Anyone who knows me well knows that I love listening to Steven Furtick. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t put the guy on a pedestal but he encourages me to look at Bible stories from different angles and thinks about things that I have never thought about before. Recently, I was listening to one of his messages and he mentioned something that I’m going to try to iterate in my own words.
Jonah is a pretty popular Bible story and we can learn a lot from him disobedience and attitude. But there is more to Jonah’s story than just Jonah & a big fish.
Jonah was called by God to go to Ninevah and preach a message of salvation. The Ninevites were a godless, corrupt people and Jonah, out of fear and hatred for the Ninevites, went a different direction than God asked him to go. He decides to flee to Tarshish, which is much further away from Ninevah. He finds a boat that is headed to Tarshish and pays the fair to go there in order to get away from God’s presence.
As they are sailing, a storm stirs up around them to the point that the boat is ready to capsize. The mariners throw things overboard and cry out to their own god for help. Jonah is asleep on the deck below and the captain of the ship goes to Jonah and tells Jonah to rise up and pray so that they don’t sink.
That’s where we pick up in the story, but let’s not focus too hard on Jonah. Let’s focus on the men in charge of the ship.
7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And 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.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
In the midst of a giant storm sent by God, these men were afraid, confused and trying everything in their power to get out of the storm. I want to focus on 3 specific things these men did.
1: Verse 10 says that Jonah had told the men that he was running from the Lord. These men allowed Jonah to get on their boat in Joppa even though they knew he was being disobedient.
2: Jonah told them that God had sent the storm because of him and that the mariners should toss him overboard and the storm would stop. But verse 13 says that instead of listening to Jonah, these men rowed harder, trying desperately to get to shore to save their lives and Jonah’s. That, of course, didn’t work.
3: At their wits end, these men called out to the real God & threw Jonah overboard(v. 14) and the storm stopped just as Jonah had said it would.
I would venture to say that many of you who are reading this are in the midst of a storm (or maybe drama) and you are doing whatever you can to keep your boat afloat in the storm and make it safe to the shore. You are even crying out to God and nothing seems to change. But it’s not going to stop. The storm will grow more tempestuous. The drama will get worse. You heart will hurt more. Your boat will eventually capsize. And it’s all because you are unwilling to throw Jonah off your boat.
Rick Burke, lead pastor or Cedar Point Church in Claremore, OK (awesome dude, btw), used to always tell us, “When God wants to do something in your life, he’ll send a person. When the devil wants to do something in your life, he’ll send a person.”
Perhaps your storm is being caused by a person, whether they claim to be a Christian or not, whether they claim to be obedient or not. Maybe it’s a passenger, asleep beneath the deck. Maybe it’s a crewmember helping you throw stuff overboard and crying out to their god for you. Whoever it is, they’re the problem. And you may not feel ready to let go; you may be afraid to throw them overboard. But the truth is, no matter how hard you row, no matter what you do, no matter how many times you cry out, this storm, send by God, will not settle until you let go of that person. Do yourself a favor and throw Jonah overboard.