“Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” (Jonah 3:4–5, ESV)
God redirects Jonah back to his calling and Jonah goes into the city of Nineveh. Jonah’s message is simple. It is only 8 words. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
The response is unexpected. The people of Nineveh believed God! They are moved to repentance. They put on sackcloth and fast. They were grieved over their situation. Jonah’s mission is a resounding success. God used Jonah in spite of his initial rebellion.
The response to Jonah’s message was exactly the reason that God had sent Jonah to Nineveh. God had been preparing minds and hearts. He was stirring their spirts to receive Jonah’s message. They were ready!
It was not the eloquence of Jonah’s message. It was not his presentation. His message was not exactly the most positive. Jonah had not done much right up to this point. But through it all, people would be moved to trust in God.
Why? It was not because of Jonah. God is the one who changes hearts. He is the one who moves the mountains. He is the one who breaks the chains. He is the one who multiplies the fish and the loaves.
Bringing people to God is not up to us. It is up to him. You are not the Savior. Jesus is the Savior. All he asks is that we would be willing to go to them. This involves building friendships, offering compassion, and sharing your experience with Christ. God will open the doors. He will put the people in your path. He will create a spirit of receptivity. Jesus says you will be his witnesses in your local communities and to the ends of the earth. He will do the rest.
That does not mean the gospel will always be received. There are times that the gospel will be rejected. Hearts are hardened. People reject the gospel based upon some preconceived notions of what it is. They reject it because they think it is something that it is not. But if someone experiences the fullness of the gospel, it will draw them in.
In worship yesterday, we had a church planter to Hoboken, NJ share the sermon. His name is Matt Lytakainen. You can find his church at milesquare.church. He told a story about strawberries. He said that there was a time when he did not like strawberries. But one day he decided to engage his distaste. What he discovered was unexpected. He discovered that he liked strawberries more than he ever realized. He didn’t just like strawberries; he loved strawberries. It opened up a whole new world for him. He could not get enough of strawberries.
Now he extols the virtues of strawberries. He can’t make anyone else like strawberries. But he can share the invitation to try them. He can tell people his experience.
How much greater is the gospel than strawberries? We can extol its virtues. We can tell our story with it. We can build the bridges. Then let God do the heavy lifting.
- With whom is God calling you to share your faith?
- Why are you sometimes reluctant to share your faith?
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the gospel. It has changed my life. You mean more to me than I ever realized. There are people all around me who don’t know what they are missing. Give me the courage to share my story and your goodness. Amen!