Plants, People, Priorities

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PEOPLE, PLANTS AND PRIORITIES
Intro: The songwriter William Cowper penned the following words:
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will. The prophet Isaiah had this to say about the mysterious ways of the Lord, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.", . The sooner the child of God realizes this, the better off he or she will be! Of course, even though we can read this truth and we know that it is right, sometimes, the ways of God are still hard to stomach.
Such was the case for Jonah in the passage we have read today. Jonah watched the Lord work His sovereign will in the city of Nineveh and Jonah did not like God's way at all! I must admit that there are times in my life when I see what God is doing and I have problems with it. If you were honest, you would have to say the same! Be that as it may, we all have to come to grips with the truth that God is in absolute control of life and that the best we can do is surrender to His plan and join Him in what He is doing.
As we look at this text tonight, I want to point the lessons that are taught here. Hopefully, this passage will serve to teach us that God is in charge and our duty is to work with Him in all that He does. As the Lord leads, I want to preach for a while on Plants, People and Priorities.
I. V. 3:10 THE REVIVAL IN NINEVEH
(Ill. The book of Jonah records what may be the greatest revival in the history of the world. An entire town repented of sin and got right with the Lord! Notice that this revival did not happen by itself! A few things were involved in bringing this dispensation t the people of Nineveh!)
A. V. 1:1-3:3 Involved A Man - We are given the details of Jonah's call, his disobedience and his restoration. We are told how the Lord used this prophet to bring the word of God to a lost people. (Note: There is good news in this for you and me! It is a blessing to know that God can use even those who have fallen short for His glory! The upshot of this is that if God can use Jonah, God can use you too!)] B. V. 3:4 Involved A Message - Jonah walked into Nineveh with a simple eight Word message from the Lord. When this message was preached, God used the Word to prick the hearts of the Ninevites and revival followed. (Note: There is a blessing in this too! The blessing lies in the fact that you and I can take confidence when we share the word of the Lord, knowing that He will bless His Word and that it will accomplish to purpose to which He sent it, !) C. V. 3:5-9 Involved A Miracle - The miracle lies in the fact that a whole town turned to God! There have been great revivals throughout history, but this is the only instance of a town of this size, filled with such wicked people, being converted and delivered from sin. (Note: It is a great miracle when revival comes and lives are changed. But, it is always a miracle when even a single soul hears the good news of salvation and comes to faith in Jesus! That is the glory of the Gospel, ; .) D. V. 3:10 Involved God's Mercy - When the people of Nineveh repented of their sins and turned to the Lord, God reacted to their faith in grace. When they turned to Him, He saved their souls by grace! Of course, God knew what would happen before Jonah ever arrived! Their conversion was part of His perfect plan! (Note: Salvation always works this way! God loves the sinner, has a plan to save his soul and He sends the Word so that the sinner might be convicted and see his condition. When that sinner repents of his sins, God saves him by grace through faith, . Of course, it's all part of His plan!)
II. 4:1-5 THE REACTION IN JONAH
(Ill. When the Lord takes the message of Jonah and saves a city, Jonah reacts in a very bad way.)
A. V. 1 The Prophet's Rage - The phrase "very angry" means that Jonah "burned with anger". He was hopping mad at God because God did not kill the people of Nineveh! Why was he so mad? There are several reasons. Here are a few:
1. One of the marks of a true prophet was that his prophecies always came true, . Jonah had said that the Ninevites would be overthrown, . If this did not happen, then Jonah would be looked upon as a false prophet.
2. His fellow Jews would be angry with him for preaching a message that brought salvation to their enemies. They might see him as a traitor.
3. Jonah hated the people of Nineveh! Nothing would have pleased him more than seeing them all destroyed by God! (Note: Before we get too hard on old Jonah, maybe we need to look at our own lives and examine how we have responded to the Lord working out His will in your life and mine! How many times have we reacted with anger when God did something that went against our plans? Perhaps we need to remember the counsel of the Bible, ; .)
