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IN THE BELLY OF THE WHALE

August 25, 2012

“For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” – Jonah 2:3

I’m sure most of us know the story of Jonah and the whale; its one of those classic Old Testament stories that seems to stick with you for a lifetime. Yet, though we may remember the tale, how many of us take the moral of that story to heart? Because the lesson therein is one that is extremely relevant for Christians today: the lesson of consequences…and more specifically, the consequences of shirking our responsibility as children of the King.

We serve an awesome, loving, and merciful God; a God who not only forgives our transgressions, but forgets them altogether. In exchange for this wonderful Grace all that is expected of us in return is our dutiful obedience and loyalty…for which we are abundantly and continually blessed.  “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous!” (I John 5:3)…”If ye love Me, keep My commandments,” (John 14:15). And what are His commandments? To worship and glorify Him alone with all our hearts and minds and souls, to love one another, and to spread His word among all the peoples of the Earth. But how many of us are actually giving our whole-hearted service? Instead of going where He sends us, how many of us run in a different direction!

Jonah ran, too. He ran as far and as fast as he could – but who can outrun God? In the end, he found himself thrown overboard in a storm-tossed sea, and swallowed by a great fish. And that is where we find ourselves when we run from God; when we are disobedient: in the belly of the whale. We find ourselves alone and frightened in the dark, crying out pitifully for our circumstances – circumstances for which we alone are responsible: for had we simply been obedient in the first place, we would not be there at all.

See, God offers us freedom with responsibility; but most of us prefer freedom from it. We want the peace, mercy, and Grace that God offers without having to put any effort at all into serving Him. We want the blessings and the prosperity, but do we put Him first? Do we go to His house to worship and praise Him who set us free whenever we have the opportunity? Do we show charity, kindness, and love to His children? Do we go seeking His lost sheep? Or do we expect everything and give nothing?

Now, I know that there are times and circumstances when we find ourselves in hard places in our lives through no fault of our own; but if we were honest with each other, just how many times do we put ourselves in those positions? And yet, the wonderful thing about God is that, even though we may feel alone and cut off, He is – in reality – actually sheltering us…just like He sheltered Jonah in the fish’s belly. It may not be a pleasant, comfortable shelter, but it sure beats the alternative. So consider this: maybe that dark place you’re in right now is where God has brought you to keep you safe from the consequences of your own actions, and to ponder those actions and what it is you can do to change your circumstances by deciding to serve more faithfully. “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord,” (Jonah 2:9).

Right now, you might be thinking, “Wow, Josh, that was pretty harsh,”….and yes, I suppose it is. But this is the message that was laid on my heart; and trust me, its a message with which I have had plenty of personal experience. I have no idea how many times I’ve put myself in the belly of the whale – I probably can’t count that high. And if I’m not diligent, I’ll probably do it again. But we can’t seek to avoid it if we pretend that its not a reality. Accountability and responsibility…we have to own up to them. We have no right to expect a carefree, easy existence when we try to avoid our duties as Christians; when we try to hide from God.

Now, you might say, “But, I’m not hiding from God…”; but the truth is, if you’re not being obedient or faithful, you are. If we expect to see abundance, increase, and victory, then we are going to have to start investing our whole hearts in God; we are going to have to be obedient and faithful. We are going to have to be committed! Like Bro. Danny said: will you be present when the roll is called? And not just up yonder, but here and now?

So today, be ready to answer when called; be present and ready to be counted; don’t run from God and wind up in the belly of the whale – and if you’re already there, rededicate yourself and let Him deliver you, so that you might fulfill your calling and the purpose for which He has appointed you! Be ready to go when and where He sends you. “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then said I, ‘Here am I; send me’.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Be blessed,

Joshua

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  1. Lessons in Obedience « Strength Renewed

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