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You Were Made for More
Facing the "Jonah" in All of Us
What do you know about the story of Jonah? Maybe you remember something about a big fish, a violent storm, and an evil city called Nineveh. Well, in this 10-part series, Chip has teamed up with his son Ryan Ingram to teach through the book of Jonah… and share there’s actually a lot more to this familiar Bible adventure for us to learn. They’ll unpack what Jonah’s life reveals about handling adversity, God’s love for all people, and how we can experience the more we were created for.More from this series
If you’ll open your Bibles to Jonah, we are going to look at chapter 2. But before we do, I just want to, as you get there, we talked about “shift” and how God actually allows storms to come into our life, and at times even, we learned, causes storms into our life to shift our focus, shift our life, our mindset, sometimes, our careers, our relationships so that we get the more that He really wants us to have. And as Ryan was teaching, he said, “I want you to write this prayer down.” So I did. “Heavenly Father, would You give me an opportunity to share with someone in some way about You today.”
And so, I wrote names down. And I have prayed for them every single day since week one. And it really is interesting how when you shift and you – and I told God, I was – I’m sorry. It’s not like I have neglected them or I haven’t shared or haven’t done this. But they are not on my heart the way they were on God’s heart.
And so, I have prayed for them every single day and it’s amazing. Stuff started happening. So, the one guy that I really like, he’s around the corner or so. And I have seen him on the golf course and out of the blue, he’s doing this charity event to help some other people, and it’s, I think it’s a little boy that died early and he got to know the family. And he was literally orchestrating this charity event. And it had something to do with golf. And I couldn’t go, but I wanted to contribute. So, because I had been praying for him every day, it was not like, Should I? I just wrote a check and I said, “But I’m not available on that day.”
And so, he calls me and says, “Would you do me a favor?” I said, “Well, sure.” He said, “The woman that lost her son, and all this happened, she’s a woman of faith. And you gave me that book that you wrote on Why I Believe. Do you think you could give her one? Or maybe something different?”
And I thought, Here I have been, for how many years, and out of the blue, or so is my experience, as I prayed for him and God shifted my focus… And then afterward he said, “Hey, since you can’t make that event, how about you and I drive down to that golf course and we’ll spend the day together?”
God allows storms in our lives to shift our focus in our life onto the more that we were made for. And so, in Jonah’s case, what we find is I can really identify, he’s a little hardheaded. And so, we know the story, right? He gets thrown in by the sailors and Jonah, we’ll pick it up in verse 17.
And so, let’s follow it together. So, Jonah runs away from God, and these pagan sailors, they start praying to the one true God and they offer sacrifices. And it’s like, okay, hey, please forgive us, but, you know, one, ready guys? Two, three… And they throw him in. And, of course, Jonah is like: I’m done. “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish.”
Now, imagine. And we have done enough research and we’ve got two or three sort of historical examples. But let’s go there for just a minute. Okay? It’s a huge animal, whale, great fish, something. Actually, in Hebrew it’s a sea monster. And it’s slimy and it’s dark, and there’s oxygen and you can breathe but I just can’t imagine. And so, he’s sort of drifting down through the water and notice, “God appoints” - His direction, His sovereignty.
What I want you to notice as I read this, listen like someone who has been in this yicky, terrible place and yet realizing, “Hey, I didn’t die.” Listen for this contrast. Jonah says or speaks or prays or cries. And then listen for how the response is, because as we read this, I want you to know that when you blow it and when I blow it and when we feel hopeless and like, you know, we don’t deserve anything, I want you to catch this. “I called out of my distress to the Lord,” and in your Bible you might underline, “He answered me. I cried for help from the depths of Sheol,” that’s a Hebrew from death. I just cried, I mean, I’ve got no hope. “He heard my voice.” He still has a little bit of reframing life, which we all do when we are running from God. “For You cast me into the deep.” Did God cast him into the deep? Or is he in the deep because of decisions that he made?
