Our pastor is preaching a series of sermons on Jonah. He began the series about three weeks ago on a day we held church in the park, with the bright sun beating down on our heads. Someone read the entire book, and then Craig (our pastor) gave an introduction: “The theme of Jonah is the grace of God. Everything Jonah encountered was grace: the storm, the fish, the arrival in Ninevah, the death of ‘his’ plant.”
I sat on a folding chair with Nina, Jane, and Vi, one of Jane’s friends staying for the weekend, next to me, and I wondered what they were thinking. They were probably wishing they could be in the shade or, even better, asleep. I don’t think they wanted sweat to be trickling down their backs, eyes squinting against the cloudless sky. Did bringing them to church this morning do any good? Then my mind turned to my task of daily sharing the Gospel with them–with my life, not just my words. How often will I “mess up” with them? I wondered. How often will the gospel message I “speak” be undermined or contradicted by my actions or attitudes, how often will my grumpiness argue louder than my proclamation of God’s love?
I decided then–and I reaffirm it now–that I don’t want to be like Jonah, a reluctant, even vindictive, witness. He did not love the people he spoke to; he wanted calamity to come on them. I don’t think I will want calamity to strike our girls, but it would be very easy to begrudge the time and effort I spend on them. “Ok, I guess I’ll attempt to cook Chinese again,” “If you absolutely have to be there, I’ll drive you,” “Oh, all right, you can have a friend over.” I don’t want to serve through gritted teeth.
Yet I am reminded that God used Jonah in spite of Jonah’s attitude. The Holy Spirit of God seriously WORKED! The Ninevites, a warlike and fierce people, faced with a vindictive prophet gladly preaching a message of doom, turned to God! God was greater than Jonah’s lack.
And He is greater than mine. He can use me in spite of my often-unwilling spirit. He will work in Nina and Jane’s hearts regardless of my attitude.
But I don’t want to miss out on the joy. Jonah’s reluctance kept him from the pure, awesome JOY of seeing the Ninevites change, of seeing them as people created by God. He missed out on knowing God’s heart for the Ninevites, His hope for them, His desire to spare those many people, His giddy gladness when they turned TO Him.
I don’t want to miss God’s heart.