Every person at some point in their life will find themselves in the “belly” of their circumstance, so to speak.
Things in life happen, decisions need to be made, and very often we find out a little too late that we made the wrong choice.
Have you ever found yourself in a place like that? If not yet, you will.
When you discover that God really does have a plan for your life and a call ON your life, you will face decisions.
Now, to be clear, the call of God on and in your life is a powerful thing that has the potential to bring you multiplied blessings and a life of great joy…if you give in to your call…and if you stay faithful to it.
What the Lord desires of us more than anything else is: Obedience, faithfulness, and prayer.
These three simple things lay the foundation for every great work of God that has ever transpired or that will ever happen in our individual life.
Of the three, obedience, plain and simple is the most important. Why? Because if you are obedient, you will be faithful, and if you are faithful, you WILL be a person of prayer.
Obedience to the call of God and plan of God in your life is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. To walk away from the call and plan of God, out of disobedience to it, places your life in a position where God cannot bless you, or protect you, in the way he most desires.
You are open and vulnerable to the situations and circumstances of life.
Now, the call and plan of God is something that I talk about a lot; and before you dismiss it as something only for someone else…don’t.
For you, the call of God could be as a husband, wife, mother or father. Your call could be in the form of a business or even as a missionary. Yes, the call of God on your life might be in the form of preaching or teaching the gospel of Jesus. The call on your life at the moment may be as a grandparent who has the potential to positively affect your grandchild’s life in every way, including spiritually.
God’s call on your life might be for the Lord to use you in a specific time, a specific place, and a specific way, that will only come around once in a lifetime.
You don’t want to miss your call, or be disobedient to the call and plan of God.
The time of God’s call for your life begins now, as he prepares you for what is next and for your next step. Plus, the secret to leading a life that leaves a powerful, lasting legacy, is that a person be ready for their time when it comes.
Your time is coming. The moment of your call and your destiny is on its way. You and I need to be ready for that moment when it arrives.
The call of God takes on many forms. Every person is individually called to a plan and purpose designed by God before their birth.
There is something for you to do AND there is someone for you to BE. These two things are inseparable.
What you do with the plan of God is important. In fact, how you choose to respond and react to the plan of God for your life makes all the difference in the world about the end result of your life and legacy. Your response to his call also determines many of the blessings from the Lord that you have the possibility of enjoying throughout your life.
With this being said, I want to begin a series about man that you are most likely familiar with. He found out first hand about disobedience to the call of God and what can happen when we are disobedient to God’s plan.
Jonah is a name immortalized by the circumstances he got himself into. We all know some form of the story.
For sure, Jonah finds out about the consequence of not following the call of God, but he also learns about the depths of God’s love, and just how far God will go to give us a second chance.
So, if you’ve ever needed a second chance, or an opportunity to change things…let’s “dive” into Jonah’s story (pun intended), and let’s see what God wants us to do.
Jonah 1:1–17 NLTse
1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai:
2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
This is the call of God on Jonah’s life. It is what the Lord wants him to do, and where the Lord wants him to go.
God never makes a mistake about his call on your life. When he has issued a call and laid out a plan, you can trust that EVERYTHING about the call is right.
God knows what he is doing.
But fear of the unknown can push us to do things that we should never do. In fact, much of the time, we react to fear in ways that lead us down the wrong path at worst, or at the least, a path that is negative for our life.
That’s what Jonah did, and it led him to an infamous encounter.
3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
Many of us go in the opposite direction from what God desires for our life. Maybe because we are afraid or because we don’t want to do it.
But when you run away from God’s plan for your life, no matter what else you might do or how noble it may sound, it is still plain disobedience.
Disobedience to God doesn’t just happen, it is a choice to buy a ticket going in the opposite direction from what God wants in your life.
That’s a point we need to remember. We NEVER just “fall” into disobeying God. It is ALWAYS a choice.
Whether we know it or not, or understand it or not, makes no difference. The choice to obey or disobey is OURS ALONE.
More than anything, God is trying to bring GOOD into your life. He cannot bless you when you walk in a path that is contrary to his will.
Obedience, faithfulness, and prayer, will bring incomparable blessings if you walk in them.
Choices bring consequences.
Consequences can be both negative AND positive. We must choose a life that brings positive consequences and blessing, by choosing to walk in the plan and call of God.
