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. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ (Jonah 2:1-4)
Summary: There is no circumstance or place from which God will not hear the prayers of His people.
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I’m sure we all experience times when our phone signal or internet connection is bad. Sometime we even run out of data and so lose connection. This kind of thinking can come into our Christian lives. We wonder if we have connection with God; is He hearing my prayers? Is the gap between heaven and earth too big? Are there too many people for God to have the capacity to hear all of us?…
One way of testing if this is our attitude is to be honest about our prayer-life. Do we pray at all times and about all things? If not, why not? Perhaps it’s because you believe that the ‘belly’ of your ‘fish’ has limited God’s hearing in your case?
David wrote about God’s omnipresent love and power:
‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.’ (Psalm 139:7-12)
Jesus, when asked about God’s receptivity to prayer and worship on this or that mountain corrected the Samaritan woman by saying:
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4”21-24)
The time has come! We are in the era when the Spirit is available to us in all places. There are no temples except God’s people - we are His temple. God’s presence and His attention are with us at all times.
RESPONSE - BELIEVE GOD IS PRESENT
Be mindful of God’s presence with you at all times. Push away teaching that encourages you to think in the old ways of holy places. Jesus’ death has ‘torn the curtain of the temple’ which symbolised the passing of that old era. If you are in Christ, the Spirit is with you at all times so you can pray and worship at all times, even in the depths and from inside in the belly of a fish!
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.