Sermon Outlines

Ever wish you had paid more attention in seminary? Struggling with preparing a sermon? GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins wants to help pastors with useful resources to help them as they serve the Lord.

With more than a quarter century of pastoral leadership, Hawkins makes available some of his most popular sermon outlines for pastors, Sunday school teachers and other Bible study leaders. These free resources can help you as you prepare your sermon or lesson each week.

In addition to these sermon outlines, Hawkins offers his video Weekly Staff Meetings with insights on some of the most common issues pastors and ministers face as well as a Podcast.

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:12 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:12 PM


Jonah 2:1-10

Jonah 2:1-10

The pages of history are filled with heartwarming stories of men and women who have been down and have come back. Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish teaches us lessons about getting up when we are down.

I. A man of prayer

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord. He used the word of God as he lifted his prayer to God. God heard his cry of distress and delivered him.

II. A man of purpose

Jonah came to realize that there had been a purpose in his pilgrimage. When he had lost all hope, Jonah suddenly remembered God’s mercy and turned to Him for help.

III. A man of praise

Jonah did not ask for deliverance. Rather he simply started praising God and giving thanks. Jonah’s faith was proved by his thanksgiving.

IV. A man of perception

Jonah recognized that deliverance (salvation) comes from the Lord. We are not saved because we deserve to be or because we are good. Jonah knew that only a loving God would take him back after the rebellion he had pursued.

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:11 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:11 PM


Jonah 2:1-10

Jonah 2:1-10

The pages of history are filled with the heartwarming stories of men and women who have been down and have come back. In the field of politics we immediately think of Abraham Lincoln. No one has ever descended deeper into a fish’s belly politically than did Lincoln. He was defeated for the state legislature in Illinois in 1832. He was defeated for Congress in 1843. He was defeated for Congress again in 1848. In 1855 he ran for the Senate and was defeated. He was on the vice presidential ticket in 1856 and was defeated again. He ran for the Senate in 1858 and was once more defeated. He became president in 1860 and lives on in history as one of the greatest presidents of the United States. Abraham Lincoln is proof that you can’t keep a good man down.

In the field of literature, I think of John Bunyan. He was thrown into prison where it would have been easy to give up and say, “What’s the use?” But down in that dungeon he penned the words of Pilgrim’s Progress, which have blessed millions through the generations. The truth is, you cannot keep a good man down.

We have seen it in our own generation with a man like Chuck Colson. He was humiliated before the world during the Watergate scandal. He too was placed in prison, but God used those experiences to make him one of the most effective proponents of the Christian faith in the world today. You cannot keep a good man down.

A similar mystique surrounds the success of some motion pictures. Something in all of us seems to rally around those who are down and out and who come back. Take the Rocky movies. Everybody loves to cheer for the poor street kid who was a loser and who comes back in glory. We love to see someone who, when it appears there is no way out, comes through.

Jonah lives on in history and in heaven to show us the truth that you cannot keep a good man down. Having been thrown overboard during the storm, he was swallowed by a great fish. For three days and nights, he tossed in the belly of that monster as it journeyed into the depths of the sea, but finally the Bible records, “The Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” He wiped the seaweed off his face, and then the Bible says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.”

So many of us are in need of an escape today. So many women and men are longing to be out of the fish’s belly of life where they feel so trapped. We often remain there until we learn some valuable lessons. It took Jonah three days and three nights to learn those lessons. How long will it take us to learn the lessons of getting out of the fish’s belly? And what are those lessons.

1. A man of prayer

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of my grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God” (Jonah 2:1-6).

There are some important questions for any inquirer to ask at this particular point in Jonah’s pilgrimage. When did he pray? To whom did he pray? What did he pray? How did he pray? First we note when he prayed.

At our church in Fort Lauderdale, we built a new prayer chapel that was beautifully furnished, luxuriously carpeted and air-conditioned. It was created as a spot where any of our people could come to meet God in intercessory prayer. Jonah’s prayer chapel was different. It was smelly, damp, dark and dingy. It was the belly of a fish in constant motion. Jonah was in distress and he called out to the Lord from his prayer chapel. Some people do not pray in our prayer chapel. It is amazing that some of us wait until we are in a fish’s belly, in distress, to call out to the Lord. But aren’t we thankful to God we can pray then? Such was the case with Jonah. “He prayed in his distress.”

