of expressing His love and mercy to Ninevah. He wanted Jonah involved in the process and He went as far as to have a fish swallow Jonah to get him there. The point is, God has His reasons for wanting you to minister to others. And if He wants you somewhere, He can do anything He wants by any means to make it happen!
What does this mean for us as we seek to love our city? We don’t have to know every detail of what God wants us to do, but we need to show up with willing hearts. If we respond openly from the beginning and avoid conflict, God doesn’t have to bring a tempest to get our attention!