Scripture is filled with stubborn, rebellious people who made a mess of things. Scripture is also filled with God using these same people for great things.
We all know the story of Jonah – swallowed by a whale. Spent 3 days in the stinky, swampy pit of a whale’s stomach. Now why? Why did this happen to Jonah? That’s a question we all like to ask when stinky things happen to us, when we find ourselves in a bad situation. Why God, why?
Jonah knew exactly why he was in this position. God had clearly told him to do something, and he didn’t do it. He was disobedient. Jonah chapter 1 in my bible is titled “Jonah Runs From the Lord.” I wonder how many chapters in the story of our lives could be titled something similar. Looking back I see it – there I was, running from the Lord again. Doing my own thing. Not intentionally, but I was just so busy, I didn’t have time to listen to God. God’s way seemed less appealing than mine. And oh there were times I was sure I knew better than God. Do you have a few chapters of running from the Lord in your story?
The book of Jonah starts with The Lord said to Jonah “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh.”
Get up and go. Sounds familiar. Seems God wants us to get up and go – get out there and do what we can do.
God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh. Oh but Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. The people there were mean and nasty. They would hate Jonah and he knew going there were be hard. So what did Jonah do? He went the exact opposite way. He got on a boat and headed out for Tarsish. But God saw him on that boat, doing the exact opposite of what he was supposed to be doing. We can’t get away from God. He always sees us. He always knows right where we are. And guess what … nothing we do comes as a surprise to God. He knows us inside and out, he knows our rebellious tendencies, our hardheadedness, our fears and insecurities and he sure loves us anyway. He loves us enough to chase after us, even when we’re going in the wrong direction.
On the boat, a big ol storm comes up and threatens the lives of everyone on the boat. Jonah knew the storm was because of him. Gosh, don’t you hate that – don’t you hate when you know it was your bad choice that negatively affects others. We can’t live with our head stuck in the sand assuming our choices aren’t affecting our families. Hey girl, wake up – your kids see everything you do. They are watching you. You are training them up to do exactly what you are doing. Would you wish your life for your kids? If not, you better make some changes. What you’re doing is affecting everyone in the boat with you.
So eventually, they throw Jonah off the boat because they knew the storm was because of him. And sure enough, Jonah goes in the water and the storm stops. Everyone on the boat is safe. And oh by the way, Jonah is swallowed by a whale.
Well that’s really inspiring isn’t it? Where’s the inspiration in this story?
Here it is … after 3 days in the whale of a stomach, where God provided for Jonah and changed his heart, Jonah was given another chance. God caused the whale to spit him up and Jonah survived the whole ordeal. Now, don’t miss this part … Jonah turned around in the right direction and headed to Ninevah. It wasn’t too late for Jonah to do the right thing. It’s not too late for you and I to do the right thing either. We may have been in a bad situation making some bad choices, screwing up this thing called life, but it’s not too late for us. God hasn’t given up on you.
Jonah went to Ninevah and God used him to change the entire city. God uses people who have screwed up. God uses people who have gotten on the wrong path. God uses people who have made a real mess out of their lives. God is searching for someone, anyone willing to turn themselves around and start making the right choices today. You have work to do. You have an impact to make. All your mistakes and messes can be used. Don’t you know God can use it all for good?
You can shake off the shame and guilt of your past – and when I say past, that includes not only 10 years ago, but last week and yesterday. You can make a U-Turn and change your direction, knowing God wants to use you and it’s not too late.
Today, ask yourself if you would wish your life for your children. Ask if you have settled for less than God created you for Ask if you’re avoiding doing what you know you need to do.
I promise God can use you, along with every mistake you’ve ever made, for something good.