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Put yourself in Jonah’s shoes when he stood inside the whale. That’s where this sermon starts, Jonah in distress on the inside of that fish calling out to God. As adults, we laugh and joke when we see the illustration of Jonah in the whale during Sunday school classes. However, we have no idea what it’s like to be in the belly of a whale, but we do know what it’s like to not be in control, to not see the big picture, and feel like we are in the darkness.

Have we heard God’s voice and chosen not to listen?

We’ve all been to doctors’ appointments where the physician can’t see the complete picture needed to make a diagnosis. At that point, we are given a choice to follow up with recommended testing or ignore the advice and risk missing something important. It’s no fun having to rearrange your schedule to fit in additional appointments, sit for unknown amounts of time in waiting rooms, and then after having tests done, waiting patiently for results.

Would it be easier to avoid the appointments? Sure. However, if we don’t listen to others with knowledge and wisdom, we might miss something we need to know. With God, it’s the same.

We can listen to God and get answers, or we can push it off and live in the dark.    

The same goes for Jonah in the belly of the whale.

Jonah 1
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 
6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

We see in the first few verses the result of Jonah’s disobedience, yet we know God’s love, grace, and compassion is for EVERYONE. But was Jonah worthy of receiving all those things when he blatantly did the opposite of what God told him?

When was the last time God told you to do something and you disregarded it, hoping you didn’t actually hear it? As humans, we have selective hearing. Our spouses, children, or parents will back that up. But unfortunately, the same is true when God speaks, and we don’t want to listen. We know it is His voice, yet we try to tune Him out.

So, how can we stop trying to outrun God?

We see this with Jonah. He tried to run and do his own thing, but God gave him a second chance in the end. Jonah caused his own trial and distress here. He cried out to God and God heard him. He was NEVER too far gone!

God hears us. He hears our silent cries in the shower, driving in the car, or lying in bed at night.    

God is always there, and we can NEVER outrun him. God stayed by Jonah’s side the whole time. He didn’t give up on him even when he made it hard.

What happened to Jonah was not a bad thing in the end because it got him to the point of relinquishing control and realizing he couldn’t save himself. He figured out God was the only one who could save him. And those points of desperation are where we need to get to be different in this world.

Do we show grace when someone cuts us off driving?

Do we show grace when someone posts something on social media we don’t agree with?

Do we show grace as parents when our kids come home with a bad grade?

Do we show grace to ourselves when we deserve it?

Because of the grace we receive from God, we should offer it in the same spirit of humility.    

God gives us grace even when we are rebellious. Jonah is an example of that. He was in the worst position for God to give grace – he was running away from it. And all it took was turning and facing the right direction.

Jonah 1
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 
8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

When we face the right direction, God pours out His grace.

We can find God’s grace:

  • In the darkness – When we can’t see, don’t know what is happening, when things are uncertain. God’s grace is there.
  • In the storm – Jonah faced “the depths of the sea” and “waves crashing.” When you feel like things are going well, are you waiting for a wave to come and crash over you? God’s grace is there.

What we learned from Jonah:

  • God is present everywhere – nowhere is outside of that. He always hears the prayers of His children.
  • We cannot escape God – no matter how hard we try to push Him away, He always knows what we are dealing with, even when we think He doesn’t.
  • He hears our cries AND responds – when we hear a child cry, our immediate reaction is to look up and see if they need help. That’s how God reacts to us.
  • He disciplines His children – parents discipline their children to help them understand something that is wrong, to help them grow. If God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t discipline us.

Remember that our lives are never too far gone, grace received leads to grace given, and salvation is found in God alone. God always hears us and is the ONLY one who can save us.

Sometimes we battle whether we hear other people’s voices, our own, or His loudest, there will always be times we want to do what we want. But we can never outrun God, and He is always for us… never against us.

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