Friday, May 22, 2015

The impact of grudging obedience

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)

Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" (Jonah 4:11 NASB)

As it turns out, we aren't through with ISIS or with Jonah. 

Last night at prayer meeting, we were gathered in small groups to pray for different needs in our church. My small group had finished praying and we were chatting. The fact that Mosul is built on the ruins of Nineveh was such a surprise to me that I had pondered the issue of the Assyrians off and on all day. When I mentioned it in our little group, Jerry Napier said, "Yes. And they repented." In a flash, I had the clearest picture of events as they unfolded.

Jonah did not want to go to his enemies. He despised them. He was not going to Nineveh. When God placed Jonah in his watery prayer retreat, however, he found that obedience was more important than he realized. Jonah went.

I've heard speculation about what Jonah looked like, but all of it is just that. Speculation. There's no way to know if his skin was bleached or damaged by the stomach acid of the big fish. What we do know is that he had been at sea, been thrown overboard, spent three days in a fish, and been vomited onto the shore. 

Jonah didn't dilly-dally around. He headed straight to Nineveh to get his job done. When he walked into Nineveh, he was not likely to have taken time for grooming himself. I'm doubtful he had fresh clothes or a fresh bath. He probably looked like he'd been through a storm, because he had.

The people of Nineveh did not repent because of Jonah's appearance or because of the eloquence of his sermon. They repented because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, who was at work before Jonah took the first step through the city gates. Jonah walked through the city of 120,000 people proclaiming an eight-word sermon. "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown." When the citizens of Nineveh heard those words, they were cut to the heart with conviction and repented in sackcloth and ashes, from the king to the least citizen in the city. Everyone repented.

That same power is available to us today. That same God has the same compassion for the people of our Nineveh today. He cares about Mosul and the people there who "do not know the difference between their right and left hand". He cares about the people we consider our enemies, not just ISIS, but all our enemies (personal and corporate). 

The grudging obedience of one man made an eternal difference for 120,000 people in Nineveh. Our obedience can have just as big an impact today. 

What is the obedience to which God is calling you? What eternal difference will He make through you if you choose to follow where He leads?

Today, make a commitment to live as one who has been redeemed and follow as one who loves his Master, no matter where He leads. As you follow, be sure to pray for our modern Assyrians and those in our Nineveh to experience the same transformation that happened in Jonah's day. (ISIS and Mosul as well as all our enemies - domestic and foreign)