Hey, I don’t know, have you ever done this? I’ve done this a lot, like, you know sort of what is right to do and you don’t do it. And you turn away from God and He says, “That’s
not a good relationship,” or, “That’s not a good decision,” or, “Those circumstances are dangerous.”
And so, you go ahead and do it, and then you get in a jam and then you do this, “Boy, God, how could You let this happen?” That’s where he’s at. But he’s going to get his perspective in a minute.
“Into the heart of the sea, and the current engulfed me.” Imagine him, he’s floating down. “All Your breakers and billows passed over me. So,” he’s thinking, I’m going to respond. “So, I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight.’” He’s in this moment. “You said to do this, this is what I did, I’m in actual willful, shaking my fist rebellion. So, I have been expelled from Your sight.”
“Nevertheless,” circle that word in your Bible. “Nevertheless, I will look again toward the holy Temple.” And the Hebrew mindset at that time, that’s where you prayed. That would be God’s presence. He goes, “I am out of Your sight, I don’t deserve anything, but nevertheless, I’m going to look again.” So, you know, it’s like, I’m going down, I know I’m going to die. But I’m going to shoot up a prayer. “The waters encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me.” You getting these verbs? Encompassed, engulfed, billows pass over me, the weeds wrapped around my head. It’s pretty graphic.
“I descended to the roots of the mountains.” In other words, he has actually hit the bottom, not only of the sea, but of his life. “The earth with its bars around me forever.” This is: I am done. And he understands: I am done because of my choices and my rebellion and what I have done.
And then, here’s another big contrast. You might circle this, because the first big one was, “Nevertheless,” I know I don’t deserve it. And this is, “But You have brought my life from the pit, O Yahweh, my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy Temple.”
And then I love it, he goes, “Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness,” and he is incriminating himself. His vain idol was: My will, my way, my perspective. And now
he’s got palms up, inside of a dark, smelly, slimy environment.
And he says, “But I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed,” going to Nineveh, “I will pay.”
And then here’s the great line that you just put a squiggly line under it, put a box around it, “Salvation is from the Lord.” It’s this great moment. In the context here, he’s not looking at – when we say “salvation” we think justification.
I turned from my sin, I prayed to receive Christ, but the word “salvation” literally means to be delivered, to be delivered out of something. And so, the author here is letting us know Jonah is delivered out of this. But it’s thematic. The Ninevites are going to be delivered. The sailors were delivered. Salvation comes from God and God alone. It’s one of the great themes of the book. “Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.”
Put a circle around vomited. It’s a really key word and we are going to come back to it. And, by the way, when you think “vomited” – I read a guy, he’s a scholar. And he did all this word study on vomit. And he said, “Puke, regurgitate,” think of the smell, think of…
He said, “Vomit means vomit.” And he said, “It’s a unique word used in the Old Testament.” There are a handful of times where God talks about what He vomits and why. And we will get there in a minute. But I just don’t want you to miss that.
What is the big idea? In other words, Jonah, we just heard his prayer, right? “I’m running away from God, a storm comes, I get thrown in the ocean, I’m beyond hope, I cry out for help.” Here’s the big idea: “God delivers us from storms to reveal His mercy and to position us to fulfill the more that we are made for.
And the context from chapter 1 and chapter 4 is this: Jonah’s disobedience and despair were birthed out of fear that God’s agenda might be different than his desires. Right? Wasn’t that it? I mean, he was afraid, like, “I don’t want to go to Nineveh.” Why? We learn in chapter 4 as it opens up, he says to God, “See?” You’re going to learn a little bit later. Ryan, I don’t want to get the cat out of the bag. But a little pre-tell here, he actually will go, he will actually preach, and the most wicked people that we have any record of in ancient history are the Ninevites.
It’s so evil, it makes stuff that Hitler did look like child’s play. It’s so inhumane; so wicked. And God forgives them and Jonah goes, “The reason I fled, because I understood,” he’s got good theology. “You’re this merciful God. No matter where people are at, if they ever repent, if they ever genuinely turn, if they ever ask, see I knew You would do this.”