In my days of pastoring churches, I have known a lot of Jonahs who have cried out to God in their distress and God heard them and delivered them. As a pastor I knew what it was to see a father who never had time for his son. He was always too busy, working 14 hours a day to be super-successful. His weekends were taken up with his friends at ballgames or on the fishing boat. The boy grew older and one day stood on a ball diamond at the Little League part patting his glove as he looked in the stands. But dad was not there. He was too busy for that. In fact, he was so busy trying to make a living he forgot to make a life. I have seen fathers like that who now sit and weep. “If only I had it all to do over again.” His son is in trouble and is ruining his life. The father finds himself in a fish’s belly. But listen: “In my distress I called on the Lord and He answered me.” Just because we may be in distress, we should not let our pride keep us from calling on the Lord.

As a pastor, I knew what it was to see a woman who had fallen victim to the flirtatious lies of her boss. She found a ship of seduction and sailed to Tarshish. She left a loving husband and precious children to follow the lust of the flesh only to find that now her lover has left her for a younger woman, and all is gone. Gone is her self-worth. Gone is her self-respect. She finds herself in the fish’s belly of shame and humiliation. But listen: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.” No matter who we are or where we are, we can call on God in our distress.

As a pastor, I knew what it was to see a young girl with tear-stained cheeks. Her goals had been so high. Her future had been so bright. She had a Christian boyfriend, but they could not wait. To some teenagers four years of college seems a long, long time. They planned on being married some day. It seemed all right. And there she is, half girl, half adult, with big tears rolling out of big, blue eyes. And the boy? He’s gone and doesn’t want to see her any more. He is off to college and other more important things. There she sits with her faithful parents. “What will I do? My life is ruined.” But listen: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.” The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, still cleanses us from all sin, and when He does cleanse us, we should never call unclean what He has cleansed.

We can always call out for help. Jonah’s experience is a proclamation of hope. Jonah cried out in his distress and found deliverance — and so can we. The first step in getting out of the fish’s belly is to call out to God, to pray. Some have tried everything: pills, books, counselors. But listen: “In my distress I called to the Lord and He answered me.”

The problem with many of us is that we are too proud to pray in our distress. We think we are doing God a favor by saying, “I didn’t call on Him before, so I don’t want to trouble Him now.” Those who say that do not know the heart of this loving God. If you are in distress, it is all the more reason to call on the name of the Lord.

How low some of us come before we surrender to His will. What sorrow and calamity some of us bring on ourselves through disobedience. Jonah prayed from the fish’s belly. It is never too late to pray. It is never too late to get God into our circumstances.

Jonah had little of hope of ever getting out of the fish’s belly. But in his distress, he did what he could do, and that was to pray.

I often wonder what it is going to take to get some of us to pray. Could I be writing to a Jonah today? Could I be writing to some individuals who know God’s will for their lives and are waiting until affliction comes their way to call them to repentance? The lesson here is that if we continue to go our own way in rebellion against God’s will, the result is nothing but despair. Are you in a fish’s belly? Then call on the Lord! No situation is too difficult for prayer. You cannot keep a good man down. Why? Because he is a man of prayer. And when does he pray? In his distress.

A second important aspect of Jonah’s prayer is found in to whom he prayed. Even though he rebelled, he was in covenant relationship with God. I am thankful that on January 3, 1965, as a 17-year-old in Fort Worth, Texas, I entered into covenant relationship with my God through the Lord Jesus Christ. I did not earn that relationship nor deserve it. I simply accepted the free gift of eternal life, and the Lord Jesus Christ came to live in my life. Today, He is my God.

Do you see it? It is impossible to come to God and say, “Our Father,” if we have never been born into His family. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.” In the Galatian epistle, Paul said, “We are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” It is true that we are all God’s creation, but only those who trust in Christ are His children. Jonah could pray to his God. Can you?

Jonah had gone a long way from God but he never got away from the fact that God was his portion, his possession. Even though Jonah forsook the Lord, the Lord never forsook Jonah. He was still God.[1]

When we pray to our God, we can come clean in confession. So many people want to keep on their masks and never open up. Some are obsessed with wanting to be liked and accepted by their peers; they are afraid that if their peers really knew them, they would not like them or accept them. Consequently, there are a lot of people, especially young people, who project on others an image they want them to see so they will be like them. For example, some teenagers wear designer jeans thinking those jeans will cause other people to like them. Many young adults drive automobiles they cannot afford, hoping others will accept them. Happy is the man or woman who has been freed from that bondage.

It is one thing to behave in such a manner with others, but the tragedy comes when we attempt to do the same thing with God. Some pray as if they are trying to impress Him. We need to remember that He knows us. Jonah prayed and was open and honest. It is a fallacy to think we can impress God by trying to act as if we are all right.