B. V. 2 The Prophet's Resentment - Jonah tells the Lord that this is what he knew would happen. This is why he ran away in the first place. What you see here is a man throwing a first-class pity party! Jonah didn't get his way and he wants God to know that he is upset. His hurt and anger is so deep that he even attempts to take it out on the Lord! (Note: Just in case you didn't know it, your arms are too short to box with God! Just because He doesn't order life like we think it should be ordered, we had better be careful when we decide to line up against God! Friend, nobody likes life and what it brings all the time, but those who love the Lord the deepest are those who remember that God always knows best and He always does what is best for His children, ; . The safest and sanest course of action is one of humble obedience and submission to what life brings our way. Ill. Job - .)
C. V. 3 The Prophet's Request - To put it bluntly, Jonah wanted God to kill him! He wasn't the first. Moses and Elijah both prayed for the same thing, ; . Because he didn't get his way and because he had to endure embarrassment, he wanted to give up on life itself. What a sad commentary! (Note: But wait, how many people have put their testimony to death and given up on serving God because He didn't give them what they wanted? I will just remind you again that obedience to what the Lord brings our way is better than anything else you can give Him, ; !)
D. V. 4-5 The Prophet's Resolve - After Jonah is confronted about his anger, he does not change his mind. Instead, he climbs a hill outside the city, folds his arms and sits down to wait. He is probably hoping the Lord will change His mind! Jonah doesn't get his way about Nineveh and he doesn't get his way about dying so he just starts to pout! (Note: There are lots of people just like Jonah in the church! For some reason life has not gone as they had it planned. Their response is not humble submission to the will of the Lord. No! They just quit on Him! It does not say much for your love for Him or for your devotion to His will when your disappointments translate into disobedience and desertion on your part. I promise you that if you decide to go to war with God over His will, He is going to win that battle every time!)
III. V. 4:6-11 THE RESPONSE FROM GOD
A. V. 6 God Responds In Tenderness Toward The Prophet - The Lord extended grace to Jonah, even when his heart was obviously not right with God. The Lord graciously allowed a vine to grow over the prophet's hut to give him shelter and comfort. (Note: Isn't it a blessing to know that even when we walk outside the will of the Lord, the Lord will still look after us and bless us? Ill. Elijah - ; Ill. Peter and the disciples - .) How many times has He continued to bless and use you even when you were out of His will? Thank God for His grace, ! B. V. 7-11 God's Responds By Teaching About Priorities - Just as Jonah was beginning to enjoy the vine, God sent a worm to destroy the vine. Jonah gets even angrier! (Note: He is getting a tiny taste of the horrors of the Hell the Ninevites were headed to before they were saved.) This time, God sets the record straight! He reminds Jonah that Jonah cared more about a vine than he did the souls of the people of Nineveh. People made in the image of God and people who would have perished had He not intervened! (Note: Every time I read this I get under conviction! Why? I see the same attitude in my life all the time. We tend to get upset about things that simply do not matter. Think about the last thing that made you mad. Now, ask yourself this question: What will it matter in 100 years? Friends, the only thing that really matters as we pass through this life is finding God's will for you and walking in with all your power! People are going to Hell and we are worrying about vines and other comforts. Our priorities need to be refocused and narrowed until they want only what He wants in all of life. That would please Him and it would get His work done in the world! ; ; .)
Conc: What has your attention this evening? Jonah didn't care about the eternal destiny of the people on Nineveh! All he cared about was his reputation as a prophet and the foolish prejudices he carried with him through life. He learned, or at least we hope he did, that God's will in this world is all that really matters. Isn't it time we put aside all the things that cloud our vision of His will? Isn't it time we put aside our hurts, our desires and our wills so that we might be better able to do His will in the world? Jonah suffered because he didn't care about God's will. What do you care about today? If anything is more important to you than doing the will of God, then I invite you to leave your booth and come to Him in humble obedience
HOw do we fight a complaining spirit even after seeing God’s goodness?
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