And so, it’s very – he’s logical. Jonah’s logic is God is merciful, therefore I’m not going to go to Nineveh.
Second, Jonah’s desire is for God’s justice for the Ninevites. Right? It’s like, “God, I don’t want to go preach truth. What if they respond?” And Jonah also knows he’s got a prophecy in the back of his mind that about thirty years later that the Lord is going to bring about judgment to Israel.
And so, he’s like us, he thinks it through. Now, let’s see, if I don’t go and they don’t repent, that’s the group that is supposed to come later, which they did in 722 B.C. This is written about 760 B.C. And so, Jonah is really logical. It really makes sense to him. God has this plan, but I know better. My desires, my purposes, my outcomes are better.
And so, Jonah’s action reveal tribalism over lordship. See, at the end of the day, Jonah says, “The Israelites – my people, my group – are more important than God’s agenda, because I know better.” Anybody seeing any of this in our life in the last couple years? I think the ugliness I have seen inside the Church probably breaks my heart as much or more than anything I have ever seen. And it’s tribalism. And it can be nationalism, but I mean, inside the Church. There are people that don’t talk to each other anymore.
They have said things and done things, and I mean, it has been unbelievable. And instead of Jesus; instead of: What’s God’s plan? We may have all kind of differences, but what is God’s big agenda and isn’t our lordship to Him and what He wants us to do – so wouldn’t we treat one another with respect and humility and understanding? And say, “I wonder, maybe there’s a bigger thing than our deal, our tribe?” “Well, we are this group. We think, we think this is the only way to do it.” “Well, we gave to this group.” “Well, we gave to that group.” Tribalism, tribalism, tribalism. Our group, our way, our age, old or young, our ethnicity, our program, our view of Scripture – all these little tribes saying, “We know best,” that was Jonah’s sin.
Jonah’s deliverance was birthed in His faith that God is merciful, even to those who willfully reject Him. Notice I put some verses from His prayer. Jonah’s near-death experience, what? He’s in distress. Jonah’s prayers and cries for help. He gets deliverance. Jonah’s response is this psalm of thanksgiving.
What I want you to know, and this is so critical for us, Jonah has good theology, doesn’t he? He believes the truth. God is merciful. Since God is merciful, I don’t want to do what He tells me to do, because I hate those people.
My job has me doing a lot of travel around the world. Just before the pandemic I was in China seven times. And we do training of pastors, especially in rural areas.
And then maybe three times in the Middle East in that season.
And one of the biggest takeaways I got from being with those people is their view of suffering and God’s big picture instead of our own. I’ll never forget a pastor, he was a house church pastor in China. And I had a chance to eat with him and we were getting to know one another, and he talked about his – he was on sort of a traveling evangelistic campaign somewhere throughout China and the church met in his home and they moved things around.
And the authorities came, the wife said, “No, no, no, no. I’m the pastor, I’m the only one.” And the people left and they beat her to a pulp for two or three days. And he came back, found his wife, and was telling this story and in my gut, in my tribalism, it was, “I’ll tell you what, someone ever did that to my wife, Theresa, I’ll tell you what, I mean, right? And I’m thinking that and then he leans over with his eyes watery and says, “Can you imagine that God would ever count us worthy to suffer for Him like that?” And I was, I mean, I was too embarrassed to say anything. I thought, I had a lot of thoughts in my mind, but that one never came to my mind. Do you see his perspective? Eternity. His perspective? God’s agenda. His perspective? Of course, we are going to suffer in a fallen world where there are sinful people who do wicked things. And God will use them, we have – he sounded like the early apostles.
In one of the trainings there in the Middle East, one of the groups that had come had done some other training. And the leader of it was telling me, “They said, ‘Thank you for this training. We don’t have much access to good teaching. Before we go back to our country, would you teach us to die well? Would you teach us to die well?’” Do you get it? It’s not my agenda, it’s not my country, it’s not my group, it’s not my young, it’s not my old – it’s: What does God want? Shift! What does God want for my life? Shift away from my culture, my desires, my: This is the way it has got to be. This is what is happening in this passage.
