HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
As we look about the man Jonah I want to take as the theme
OVERCOMING THE STORM
Let’s turn in our Bibles to the Book of Jonah chapter 1 and we will read from verse 11 to the 17th verse.
11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. 12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. 14 Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. 15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. 17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:11-17
Today I want to look at the story of Jonah with the wonderful good news that God did not desert Jonah in his rebellion. Why is that? Why did God not just let Jonah run away and call someone else? The answer, of course, is LOVE: If that is the way some people think about Jonah, I am left to wonder how God will think about some of us listening to my voice today or to those who will be reading this message.
God loved Jonah and He didn’t want Jonah to spend the rest of his days feeling guilty and hiding from God; God loved the Ninevites and God knew that the best man for the job of helping the Ninevites return to God and find forgiveness was Jonah.
So in His love, God wanted what was best for Jonah and what was best for the Ninevites … and God acted to win them both back … God always does … in Jesus He did it through a cross … in Jonah’s life, He sent a storm. Let us look closely how God operates and what is there to be accomplished. Note here the STORM.
Now right there we hit a potential minefield in our way of looking at the world. Not being sailors ourselves, we don’t worry too much about storms at sea. But we all know a lot about the storms of life! I think everyone knows what I’m talking about when I say that life throws many storms at us.
- Storms may be the death of a loved one …
- they may be financial woes we are caught up in …
- they may be the diseases we contract …
- they may be emotional turmoil and despair …
- they may be our friends turning against us …
- they may be persecution for our faith.
- And now it can be COVID-19
A storm, in this sense of the word, is anything that happens to us that is outside of our control and which we experience as grossly unpleasant. Some of us are going through very serious storms right now … and so it is very important for us, right at the start of this message, to get a properly balanced Biblical understanding of the storms of life:
- Allow me to make a few short statements of the truth about the storms of life.
- It is not only the ungodly who experience storms:
- Job was a righteous man, and he endured enormous storms in his life.
- Jesus was a perfect man and He was crucified.
Jonah may have been disobedient, but He was one of God’s people, and he also experienced a storm. In Jonah, it was the ungodly sailors and the believing Jonah who experienced the same storm. Just undeserved blessings come to the good and evil alike … so do undeserved storms. If you are experiencing a storm in your life it does not mean that you have been disobedient to God somehow and this is a punishment: Yes, Jonah’s storm was because of his disobedience, but the Bible also records the time when Jesus commanded His disciples to cross the sea of Galilee. They did so in obedience to Him, but a storm hit them and nearly sank their boat. They were perfectly in the will of God, but a storm hit them anyway. The storms of life do not mean that we are being punished by God. Whatever the storm you are facing, it can be overcome: Let’s face it. Right now there is probably a high percentage of people reading this message facing some or other storm in their life. And I am here today to tell you that the storm can be calmed … you can overcome it … and you can walk out the other end of that storm a stronger, more victorious person. Romans 8 promises us that in all the storms of life we can be more than conquerors through Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us!
Today we are going to look at the principles we can discover in this passage of Jonah …principles that can be applied to help us to overcome all the many and varied storms of life. I remind you that the principles that Jonah applied in this reading worked to rescue both the believing Jonah as well as for the pagan sailors. They worked for the rebellious Jonah as well as for the innocent sailors. These are universal principles. If you are a believer, they will give you greater victory over those storms you never thought you’d overcome. And if you are not a believer they will not only give you victory over the storms but will also bring you into a relationship with God that will stop your unbelief and bring you to eternal life. What a bargain. Are you in for this treat today?
The first principle for overcoming storms is belief … have faith in God!
As a believer in God, Jonah began the story so lacking in faith in God that he would not trust God’s judgement in sending him to Nineveh. He was determined that he knew better than God, and so off he went in absolute disobedience to God. Now he has landed in a huge pickle (mess). Like the Christian businessman who knows that God insists on honesty and integrity, but who also knows that a bit of cheating will get him there quicker and so commits fraud, and is then caught. Jonah had gotten himself into this pickle (mess) by not trusting God and His commands.
Then again, the sailors were, in this instance even worse than Jonah. They are total pagans. They have spent their whole lives on the sea … they have seen the power of Creation, but they still have not clicked that there is a Creator God who made all of this. They insist on worshipping their little man-made idols. You can see them at the entrance to the homes, around the church and even in their homes. I am talking about some professing Christians. They have absolutely no faith in God or even knowledge of God.
But then the storm happens and, pardon the pun, Jonah the believer and the unbelieving sailors are quite literally in the same boat. The storm has hit them both. Like when trouble hits a business where an unbeliever and a believer are in partnership with each other, the storm made no distinction. The Bible tells us that God causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Do you see the equal with God and His fairness?
So how did this situation work out God’s way? I believe it began with faith. Jonah heard God’s command about what to do. Then he had to share it with the sailors and he did just that. He told them to throw him overboard. He had decided that it was better to trust God and put his faith in God’s mercy than to trust his own abilities and wisdom.
The sailors took a bit longer. They first tried their own solution and made every effort to row the boat ashore. But when all that failed, they also took a leap of faith and said, “O.K. You worship the God who made the sea. You say that He has told you we must throw you in and we believe you.”
Faith in God and a deep trust in God as the only solution and the only way out of our storms is the beginning of victory over them … even when God’s way out seems to us to be crazy!!
So I want to encourage us all today, when we are facing storms, to look them in the eye (don’t deny them) but then look beyond the storm and put our faith and trust in the God Who is bigger than the storm!
