#735. DOWN AND DOWN (24/1/23)
‘From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.’ (Jonah 2:1-3)
Summary: We often have to do down in order to go up - growth often comes through testing.
You can watch this devotional at:
Jesus tells us ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are the meek’ however, we often need to be taken down in order to go down and become humble and dependent. Jonah has been on a downward trajectory through this story: down to Joppa, down in the ship, down into sleep, down into the fish and down into the sea. However, Jonah’s circumstances revealed what was already true - he was already way down in his pride and callousness. Dark circumstances revealed his character. Like the prodigal son, we often have to hit the bottom before we can rise.
‘Countless Christians can attest to the same experience. It is only when you reach the very bottom, when everything falls apart, when all your schemes and resources are broken and exhausted, that you are finally open to learning how to completely depend on God. As is often said, you never realise that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.’ (Keller, Timothy. The Prodigal Prophet)
It’s interesting to note that Jonah only begins to pray as he goes into the depths. This is often true for many of us, we only turn to prayer in times of hardship or crisis. It’s in the depths that Jonah’s ‘head knowledge’ become ‘heart knowledge’; clearly, Jonah knew how to pray and had great depths of spiritual understanding as his prayer reveals. However, the skills and knowledge we learn often need a good kick to come to life.
As parents or as friends it may be hard to see those we love going through suffering or making bad decisions, but let's trust God that He will bring very important spiritual maturity out of the depths.
RESPONSE - PRAY IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
Praying to God in all circumstances in His will for us. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in right now, God wants you to pray to Him about everything.
‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Please try to use the COME TO JESUS DAILY DEVOTIONALS (blog). This will help us to get deep into this book together. There is also a video option if that helps (Ensure that everyone knows how to access this)
What has God been speaking to you about from His Word this week?
3. RECAP OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE - PLEASE SHARE IN YOUR GROUP
IN THE BELLY OF THE FISH
Please read Jonah 1:17-2:10
BIG IDEA: SUFFERING LEADS TO DEEPER DARKNESS OR GROWTH AND GRATITUDE.
Jonah, after running away from God’s call to go the Nineveh, ends up being thrown into the sea and into the belly of a huge fish for 3 days and nights. Here, in his suffering, Jonah has a choice: He can descend into greater darkness or he can turn to God in trust, prayer and worship.
I’m sure that we’ve all had the experience for feeling lost and afraid. What’s our response? How would we answer: In my distress I…
Jonah's response was to exhort himself to turn to God in prayer and worship, acknowledging God's greatness and mercy; choosing not to let his mistakes and dark circumstances rob him of faith.
Jonah’s 3 days in the fish, are spoken of by Jesus as ‘the sign of Jonah’(Matthew 12:39-41). Just as Jonah was 3 days in the heart of the sea, so Jesus was 3 days in the grave for our salvation. As Jonah was given a second chance and was brought out into light and life to serve God, so, Jesus' death and resurrection give us life and hope.
Finally, God commanded to fish to vomit Jonah onto the beach. With God -the God of resurrection - there is always the opportunity to return - to repent - and come back to a place of prayer, worship, obedience and hope.
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 Yves together:
Why and how can suffering lead to deeper darkness or growth and gratitude?
How would you answer: ‘In my distress, I…’?
What aspects of Jonah’s prayer inspire you and why?
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 fill us with His resurrection power so as to be compassionate and courageous this week.