Ever had a time when you knew what you were supposed to do … but you just did not do it?
Sometimes we know what God is telling us to do, but we have a hard time doing it. And when we intentionally do wrong, it affects ourselves as well as others.
Jonah is an example of a person who knew the right thing to do and he just could not do it. The Lord said, “I want you to go and help the Ninevites because they’re ready to perish because of their disobedience.” Jonah did not like the Ninevites, so he got on a boat and went straight in the opposite direction.
“And the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, ‘Arise and go to Nineveh …’. But Jonah ran away from the Lord … He went aboard a ship and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break” (Jon. 1:1-4).
Interestingly enough, God’s aggressive love stops us from going the wrong way. We’ll see how God takes us to a point when we’re able to reach out and grab a strength beyond our own.
Each and every single one of us will face times where we will run into an impasse. But how do we find the strength beyond our own in those times? Let’s take three lessons from Jonah on what to do, when we know exactly what we should do, but cannot.
Three Lessons from Jonah:
1. “Decide Who You Will Identify With Early On”
Before the storms of life ever hit, make sure you’ve already decided with whom you will identify early on. Even though your behavior may be far from what you want it to be, identify with Jesus early on.
It’s like filing your flight pattern — you’re setting your course before you take one step and then you begin to fill it. Once that’s set, you’ll always know the way to go, no matter what.
Even though Jonah knew he was fleeing from the Lord, when others asked, he still identified himself with God:
“So they asked him, ‘Tell us who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from?’ … He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land’” (Jon. 1:8-9).
As we travel through life and storms come our way, it’s the set of your heart and not the storms that will tell you the way. Therefore, set your sail and no matter where the winds blow, you’ll cut through. However, if you remain neutral, then you’ll go in any direction.
We must adjust our behavior to match our faith, not the opposite way around. It’s aboutaligning our actions with His Word, not His Word to our actions.
2. You Decide How Much Pain is Required Before You Change and Obey
Believe it or not, in life, you get to decide how much pain is required. Sometimes, we want God to snap His fingers and get us out of every tough situation. However, in the midst of those tough situations, there is character being built and lessons to be learned. If we forfeit the tough situations and challenges, we also forfeit character development and life lessons.
However, if we “tough” it out and endure the challenges and trials, God will give us the necessary strength.
Scripture put it this way — “then [Jonah] cried out to God” (Jon. 1:17). “Then” was three whole days later! Just think, if only Jonah would have cried out sooner! Then God would have answered sooner.
My question to you is Jonah’s same dilemma: “How long is your ‘then?’”
Jonah chose three days of pain instead of simply crying out to God. He wanted to do it on his own. When you do it on your own, there is no strength available to help you overcome your challenge or trial.
3. Decide to Trust in God’s Terms of Obedience
The Lord often speaks to us about where to go and what to do. However, obeying His commands and fulfilling His call on your life is going to require a price.
There are going to be times when God calls you to obedience, and it’s going to be difficult. Just because He asks you to do something, this does not mean everything is going to be perfect. No matter what the price is, just obey. Then you’ll be able to look back and say, “I’m so glad that I said ‘yes’ to His call.”
Sometimes that requires experiencing the belly of the whale. Have you ever had to go through a tough time to learn a lesson?
Some of you are in the belly of a whale even now, whatever that terrible or painful situation might be. Can I just encourage you: Cry out now, because God is a God of second chances. He will help you, just as He helped Jonah: “And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (Jon. 3:1).
God gives us as many second chances as we’ll ever need. God never gave up on Jonah, and God will do the same for you; He will never, ever give up on you.
When you know what’s right but cannot seem to do it, turn to Him. He’ll give you a strength far beyond your own, if you only turn to Him.
God’s terms of obedience are tough, but trust Him. He has great plans for you!