I finished up with Jonah this past Sunday by preaching on Jonah 3 & 4. Its not the most popular part of Jonah’s story but it is important nonetheless. It’s “the rest of the story” (read that in a Paul Harvey voice).
After looking through those two chapters and researching and praying, I focused on three things in my sermon:
First, you can be obedient to God and not like it. That’s okay.
You can do what God asks you to do and be angry that you’re doing it. That’s okay. Its what Jonah does in chapter three and God uses his bare minimum preaching to save a city. God uses what Jonah offers up in anger and people are saved.
You could go as far to say that struggling with God’s call on your life is the basic human condition. Part of being human is struggling with what God calls you to do with your life or at a particular moment in time. From Jacob wrestling in the river with God, to Jonah’s reticence, to Jesus praying in the garden “let this cup pass,” to every pastor I know today struggling with her or his call before accepting it – obedience without joy, even with anger or resentment is okay from time to time. God can and does still honor that.
Second, however, you can’t stay there. It will eventually kill your soul.
If you make a lifestyle out of being obedient but resenting your obedience it will rot you from the inside out, just like that plant in chapter 4. We see it in Jonah, as he gets angrier and angrier. We see it flare up in the disciples when they say “Jesus, but we left friends and family to follow you!” thinking they were going to get glory out of it. Whatever it is, you absolutely must work through your issues. Remaining obedient in your doubt or anger over the long term will harden your heart and eventually kill you. You must work through it, you must process it. It is difficult but you must do your interior soul-level work.
Lastly, you have to keep (kingdom) perspective.
Otherwise you’ll end up like Jonah, complaining about a dead plant when 120,000 people almost died. Often the temptation in times like these, where we’re working through deep issues of faith, doubt, anger, and calling the temptation is focus solely on ourselves and our comfort. But that’s not how this works. We are all called to be citizens of God’s kingdom. A kingdom in which the poor are called blessed, the peacemakers are called Sons of God, and we take care of the widow, orphan, and immigrant among us. There is no room in this kingdom ethic to make it about our comfort or to leave someone outside the bounds of salvation based on anything but their willingness to follow Jesus.
So I pray that this week you have the courage to do your interior work, while remaining obedient to God, and treating others as they deserve as fellow children of God.
Grace and peace.