Some think that because they are saved they should never have any distress or affliction. My friend, Dr. Curtis Benton, a serious theologian and a successful eye surgeon, would be the first to tell you that if you have cataracts before your conversion, you will probably have them after your conversion. If you have gallstones before you come to Christ, chances are you will have them after invite Christ into your heart. Some think that regeneration immediately solves all of our problems, especially emotional distress. Like the physical, often our emotional traumas are still there. God can and will deliver and set us free, but like Jonah we must be open with Him.

Some believers today have broken fellowship with God and think they have broken relationship. However, as disobedient as Jonah was in his rebellion, as much as he had gone in the opposite direction of God’s will for his life, he still realized that God was his God. Some of us have gone our own way, leaving the will of God, and have been battered by the storm and swallowed up in into the fish’s belly. Listen, there is good news. If we are really God’s children, He is still our Father. Jonah prayed to the Lord his God, and so can we.

It is also important to note what Jonah prayed. In studying his prayer we make a remarkable discovery. Jonah did not use one original thought or request in this petition. What did he do? Jonah simply prayed the Word of God. He prayed the Scriptures. Eight times in these few verses he quoted from the book of Psalms. Jonah said, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:2). Where did he get that? Listen carefully to Psalm 18:6: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Listen to Psalm 120:1: “I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answered me.” And Psalm 86:13: “For great is your love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave.”

Jonah knew the word of God. Do you see what is happening in the prayer? Jonah is standing on the promises of God and praying the Scriptures.

Jonah went on in his prayer to say, “You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me” (Jonah 2:3). Now where did he get that. Listen to Psalm 88:6: “You have put me in the lowest pit; in the darkest depths.” Psalm 42:7: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Do you see it? Jonah knew the word of God and was simply praying Scriptures. He was reminding God of the many promises of prayer.

Jonah kept praying. “I said, I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple” (Jonah 2:4). Where di d he get that? Listen to Psalm 31:22: “In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight! Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called out to you for help.’”

Jonah knew the Old Testament promises. He remembered them and he stood on them. He knew the promise of 2 Chronicles 6:36-39:

When they sin against you — for there is no one who does not sin — and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land to their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people who have sinned against you.

Therefore, knowing these promises, Jonah said, “I have been banished from your sight yet I will look again toward your holy temple” (Jonah 2:4).
Jonah continued his prayer by saying: “The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head” (Jonah 2:56). Again he was quoting the psalmist who said in Psalm 69:1-2:

Save me O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is not foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.

Jonah concluded his prayer by saying, “To the roots of the mountains I sank down: the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God” (Jonah 2:6). Where did Jonah get that? He got it from Psalm 30:3, which says, “O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.”

Jonah had hid the word in his heart and remembering it he stood on it by faith and prayed the scriptures. This is a marvelous way to make petitions to our God.

Parents should be praying Scripture over their children. For example, we should be praying that “God might give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.” We should be praying scriptures for our friends that “God might grant unto them to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” We should be praying the scriptures over our missionaries that “he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” It is no wonder so many people stay in the fish’s belly. They never call out to the Lord in prayer.

Praying the Scriptures does not begin with us. It begins in the heart of God. We receive God’s promise from above through his word, quickened by the Holy Spirit, and that is where we stand. Jonah began appealing to God on the basis of His personal promises.

Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you” (John 15:7). Are you abiding in the Lord Jesus? Is His word abiding in you? If so, you will never ask Him for anything that is contrary to His will. Therefore, He can promise you, “Ask what you will, and it will be done unto you.” Without the Bible, prayer has no direction; and without prayer, the Bible has no dynamic. God speaks to us through His written word, and we speak to Him through prayer. Can you see this taking place in Jonah’s prayer? Jonah’s prayers were answered. Why are some of our prayers unanswered? Could it be that too few of us have been alone with God long enough to get a word from Him on which to stand? The Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:7).[2]

So many say they cannot pray more than two or three minutes because they do not know what to pray. We need to pray the word of God. If we are lost, the Bible says, “Those who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” So we come to God and say, “Lord, you have said that whoever calls on your name will be saved, so save me for Christ’s sake.” Are you burdened? Then come to the Lord with His promise and say, “Lord, you have said that you have borne my griefs and carried my sorrows, so I put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

Are you lonely? Then come to the Lord on the basis of His word and say, “Lord, you have said you will never leave me nor forsake me. You have said, ‘Do not fear, for I am with you: Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Are you afraid? Come to God on the basis of his word and say, “Lord, you have said in what time I am afraid I can call upon you.”

