Terry began by giving a report about his trip to Australia and New Zealand which really helped to put his talk into the context of a movement that spans the globe and is on a mission together. It was so exciting to realize how small we are here in this conference even though we are here with 3600 people on a site that is fully booked. This conference is a local one just for a part of the UK. Across the UK and across the world other similar conferences are happening and groups of churches are gathering to form this grace-filled movement. Events like this remind me of how glad I am to be a part of Newfrontiers. Terry then turned to Jonah 1 and read the whole chapter.
2 Kings 14:23-28 tells us Jonah was a popular prophet in a successful state when God interrupts him with a call to go to Ninevah. The whole story turns on the phrase “but Jonah”. God had already told Abraham that through them he would bless the ends of the earth. Jonah had slipped away from that, and wasn’t interested in other nations. Jonah has only 8 words of prophecy, and the rest of the book is all about him. Its the book of Jonah, not the taking of Ninevah. 120,000 saved is the biggest revival in the Bible, yet God calls it the book of Jonah. He is interested in us as individuals when big challenges come on the scene. God didn’t move to plan b when Jonah backslid and ran away. God is always interested in winning back his children.
Jonah failed to submit to God. He was not too impressed with what God had to say. When God speaks, you are supposed to arise and go (as Abraham and Elijah for example responded to God), not run in the opposite direction. God wants obedience, not just in the big calls, but also in the thousands of words you find in the Bible. God says lots of things very plainly, and we need to very plainly obey. God doesn’t give up on people. He wants to include you. He doesn’t just want to take Nineveh he wants you to have a story. He loves people and wants them to come through to a place of trust and obedience.
Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord In his disobedience, he trusted his own reasoning. A prophet needs presence. Hebrew word for presence is “face”. Jesus said “he is always with me, I always do what pleases him” He refuses to leave the presence of the father. Jesus came from the glory of the father and modeled sonship. We should always make it our aim to please him. Not living as legalists, but living as sons. Our Father is always with us. Beholding the beauty of the Lord sustains us. Beware the danger of living by rules. The prodigal son had run away, but his brother who was compliant and home-staying son but although he had never left had never really been in the fathers presence. He didn’t appreciate what it meant to be a son of his loving father.
Jonah found a ship We can sometimes think ” it just all fell into place”. People sometimes say “we were just thrown together” we were led by circumstance. That can be an excuse for sinful relationships. We are not led that way. We mustn’t throw away everything because of what is in front of us.
Jonah fell asleep He got into the ship that was going nowhere and lost all his sense of direction. Sometimes sleep is totally appropriate. But there is a sleep of lethargy and aimlessness. We can be extremely busy but very lazy at the same time. You can be on a shop that’s going nowhere. The sluggard rarely says no. He just makes little decisions that robs him of obedience. A sluggard is hinged to his bed. Christians get spiritually depressed because they don’t get control. We must press through. While Jonah was asleep he failed the world. Things don’t stay the same. You cant afford to be asleep because you don’t know when a storm is coming. Suddenly the world is in a storm, its time for the church to be awake. We need to show the world God has the answers. The church is the answer to the world. We are the salt of the earth.
Jonah Found Himself As the storm breaks, and people are worried, Jonah says “its all about me”. He uses the technical language “I fear the Lord” but the reason he was there was because he didn’t! But suddenly he was beginning to again. He realized he had missed the boat. He suddenly woke up to the fact that he could have been a blessing. The rest became very afraid. That is revival. Revival happens that way. People who know God begin to express fear of God. People start to pray, and blessing can go right around the world. When the world sees that the church really fears God they begin to take God seriously. Jonah says just throw me away to save you. For the first time he begins to care about other people. Hes not yet a whole man. But he is saying I want to get back into line with God and I don’t want you suffering because of my disobedience. Jesus looked on our plight and said I unreservedly give myself for you. Jonah 2 could be Jesus’ prayer. Jesus has paid a price so that even when we have messed up we can be reinstated. We must take seriously what God has told us to do. We must give up our right to take our own decisions. God wants an obedience that is rooted in faith.