My Day of Desperation (A Story From Jonah 1)

Desperation has a way of quickening the spirit of a man. The fleeting last moments of your life bring alot of focus and clarity. I can personally attest to that. My day of desperation came recently and unexpectedly. It was very chaotic. Everybody was panicking. That day we all thought we were going to die.

When we left Joppa the weather seemed fair. The route to Tarshish was one we had taken many times. I worked on the boat, usually doing the inspections and making sure everything was in working order. I gave the boat a thorough inspection before we shipped off and everything checked out just fine. The only thing that I found strange before we left was one of the passengers. His name was Jonah. He looked nervous and he had a heaviness about him. He couldn’t get down into the bottom of the boat fast enough. It was like he was trying to find the darkest corner possible. I could tell he was running. At the time, I didn’t know why or from whom. It wouldn’t be long until I found out.

I don’t remember exactly how far from Joppa we traveled before the storm came, but we were far enough out to be at the mercy of the sea. It came suddenly and behaved strangely, not like any storm I had ever been through. The clouds were different. They had a peculiar and glorious kind of darkness. The waves began to overpower the ship and we were going to be thrown into the sea.

We all worshipped different gods and we put them all to the test that day, crying out for salvation. All of us, that is, except Jonah. I suppose he was testing his god too, just in a very different way. We were all running around in frantic madness, praying prayers, and trying to throw off unnecessary weight to keep the boat from sinking. Jonah was asleep in the bottom of the boat. Looking back on everything, maybe Jonah wasn’t bothered by the storm because he was afraid of something bigger. The captain was beside himself when he found Jonah down there. He woke him up in a hurry and begged him to cry out to his god because no one else’s god was answering.

The ship couldn’t take another hit and we were at the peak of our desperation. We are a superstitious bunch and we knew this was more than just a natural storm. If no one’s god would save us then one of them must be angry. The other sailors and I decided to cast lots to see who was to blame for all this. That is how we determine things around here. The lot fell on Jonah. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, he was the one acting a little strange. We all started bombarding him with questions. His answer drove us even deeper into our desperation and fear. He said, “I am a Hebrew and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and dry land.”

That was bad news. Some of us knew more than others. But we all had heard enough to know that you don’t want to be around when the God of the Hebrews gets angry. Jonah told us he was running from his god. He was supposed to go to Nineveh and warn the people of the Lord’s judgment against their wickedness. Instead, he is on our boat fleeing to Tarshish. He told us the only way to stop the storm was to throw him overboard.

What could we do? I, for one, did not want to be responsible for the loss of a man’s life, but the God of the Hebrews is relentless! He does not stop! As deep as our desperation was, the most desperate thing we did that day was to try to save Jonah’s life. At that point the boat could have been blown apart by the waves at any moment and every second we wasted was an opportunity to lose our own lives, but we were not killers. We grabbed our oars and rowed as hard as we could to escape the storm, but Jonah’s God had already proven He cannot be outrun. We failed and there was no more time to waste. We were all going to die trying to save a guilty man’s life.

We cried out to Jonah’s God the best we knew how. It was His intention to toss Jonah into the sea and there was nothing we could do about it so we begged Him not to judge us for our actions. There at the peak of our desperation, with the rage of the Hebrew God thundering down on us, we had to act. We dropped our oars, grabbed Jonah, and tossed him to the sea. He left our hands as we gave him over to the God he rejected. Before Jonah’s body even touched the water’s surface the clouds dispersed, the sea ceased from its raging, and the winds calmed to a gentle breeze.

I can’t explain the feeling I had in the aftermath. Of course, there was fear. But there was also an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder. Since that day I have worshipped the God of the Hebrews. He was the only god who answered. I don’t know what happened to Jonah. Perhaps the Lord saved him. Maybe He didn’t. But today I’ve been hearing talk of some kind of revival in Nineveh. Those wicked people are turning to the Lord.

I will always remember what I have learned through it all. The God of the Hebrews, now my God too, is faithful. He is faithful in wrath and judgment, but also in grace and mercy.

As I said, desperation has a way of quickening the spirit of a man. That day’s desperation quickened my spirit to the God of the Hebrews.

Where Is Your Trust? Part 2: The Object Of Our Trust

“Trust in the Lord…” Proverbs 3:5

As I said in the last post, when it comes to trust, God wants us to take Him at His Word. But He doesn’t only say, “Because I said so.” He has given us concrete reason to trust what He says, even over trusting our own perceptions and feelings. Focus on that one, tiny, critical word, “in.” Trust in the Lord.

As technical as this might sound, there is a difference between trusting God and trusting in God. Trusting God means trusting what He says. Trusting in God means trusting who He is. We are called in Proverbs to this deep and intimate level of trust. We are called to a kind of trust that believes who God is, giving us a natural trust in what He says. In other words, we trust what God says because we know who God is.

