Layman's Lounge

Staying in the Wrong Ship

JONAH 1: 1-12 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 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.  Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 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.  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.”  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. 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?”  He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land. ”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.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Friends, Jonah used ungodly people to pursue his own selfish goals.  Despite God's will Jonah had his own agenda.  But when the going got rough Jonah knew it was God trying to stop him, to redirect him.  So many times in our lives we find our going rough, and like Jonah we recognize that we are in the wrong place.  Many of us have grown to recognize the calling and pulling of God on our lives - that little "anxiety" feeling when we are doing what we know is wrong.  But somehow, we stay with it - for some reason we convince ourselves that we are in the right - that we know what is best.  Often it is because we have made the judgment Jonah did; that others do not deserve what God has for them.  The end result is that we lose what God has for us, and place him in a position to have to redirect us.

HEB. 4:1-2 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.  See, we know what is right having had the truth proclaimed to us - but the message is of no value to those who don't obey it, or mix the message with faith.  Many times, however, we end up in the same position they are because we have deemed them unworthy, or that  we have received teaching that limits our individuality.  That's why when God speaks to us as individuals, it can be tempting to overlook it in lieu of "going with the flow." Sticking with our teachings (what some use as "landmarks") can stop you from becoming a Jonah, a Peter, a Paul!  Moving against the grain has to be done carefully and prayerfully, to be sure, but you are to please God rather than man, and sometimes this pulls us out of the boat. 

Getting in the wrong ship can have disastrous results for us.  Ignoring what God has asked us to do because it doesn't fit the mold of what we think we should do, or more importantly, what we are taught to do, can lead us into storms.  Even when the storms are designed to turn us around, as humans we can misinterpret the violence we find ourselves in as devilish turmoil.  But the reality is - God has a course for us.  Staying in the wrong ship can cause us to miss the mark. 

Jonah knew that the only way to avoid fulfilling God's will was to die.  He also knew that suicide would never work, so he arranged to have the travelers throw him out.  No doubt his philosophy was something like "Well, if they hadn't thrown me out I wouldn't have drown, so really God it's their fault."  That's how we sometimes are with God.  We look for similar excuses to stay in the ship or use others as the reason we can't do what we should.  "Well, if they hadn't hurt me...if they hadn't said that, or done this, then I could fulfill your will."  The whole time we are deliberately setting ourselves in a place of excuse.  Ulitmately, however, this plan will backfire.  They WILL throw you out.  As surely as Jonah was tossed for bringing turmoil,  you will find yourself on the outside looking in.  People don't want someone as openly unstable as you in their midst.  When the going gets rough each man looks to his own god, his own corner and when the option is presented, they tossed Jonah out on his ear. 

People look for unity.  Whether in God or in themselves, people will huddle together in order to survive.  God has presented us an opportunity to unify for growth and support, but some unify for personal reasons or because of training/teaching.  Don't you know that God wants you to make it?  To be with him on this earth and in His heaven?  And if he wants you to make it, he will make a way for you to make it?  Why would we be so selfish as to align ourselves with a ship going in the wrong direction?  After all God has done for you, why pursue your own agenda?  Why seek your own goals?  It is because you do not truly believe in him and the reality of him that puts you in a place of storms.  If you seek God enough you will begin to identify the hesitation that marks that you are on the wrong path.  If you are in the midst of storms, try to realize the cause.  Most storms are just part of life, but there are those storms designed to change your direction. 

JONAH 1:17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. It was in the midst of the preparation that God was able to take Jonah in the right direction.  If you have been challenged and called to do something you are just not sure of, and have since fallen into a struggle, be alert.  God may be pushing you into the belly of his preparation!  He may be just about to change your course.  You don't need to stay in the wrong ship, nor wait until others forsake you.  You can change course now!  You can make the decision to serve God as he wants before he decides to shake you up.  What am I talking about?  Just this:  Prayer and fasting will clear your heart.  Clarity will open God's work to you and set you on the right path.  But if you decide to remain aloof, to stay in the wrong ship, you may have to pay a price you are not prepared for.  You may lose those you consider friends, or worse, before you realize there is another path.  But it is not necessary.  God is not requiring you to suffer needlessly, he is calling you out of the dockyard - out of the people who are not truly yours before you pay that price.  Jonah could have avoided the sea altogether had he moved to bring revival to people that he felt didn't deserve it. 

Friends we are praying that God will reveal his will to you and that you will know it as your own.  We pray that you will move even if it seems it isn't expedient.  If you are resisting God we pray that you will find the belly of preparation, and understand God is only doing what he must for your good.  No one has the calling you do.  No one can reach the people you can.  You are unique.  Get out of the wrong ship.  Start talking and walking in the direction God is calling you and you will fulfill his purpose in more than just your life.

In Love,

Elder Mark and Sister Dana Neddeau