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About this series
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
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?