Series on the Book of Jonah #4

 

"RUNNING AGAINST GOD!"

 

TEXT:         Jonah 4:1-10

 

INTRO:       What do you think the most destructive force is in the world today?

 

a.   Atom Bombs

b.   Chemical Warfare products

c.   Pollution

d.   Financial markets

e.   Communism

f.    Natural disasters

g.   Pastor's puns

h.   Poverty

i.    Disease

 

NONE OF THE ABOVE!  It is SELF-PITY!  More people are destroyed by self pity than anything else ... it affects the way they see everything!!  QUITE LITERALLY ... EVERYTHING!

 

Do Christians ever have a problem with self-pity!  YES, even the best ones!  It is a monster you must discipline daily or it will devour your perception of reality and make you angry with God and the world!

 

PROP. SENT:    The final message of Jonah teaches us the futility of being angry with God ... or jealous of others God blesses, in fact, any self-pity we relish in will have a very destructive force in our lives; at best we will be miserable!

 

I.      HONEST TO GOD!   Jonah 4:1-4

 

A.   Personal Nature    Jonah 4:1

1.   Jonah had a serious problem with his emotional nature!

a.   "Jonah was greatly displeased..."

b.   "and became angry."

c.   These two things usually go hand in hand together!

2.   We are not talking about ordinary anger here, or fleeting moments of anger ... we are talking about real entrenched anger of the hottest kind!

3.   Jonah stands in complete contrast to God here, WHILE GOD TURNED FROM HIS ANGER ... Jonah turns TOO ANGER!

a.   While God was "SLOW" to anger JONAH was QUICK!

b.   Jonah couldn't be more opposite of God at the moment – God had forgiven the wicked people of Nineveh; but Jonah wanted them all dead, all because of self-pity caused from jealousy and pride!

4.   This seems to be in Jonah's nature to some extent ... yet God loved him enough that He was going to challenge Jonah over his extremes emotionally!

a.   God will for us too!

b.   Sometimes this is not a pleasant experience!

5.   Jonah displays all the characteristics of self pity and anger:

a.   Jealousy

b.   Felt cheated

c.   Isolated himself from everyone while pouting!

d.   Sat alone in isolation pining how unfair God was ... was basically depressed over God’s love for people he didn’t love, hoped his pity party might get God to change His mind about saving the Ninevites!

e.   Jonah saw nothing in its proper perspective!

f.    Felt alone in his ordeal ... nobody else could know or understand like him!  If only God would heed his wisdom and not save these lousy good for nothing enemies of Israel.

g.   Self-importance becomes a barrier to caring for others.

 

ILLUS:       A first grader was told to come directly home from school, but he arrived late almost every day. The difference in time amounted to as much as twenty minutes. His mother asked him, "You get out of school the same time every day. Why can't you get home at the same time?" He said, "It depends on the cars.

   "What do cars have to do with it?"

   The youngster explained, "The patrol boy who takes us across the street makes us wait until some cars come along so he can stop them." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 312.

 

B.   Private Need!   Jonah 4:2

1.   So what makes this guy redeemable?

a.   First he does the right thing, HE PRAYS!  This was a good start on the problem!

b.   He doesn't pretend with God ... Jonah is honest about himself and his feelings!

c.   NOTE:  Being honest and open with God is important, but be careful who you share deep feelings with!

 

ILLUS:        My sermon today is on humility, and in my opinion, it's one of the finest pieces ever written." -- Cartoonist Johns in Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 1.

 

2.   He doesn't make excuses or water down his actions or feelings as he talks to God, at least he didn't let them out on the Ninevites!

a.   He now is candid about why he at first fled from God!

b.   HE KNEW GOD WOULD SAVE THEM!  This was the whole reason he tried not to go in the first place!

c.   While he had a poor view of himself at this point ... he did have a proper view of God!  THIS WOULD BE THE SECOND THING that helps him!

 

C.   Prophet-Non-Prophet!    Jonah 4:3-4

1.   Why is he so concerned?  Because he knows that back home in Israel they will be angry with him for helping their enemy ... and he had enjoyed great popularity with Israel because of his prophecies on Israel's growth and new found strength and prosperity!

