I’ve always liked the Bible story of Jonah and the whale. In one church we attended there was a massive painting of it on the Sunday school wall.
The story has been on my mind for a while but Jonah doesn’t really come out of it all that well. At best he’s a chicken who does a runner, and at worst (probably the more accurate interpretation) he’s a judgemental narcissist! I love how we can all feel a little better about our characters after comparing with biblical ones.
But Jonah’s character has not been on my mind, I’ve been thinking about the time that he was in the belly of the whale. Was it a wasted time, or an incubation period? He certainly came out of it with a more focused approach!
I think there are times in our lives when we need a little incubation time. To reassess our life choices, to dig a bit deeper into what God wants us to do with our lives. Minister’s sometimes take a sabbatical, which is an opportunity to refresh their own faith, so that they may serve their communities better. Churches have times of ‘building up’, where the aim is to strengthen and grow closer to God as a community. They do this so they are better fit to care for the world around them.
The thing is that Jonah was not supposed to spend the rest of his life in that whale. It was for a short time only, and it worries me that as Christians we have become so used to spending time building ourselves up, becoming a stronger church or praying for revival that we have forgotten to step out onto the shore and share our message. Jonah was an absolute nightmare and God didn’t say to him… “you better stay in there, I’m not letting you loose with my message”. Nope, he gave him the pretty important job of saving a whole community.
Have we forgotten what it’s like to not have the hope of heaven, forgiveness, grace and love? Maybe we’ve got used to having that stuff and now we take it for granted. But what about everyone else? We have a job here people. Let’s act on our faith. Why don’t we step out of the whale and share a bit of that hope, love and grace? Let’s face it, we can’t make a worse start than Jonah, and God ended up using Him to save a mighty city of 120,000 people.
Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. 2 Peter 3 vs8-9