“The captain approached him and said, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up! Call to your god. Maybe this god will consider us, and we won’t perish.’” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever met someone from a different religion than you practiced who struck you as more committed to their faith than you were to your own? There is something really attractive about that. As followers of God, our level of devotion sends a message to the world around us about how worthy He is of their devotion. As we talked about Friday, Jonah gives us a great example here of how not to do this well.
Jonah’s story starts with his receiving a call from the Lord to go and preach a message of judgment to the people of Nineveh. Rather than obeying this call, he sets out to run as far away from the place God told him to go as he possibly can.
As the story continues, we discover that the Lord really did mean for him to go to Nineveh. The author (probably Jonah writing later) tells us that as Jonah sets out with this crew heading west toward Tarshish, God throws a storm at them. That’s the actual language the text uses. He throws a storm on the sea aimed at stopping the ship in its tracks.
What happens next is really interesting. All the pagan sailors immediately assume that this sudden and particularly violent storm is the result of an angry god. Normally, this is thinking that followers of Jesus would want to discourage because our God isn’t naturally an angry God, and every problem we face is not the result of His anger. In this case, however, they were kind of right. God wasn’t out to get them because He was angry, but He needed to get them to stop the boat and He knew that this was something they would all understand. So, He threw the storm on the water.
Well, when the sailors correctly connect that this storm was of divine origins, they all begin crying out to all of the gods they knew hoping that one of them would be the offended party and that by praying and pleading they could placate him so the storm would stop.
When this effort failed, the captain remembered the passenger he had taken on and who was down in the cargo hold. Running down below deck what does he find but Jonah sound asleep. Shocked and angry that this guy wasn’t calling out to his god in order to contribute to the storm-stopping efforts, the captain wakes Jonah up and tells him to get on it.
Now, there are some other things going on in the following verses that we’ll talk about another time, but for now I want to draw your attention to the fact that these men were all more devoted to their respective gods than Jonah was to his. As soon as something bad happened, they went right to what they believed was the source to get an answer. Jonah, again, was asleep in the cargo hold.
Not only that, but he was actively committing an act of disobedience. Every single one of these sailors understood that if you didn’t do what your god told you to do, there would be consequences. Jonah couldn’t have cared less. He didn’t want any part of what his God had commanded and was doing everything he possibly could to get out of doing it.
Here’s the question worth our pondering: What were these men supposed to think about Jonah’s God? Was a God whose people were able to totally ignore what He said like this one was worth their time? It’s hard to imagine their thinking so before the storm and its aftermath.
In the same way, if you would claim to be a follower of Jesus, if unbelievers in your life made a careful observation of you, would they conclude your God was worth their time? Or, would they be led to believe He wasn’t worthy of their time and attention because He obviously can’t keep yours?
There is a common preacher one-liner, always attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, that we should preach the Gospel at all times and only if necessary use words. Francis almost certainly didn’t say that. He was in a preaching order. But, while it is not any kind of theology we would want to use as a foundation point in our lives, there’s something to it. Namely, our lifestyle is a form of evangelism.
If we consistently claim Christ as our Lord, then the way we live matters. How we live has the power to commend someone to Him or convince them He isn’t really worthy of their time. If we consistently and courageously obey His commands (even the hard ones), we will send the message that we serve a God worth obeying. If we don’t, we won’t.
So then, how is your walk? Do whatever you have to do to show the world around you that you serve a God who is worthy of the gift of their very lives. Use words freely in that effort, but make sure the example of your life is speaking loudly. Don’t let the world get any false ideas about God as far as that depends on you. Show them just why He’s worth it.