Jonah’s disobedience and despair were birthed out of fear that God’s agenda might be different than his desires. Jonah’s desire is for God’s justice for the Ninevites. Right? It’s like, “God, I don’t want to go preach truth. What if they respond?” And Jonah also knows he’s got a prophecy in the back of his mind that about thirty years later that the Lord is going to bring about judgment to Israel.
And so, he’s like us, he thinks it through. Now, let’s see, if I don’t go and they don’t repent, that’s the group that is supposed to come later, which they did in 722 B.C.
And so, Jonah’s action reveal tribalism over lordship. See, at the end of the day, Jonah says, “The Israelites – my people, my group – are more important than God’s agenda, because I know better.” Anybody seeing any of this in our life in the last couple years? I think the ugliness I have seen inside the Church probably breaks my heart as much or more than anything I have ever seen. And it’s tribalism. And it can be nationalism, but I mean, inside the Church. There are people that don’t talk to each other anymore. They have said things and done things, and I mean, it has been unbelievable.
My job has me doing a lot of travel around the world. Just before the pandemic I was in China seven times. And we do training of pastors, especially in rural areas.
And then maybe three times in the Middle East in that season.
In one of the trainings there in the Middle East, one of the groups that had come had done some other training. And the leader of it was telling me, “They said, ‘Thank you for this training. We don’t have much access to good teaching. Before we go back to our country, would you teach us to die well? Would you teach us to die well?’” Do you get it? It’s not my agenda, it’s not my country, it’s not my group, it’s what does God want? Shift! What does God want for my life? Shift away from my culture, my desires, my: This is the way it has got to be.
This is what is happening in this passage. You’ll notice the little chart that I gave you. Jonah, you talk about, he knew God’s Word. But he didn’t quite apply it. Notice in chapter 2, the verses on the left side, he didn’t come up with a single original word in that prayer. All the different psalms that he quotes. Now, by the way, I don’t know about you, but when I pray, I would sure like in the midst of my distress, God, bring to my mind… Remember, the psalms were sung?
These are – this part of this song and this part of this song and this psalm. And he had probably a huge percentage of all the psalms, as a prophet, memorized. And so, he’s sinking, right? He’s sinking and all the Word of God is coming to his mind and he takes this part and this part and this part and this part and he puts it together and he prays.
I’ll tell you what, when you’re in a jam, having God’s Word on your heart, there may be nothing more important or more valuable. So, I want to give him an A-plus on that, okay? Jonah, A-plus on getting into God’s Word, hiding it in your heart, and having good theology. You absolutely know God is merciful.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Let’s go from Jonah’s world to ours. What do we learn from Jonah? Because – that’s positive, okay? I never want to get too down on the people in Scripture, because the more I study and the more honest I am I realize there’s a mirror here. So, I’m glad that when I read about where they blow it, that God is merciful and understanding. So, let’s go to the positive side of what we learn.
One, he knew God’s character and he acted accordingly, right? He knew God was merciful. Since that’s true, I’m going to run. But he also knew, since God is merciful, even though I don’t deserve it, I’m going to cry out to Him. He knew God’s Word and he quoted it spontaneously.
By the way, just aside, as Ryan said, I’ve been in ministry forty years but I came to Christ when I was eighteen. So, it’s been a lot of years. And because of what God called me to do, I used to teach and I went to school, then I went to graduate school, and then after that I had to go to seminary. It was like, “Are you kidding me?”
And sometimes people will say, “Well, what was the most valuable thing? Was it education? Or where you went to seminary, you had to learn all those languages?” And you know what I would say to them? The most valuable thing that ever happened in my life that has shaped my life in all the storms, I’m thankful for all that, I’m not dismissing it. There was a bricklayer with a high school education who, when I went to college, came and met with me once a week.