Entire books have been written about who God is (the attributes of God). As we turn our attention to the object of our trust, I only have a blog post. I’m going to pick out just a few of those characteristics and I find them in the Lord’s prayer. Prayer is an act of trust and Jesus begins His example of prayer with a recognition of who God is.

God Is Your Father

We heard the cry coming from down the hall. We were at the hospital for one of our boys to have a scope done. He had already been through alot, but we knew it had to be done in order to see if there were internal medical reasons for his issues. When we heard the cry, our hearts sank. The scope was done and the nurses were wheeling him back to us, but he woke up on the way. He was scared and there was no good way to explain to his little mind why he had to go through this. But as his parents we knew it was necessary and it was for his good. In those moments of fatherhood God gives me glimpses of His Father-son relationship with me.

The very first words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,” lead is to approach God as a child would approach their dad. We can trust in God because He is our Father. Not only that, but He is our perfect, eternal, heavenly Father, and He perfectly loves His children. As earthly fathers, we allow our children to go through things they don’t understand because we know what is best for them in this temporary world. Yet, we are often bewildered when our perfect Father allows us to endure things we don’t understand because He knows what is best for eternity. Oh, that we would give Him the trust we wish our children would give us.

God Is In Heaven

Not only is God our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. My sons aren’t even three years old yet and they already know not to worry if something breaks. In their words, “Daddy fix it.” Of course, when they get older and their stuff gets more complicated I don’t know if “Daddy fix it” or not. But, for now, they think I’m awesome simply because I’m Dad.

Now take that childhood confidence that Dad can do anything and realize that it is true of your heavenly Father. He is enthroned above all that is. His perspective is eternal and His power is unstoppable. He knows all the little details – past, present, and future – that you don’t know. When you feel confused, He is sure. When you can’t handle it, He is already handling it. You can trust your Father, who has eternal perspective.

God Is Holy

Simply put, God’s holiness means there is none like Him. No person or being can compare to Him. This is why He can refer to Himself as “I AM.” Any other person would have to use a descriptive term or name to set themselves apart from others (i.e. I am Brad). God needs no descriptive term. He is the being from which all things receive their being. He is the source. He needs no other thing. He is self-sustaining. So He needs only to say, “I AM.”

Because of this we can trust Him. After all, if God can sustain God how much more do you think He can and will sustain His people. If every molecule in the universe finds its source in God, can He not supply all that His people need? There is none like Him and, therefore, no better anchor for our trust than Him.

God’s Kingdom And Will Do Not Fail

God does not fail. Period. He commands the sea to part and it parts. He commands the demons and they must obey. With a simple statement from His mouth entire galaxies are formed. He breathes life and the dead live. He cries out, “It is finished,” and it is finished. Listen to what He said in Isaiah,

“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it standFor the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back? – Isaiah 14:24, 27 (ESV)

Basic translation: Your Father cannot be stopped. It’s the Olympics of eternity and it’s not even a fair competition. Team God is going home with the gold. At times it seems the other teams (Satan, the world, the flesh) are pulling ahead and gaining ground, but perception is not always reality. Team God always wins. And if you are a believer in Christ you are wearing His jersey. If that does not envoke a sense of trust and confidence then nothing will.

Conclusion

It is as I said. Books have been written about who God is. But even if these four things were all God revealed about Himself, that would be more than enough to elicit deep trust in Him. Thanks be to God that He has shown us who He is so we can be confident as we trust in Him.

Where Is Your Trust? Part 1: Trust

It’s Not A Feeling

For many of my years as a believer, I saw Christianity through a purely emotional lens. If I didn’t feel Christian, I wasn’t. If I didn’t feel close to God, I was far from Him. If I didn’t feel happy, I was a defective follower of Christ. After all, the choir director told us to make sure we smile real big when we are singing at church. So if you don’t feel a smile, paste one on there anyway. This was also true of trust. I thought trusting God was something that you primarily feel. I have often found myself discouraged in times when trust is not my default emotion toward God. And if the truth is to be told, I have found myself judging Christian brothers and sisters who are not overflowing with emotional trust for God.

Sometimes we know where we should end up, but have the wrong idea of where to start and how to get there. Good, lasting, and unshakeable trust starts in the mind, not the heart. It is a daily decision based on what you know to be true. The mind does not depend on the heart to tell it who or what to trust. The heart depends on the mind to direct that trust. It is not much different than the concept of love in a lasting marriage. The marriage lasts because the spouses constantly make the decision to love one another when they feel it and when they don’t.

We will get to the role of the heart later in the study, but I think this deserves mentioning. The heart is a powerful tool in trusting God. But as a tool, it has to be directed and controlled by something else in order to be effective. Like many other things in the Christian life, the heart is a powerful conduit in our trust for God, but it is not the driving factor.

