Jonah. He had a clear calling from God to go and preach against the city of Nineveh… But he ran from God. Jonah headed for Tarshish, which is on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea.
Jonah didn’t just hang out where he was in disobedience. He ran the opposite direction. So here Jonah is, asleep in the middle of a storm, willfully walking in disobedience. All of the other sailors are crying out to their gods in fear and desperation. The captain goes down and wakes Jonah up and says “Get up and call on your god!”
I find this situation parallels my life all too often. I turn in disobedience to the Spirit and ignore His leading or His calling. Whether big or small, helping someone, fighting against my flesh, making life changing decisions… all too often I screw it up. Then comes a storm. Something happens and I need or I am asked to call upon the power of the Lord. I have to completely rely on God. Can I do it? I usually fall into the trap of my disobedience. I disobeyed God. I’ve run from God. Who am I to call on Him? How shameful am I? That’s when I must remember the faithfulness of God. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 are my favorite verses:
“If we died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us;
if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
I have to trust the faithfulness of God. He tells me that He has no record of my sins (Heb 8:12). Scripture tells me to approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that I may receive mercy and find grace to help me in my time of need (Heb 4:16). How great is our God! I must stop struggling with myself and my weaknesses and turn to God as my source of grace and power.
Even after Jonah’s disobedience, God still shows up. Before the men threw Jonah overboard, they cried, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life.” They knew that throwing Jonah overboard meant certain death for him. But God still had a plan for Jonah and disobedience didn’t stop that plan. God saved Jonah’s life in the midst of his disobedience and still used him as the one to speak to Nineveh. God didn’t change His mind about Jonah.
How great is it that God’s character never changes? His character and faithfulness are not dependent upon our obedience. So if you’re running from God, stop and turn around. Repent. He loves you and He still wants to boldly move in and through your life.
Paul begins this letter to Timothy by urging Timothy to stay in Ephesus. Paul finds the false doctrines being taught by men in the church to be so damaging that he has urged Timothy to stay in Ephesus more than once. These men, in addition to teaching false doctrines, have devoted themselves to falsities and lost sight of salvation by faith.
Follow through Scripture from the Old Testament to the New and you’ll find that God’s people are like a dog returning to its vomit (Prov 26:11). God so generously, graciously, and mercifully gave us Himself with one burdenless condition: we take Him and Him alone. The church has a 2000 year tradition of taking Christ and adding anything and everything we can think of to Him. In the church today, your attendance, songs, activities, and memory can somehow fill the void that your sin after salvation creates between you and God. Christ’s sacrifice, so simple and oh so deep, has never been enough for His church. Christ made it simple (John 14:6). Satan has abused the simplicity of Christ’s offering and we fall into the belief that our sufficiency in Christ is in some way dependent on us. Paul realized his insufficiency and Christ’s adequacy (1 Tim 1:15-17) and was not going to let the church fall into the hands of false teachings. Paul valued the true Gospel and stressed that Timothy put these men in their place in defense of the Gospel.
These men in the church were devoting themselves to myths and genealogies, causing controversy, and ultimately leading others to meaningless pursuits apart from sincere faith. Imagine a few men in the church leadership causing Christ-distracting controversy.
People pick a church where they like the preacher, music, status, or proximity. People unite behind the things they like, the things they grew up with, and the things that are thus “righteous” in their eyes. Church leaders and members lean upon culture and tradition on top of the Gospel to guide their faith. Culture and tradition… myths and endless genealogies. Go to a traditional church wearing jeans and you will be looked upon as the sinful filth that you are. Wear a suit to the same traditional church and you will fit right in. Move the offering before the sermon and people’s heads will explode. Perfect Sunday School attendance won’t get you to Heaven, but it will sure get you close. Through Paul’s urging of Timothy to stay in Ephesus and end the teaching of false doctrines, we are presented with a clear warning of what results when the uniqueness of the Gospel is clouded with culture and tradition. The Gospel is the only unifying factor among followers of Christ. There is no other reason to gather with Christians except for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Music, dress, and social factors are fallacies upon which many congregations are built. The selfishness of following culture and tradition denies the self-sacrificing love the believer adopts with Jesus Christ. Disagreements simmer, grow, and explode, dividing the body of Christ. This is why the Center for the Study of Global Christianity has recorded 41,000 Christian denominations/ organizations. The body of Christ must unify around the Gospel and focus on God’s work — which is by faith and nothing more.
R: “Though you have not seen him, you love him.” v.8
E: Peter is writing to scattered believers. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Peter is emphasizing how great the reward in Christ, regardless of any present suffering. They are a people who through faith are shielded by God’s power. If they are shielded by God’s power, their suffering is only permitted by God. Their sufferings have come to prove their faith genuine and to glorify Christ. Satan receives no glory from their suffering.
In their faith, the believers are filled with an “inexpressible and glorious joy.” This joy comes not though seeing, but through the salvation of their souls… the goal of their love and belief even though they cannot see.
The Spirit of Christ pointed the prophets to the suffering of Christ and his glories. The prophets committed themselves to revealing Christ for our sake.
A: The world usually sees suffering and grief as defeat: Satan has caused suffering, therefore he is made stronger in his victory and receives glory. But God’s power is a shield much stronger than Satan. He has no power, no victory, no glory. When I suffer, I need to realize that it’s not a defeat. My suffering is allowed by God to prove my faith genuine and result in praise, glory, and honor for Him. Therefore, I should rejoice in my suffering, turn to the face of God, and be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
P: I want to live with an inexpressible and glorious joy… a joy that cannot go unnoticed. I pray that I will embrace suffering and see it for what it is, a refining of my faith. I pray that I will be aware of Your shielding power and that no harm will befall me beyond what you have allowed. You have prepared a place for me and my time now is only to bring you praise, glory, and honor. Help me to love You when I cannot see you, to believe in You when I cannot see You.