jonah

Use Your Gift

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The Lord told Elijah to hide by the brook, but I don’t want you to look at this from the point of Elijah hiding from Ahab. The purpose of him being hidden had nothing to do with the past, but it had to do with the future. God was preparing him for what was about to happen.

Not only did Elijah have water to drink, but God commanded the ravens to feed him every morning and evening.  He knew exactly when the ravens were coming. Inside of Elijah was a gift, but in order for God to get out of him what He placed in him, he had to create a situation to stir up the gift that was in him. He had to make him uncomfortable.

One day, the brook dried up because there was no rain. Now, he had a thirst that he didn’t have before – and I’m not talking about a physical thirst. Had not the brook dried up, Elijah would have remained where he was, but someone needed his gift. What God had given him, wasn’t for him. It was for others. It was to serve others.

Not only did God tell him to move, but He told him where to move to. Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Zidon and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain you. This woman had a need and God wanted to use Elijah to meet that need, but he never told Elijah about her need. He just told him that he was going to take care of him through this woman.

If you take care of what concerns God, He will take care of what concerns you.

Some people are still looking at the dried brook, crying over what they lost. The only thing lost that we should be concerned about is lost souls, not the things that we have lost because God can restore those things.

This widow didn’t want to die and she didn’t want her son to die, but she was preparing to die because she didn’t know what else to do.  She didn’t know where her next meal was coming from.  It didn’t look like things were going to get better and now she had a man – a perfect stranger – asking her, a widow and a single mother, to give him her last and the only thing that she had left.

Through instructions, Elijah showed her how to get out of her situation. All she had to do was obey the instructions.  All she had to do was give the very thing that she was afraid of losing.

We were created to do more than what we are doing.  There is plenty of work to do.  The harvest is plenteous (Matthew 9:37). But one person cannot do it alone. Every one of us has received a gift. Our job is to discover what that gift is and then put it to work. When you don’t do what you are supposed to do, someone else suffers. Jonah is a great example. God sent him to Nineveh, but he went where he wanted to go. When a storm came, Jonah was sleeping, but the people on the ship were suffering with fear and a near death experience.

Had Elijah not gone to where God sent him, the widow and her son would have died. It is important that we stop waiting for someone else to do what God told us to do. And stop comparing ourselves with others. Stop thinking that someone is better or can do it better than you. God gave gifts to the body of Christ to complete, not to compete with each another. Your gift is needed. Someone needs what you have.

You may not be the answer to everyone’s problem, but you are the answer to someone’s problem.

Use your gift.

 

Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants [stewards, managers] of God’s various gifts of grace (2 Peter 4:10, EXB). 

 

Change Your Ways

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change: to do things differently; to become something else; to transform

God had many prophets, but He sent Jonah to Nineveh.  Their wickedness had come up before Him and He was sending Jonah to preach against it.  I don’t know if Jonah disobeyed God because he was afraid of his enemies’ faces or because he didn’t think they deserved another chance.  When you read Jonah 4:1-2, you can hear what was in Jonah’s heart – pride (thinking he was better than others), self-righteousness, and discrimination (unfairly treating a group of people differently from other people).  It sounds like Jonah didn’t want his enemies to have what God had just given Him – grace, love and salvation.  Yes, Jonah was called by God.  Yes, he had the gift of prophecy, but he lacked one thing – love.

Jonah ran from the presence of the Lord. One version of Jonah 1:3 tells us that Jonah went to the dark hold of the ship to hide, but where could he go from His presence?  When he was in the lowest part of the ship, God was there.  When he was in the belly of the fish, God was there.  Another version of Jonah 1:3 tells us that he made himself comfortable in the hold of the ship.  That was the difference between Jonah and the people of Nineveh.  When God sent His word to Jonah, he sought comfort, but when God sent His word to Nineveh, they sought change.  When Jonah couldn’t find comfort – when there was no peace, he cried out to God. Not only did he thank God for sparing him and protecting him, but he told God that he was going to pay the vow that he made to Him. He was going to do what was required of him – and he did.  Jonah obeyed God and preached in the city of Nineveh, but after God repented of what He was going to do to Nineveh, Jonah became angry.

What happened to the man that spoke all those beautiful words in the belly of the fish?

Here we see another distinction between Jonah and the people of Nineveh.  Words versus works.  God heard Jonah’s words, but He saw Nineveh’s works  (Jonah 2:2; 3:10).  When God said He was going to destroy the city in forty days, the people believed Him.  They (from the king to the animals) immediately went on a fast and cried unto God.  The moment they turned, God turned away from His fierce anger.

The people of Nineveh changed their ways, but Jonah held on to some  of his ways.  Sometimes we do enough just to get out of the ‘belly of the fish’, but we don’t do everything we need to do to stay out.  I know what it’s like to run from what God said.  I know what it’s like to cry and tell God why I can’t do what He told me to do only for Him to come back to me – the second time.  The scary thing is I don’t know how many more times He’s going to keep telling me the same thing over and over.

When you disobey God, disobedience will take you places that you don’t want to go.  A good example of this is found in John 6:66.  The moment many of Jesus’ disciples decided to walk with Him no more, they went back.

I know a lot of times we tell people not to ‘go back’, but I can remember when God told me to go back.  I was living in Charleston at the time.  I had plans, but things weren’t coming together as I thought they would and I was too ashamed to return home.  I felt like a failure and I was doing everything I could to make things work in Charleston.  It seemed like doors were tightly shut.  I couldn’t even find employment.  I prayed less and less and when I did pray, I didn’t know what to say to God.  But I could still hear his voice – and He told me to go back home.  I acted just like the prodigal son.  I fought it.  I fought Him.  Then one day, I got tired and I cried out to God.  I surrendered.  Immediately, doors (not one door) began to open for me.  And you know what?  The very thing I feared didn’t even happen.  In fact, it was as if I had never left home.  God took care of everything, but I had to trust Him.  I had to leave my ways and try it His way.  I had to change.

Remember when I told you earlier that Jonah was seeking comfort, but couldn’t find any?  What you and I are seeking can only be found in doing the will of God.  Until then, you will find yourself unhappy, unfulfilled and frustrated.  Until you do what God tells you to do – until you change your ways – until you fulfill the will of God, fulfillment will not come to you or to those who are counting on you.

Someone is waiting on you to do what God has sent you to do.  May God put His desires (especially the desire for change and to change) in our hearts.