2.   He was jealous too; God in savings the Ninevites was like saying: “the whole WORLD IS SPECIAL TO ME, NOT JUST ISRAEL!"

a.   They liked being the "special" people.

b.   Jonah enjoyed being the "special prophet" to the "special people."

c.   Do we as Christians today take “joy” when sinners have bad things happen to them?  If so, are we any better than Jonah was in his day?

3.   Jonah knew this could mean being stripped of the Prophet's status with his own people!

a.   Why?  According to the Old Testament if a prophet spoke and the thing did NOT come to pass they were to be treated as a false prophet!

b.   What had Jonah preached in Nineveh?  "In 40 days you all are going to fry!" (Loose paraphrase!)

c.   Since God decided NOT to kill them but turn from His anger toward Nineveh it would look like Jonah was a false prophet to those back home!  After all, God didn't destroy them in 40 days, which was the message Jonah had delivered!

4.   Jonah's concern was the loss of his prestige and position ... all for a bunch of horrible Gentiles who were many times more evil than Israel!

a.   He felt cheated by God.

b.   He felt used by God

c.   He thought only of his own reputation and lifestyle.

d.   He felt betrayed for being obedient without much choice; remember the fishing trip was still fresh in his mind!

e.   He was so good at seeing the sins of the Ninevites that he didn’t notice his own!

 

ILLUS:        One of the interesting things about preaching to New Yorkers is you don't have to spend much time convincing them they're sinners. They know that they're wading waist deep in evil every day of the week. It's on every block. The city can bring out the worst from the depths of the soul. When I preach in New York City on Sunday morning, I spend only two minutes telling people they're sinners. When I'm in the suburbs, it takes about twenty minutes. -- Gordon MacDonald, "Repentance," Preaching Today, Tape No. 121.

 

5.   He was angry that God could and would love others too, especially these people!

a.   "HOW CAN GOD BLESS SO AND SO?"

b.   "They don't appreciate me at all..."

c.   "I'm just used..."

d.   "Everything is unfair..."

6.   At the moment he was acting like a NON-PROPHET!  HE WAS JUST LIVING AS THE GROUCH!   Jonah 4:5-6

 

A.   Pouting Numskull!    Jonah 4:5

1.   Jonah ignored his brethren and the newfound believers, self-pity drove him out of fellowship with everyone, to throw his own self-pity party ... NO VISITORS WELCOMED!  He simply goes outside the city alone and sits down east of the city from a distance and watches, probably with hope that God might yet destroy them after He thinks about it longer.  He waits to see what will happen to the city for a while.

a.   Self-pity operates this way!  It drives you out of fellowship, and anger keeps you there!

b.   You imprison yourself in despair!

2.   He refuses to see the whole picture and the great God he had the privilege to serve; in fact that's exactly what he lost sight of: SERVICE!  Failure to see clearly can be costly!

 

ILLUS:            Many years ago a man named Simpson built a house on the Canford Cliffs, near Bournemouth, England. Friends and neighbors tried to warn him he had chosen a site too near the edge of the cliff, that landslides frequently occurred along the coast, and the very weight of the house would precipitate such a catastrophe. But Mr. Simpson wouldn't listen. He built a very beautiful house there and for a time all went well. Then the inevitable happened, and the ominous warnings all came true. All that remains of his house is a heap of ruins on the beach known as "Simpson's Folly." – Source Unknown

 

a.   He wanted God to do things HIS way!

b.   He didn't appreciate the FORCED obedience knowing that God would do what he didn't want to see happen ... hundreds of thousands of Gentiles getting saved!

3.   So what does he do?  HE GOES OFF ALONE AND POUTS!  (Isolation)

a.   He was still hoping to watch a massacre in Nineveh!

b.   Perhaps he was hoping the revival wouldn't stick!

c.   He hoped against hope that God would really give it to them and save his reputation!

4.   While pouting, and not thinking through his numskull brain how wonder­ful this ought to have been, he makes himself a shelter to shade himself from the heat of the sun!

a.   So much for the verbal threats of "I want to die!"

b.   For a guy that wanted to die he sure went to great lengths to make himself comfortable!  This was just more drama emotionally!

c.   After all, no sense to die from heat exhaustion!  Yet, HE IS DIEING OF THE HEAT OF ANGER ... he needed something to cool that down!

