Friday, May 15, 2015

Surrendering to God's will

As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. (Luke 11:29-30 NASB)

So they said to him, "What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?"-for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. He said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you." (Jonah 1:11-12 NASB)

We are rambling on a side road in search of understanding about the sign of the Jonah. Yesterday, we saw that Jonah's actions spoke much louder to the sailors than his eloquent words about fearing the God of heaven. Today, we see that the sailors understood something we often do not, the concepts of accountability and consequences. They were saying to Jonah (Leanna Paraphrase), "This is your fault because of your rebellion, and we want the storm to stop. How are we going to get relief?" 

The storm was because of Jonah's rebellion. The sailors were essentially innocent bystanders in the crisis, drawn into the situation by Jonah's presence on the ship. All they wanted was for the storm to stop and the seas to calm. They wanted peace. 

The sailors wanted to "do something" to make the storm stop. If Jonah's actions had "caused" the storm to start, perhaps some other set of actions could "cause" the storm to stop. Since Jonah was at the center of the problem, they turned to Jonah for the solution. "What should  we do to you?" I don't know what they expected him to say, but "throw me overboard" was not it.

When I read Jonah's words, I'm always surprised. What was he thinking? I suppose he considered one of two things. 1) They would throw him overboard, the storm would stop, and he would drown, successfully ending his flight away from God. 2) They would throw him overboard, the storm would stop, and God would miraculously save him. Either way, there would be a resolution to the situation.

For the purposes of illustration, I am presuming that Jonah had come to the end of himself. His rebellion and prodigal flight had not worked out as he expected, and his consequences were overwhelming. He had finally come to the point of abandoning himself to God. "Throw me overboard" was, in a way, a surrender to the will of God. 

I've been to the point of resignation a time or two, and maybe you have, too. In situations so complex that I had no idea what to do, there came a point when my desired outcome no longer mattered. The most important thing to me was an end to the storm. At that point, the outcome was not as important as getting some kind of relief in the ongoing situation. That point of surrendering my will to God's is a vital step in receiving the miraculous intervention of God. 

When Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard, they were horrified. They did all they could to save Jonah from his plight. At last, they, too, had to abandon him to whatever solution God would provide. In the midst of a crisis with someone we love, this is often a vital place for us to reach. I don't at all mean to "throw overboard" one who has brought a storm into our lives, but allowing God to use the consequences of their actions to change their hearts and lives is a necessary part of God's redemptive process. 

The sailors rowed desperately, trying to avoid letting go of Jonah. They begged God for mercy. They delayed as long as they dared. All the while, God's big fish was waiting for Jonah so that His plan could unfold. Our attempts to spare others from God-designed consequences can delay the redemption God has planned. 

There was no way for the sailors to know what God would do as they flung Jonah toward the sea and whatever mercy God would offer. Sometimes He sends a storm, but sometimes He sends the most unlikely of refuge places. That's what Jonah found. 

When the sailors did what Jonah said to do, the storm completely stopped and they understood that Almighty God had done it. They feared God greatly, and responded with sacrifices and vows to Him. God completely transformed their lives. God never wastes the storms of life. In this particular storm, he used it to bring the sailors, bystanders drawn in to Jonah's rebellion, to Himself. 

The storm was not wasted in Jonah's life, either. We will see tomorrow about the refuge God had prepared for this wandering prodigal.

For today, consider the storms of your life. How did God use the storm? Have your efforts to spare others (or yourself) of consequences delayed the resolution of the storm? Surrendering to the will of God is not an act of failure. It is an act of faith and opens up the most remarkable of possibilities when we allow Him to do all that He can do, in whatever way He chooses. 

Let Him have His way. It's always best.