Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Power of Nevertheless

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 picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:15-17 NASB)

We are nearing our destination on our detour to explore the sign of Jonah. Yesterday, we looked at the concept of accountability and consequences. In the most desperate of circumstances, our tendency is to try to "fix it" by taking some sort of action to remedy our difficult situation. Even when the Will of God is frightening, even when we fight against it, there comes a point of surrender in our lives (or should) when we are willing to let go of our will and embrace the will of God. 

The sailors asked Jonah what to do to calm the storm and Jonah said the most remarkable thing imaginable. "Throw me overboard." The sailors agonized, prayed. They didn't want to let go of Jonah, but there came a point where they were willing to do exactly what Jonah said. 

The most incredible thing happened next. The sailors threw Jonah into the water and the big fish God had prepared (appointed) was waiting. Jonah began to sink and the fish began to swim. That fish lined up with the floundering man, opened its mouth wide, and swallowed him down. I don't know what it was like in the belly of the fish, but I know that God had prepared this place of refuge for His prodigal. 

It's clear from Jonah 2 that the runaway prophet thought he was about to die. "I cried for help from the depths of Sheol (the place of the dead)," Jonah said, but he understood the concept of nevertheless. 

"I have been expelled from Your sight, 
but nevertheless, I will look again toward Your holy temple.
                                                                               Jonah 2:4 NASB

Nevertheless is a word that means "in spite of that". In spite of the fact that God had disciplined Jonah, he held fast to the hope that his relationship with God would be restored. 

Nevertheless is an underused word that speaks of great hope in this situation. Jonah had endangered every man on the ship with his rebellion, nevertheless, God had protected them in the storm. Jonah had rebelled against God and had run as far from Him as he could humanly get. Nevertheless, God could, and would, restored Jonah to relationship with his Lord. Jonah was experiencing the discipline of God, nevertheless, on the other side of discipline, God would restore Jonah to right relationship with Him.

This is a basic truth we often forget in the midst of failure, especially the kind of outrageous, public failure that Jonah experienced. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Romans. 

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NASB)

Paul was saying that any manner of catastrophe, any manner of evil attack can happen to us. Nevertheless, we will not be separated from the love of God. This is such a vital tenet of our faith that we must be sure we understand. We may fail in business, relationships, or morally, nevertheless that failure cannot separate us from the love of God. We may choose to run as far from God as possible, deny Him, and live in the worst sin imaginable. Nevertheless, those choices cannot separate us from the love of God.

Our sin may separate us from fellowship with Him, but it cannot separate us from His love.

I can't understand a love so great. I can't imitate a love that magnanimous. I can't comprehend the kind of nevertheless love that forgives despite all my failure, all my sin.

God's nevertheless love is a foundational concept that changes everything and nothing can separate us from that love. Nothing. 

Today, let us embrace the One who loves us with a nevertheless love that never fails and let us live as those who have been redeemed.