5.   Stubbornness shows itself now ... he had to have sat there pouting for at least a month or more if he was waiting for the 40 days to go by!

a.   He accomplished nothing else except to feed his own self-pity!

b.   He may have hoped God would take his advice and fry the whole nation of Assyria!  So much for the love of this shepherd!

c.   Stubbornness marks itself in the life of the self-pity ... usually nothing gets accomplished except feeding the frenzy of emotions of anger, bitterness, jealousy, rebellion, and isolation!

 

B.   Provided Nurturing!     Jonah 4:6

1.   Ironically, the God whom Jonah complains to about being patient with wicked people is being patient enough with Jonah to try and nudge him into a better mood!

a.   He now becomes the recipient of God's "SLOW TO ANGER, ABOUNDING IN COMPASSION, A GOD WHO IS GRACIOUS!"

b.   AND HE DIDN'T DESERVE IT ... JUST LIKE THE N1NEVITES, but God is patient with Him and provides a "SHADY" deal for Jonah!

2.   Reason had failed ... in verse 4 God had asked him if he had a reason for his anger ... he had refused comment and instead chose pouting!

a.   Now God would try a different tactic!

b.   God would do the same for HIM that He done for Nineveh; give Him grace when he didn't deserve it!

3.   Notice how happy Jonah became for this “shady” deal!  Evidently he had done such a poor job with his temporary hut that he needed something more to block the hot sun!

a.   That's another symptom of self-pity -- poor quality work, the heart just not in it!  And it causes us to see only our own needs and not those of others.

 

ILLUS:       A young man applying for a job as usher in a theater was asked by the owner, "In case of fire, what would you do?" "Oh, don't be concerned about me," was the reply. "I'd be able to escape immediately." He did not even think of his responsibility toward others. Of course, he didn't get the job. – Source Unknown

 

b.   God remedies the heat problem by providing this vine!

4.   The abrupt extreme of happiness over something for himself demonstrates the attitude Jonah had about others ... as long as it was for HIM he was happy, but NOT FOR OTHERS!  (Selfishness is another symptom of self-pity)

5.   These extreme swings indicate a fragile emotional makeup, to be so angry over a great thing God did for others, and so happy over a small thing for himself!

a.   As you will see, this doesn't last long; it usually doesn't for self-pity type of people!

b.   As soon as his need is not met anymore he resorts to complaining again!  Once God sent the worm to eat the vine He had given Jonah earlier for shade Jonah once again became angry and depressed.

 

III.  HEALING THE GRUDGE!    Jonah 4:7-10

 

A.   Punishment necessary!    Jonah 4:7-8

1.   Notice all the things God had PROVIDED for Jonah:

a.   A huge fish!

b.   An entire nation that repented of their sins!

c.   A vine to give shade!

d.   AND NOW A WORM!

e.   AND AFTER THE WORM A SCORCHING EAST WIND (probably blew down his shelter!)

2.   Notice too that Jonah in his self pity couldn't see any of those things as wonderful provisions, even though earlier HE HAD STATED how thankful he had been that God saw fit to save him via the fish!

a.   Self-pity and "THANKFULNESS" do not coexist together very long!

b.   Hence this was another sign or symptom of his self-pity ... a THANKLESS heart!

3.   Jonah expresses his extremes again, "IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR ME TO DIE THAN TO LIVE..."

a.   Yet, even as God was allowing his wish to die, "HE GREW FAINT"... he was complaining about dying!

b.   God was trying to show him how ridiculous his emotions were over such a small thing to help him appreciate the BIG THING that God had done!

 

ILLUS:       Descending into the valley, at the last curve he lost control of the car. As it toppled over the bank at the side of the road, his only thought was: "Well at least my job's done," His one, weary, happy thought. It wasn't so: He was to go on living.  But not to go on with this journey.  When he came to, and the solid world again took shape around him, he could hardly keep back his tears--tears of self-pity and disappointment because his vacation plans had been ruined.  The one reaction was no less genuine than the other.  We may be willing to turn our backs on life, but we still complain like children when life does not grant our wishes. -- Dag Hammarskjold, Leadership, Vol. 3, no. 4.

 

c.   Jonah was quite stubborn at this point however!  BINGO, another quality of self-pity:  STUBBORNESS!

d.   Jonah exaggerates greatly all the things that he thinks he has been cheated on ...  HERE’S ANOTHER TRAIT OF SELF-PITY:  EXAGGERATION!