It’s a Decision

The primary question determining our trust in God is, “Am I going to take God at His Word?” We have read all of God’s incredible promises in Scripture. Do we believe them to be true? To say that our hearts guide our trust for the Lord is the same as saying feelings can dictate truth. If we want to be the kind of people with unwavering trust in the Lord we must regularly decide to trust God because we believe His Word, not because we feel like it.

I see this in Proverbs 3:5. The very first word is “Trust.” It is abrupt and seems very much like a command. The trust seems to come before the heart. There is first the decision to trust, then the heart is brought into subjection to that trust and used to amplify it (“with all your heart”).

An Eye Opening Moment

It was a hot day at work. I was listening to the radio in the trailer and a worship song came on. I can’t explain it, but I suddenly became overwhelmed by the presence of God. I literally felt like He was standing right beside me. It was the sweetest moment of worship I have ever experienced (on the shipping dock of all places). Shortly after the song faded away, that sense of God’s presence went with it. I pleaded with God to not let me lose that feeling and that is when I heard the voice of God. It wasn’t an audible voice or a burning bush, but somehow I heard the words. “I want you to take My word for it. If you always feel My presence then you will be trusting in your feelings and not in Me. You need to trust Me.” I will never forget that moment. It was the moment I realized that true trust in God comes from believing His Word despite my feelings, not from believing God’s Word because of my feelings.

I will wrap it up by giving us all this challenge. May we trust God’s promises and in who He has revealed Himself to be when we feel it and, especially, when we don’t feel it. May we decide today to trust God’s Word simply because it is His Word and encourage our hearts to come along with us.

Where Is Your Trust? Introduction

A Six Part Series On Proverbs 3:5-6

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, “Trust no one?” It sounds like a really cool spy movie tagline. It may also be the life motto of an independent (and very lonely) person. But it is really not possible. Everything we do is based on trust in someone or something. The defining question is not if you will trust, but who you will trust. This question is the basis of our study of Proverbs 3:5-6. I have broken these verses down in six parts:

  1. Trust
  2. in the Lord
  3. with all your heart
  4. and do not lean on your own understanding.
  5. In all your ways acknowledge Him
  6. and He will make your paths straight.

I will write a post for each one. Many times we spit out popular passages like this without taking the time to take a deep look into them. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” I am going to “live in” these two verses for a little while. I hope you will join me and be encouraged and strengthened. Go ahead and read Proverbs 3:5-6 and keep an eye out for part 1: Trust.

God’s Power for God’s Purpose

“…in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you…” Exodus 31:6 (NASB)

As a man, this is going to be hard to admit, but here it goes. When assembling children’s toys, I have not always perfectly followed the instruction manual. Christmas is an especially hard time for me. I can even remember one occasion when I did carefully try to follow the instructions, but still got something wrong. I had to disassemble it and start over. It can be annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. But what if the instructions were specifically given by God? That would come with a lot more pressure. 

No Pressure, Israel

Exodus 25-30 gives Israel an incredibly detailed instruction manual for assembling the tabernacle along with intricate details for the priestly garments and consecration. As I read through these instructions (via my daily time in the ESV Reader’s Bible. You should check it out.), I found myself getting discouraged. What if someone doesn’t measure something right? What if they miss something? If you read through these chapters you will find that it is way more challenging than any children’s toy. And if Israel gets something wrong, it is not just annoying. It is an offense against God. I felt the weight of this as I read. I wondered, “Who could handle this pressure? This is too much.” And I was right. It is too much for any man. So a question came to mind, “Did God give Israel a job they could not do?” He did, then He equipped them to be able to do it.

Empowered By the Spirit

After the overwhelming demands of chapters 25-30 there is a sigh of relief. God says, 

“See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship…And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you…”

Exodus 31:2‭-‬3, 6 NASB (emphasis mine)

There is one ingredient here that makes it possible for Israel to meet all of God’s demands: the Spirit of God. God did not make demands too heavy for Israel and leave them to collapse under the weight. He called out and empowered men from among them to be able to do the work by His Spirit. 

This means God gave them a job they could only complete with God’s help which would result in the enjoyment of God’s presence for God’s glory. Notice that all of this is from God, through God, and to God.

 Take Courage

I can relate to this. Maybe you can too. In our New Covenant times, God’s people are no longer responsible for temple and tabernacle measurements, but we are accountable to God for our lives and actions. If you are anything like me this can seem overwhelming. God’s standards are way higher than I could ever hope to meet on my own. But thanks be to God that Christ lived the life I couldn’t live, died the death I should’ve died, and gave me the life I could never earn. Because of His sacrifice I am now empowered by the same Spirit that Bezalel was. But instead of constructing a building, the Spirit is at work shaping me into a tabernacle pleasing to God. And the same goes for all who belong to Jesus.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:19‭-‬20 NASB 

So take courage, Christian. God has given you a job you can only complete with God’s help which will result in your enjoyment of God’s presence for God’s glory. And you have been empowered for the work from God, through God, and to God.