Friday, July 6, 2012

The Book of Jonah

By Candice Roberts | July 2, 2012

Jonah is such a good story. There are so many lessons that we can glean from its four short chapters. The book of Jonah teaches us that we can’t thwart God’s plans. It teaches us that when we try to mess with God’s plans, God will make a new way. The book of Jonah teaches us about the provision of God; Jonah would have drowned if not for the big fish. The book of Jonah teaches us about the grace of God; Jonah says in chapter 4 verse 2, “I knew that you are a gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” These are all true and Biblical principles found in the Book of Jonah. But they are easy truths. We like them. In fact I like the truth of God’s grace so much that it often gives me goose bumps. And so God is bringing me to another truth found in the book of Jonah and one that doesn’t feel near as good. He is teaching me that to follow Him, I have to lose my sense of entitlement.
Jonah had this sense of entitlement. The idea that he had followed God, was a prophet of God and therefore was entitled to His salvation, entitled to the grace and mercy he received. He probably felt entitled to the big fish that God sent to rescue him. Jonah was important after all. We know he felt entitled to the shade tree that God sent to grow up over him in chapter 4. When the shade tree dies, Jonah says, “I am so angry that I wish I were dead.” Jonah felt he had a right to blessings, grace, mercy, provision, etc. because he knew God. On the flip side, Jonah felt the people of Nineveh were not entitled to any of these things because they had not known God.
Jonah was pretty much a jerk. It is so easy to see. Why then is it so hard for me to see my attitudes of entitlement? I am praying this week that God will bring our attitudes of entitlement to light.
I will be real transparent with you. Here are some things I think I deserve: a family, a home, food in my pantry, clothes in my walk in closet, vacations, free education, health insurance at minimal cost, a job, to worship God freely. I deserve these things because I follow God, because I am a functioning member of society, because my parents told me I do, because…… I just do. Right? Well, it is certainly American to believe I am entitled to these things. “(We) are endowed by (our) Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I love these words from the Declaration of Independence. But they are not Biblical.
The Bible doesn’t say I am entitled to a family. In fact Jesus says His coming will bring division within families (Matthew 10:34-35). The Bible doesn’t say I am entitled to a home. Jesus says if we are to follow Him we need realize we may have no place to lay our head (Luke 9:57-58). The Bible doesn’t say I am entitled to a stockpile of food in my closet. Instead Jesus tells us to ask for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). Walk in closets, vacations, education, health insurance, employment……these are not promised in the Word either. And does the Bible promise us that we should be able to worship Him as we please? No. It promises us persecution if we follow Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). We are not promised life, liberty or happiness either. Instead the Bible says that whoever loves his life will lose it (John 12:25). We may find ourselves in chains for the Gospel (Ephesians 6:20) and Jesus promises suffering (John 16:33).
The fact is, the only thing the Bible says I am entitled to is death; eternal damnation. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) “The wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life,” (Romans 6:23).
Do you know what this means? Every time I have happiness, every time I feel the warmth of family, every time I put groceries away, every time I drop my children off at school, every time I worship God freely, I am experiencing the blessings of God. I am experiencing a gift- not something I deserve, not something I have earned, but a gift from my creator. And the fact that I can know Jesus as my savior- that is a gift too. I do not deserve salvation. I do not deserve grace. I deserve death. This way of thinking really kills my sense of entitlement.
This way of thinking also spurs me on to proclaim the Gospel to other people who don’t deserve it; other people like me. Like Jonah, sometimes we get mad at God for showing mercy to sinners. I don’t know which type of sinner you despise most. I do know which sinners that I would like God to smite. For Jonah, it was the Ninevites. To God, it is irrelevant. We are no more entitled to grace than they are. We are all sinners. We are all entitled to death.
I pray that this week we can set down our attitudes of ungraciousness and entitlement. I pray that we will adopt attitudes of thankfulness and humility. Amen.

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