Is there anyone in the Bible to whom you relate? Are you like Mary of Mary & Martha and just can’t wait to sit at Jesus feet? Or maybe you are more of a Martha, always busy and wanting everyone else to be busy too? Are you an evangelist like Peter or Paul? What about a leader like Moses or Joshua? There are lots of people to use as a yardstick for our Spiritual lives. Throughout life, circumstances and/or decisions may change your view of yourself.
I often have used King David as an example. He was “a man after God’s own heart” and he did some very questionable things. His faithfulness was never in doubt, even when his human desires stepped in to take over the situation. But lately, another well know name from the Bible has come to mind more and more: Jonah.
Jonah was a Hebrew prophet that God told to go to Nineveh and preach for their repentance. Jonah didn’t like the people of Nineveh. He didn’t think they deserved forgiveness. So he did what every faithful follower does when faced with a distasteful assignment: he ran the opposite direction. We are all familiar with the story of Jonah and the Whale. A big storm, Jonah thrown into the sea, a whale swallows him, after 3 days Jonah is vomited onto the shore. God once again tells Jonah to go to Nineveh. At this point, Jonah decides to follow God’s instruction.
“This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God’s orders to the letter. Nineveh was a big city, very big—it took three days to walk across it. Jonah entered the city, went one day’s walk and preached, “In forty days Nineveh will be smashed.”
“The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone did it—rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers.” Jonah 3:3-5 MSG
Jonah was successful. The people heard what he had to say and repented. And God forgave the people of Nineveh. This was a reason to celebrate! But, not for Jonah!
“Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!” Jonah 4:1-4 MSG
Jonah was not at all happy. He did not like it one bit. He fussed and complained because God had given these horrible people another chance. He went out of the city and sat and pouted and sulked. We never find out if Jonah reconciled himself with God’s forgiveness.
If I’m completely honest, Jonah’s reaction is very familiar. I know there have been times that I just wanted to tell God what to do and how to do it. In fact, I have done just that on several occasions. I’m pretty sure I know who should be punished and who should be forgiven. I’m pretty sure I know how things should be done. And I’m more that willing to fill God in on the appropriate processes, especially when it comes to my worship services at my church.
- There are people who just don’t deserve forgiveness. I have a hard time letting go of the past. There are some people who have caused pain to my family that I do NOT like. I’ve been very eager to point out how they did not deserve God’s forgiveness. Fortunately, God didn’t consider whether or not I deserved His Grace. He just forgave me.
- What’s wrong with the way “we’ve always done it”? I claim that I don’t like changes. But, I’m always ready for the next computer or cell phone or other technology that is out there. So, why can’t I be as open about changes in the way God leads in my church or my worship?
- The kids aren’t being taught respect. Just look how they dress in church. When I was a child, I had school clothes, play clothes and Sunday clothes. I had dresses that were only worn on Sundays that were a bit fancier than my other clothes. Through the years, the way we dress has changed for work, for school and for church. Business casual is the norm at work. T-Shirts and jeans are acceptable nearly every where else. Dressing up is not the norm. I did require my daughter to wear a “girl” top and my son to wear a collared shirt on Sunday’s. The more relaxed clothing expectations has made it more comfortable for some to attend church. I still object to short-shorts or work-out clothes at church, but I can only control my own reactions.
- I hate the music used in church worship. It’s too old-fashioned (or modern). Music has become one of the most divisive areas in our churches. If you grew up with the hymns and hymnals, the new stuff is “too loud” or “too repetitive” or “not musical”. If you didn’t grow up with hymns, then they are “old-fashioned” or “have too many word” or “don’t make sense”. I remember the discussions that arose over changing from the Broadman Hymnal to the Baptist Hymnal and then later to the New Baptist Hymnal. There were too many new songs (like “He’s Everything to Me” or “Because He Lives”) in this newer version. I may prefer the “old” hymns over the newer praise music. However, my preferences cannot be the most important ones. God is in control. He has a plan. I need to follow His leadership instead of pouting on the sidelines. And, I’ve learned to love some of the newer worship songs. Especially the ones that include a taste of the “old” hymns.
- Real worship only occurs in the sanctuary of a church building. Many of the churches that are most successful at reaching the community are meeting in schools, strip-centers, etc. The less “churchy” environment is more inviting some. My church meets in a movie theater. We have the most comfortable seats around!
- Real worship needs an organ and a piano. I don’t like guitars & drums. Some of my dearest memories are of the Mrs. Stapp playing the organ at church. I’ve played piano in my several churches throughout my life. Not every church can afford a piano and an organ. Many churches have no one to play them anyway. Piano lessons were a given when I was a child: everyone when through lessons and recitals. That’s not the case any longer. A well prepared band or even a single guitar player can greatly enhance the worship experience. God used the loaves and fishes to feel the multitude, can’t He also use a guitar to feel your spirit?
I’ve done my share of complaining and pouting. I understand Jonah a little more that I would like to admit. I may want to be more like David and be recognized as one after God’s own heart. But, I know that I am so much like Jonah in wanting things done MY WAY. Unlike Jonah, I want the end of my story to be clear: I followed God’s leading regardless of my own preferences.
What about you? Will you known as one of the Faithful or as the Fusspot who grudgingly served God?