4 But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.
Disobedience will cause your life to be placed in a precarious place, whether you know it or not.
God has a way of getting our attention when we are not where we are supposed to be. Why? Why would God react this way to Jonah’s disobedience?
First of all, because he loves Jonah.
Secondly, because there is a REAL PURPOSE associated with his plan in Jonah’s life.
We also need to understand this.
God’s plan, purpose, and call on your life has consequences beyond your own life and blessing. It affects and involves other people as well.
God’s plan is NEVER about me alone. It is about how my life affects those it intersects with.
5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.
6 So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
Disobedience will lull you to sleep In the middle of the chaos. You will have this feeling that you are OK, when in actuality you are in a position that endangers your life, your spirit, your well being, and those around you.
Here’s a point to remember:
YOUR SPIRITUAL ACTIONS ALWAYS AFFECT THOSE AROUND YOU.
In fact, your spiritual action or inaction will always affect those closest to you. In this instance, the sailors on the ship where the ones closest to Jonah. They were also the ones MOST AFFECTED by his choices.
For you, your family or friends, or even those you work with on a daily basis could be the ones who bear the brunt of your choice to disobey the voice, plan, purpose, and call of God.
Now…pay attention to what happens next to Jonah. Why? Because it will happen to you too.
7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit.
Your actions will always identify you.
They will always show WHO you really are and WHAT you are really doing.
Though it sometimes takes time, our actions, not our intentions, eventually define us.
8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”
9 Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.
11 And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”
12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
When you truly serve the Lord, the Holy Spirit will help you identify where you’ve taken the wrong path and made a wrong turn.
Those who actually follow Jesus out of a true heart, will hear from the Lord if they go the wrong way, and at that point they will face a choice.
Make no mistake, your choice to draw close to God or run from his plan will bring consequences.
Disobedience to God will always land you in a sea of chaos.
Your circumstances will get the better of you.
Why? Because we reap what we sow.
The Bible is clear about this…
Galatians 6:7–9 NLTse
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.
8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
God SENT this storm into Jonah’s life to push him towards repentance.
Why? Because God knows when we repent he can get us back to a place of blessing instead of cursing.
What is repentance?
Is it prayer?
Is it confession?
I believe it involves both, however, the real crux of repentance has to do with action.
Repentance means: to turn around.
When you repent, you begin walking in the opposite direction.
You begin doing things different than before.
You can pray all day long, can confess every known sin in your life, but if you never repent and actually begin walking in a NEW DIRECTION, the latter will be of no effect in your life.
13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.
14 Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”
15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!
16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
Here’s what we need to remember about God’s plan: walk in it.
Don’t deviate from it. Be obedient to the plan of God.
You might think that what’s going on in your life is simply circumstantial; but before you dismiss your current difficulties to happenstance, take an inventory of your life and ASK THE LORD if there is ANYTHING you need to repent of.
Jesus loves you.
When you pray, confess, and truly repent…he will make a way out of your situation.
I am reminded of the following scriptures…
Romans 5:6–8 NLTse
6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.
(The sailors where NOT willing to die for Jonah, were they? NO!)
8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
This is the difference between God and man.
God the Father loves us and will go to extraordinary lengths to save us.
He went so far that it cost him his only son, Jesus…and he did it just for you and me.
In case you missed it, here are the action steps we need to take today. I encourage you to not dismiss this, especially if you feel like it doesn’t apply to you, because often, we dismiss as unnecessary, those things that we most need.
- Take an inventory of what is currently happening in your life. Is it good or bad? Does it feel like blessing or cursing?
- Ask the Lord if there is anything you need to repent of. Especially do this if you don’t think you need to do it. If we don’t think we need it, it is highly possible that maybe we have shut out God’s voice in a certain area of our life.
- Repent. Turn around. Do things differently. Make the necessary changes. God will help you.
- Be obedient, faithful, and prayerful in the new direction. Don’t give up, even if it’s hard at first. Why? Because obedience to God ALWAYS brings blessings in the end.
Now, let’s finish with the final verse of Jonah chapter one. In it, we see the depths of God’s love displayed, although for Jonah, I’m sure it felt like the end.
17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
If you find yourself in the belly of your own circumstances, don’t give up. There is still hope for you.