2. YOU MUST OBEY GOD
Here Jonah is in a huge predicament … and he’s there because of his own doing. He disobeyed God … he tried to run away from God. And now there was a storm. But the poor sailors were also in a storm, and they had not done anything wrong. Sure they were pagans and they worshipped idols … but they had not deliberately sinned against God by disobeying His direct command as Jonah did. Look how other people pay for your sins and then you are blamed for your mishaps.
Tragically this kind of scene plays itself out over and over in our world. A husband hits his midlife crisis and has an affair. He has sinned … but his wife and children suffer the storm. A business partner does something illegal and the whole business suffers – people lose their employment – and the innocent are in a storm. A woman shifts her relationship to another man and the whole church carries a bad name. Yes, your storms become everyone storm.
So on that boat, some were innocent and one was very guilty … but the one thing the sailors and Jonah also have in common is that they overcame the storm by obedience to God in the midst of the storm. When Jonah is confronted with being the cause of the storm, He knows in his heart of hearts that God’s will for him is that he takes responsibility for having been the cause of the storm. He must put his own life on the line to save the sailors. He knows what must happen. Hallelujah. I pray that the church can own its mistakes and failures and save the nation. Oh, bless the Lord and this is the point that I want to drive home today or whenever you read this message. The church has to come to reality about its disobedience and come back to God and His word. They are in the midst of the storm and everyone is now in the storm.
Jonah tells the sailors that God wants them to throw him into the sea. Once he told them that, they know what God’s will is. At first, they disobey, and the storm just gets worse. But eventually, they obey. Praying for mercy, they throw Jonah into the sea and immediately the storm abates. Oh, God, the tempest is raging and someone is responsible for this action of the storm. Someone in the church has done some evil and caused turmoil and scattered the flock. Someone has to take responsibility and start to obey God. Throw me overboard and save the church for I have repented of my sins. Listen in yourself and act before it is too late. Save your church and repent.
An important part of their overcoming the storm was obedience to God. Jonah, the cause of the storm, had to take responsibility and turn away from his sinful disobedience and begin to obey God, even though it meant being thrown into the ocean. But the innocent sailors also obeyed God. The innocent sailors didn’t do anything wrong, yet they obeyed Jonah and threw him overboard. There are times we acknowledge our wrong and fail to act appropriately in doing the right thing. The unfaithful husband has to abandon his unfaithfulness and begin to obey God. So, to the unfaithful woman. The innocent family also have to obey God in the storm they are experiencing, and treat him or her with forgiveness and love, and allow him to start the process of earning their trust again.
Whatever the storm you are going through right now, and whether it is a storm caused by your own sin or one that is not at all related to your or anyone else’s sin, the one thing you can start doing is find out what God’s will is and then DO IT. The storms of life will never be fully overcome without obedience to God. It might not be a big thing, but even in the little things … when days are dark, look up to the Lord in faith, find out what His will is, and just begin to do it in faith.
3. A TOTAL SURRENDER
The really big principle which ensured their victory over the storm was their surrender. Because they had taken the step of faith they were able to take the step of obedience. But that obedience required from them all a total surrender to God. God is not one of portion but complete oneness. It is all of God or none. Ninety-nine and a half will not do because God desires one hundred per cent of total surrender to Him.
Jonah had to quite literally surrender himself to the mercy of God by allowing the sailors to throw him into the storm. The sailors had to surrender themselves to a solution that seemed crazy to them. How was throwing Jonah into the ocean-going to stop the storm? What is your answer to this question or do you have a solution?
Total surrender to God is, however, the quickest route out of a storm. Because when we are totally surrendered to God, we are safe, even if the storm keeps raging physically.
- A dying person who totally surrenders themselves to God is able to face death with confidence and peace.
- A disabled person who faces their disability in total surrender to God can live victoriously with their disability for the rest of their lives.
- A family thrown into financial ruin who face that situation in total surrender to God can find themselves living joyfully and peacefully in the midst of poverty.
- A wife/husband whose wife/husband has left her/him can make a total surrender to God and pick her/his life up even if he/she does not come back again, and find herself/himself living joyfully and victoriously despite his/her betrayal.
Total surrender to God is the hinge on which our victory over the storms of life turns. The total surrender of Jonah and the sailors to God’s will brought God’s power to bear on the storm. Our total surrender to God and His will always bring God’s power to bear on our storms as well. And the Lord always brings us out in victory. Hallelujah
Remember I started by saying that these are universal principles. If you are a believer, then following these principles will give you greater victory over those storms you never thought you’d overcome. And if you are not a believer they will not only give you victory over the storms but will also bring you into a relationship with God that will stop your unbelief and bring you to eternal life. What a bargain. So here we have the principles.
If you are a believer then I want to encourage you to face the storms of life with absolute faith in God, with obedience to whatever you know He is commanding you to do; and with absolute surrender to God and His ways. After you follow His will then your Lord will be releasing His power into your storm.
If you are reading this message and you really don’t know whether you believe in God or not, then I still want to encourage you to be like the sailors. They tested it out. They had no relationship with God. But when the storm hit, they took the chance of believing what Jonah was saying about God. They obeyed what they understood was God’s will, and they surrendered themselves to God in that situation. And you know what happened. God released His power on their behalf, and they ended up worshipping God and believing in Him. When a storm hits your life, and you’re not a believer in Jesus follow these principles anyway. Take a chance and believe that God is there with you. Then find out from a Christian or from the Bible what the will of God seems to be and surrender yourself to God’s mercy and God’s way. I tell you, you will see the power of God helping you through the storm and giving you the grace to overcome it. And you may just find yourself, like the sailors, saying that God is your God too. Hallelujah