Are You A Modern-Day Jonah?

We must remind each other of the sufficiency of God’s word to do his work for his purposes. If we are confident in the ability of the gospel to transform lives, we can boldly and indiscriminately proclaim this good news with sacrificial love to the lost in the hope that some will be saved.
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Read: Jonah 1:1 - 4:11

Jonah is portrayed as a recalcitrant prophet who flees from God’s summons to prophesy against the wickedness of the city of Nineveh. Jonah is called by God to go to Nineveh (a great Assyrian city) and prophesy disaster because of the city’s excessive wickedness. Jonah does not want to prophesy, because Nineveh might repent and thereby be saved. So he rushes down to Joppa and takes the passage in a ship that will carry him in the opposite direction, thinking to escape God. A storm of unprecedented severity strikes the ship, and in spite of all that the master and crew can do, it shows signs of breaking up and foundering. Lots are cast, and Jonah confesses that it is his presence on board that is causing the storm. At his request, he is thrown overboard, and the storm subsides.

A “great fish,” appointed by God, swallows Jonah, and he stays within the fish’s maw for three days and nights. He prays for deliverance and is “vomited out” on dry land (ch. 2). Again the command is heard, “Arise, go to Nineveh.” Jonah goes to Nineveh and prophesies against the city, causing the King and all the inhabitants to repent. Jonah then becomes angry. Hoping for disaster, he sits outside the city to await its destruction. A plant springs up overnight, providing him welcome shelter from the heat, but it is destroyed by a great worm.

Jonah is bitter at the destruction of the plant, but God speaks and thrusts home the final point of the story: “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Questions to expound:

As a Christian, are you sharing the word of God with other people?

What is stopping you from doing so?

What is the importance of sharing the Word of God with people?

Four Reasons We Don't Share The Gospel written by Pastor Steven Lee

The word of God takes off like this, with a life of its own, in the story of Acts:

“But the word of God increased and multiplied.” (Acts 12:24)

“And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” (Acts 13:49)

“So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:20)

Four Obstacles to Evangelism

1. Lack of Gospel Knowledge

How many times have you heard the gospel in a sermon, book, or conversation? If you’ve been a Christian, even for a short time, you have likely heard the gospel hundreds of times. Yet, many of us still struggle to articulate the truths of the gospel in a simple, coherent, and intelligible way. Could you share the essential message of the gospel in sixty seconds, right now?

2. Apathy

Some of us just don’t care that much about lost people. We wouldn’t ever say it, but our priorities and lives reveal it. We make no time in our busy schedules to interact and engage with those who don’t know Christ. We have long stopped praying for lost people in our neighborhoods and workplaces. We have no non-Christian friends, and barely any ties. The lost people are a low priority. For instance, when was the last time you invited someone into your home who did not know Christ?

3. Fear

What will others think of me? What if they don’t like me or my family? Some are paralyzed by the thought of being disliked, marginalized, laughed at, or openly mocked. We’re afraid we’ll lose business or get passed up for that promotion. What if they stop inviting my kids to the birthday parties? What if talking about Christ makes seeing my neighbors awkward? What if they lump me together with Ned Flanders or the Westboro Baptist Church-cult?

4. Lack of Compassion

We lack compassion for the lost. We have long forgotten what it was like to live without hope, lost, and apart from Christ. We rarely consider that those who do not obey Christ “will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). We just don’t care that much. We might say we care, but we rarely cry out to God for the salvation of our lost neighbors, coworkers, and classmates. Paul’s compassion in Romans 9:3 is utterly foreign to us: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers.”

We Overcome Obstacles Together, Not Alone

If making disciples is our mission (Matthew 28:18–20), how can followers of Christ overcome these obstacles to be conduits of grace to the lost? One of the primary ways we can overcome our lack of gospel knowledge, apathy, fear, and lack of compassion is by gathering together with fellow believers to remember and cultivate our core calling and convictions.

We are people who have died to ourselves and live for Christ (Galatians 2:20). We have the profound privilege of spurring on fellow believers to love and good works that God has set before us (Hebrews 10:24; Ephesians 2:10). Some of those good works will be giving verbal testimony to the grace of God in our lives and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the lost.

Four Steps to Sharing More

1. Pray Together for the Lost

As Christians are gathered together in small groups or missional communities, we ought to make it a priority to pray for the lost in addition to our normal prayer concerns. In Acts 4:23–31, after Peter and John are released from prison, the disciples gather to pray for God to give them boldness to speak his word. If the early church needed to pray for greater evangelistic zeal and boldness, how much more do we need to pray similarly in our gatherings?

One simple way to consistently do this in a Bible study or small group setting is to conclude your study with this question: What truths did we learn about God and who can we share this within our spheres of influence? This can naturally transition to praying for those who need to know Christ in our lives. As we pray for God to work in the lives of our lost friends, apathy is transformed into an eagerness and readiness to engage others for the sake of Christ.

2. Recall the Gospel Together

In 2 Timothy 2:8–13, Paul reminds Timothy of the truth of the gospel to encourage him to press on and be faithful to the message that has been entrusted to him. If Timothy — a student of Paul, a faithful servant, a pastor, preacher, and teacher — needed to be reminded of the truth of the gospel to keep going, how much more do you and I need to be reminded of the eternal truths of the gospel?

Much of this reminder happens in the context of gathering together with fellow believers. As God’s people recall his truths — week to week in homes and gathered together in worship — we combat gospel-amnesia by reminding one another that God’s mission is to save sinners through the work of his Son Jesus. As we re-preach the gospel to ourselves and to one another, we’ll be more prepared to speak it afresh to those without Christ.

3. Apply the Gospel Together

In Galatians 2:11–14, Paul opposes Peter because Peter’s conduct and behavior were not in accord with the gospel. Similarly, we need fellow Christians who will tell us that it’s not okay to not care for the lost. Such attitudes are not in accord with the gospel. When fear and apathy are exposed, it is a fresh opportunity to apply the gospel to our own lives. If we are fearful of what others may think, we are reminded that our identity is in Christ and our lives belong to him. If we lack compassion, we are rebuked as we consider God’s deep compassion for sheep without a shepherd.

Evangelism is one measure of our spiritual maturity. For many, theological knowledge does not translate to fruits of the Spirit — into love for fellow believers, or serving others, or sacrificial giving, or evangelism. Together in community, we help one another become more like Christ by being faithful disciple-making disciples.

4. Prove the Power of the Gospel Together

If we do not believe in the sufficiency of the gospel, we will never share it boldly and simply. Yet, if we truly believe that God’s word does the work of conversion through the power of his Holy Spirit, we will unabashedly share the simple and unadorned truth of the gospel. A truncated and inadequate gospel will quickly be abandoned and never shared. But a gospel that can save by grace through faith — apart from works — as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) is believed, treasured, and declared boldly.

With fellow believers, we must remind each other of the sufficiency of God’s word to do his work for his purposes. If we are confident in the ability of the gospel to transform lives, we can boldly and indiscriminately proclaim this good news with sacrificial love to the lost in the hope that some will be saved.