‘Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4)
Summary: For anything to happen, it must be begun.
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For anything to happen, it must be begun. The first step is essential for any progress in anything. My experience is that taking a first step on any task is like stepping into a river that carries you to its completion. I love what J. R. R. Tolkien writes:
‘It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings)
If we want to get things done - become more effective in evangelism, for example, we must make a practical first step and begin. It’s easy to talk about doing hard things, but it’s the doing that’s really important. The church is often quite good at having conferences and training on things like reaching our communities for Jesus, but taking steps of obedience is often lacking. We can be like overweight men boldly giving advice on health and fitness, all talk but no action. Like you, I’m sure, I certainly feel that I talk better than I perform in regard to many things!
Jonah’s mission, against all hope, is successful. What begins with a first step ended up affecting the King of Nineveh - one never knows where a first small step of obedience will lead to:
‘The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.’ (Jonah 3:5-6)
RESPONSE - TAKE YOUR FIRST STEP TO SERVE, INVEST AND INVITE.
What's your first step in engaging with your community outside of church? Perhaps you could schedule to meet with someone, or make changes to your daily routine. Taking that initial step is crucial in turning your desire to bring people to Jesus into reality.
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)
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What has God been speaking to you about from His Word this week?
3. RECAP OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE - PLEASE SHARE IN YOUR GROUP
WHEN GOD SAW
Please read Jonah 3:4-10
MAIN IDEA: URGENT PRAYER MOVES GOD
1. JONAH BEGAN
Jonah began and so must we. For anything to happen, it must be begun. The first step is essential for any progress in anything. If we want to get things done - become more effective in evangelism, for example, we must make a practical first step and begin. It’s easy to talk about doing hard things, but it’s the doing that’s really important. God does a great thing through Jonah’s simple step of obedience - the city and even the king believe and repent.
2. URGENT PRAYER MOVES GOD
The king and the Ninevites sets us an example of urgency in prayer. In Nineveh we see fasting, repentance and urgency in their response to Jonah’s message. Let’s compare our own spiritual fervour with the Ninevites’: having come to know God, does fasting, repentance and urgency mark our lives and prayer meetings? They knew that God’s judgement was coming and they were led to urgent prayer. We know that judgement is coming, God wants our compassion to lead to urgency in prayer.
What we see in Nineveh can be compared to what we see in a move of God in revival. Revival starts in the church and spills over into bringing many into the Kingdom of God. Revival always starts with prayer. Here is an example from the 1859 ‘Prayer Meeting Revival:
‘Have you ever heard of the great 1858 American revival? An obscure man laid it up in his heart to pray that God would bless his country. That man was Jeremiah Lanphier…burdened by the need around him, he decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer meeting every Wednesday in Fulton Street…for one hour. The first meeting six attended, the next week twenty, third week forty. They decided to hold a mid-day prayer meeting daily. Then came a financial crash and ensuing panic as banks failed. The atmosphere was ripe for God to move. The prayer meeting grew to a hundred, the others began to start prayer meetings; at last there was scarcely a street in New Your that was with a prayer meeting…6,000 were attending daily prayer meetings in New York. This spread to other cities… by May it was reliably estimated that there were 50,000 conversions in New York, the population of which was around 80,000…There were several New England towns in which not a single person can be found unconverted’…The revival become known as the ‘prayer meeting revival’. Edwin Orr, after long and careful research, endorsed the estimate ‘that fully one-million were converted out of a population of less than thirty million, in the revival in the two-year period of 1858-59. The churches actually increased their membership by this figure…solid, lasting converts.’ (Great Revivals, Colin Whittaker)
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because I’m God’s child and am saved by grace that urgency, persistence or passion in prayer is irrelevant. However, Intensity in prayer goes hand in hand with a move of God; Revival - the outpouring of God’s Spirit - is instigated and is sustained by prayer. Jesus taught us to pray with persistence and urgency:
‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’ (Matthew 7:7-8)
I cannot explain why simply asking is not enough, why we sometimes have to add seeking, or why we sometimes have to add knocking. All I can say is that Jesus teaches us that fervent and persistent prayer leads to doors being opened. URGENT PRAYER MOVES GOD!
We read that ‘Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city’. What does Jonah's simple beginning lead to?
Do you have any examples of how taking simple steps of obedience has led to big things in your life?
Why should urgency in prayer mark our lives and our church culture?
Have you, like Jonah, 'begun'? 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.