We tend to look at this world and notice the big things first. Whatever we see as unacceptable, and that seems like the biggest deal. Homosexuality is now considered normal and something that should be accepted, every single time we watch the news, we hear about a shooting, a riot, or people getting hurt by others for no reason at all. We hear about vicious attacks against our country, against our people who have done nothing but carry on with their lives. We get upset over a man not standing for the national anthem, most conservative Christians claim to be angered over the thousands of abortions happening weekly, we see spouses lying and cheating on one another, children being neglected and abused, and we look at how bad this world is and we think to ourselves, “Something has got to change.” So, we try doing everything we can to make this world into a better place. We try to help others, we try to keep rowing, as the men in the book of Jonah did. Just like those men, we know the problem, and we know the true solution if we are Christians. The problem is sin, and the only way to fix things is to go to God and let Him work through us. His power is the only way out of this mess. He is the only one who can conquer this sin and heal our nation, heal our world, heal our personal lives. But nevertheless, as scripture says, we continue to focus on these big things and try to fix them ourselves without looking at our lives and finding out what we’re accepting. We may not accept the big sins like I listed above, and yes, that is good, and that is a start; murder, riots, harming others, homosexual acts, adultery, all of those things are sinful and we need to be speaking out against those things, but we have to look in our personal lives first and get ourselves cleaned up before we can ever help anyone in the world.
The men cast lots, and they landed on Jonah. Jonah admitted that he had tried to escape God and His plan for him, he admitted that he was the reason why the storm was raging, why the sea was destroying their boat. And these men knew that the only way to solve this problem and save their boat and everyone in it was to cast Jonah into the sea. In other words, if I can make this personal and try to say what these verses mean to me, that boat is our heart. That boat is our personal life, and we’re holding onto a Jonah. We have something in our lives that is causing the sea to rage on, that is causing the storm to come in and demolish everything. This country, as much as I love my country, has a Jonah that it desperately needs to be rid of. We know that later on, after his time in the sea, Jonah repents of his sin and comes to God, sparking a great revival in Ninevah just as God had planned, but at this point, he was still a sinful man. He hadn’t yet prayed to God in repentance. Those men knew this, and they knew that they needed him out if they wanted any sort of peace in their lives. If they wanted their lives to continue.
Jonah 1:10-13. Notice the words in italic.
10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.
12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
So, these men, these seasoned sailors who had no doubt gotten through many storms in their lives, could not carry on. They rowed hard, scripture says. They tried doing everything they could to get this boat to dry land, to save themselves. Picture it. There is a raging storm, the sea is furious, shaking the boat, tossing them around like dolls while they yell at one another, “Just keep going! Just keep going!” They try as hard as they possibly can to save themselves. This was not a calm journey, they were not talking to Jonah peacefully. Can you imagine them yelling over the wind and thunder, over the sound of the crashing sea? “Jonah! What do we do? How can we save ourselves?!” Can you imagine their fear when they realized that they could not save themselves? Imagine how torn they must have been when they knew they only had one solution, one thing left to try. To cast this man into the sea. God was already planning there in the sea. He knew what He was doing, and He knew that no harm would come to Jonah or to them, but these men did not know this. Jonah was probably even looking down at the sea, wondering if he would die there. If his fate would be to die in the waters. Similarly, we may look at this world and all of the terrible things happening and wonder, “God, what do we do? How do we save ourselves?” We may wonder if this is our fate, if this is our destiny, if this is God’s plan, for us to just sit in this world as it practically goes to Hell before our very eyes, for us to sit and watch nonstop riots, nonstop murders, to watch sin take over everything, even our churches! Even our Christian homes! But if only we would look at our lives…our boat, if you will, and stop trying to row by ourselves and do what God told us to do all along.
14 Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.
15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
All it took was for them to cry out to God and declare that they could not do it on their own, and throw away the the thing that was holding us back. To throw our Jonah into the sea once and for all, and then…maybe then, the sea will cease from her raging.
If we want to see this world get any better or to have any sense of peace back, to have any form of godliness, we have to start with our own lives. The men accepted Jonah, even after they found out that he was fleeing from God and the reason that the sea was raging. We need to do exactly what these men did in the verses 14 and 15. We need to listen to God and do as He says. One decision saved many, many lives. Because they made the decision to throw him into the sea, Jonah was swallowed up by that big fish and carried on to Ninevah. One decision made a huge difference. Can you imagine how big of an impact we could have if we examined our lives and did something about the sin that we found there?
In Clarence Sexton’s most recent message from the Jonah series titled “Into The Sea with Jonah” (which can be found on YouTube, for anyone interested.) he asked the question, “What is unacceptable in our own lives?” and this question convicted me and stirred my heart. I am guilty; I focus on certain big things, like what is going on in this world, things going on in my family, and I have the bad habit of forgetting that little sins are what take us to the big sins. I forget to examine myself and make sure there is nothing standing in the way of God in my life. Am I doing anything that is wrong? Am I doing anything that should be unacceptable in my life? Am I doing something that God finds unacceptable? You see, I want a fire in my life. I want to be full of zeal. I want to be on fire for God and I want nothing in my life that He finds unacceptable. I do not want to be an average-joe Christian who takes Christianity casually. I look at men and women like Leonard Ravenhill, A.W. Tozer, Charles Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliot, and people like the men and women in my personal life that I have met and have impacted me, and I want to be like them. More importantly, I want to be like Jesus. A lot of people have a problem with that, when someone says that they are pursuing godliness, at least, that is what I have noticed. But we are Christians, we are called to be Christlike. I understand that I will never be like Jesus, I will never be very Godly or a complete saint until I am made perfect in eternity, but that does not give me a license to stop trying. I want to view sin as sin, and therefore, no matter how big or small it is, no matter if it is seen as acceptable by society, I want every sin to be unacceptable in my life. I want to view sin as something serious, something that needs to be thrown out of the boat now. I do not want to tarry. I do not want God to look at me and say, “nevertheless…” I want Him to look at me and said, “She cast it into the sea.” Not that I tarried, not that I waited for the perfect moment, that that I did anything unwillingly or without zeal for Him.
That sin may be something tiny, something like the music that we listen to, the shows that we watch, the time-or lack thereof-that we spend in prayer vs. the time we spend on personal time. It may be how we treat our friends, how little we share the Gospel, or it may be something big. We may be cheating on a spouse, be caught in a huge lie, be committing sexual immorality. Either way, that sin-or sins– need to be thrown out of the boat now so that we can see peace, and we can do just what those men did when the seas stopped raging. When the storm was over and they had done what God commanded.
16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.
We can fear the Lord, we can sacrifice for Him, we can make vows to Him, to serve Him and love Him. And then, maybe because of our actions, we will inspire others to do the same. Maybe, we will see a revival in our Ninevah, our America, or wherever our country may be. We all have parts to play in this if we want to see revival, and revival starts with us. It starts with our personal lives, and our own actions. We come to the ends of ourselves and see that we can’t give orders, we have to take God’s orders.
“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”
― A.W. Tozer