#727. JONAH RAN AWAY (12/1/23)
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.’ (Jonah 1:1-3)
Summary: Jonah rebelled against God’s word and went in the opposite direction. This is a danger for all of us, particularly in regard to sharing the gospel.
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I know that I regularly go against God's desires for my life. I run away from God-given opportunities to serve Him and, in particular, miss His opportunities to share the gospel with people. Why is this? This is due to my Pride - I think I know better than God. Additionally, my lack of compassion for others and my lack of faith in God's ability to use me also contribute to this behaviour. We all, I’m sure, like Jonah, are tempted to run away from God’s will.
JONAH RAN AWAY
God showed compassion towards the people of Nineveh and asked Jonah to go and plead with them to turn away from their sin. Jonah, however, refused and ran in the opposite direction. Despite being the God Almighty God allows us (in the bounds of His purposes) to reject his commands. Unfortunately, the church has a history of rejecting God's will and being swayed by popular, modern teachings that distract from his word, leading to ignorance of his desires.
If Jonah, initially, is a bad example of obedience, Ananias, in the New Testament, is a good example to us. We read in Acts 9:
‘In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’’ (Acts 9:10-17)
These are very similar circumstances to that of Jonah: Paul was known to be wicked. Ananias was told to go to this wicked person, and Ananias was perplexed and scared. However, unlike Jonah, Ananias 'Went.
Are you and I running away from God’s will? Are their aspects of our lives that we know to be against God’s revealed will in the Bible? Generally, are our lives in accord with these words:
‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Specifically, in regard to the mission that we are called to, can we say that we are actively involved in sharing our faith?
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Share your ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ from the Christmas and New Year season.
3. RECAP OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE - PLEASE SHARE IN YOUR GROUP
WHICH WAY AM I RUNNING?
On Sunday we began our series is the book of Jonah which we’ve entitled ‘I AM JONAH’. The Subtitle of this series is ‘Learning to run toward rather than run away from God's mission’. Through this book, God wants to re-commission us for His mission to bring the gospel to our communities - our ‘Nineveh’s’. He wants to put His Spirit in us so that we don’t run away but run toward His mission.
‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.’ (Jonah 1:1-3)
BIG IDEA: God calls all of us to His mission. We have to choose whether to run toward or run away from God’s call.
On Sunday, we talked about SIV: Serve, invest and invite is a simple strategy of building relational bridges in order to bring our friends to Jesus. We serve real needs, we invest time to deepen relationships with people and invite them into church community and events such as alpha. We love to invite people to come to know God through the gospel but this will usually occur after we have invested in a relationship. You might find it helpful to watch this interview with Brenda together:
4. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
What are the various communities, outside the church, that God has put you into?
Do you find yourself running away or running toward sharing your faith with people? Please give reasons and examples for your response.
Why do you think Jonah ran away from God call?
How do you Serve, Invest and Invite in your communities?
How will the power of the Holy Spirit help us in our mission? (See Acts 1:8)
Let’s now pray for specific people that God has put on your heart and in your life.
Let’s pray for each other that, by the Spirit’s empowering, unlike Jonah, we would run toward God’s commission to share our faith and the gospel with those in our lives.
This week, lets each make a list of non-believing friends and pray for them daily.
Next week, come ready to share how God has used us to Serve, Invest and Invite.