The Fast of Jonah has started and that means Great Lent is coming around the corner. The fast of Jonah (and even Great Lent) is often a focus on my internal sins and struggles. It is a time where we fast and pray to offer repentance.
Repentance is good but there is so much more to this fast of Jonah. Repentance is good so that I can hear God’s will clearly. Repentance helps me look outside of myself and have a heart of God. To see the needs of others. That is why after Jonah’s repentance, he obeyed God’s call to Nineveh.
There are many lessons to be learned from the Book of Jonah. Here are just a few:
Lesson #1: When God says GO, we GO!
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” Jonah 1:2
Jonah was called by God to be a missionary to Nineveh. This reminds me when Christ told His disciples in Matthew 28:19 to “Go therefore to all Nations…”
Again, the word GO is coming to Jonah.
I believe God is telling every one of us to go do something, but we either are too busy to hear or have heard it and ignore it like Jonah. God clearly told Jonah to go to Nineveh, yet in verse 3, Jonah went to Tarshish. Another city in another direction!
Is there some mistake in the Bible? It is a complete disobedience to God. How could he do that?
But then I think of my own life. How many times has God told me to go do something and I ignored Him? I still remember when God called me to go to Africa and leave my family and my church. To be honest I rejected it at first and I was afraid to go. But I knew I had to go or it would have been total disobedience.
I think that is why we should Go. Out of obedience. Yes, there are fears. I was afraid of the unknown. I was afraid of leaving my comfort. I was afraid of failing at this mission. But I knew I had to Go.
What is God telling you to go do right now that you are ignoring? That maybe you are afraid to do?
This is the first thing we learn from this book on how to be a missionary for God. When He says Go, we go! If not, we may miss out on saving and helping many. I think at this point in our lives it is better to take a risk and go do something then to wait and regret it later. I thank God that I went to my Nineveh.
Lesson #2: Nothing should stop me from showing God’s love to ALL.
In this mission that God sent Jonah, we see how much He loves all His people, not just the people of Israel or nowadays the Christians.
He loves all people, even the unbelieving Ninevites. He loved the sailors on the boat and even Jonah himself.
He is always on a mission to save all His children.
When Jonah refused to go to Nineveh, he was essentially telling God that the Ninevites don’t deserve your love and forgiveness. Jonah knew that God was a “gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm (Jonah 4:2).”
He knew God’s heart and that He would save His children.
By Jonah not doing anything, it is saying they don’t deserve it. My fears or my hatred keep the people from not knowing Christ. Imagine that if Jonah did not go, over 120,000 people would have perished. That’s a crime.
Even as a missionary I can hide behind the comforts of my church walls. Content with who is in church. Content with the meetings. Content. I know I must go to all in my sphere of life. Whoever I see on a regular basis out there must be who God wants me to love and care for. I can’t run away from that. I know even if my heart doesn’t feel anything for them, I must still go and pray that God will change me not them.
But God said, “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:11)
God’s heart shows a different calling and mission for us. One out of my comforts.
A few years ago, some members of our church here in Zambia started a prostitute ministry. They would go out into the streets at night and preach to the young women. I went with them one night and one of the leaders asked me if I used to do this in the States. I began to think about this. And I can honestly say we never thought about it. Is this ministry only available in Africa? The lost and the broken are everywhere. We just have to hear God’s call to love all His children and answer by going.
Challenge for Jonah’s Fast
Let us pray today that we can have that mind to reach out to our co-workers, classmates, friends, and neighbors. Maybe that is the “Go” that God is telling me to go to. And I keep going to Tarshish which is going somewhere else.
Maybe it is to start a project in my community to help others. Maybe it is organizing a mission trip. Whatever it may be, don’t be afraid to Go. It could change history. Yours and others. Don’t be afraid. Maybe this is God’s confirmation for you.
We have fears that keep us from going as did Jonah. But God’s heart is so wide open to all His children.
Let us pray today that we can have the same heart God has. Let us ask God to remove any fears, prejudices, or coldness to people around us.
So that we can be burdened for the salvation for all mankind.
A recent missionary book I read was about Samuel Zwemer. He had a burden to take the gospel to the Middle East and Arabia and was willing to sacrifice anything to let Muslims know the truth.
These stories make me examine my own heart – if I even care for anyone here in Zambia.
Am I burdened for their salvation or just doing a job?
Am I just living in a mission or am I living for the mission?
May God restore to all of us today zeal and compassion and love for all around us.
God is saying Go without fear and I will be with you.
In the story of Jonah, God controlled all the nature like the fish, the storm, and even the little worm. I am sure God will be with us opening doors to reach out to His children.
He just wants us to go.
Will you go?
Mission Assignment: Use this fast of Jonah to pray and hear where and who God is sending you to go. Find out where is your Nineveh.Tags: answer the call, Arise, Calling, fears, GO, God's love, great commission, Jonah, Missionary, Ninevah, out of comfort