On Saturday, I had two very sweet young girls ring my doorbell in the middle of the afternoon. They wanted to share their faith with me. They couldn’t have been over seventeen years old each and they were fully convinced what they believed was truth. They were from “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” commonly known as the Mormon church. They are deceived and they believe a lie.
I had two choices when they presented themselves at the door. I could either open the door, step out on the porch and engage them kindly and pray for the Lord to fill my mouth with the words of truth they needed to hear, or I could slam the door in their face – right after I tell them that I’m a Christian and don’t agree with them. I chose the first option.
Strategic Geographical Placement
In January of this year, our family moved about 250 miles to a new state because we knew the Lord was moving us to a specific church in our new town. When we came to the area to house-hunt, we had a few obstacles finding a house that was geographically close to our new church, while still within our budget and meeting our needs. As a result, we ended up expanding our search to an area of town we weren’t originally considering. The location of our new home lies squarely in the center between a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall and the local Mormon Temple. I don’t think it’s an accident that the Lord has placed us here.
I haven’t always made the right choice when it came to sharing the gospel with the lost. Especially when “the lost” are knocking on my front door on a leisurely Saturday afternoon – or worse, a Saturday MORNING. (I would prefer a lowered level of brain activity at least one morning per week, please!) But over the last few years, I’ve come to realize what an incredible opportunity this is for me. I am a homeschooling mom who has little human interaction outside the home aside from my church family. It’s not often I’m in the company of people who don’t already profess to know Christ the same as I. But thank the Lord, He is faithful to move me past my comfort zone even when I’m in the comfort of my own home!
I think everyone has heard the story of Jonah, whether they’re Christian or not. We all know that the Lord told him to go to Nineveh to proclaim His word to the Ninevites (Jonah 1:2), but instead, Jonah chose to board a ship headed for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). While on the ship, God sent a huge storm on the sea, Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed up by a great fish, spent 3 days and nights in its belly, and was vomited back up on dry land after repenting (Jonah 1:4-2:10).
However, most of us don’t know the rest of Jonah’s story. The end of the story is the part that I find most fascinating – and most convicting. Jonah Chapter 4 has taught me much about my attitude toward the lost. Let’s look at it together to see what we can learn about our gospel-sharing attitudes.
4 Lessons from Jonah Chapter 4
1. Jonah’s Displeasure Toward God
In Jonah 3:10-4:4, Jonah is “greatly displeased” that God did not destroy Nineveh. So displeased, in fact that he tries to justify his attempt to run from God when He first called him to Nineveh (Jonah 4:2) and he begs God to just kill him. (Jonah 4:3).
Before we become too critical of Jonah, let’s examine our own hearts. How often do you see someone who has a past history of sin and become so indignant about their behavior that you decide they’re not worth sharing the gospel with? Who are we to say who should hear the gospel or not?
Maybe we don’t consciously make the choice that they’re not worthy of hearing the gospel. Perhaps it’s more subtle. Perhaps it’s just a simple decision that they “wouldn’t want to hear it.” Shouldn’t we let them decide if they want to hear it or not? Shouldn’t we at least offer the truth and let the other person decide how to respond to it? What gives us the right to make the assumption they would respond with a “no?” Aren’t we deciding for them if we never share? (Romans 10:14-15)
2. Jonah’s Anger Toward God
Yes, that’s correct. Jonah is angry with God for sparing the Ninevites. To which the Lord responds to Jonah in verse 4 “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)
After begging the Lord to just kill him, Jonah went east of the city and sat in a shelter he made for himself so he could watch what happened to the city. (Jonah 4:5). In my southern vernacular, we would say Jonah had “gotten himself in a snit” or “worked himself up into a tizzy.” He was still angry and he was stewing in his anger. But Jonah’s anger wasn’t a righteous anger. He wasn’t grieved over the things that grieve the Lord. Instead, he was angry because God hadn’t behaved how Jonah thought He should.
What about you? Have you ever found yourself angry at God because He didn’t behave the way you expected Him to? Do you think in those times God might like to ask you the same question He asked Jonah – “Do you have good reason to be angry?” Think about it. I’ve found most often the answer is “no.” Most often, I’m simply behaving like a petulant child.
3. Jonah’s Plant
The Lord is so loving and kind! Even though Jonah had behaved so poorly, God sent him a plant – most likely a castor oil plant – “to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort.” And this, Jonah was happy about! The Scripture says “Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.” (Jonah 4:6) Jonah’s quite a fickle guy, isn’t he? Aren’t we?
The Lord didn’t leave the plant over him, though. He sent a worm to kill it (Jonah 4:7) and then he turned up the heat – literally – on Jonah and Jonah asked once more to die. (Jonah 4:8) That was a short-lived happiness wasn’t it? Jonah is such a complainer, isn’t he? Aren’t we?
Once again, the Lord asks Jonah if he has good reason to be angry (Jonah 4:9). His response? “I have good reason to be angry, even unto death.” (Jonah 4:9) Jonah is certainly overreacting isn’t he? Don’t we?
4. The Lord’s Compassion
The way the curtain closes on the book of Jonah is hands down the best “cliff-hanger” ending ever written! The Lord gets down to the heart of the matter with Jonah in the ending verses of Jonah Chapter 4. In Jonah 4:10-11, the Lord tells Jonah “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow . . . Should I not have compassion on Nineveh . . . in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand . . .?”
And that’s the end of the book! No response is recorded from Jonah. The Lord simply ends the book with the main point of His entire gospel message from Genesis to Revelation – the people.
God’s concern is for the souls of man. Period. He is utterly patient with man, withholding his hand of judgement until His kingdom calendar says the time is up. But the time will end. (2 Peter 3:8-10) And it will come “like a thief.”
My question, then, for you and for me, is what are we doing with our time? Do we have compassion – true compassion – for the lost? Do we even notice those around us that are utterly lost? Do we open the door on Saturday mornings to an opportunity to share the gospel? Or do we pull the shades and pretend we’re not home?
What about other areas of our lives? Do gospel conversations permeate our relationships? Or do we essentially “pull the shades” in those areas as well, pretending we have unlimited time left?
“Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”