And I wasn’t a very, I was a slow started. Sometimes I would pretend I was asleep when he would knock on the door. The first couple years, everyone was memorizing verses and it was like, “Hey, you know, it’s in the Bible, dude. I’m not going to memorize it. Nah.” Right? And eventually, I really was struggling in an area of my life and it was, I wasn’t planning to do this, but there were four girls to every guy on our campus.
And I was committed at this point to be pure, to do life God’s way, and my behavior reflected that. My mind and my thoughts were just, I was the most lustful Christian that I knew. And I tried and tried and tried and tried. I tried and I failed so much I finally decided, I don’t think I can be a Christian.
And just before I was ready to sort of give things up, I had a roommate who was going to a summer Christian training program, but before he got there, there’s this thing called the topical memory system. And you had to memorize these sixty verses and have them word perfect.
And they were just on the basic things, you know, God’s Word and fellowship and temptation. And he was a heavyweight wrestler. And a lot of the – I was in a dorm where a lot of the athletes were. And I was a point guard on the basketball team, so we had this sort of little rivalry.
He was a brother in Christ. He really had a great impact on my life. So, he left the room one day and I got his cards out and I cut up 3x5 cards and I wrote down his sixty verses and to spite him – this is just to spite him – I don’t want to really know God’s Word. To spite him, he was going to take how many months to do it, I thought, I’m going to do one a day, review them all every day, and then I’m going to walk in casually when I’ve got sixty of them and say, “Well, Bob, how are you coming on that?” You lame wrestler.
And then I was going to quote them like this. And I had a psychology professor that - This guy was perhaps the most boring teacher that has ever - So, I would sit in the back with the book up, and I would review verses every day. And I got twenty-one in a row down and I remember coming around the library and a very attractive co-ed who was involved in the ministry, and I found as a young man and probably as an older man – but lusting for people that don’t walk with God is one thing. But you feel extra guilty when you lust for someone who is sweet and loves God with all their heart. And I – it’s like double, double guilt.
And so, she came around and I had always been really attracted to her, and I remember we talked and then I started to go and as I was walking I realized I didn’t lust at all. In fact, wait a second. This may sound funny. I’ve got twenty-four hours under my belt. And then I did the sixty verses and then I started memorizing some chapters. And then years later I got around a guy who said, “You know, you should just do some, do Philippians or do James.”
Here’s what I’m going to tell you. Of all the things I have ever done in all my life, renewing my mind and memorizing Scripture has been the single most powerful thing to help me walk with God, avoid temptation, hear His voice. And I can’t tell you how many times when I was praying, God, I don’t know what to do. Tchoo! Here’s a verse. And so, that’s an aside. Notice positively, he ran to God when he felt unworthy. That’s so powerful.
When I – I remember – and I still do this to a degree. But when I really blow it, used to think, like, I needed to take a two-day break from God. I’m not going to read, I’m not going to pray, I’m so ugly, I knew was right, I didn’t do it. And then sort of like, Okay, God, I’m kind of back. Like, I had to go to the woodshed, right? Like, you did really bad so you should feel really bad. So you should pay for it. And here’s the deal. “God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He longs to meet us right where we’re at.
Principle one, the Lord frequently uses moments of great darkness to drive us into the light. Moments of great darkness to drive us into the light. Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful, yet those who have been trained by it,” it’s a process, “those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Well, negatively, what did we learn from Jonah? He was thankful, but he wasn’t repentant. His words were good, but his heart was hard. He wanted relief not transformation. And where I get that is that, you know, he prayed this thanksgiving prayer. There was something missing. Did anyone read in that prayer, “I’m sorry. I blew it. Please forgive me.”
Did he ever ask God for forgiveness? He didn’t. But, by the way, the sailors, it says, “They offered prayer and then they made a sacrifice.” Jonah promises, he says, “I will offer a sacrifice and I will pay my vow.” Is there anywhere where we learn where he ever sacrificed?
Principle number two is spiritual growth demands we confess and forsake our sin. And here’s the keyword: to experience the more that we are made for. Proverbs 28:13, it says, “The one who confesses and forsakes their sin experience God’s blessing and His prosperity.”
