‘Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.’ (Jonah 1:4)
Summary: Running away from God always leads us into a storm.
You can watch this devotional at:
Jonah runs away from God’s call to go to Nineveh. He goes in the opposite direction. God sends this storm in order to discipline him and bring him to his senses. Likewise, God disciplines and develops us through trials in various ways.
The storms of life come in three main ways:
i. ‘Storms’ can be directly sent by God according to His good will and purpose as is the case in Jonah. God sent this storm to wake up Jonah. From his backsliding.
ii. They can be allowed rather than sen by God; this is His permissive will. These are permitted according to His good will and purpose.
iii. Finally, storms can be created by ourselves as a direct result of sinful and unwise behaviour. This, I believe, is what causes most of the trouble in the world and in our lives. If, for example, we fail to invest in our health we will have poor health. Tim Keller wrote of this kind of consequential suffering:
‘The dismaying news is that every act of disobedience to God has a storm attached to it…The Bible does not say that every difficulty is the result of sin—but it does teach that every sin will bring you into difficulty. We cannot treat our bodies indifferently and still expect to have good health. We cannot treat people indifferently and expect to maintain their friendship. We cannot all put our own selfish interests ahead of the common good and still have a functioning society. If we violate the design and purpose of things—if we sin against our bodies, our relationships, or society—they strike back. There are consequences. If we violate the laws of God, we are violating our own design, since God built us to know, serve, and love him.’ (Keller, Timothy. The Prodigal Prophet)
In God’s love and sovereignty, He sends or allows us to experience trials of various kinds in order to grow us and further His purposes. Jonah’s fear, hatred and pride needed this storm in order to be transformed; likewise, we need ‘God’s discipline’ if we are to grow in Christlikeness. Paul wrote about how hardship taught him:
‘We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…’ (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
Do you see that Paul saw a deep purpose in these painful and perplexing experiences? He tells us that ‘this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God’.
Later in 2 Corinthians, we see a similar idea: After listing all the severe trials he had faced, including an unanswered prayer for relief from his "thorn in the flesh," Paul explains that through these experiences he learned to rely on God's power:
‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9)
As Christians, we know that there is always a good purpose for us in any storm that we are permitted to experience. We are to face ‘serve trials’ with two simultaneous attitudes: Firstly, trust; We trust that our Father is over and has purpose in all trials. We trust that He is working all things together for good, and that He will never leave us or forsake us. Secondly, prayer; we are to pray for God to help us, teach us and to bring these trials to an end. We can pray for His wisdom, guidance, and strength. We can pray for His peace to fill our hearts and minds. We can pray for His protection and provision. And we can pray for His grace to sustain us as we go through the storm.
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Don’t forget that this is the last week that people can sign up for Alpha on Tuesday evening (7:00-9:00).
What has God been speaking to you about from His Word this week?
3. RECAP OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE - PLEASE SHARE IN YOUR GROUP
BIG IDEA: GOD SENDS A STORM TO WAKE UP THOSE WHO ARE SPIRITUALLY ASLEEP.
Please read Jonah 1:4-16
The story of Jonah serves as a reminder of the consequences of running away from God's call and becoming spiritually asleep. Jonah, a prophet of God, was called to go to Nineveh and help the people there, but he disobeyed and went in the opposite direction. He got on a ship and went below deck, where he fell into a deep sleep. God then sent a storm to bring Jonah to his senses and wake him up to his mission. The sailors on the ship cast lots to find out who was responsible for the storm, and the lot fell on Jonah. They asked him to tell them who he was and why he was causing the storm. Jonah replied that he was a Hebrew and worshiped the Lord, and that the storm was his fault. The sailors threw Jonah overboard, and the sea calmed down. The main idea of the story is that God uses storms as a way to wake up those who are spiritually asleep. It serves as a reminder to not run away from God and to always be active and prayerful in serving His mission.
On Sunday, we discussed the importance of SIV - a strategy of building relationships to bring others to Jesus. The three key elements of SIV include serving the real needs of others, investing time to deepen relationships, and inviting individuals into church community and events such as Alpha. By actively engaging in these actions, and through prayer, we trust that we will have opportunities to share the gospel and lead others to a deeper understanding and relationship with God through Christ. If you missed it, you might find it helpful to watch this interview with Jason together:
4. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
What are the things that make a Christian becomes spiritually asleep and lose a passion for God’s mission to see people become Christians?
Would you say that you were awake or sleepy in your love for God and His mission? Give reasons for your answer.
Why does God send the storm?
What are the ways that God uses to wake us up to a fresh love for Him and His mission?
How have you Served, Invested and Invited in your communities this week? (Let’s share about this again next week)
How have you got on with making a list and praying for your non-believing friends each day? (Let’s share about this again next week)
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 the Spirit would wake us up -revive us - with fresh love for Him and those to whom God has sent us.