 

B.   Petty Nonsense!   Jonah 4:9

1.   The stubborn exaggeration shows itself in this verse very clearly!

a.   God had allowed Jonah a blessing when he didn't deserve it, like Nineveh, but Jonah missed the BOAT!

b.   God tried a WORM next ... and still Jonah worms his way out of being repentant!

2.   God out right asks him if he has a real reason to be angry at the little vine?

a.   In Jonah's state of mind he plays out the self-pity to the bitter end!

b.   This is the sorry state of the individual who chooses, YES, CHOOSES to EXPERIENCE SELF-PITY!

c.   Too many “I’s” made him blind!

 

ILLUS:       In 1940, the International Herald Tribune printed a report from a student at Syracuse University who had studied the speeches of Adolf Hitler and other world leaders of the time. He reported that Hitler used the first person singular more frequently than any other world statesman. He used "I" or "me" an average of one time in every fifty-four words--twice as often as Franklin D. Roosevelt. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

 

3.   There is absolutely NO REASON FOR A CHRISTIAN TO live in self-pity!

a.   God has been more gracious to us than we ever deserve!

b.   We have more wonderful things than most people on the earth and we cry around over the price of gasoline and little petty things!

c.   Or we get angry because God blessed someone else more than us, or we feel we struggle more than anyone else!

d.   The TRUTH IS WE CAN COUNT OUR MANY BLESSINGS ANYTIME! QUICK ... NAME THAT TUNE - OR TESTIMONY!

 

C.   Praise Necessary!   Jonah 4:10

1.   The book ends with God attempting to reason with Jonah and show him that he ought to SHOUTING from the mountain for God's patience and compassion rather than pining away over self-pity!

2.   God had the first word ...and now he gets the last, but this will always be the case!

3.   Sometimes the best thing to do is SURRENDER!

a.   Our bitterness

b.   Our jealousy

c.   Our anger

d.   Our exaggeration

e.   Our stubbornness

f.    Our isolation

g.   Our thanklessness

h.   Our concept of fair play

i.    Our pride

j.    Our self-pity!

k.   Our LIVES to Christ!  TRUST HIM!

 

ILLUS:       In her travels, a lady experienced some cold weather. As she was shivering she turned to her servant to remind her to send some warm blankets to the poor people when they got home. She arrived at her luxurious warm home, took off her furs, and over a cup of tea made herself comfortable. Later, when her servant reminded her of the promised blankets, her reply was, "Ah, yes, I remember; but it's nice and warm now." – Source Unknown

 

4.   There doesn't seem to be recorded a response to God from Jonah, but since he wrote the book we can assume he came around at some point ... and to have portrayed himself like this took a lot of humbling, especially knowing others would read the story; in other words, HE FINALLY CAME AROUND!

a.   I'll bet he was a happier prophet for it too!

b.   Just think of what it took to get him to turn:

(1.   A fish first!

(2.   Then a vine second

(3.   Then a worm, (sounds like fishing backwards!)

(4.   Then the heat!

c.   Could Jonah have avoided all of them ... YES!  Obedience initially would have kept him from the process!

d.   God not only had a message for NINEVEH, BUT FOR THE MAN JONAH TOO!

e.   God builds a man when He is building that man's ministry!  They go together!

5.   What was the final point to all this?  GOD WAS TRYING TO GET JONAH TO PRAISE HIM FOR THE WAY HE WORKS IN THE WORLD AND THE INDIVIDUAL!!

a.   Praise and self-pity to do not cohabit together!

b.   Praise would finally break the anger ... and the self-pity.

c.   Self-pity by its nature is SELFISHNESS!

d.   Praise by its nature is SELFLESS!

6.   Think of the PRAISE Jonah could have given ...  HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF SOULS SAVED IN JUST 3 DAYS OF MINISTRY!

a.   The witness of a fruitful ministry!

b.   The scope of God's love, for EVERYONE!

c.   He should have been on the mountain shouting "HALLELEUAH!"

d.   Praise was necessary, pity was nonsense!

 

CONCLUSION:   A great prophet named Jonah struggled with self-pity ... and almost lost everything because of it!  It consumed his joy, his love for God and others, his motivation for ministry, his perspective on others, and his view of himself!  In the end, self-pity robs YOU of everything worth praising God for ... how about you ... are you having a party with no one else invited?  Self-pity is a lonely affair!