Well, let’s look at that in contrast to David. When David sinned in Psalm 51, you don’t need to turn there. Do you remember the beginning of his prayer? “Against You and You only I have sinned, Lord.”
And do you remember? He said, “If there were sacrifices, if there were motions I could go through, if I could a hundred sheep or a thousand cattle or whatever,” he goes, “if I could get back in Your good graces by earning my way there, I’d do it.”
And then he says, “A broken [spirit] and a contrite [heart], O God, You will not despise.”
See, God is merciful. There’s something about our suffering and our hurt, but we have to come. And when David came, God forgave. What we tend to do is we tend to be like Jonah, and we run, option A; or option B, I call Jonah the great pretender. I prayed the prayer, I know Your Word, I got it, and I’m going to go through the motions and I am going to go do what You told me to do,” but he’s not doing it because there’s a change of heart. He’s not doing it because he cares about the Ninevites.
You know, I’ve done some nice things for my neighbors and I have invited them to things, and I have shared Christ at different times. But what God wanted, the shift was, “Do you care about them, Chip, the way I care about them? Do you care about them to pray every single day for them? And then by faith will you expect that I show up?” People are never going to be probably as open, family members, neighbors, co-workers – the world is a messed-up place right now. And they are vulnerable, and you know what they are looking for? Not someone who fits into some little niche and, well, “I believe in Jesus and that’s my tribe and feel okay with that.” They are looking for light and salt and love. Someone like you. And you start with your actions and God does great things through us normal people.
Notice, what did we learn about God? What is the big takeaways about who God really is? We learn He’s merciful to sailors, even though they worshipped idols. Mercy to Jonah, even though he’s in willful rebellion. And He gives mercy to Nineveh, the most wicked people on the earth. Each one of them got delivered in a different way.
I jotted this in my notes. It was what, how God revealed Himself to Moses. “He is kind and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.” And then for me in my own words I just, for me when I blow it, “He’s patient. God is gentle, God is ready to forgive, He wants to forgive me, He wants to restore me, He is not mad at me.”
You might jot Psalm 86:5 in your notes. In the Living Bible it says, “O Lord, You are so good, so kind, so ready to forgive everyone who comes and calls on You for help.”
The principle here is your view of God will determine your life. Behavior always follows belief. I’m the product of my thought life, you’re the product of yours.
“As a man or a woman,” Proverbs 23:7, “as a man or a woman thinks in your heart, so you will become.” The person sitting in your chair is the product of all the things you have been putting in your mind for the last five, ten, or fifteen years. The books you have read, the movies, the relationships – all of it – creating this lens.
And then we act in a way that makes sense to us. Some of it we don’t even know that we believe. Your view of God. He is absolutely sovereign over everything. Did you notice? He controls the sea, the wind. He appoints the fish. Later on, He’ll cause a plant to grow. Later on, He will tell a worm to go eat the plant. Remember they cast lots? God controls. That wasn’t chance. He controls deities and powers.
And this is the final principle. You will not always understand God’s ways, but you can trust Him for everything and everyone, because His purposes cannot be thwarted.
His purposes cannot be thwarted.
There’s a lot of times in my life and I could spend a lot of hours telling you times that were dark and difficult, and I didn’t understand them. But over the years, I have learned for every one, every circumstance, an all-knowing, all-powerful God who is good – Job says, “O Lord, You are God, Your purposes can’t be thwarted.”
I love the quote by Saint Ignatius. He said, “Sin is unwillingness to trust that what God wants for me is only for my deepest happiness.” You see, at the end of the day, Jonah flees because he thought God’s plan and purposes would not bring him what he really wanted. And I flee and I run to different things and you do because down deep, we have this warped view of God that He doesn’t have the very best, that He’s not really good.
And so, the message today is: He is so merciful that wherever you are, whatever you feel like, Oh, how could God ever accept me? It’s because of who He is, it’s not because of who you are. This passage screams, “I love you, I want to forgive, I want to restore, I want you to draw near to Me and I will draw near to you.”
And then the deeper message is: Would you follow Me?