Are you in need? Then come to God on the basis of his word and say, “Lord, you have said you would meet all my needs according to your glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Do you need forgiveness? Then come to the Lord and say, “Lord, you have said that if I confess my sin you would be faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. So I claim that promise and accept your forgiveness.”

Blessing comes from obedience. Jonah had the word in his heart all along but he was not willing to heed it. Blessing comes in obedience to God’s will. As soon as Jonah got back into God’s will, he was released, set free from the bonds that had enslaved him. You cannot keep a good man down. Why? Because he is a man of prayer. When does he pray? In his distress. To whom does he pray? He prays to the Lord his God. What does he pray? He prays the word of God.

It is also important to observe how Jonah prayed. Jonah was down, depressed, in distress. But look what happened when he started praying the Scriptures. “You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.” Where did he get the faith to pray that kind of prayer? He remembered Psalm 30:3, “O Lord, you brought me up from the grave, you spared me from going down into the pit.” God quickened this verse in his heart and he stood on it by faith.

I am encouraged when I read these verses. Jonah’s attitude of faith shows us that from God’s perspective, there is no such thing as a hopeless case. No matter how far one may have gone down, he or she can still call on the Lord in faith and be delivered.

2. A man of purpose.

When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:7-8).

Jonah came to realize that there had been a purpose in his pilgrimage. Paul said it like this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Dr. R.T. Kendall in his book Jonah made an astute observation here. He pointed out that Romans 8:28 means that just because something has been made right does not mean it was right.[3] Although it is true that God can make “all things work together for good,” this does not justify disobedience. As we have noted, Jonah’s chastening foreshadowed our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. But nonetheless we should not try to justify Jonah’s rebellion. There are people who try to justify their sins simply because things turned out all right. The fact that Jesus used Jonah’s experience with the fish as a picture of his own death, burial and resurrection does not meant hat Jonah’s rebellion was justified.

Some of us have become accomplished at trying to justify our sin. As an example, we are reminded of David. He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah her husband murdered to cover his sin. For some it seems amazing that in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, we read, “… And Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” One might say it worked out for Good, so that made it right. No! Thank God it can be made right, but that does not mean it was right. Lest we forget, remember that David reaped what he sowed. His heart was broken when his son Absalom rebelled against him and lost his life. His daughter was abused — and on and on we could go.

Jonah said, “I remembered the Lord.” He was saying, “I came to myself. The truth dawned on me.” Then he confessed, “I forgot God and listened to the lies of the devil. I’ve been clinging to the worthless idols of self, and have forfeited the grace that could have been mine all the while.” It is interesting that Jonah said this when he got to the end of his rope. The way he termed it was “when my life was ebbing away.” It seemed that things could get no worse. That phrase is literally translated “when I had lost all hope.” Jonah had come to absolute helplessness.

Some of us simply have to get to the place where we have nowhere else to turn but to God, to the place where we have lost all hope unless He comes through.

I thank God He is always there. But how much easier it would have been on Jonah if he had remembered the Lord when he stepped up to the ticket booth at Joppa to buy his ticket to sail for Tarshish. To those of us who think we have found a ship to Tarshish and are about to purchase our ticket, “Remember the Lord!” Jonah put it this way, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit grace that could be theirs.”

The Lord allowed this stress to come into Jonah’s life so that he might come to himself and remember the Lord. It was the same with the prodigal son. His father knew better. His father knew what was best for him, but out of love he let him go. Now, like the prodigal boy, the prodigal Jonah is coming home. He too has found out that clinging to worthless idols was not worth it.

In Jonah’s dark and damp dungeon there did not seem to be a ray of hope, but suddenly the light of God’s glory started coming in. What do you suppose he remembered? I think he remembered God’s mercy. I think he must have remembered Lamentations 3:32: “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

Jonah knew well the emptiness of these idols. He had watched the sailors pray to their idols to no avail. Did he now realize that he was worshiping one of the worse of all idols: Self?

Jesus died on the cross not only to set us free from sin, but also from self. The Bible says, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Victory over self is claimed in the same way as victory over sin. We do not have victory over sin by trying to earn or deserve it. We are saved by faith. Victory over self is achieved in the same way: by faith.

Paul urged us not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). A lot of us are trying to put away the idols of self by conforming, or by nonconforming. Nonconforming never produces victory. It is good that believers do not drink or smoke dope or wear suggestive clothing or watch X-rated movies or gamble or be involved in illicit sex or talk in a filthy manner. But where is the victory? It is not in conformity or nonconformity. The victory comes from God. The victory is transformation within by faith. It is good that we throw our cargo overboard, but it will not bring our victory. We don’t get victory; we have victory if we are truly converted. The problem is that some of us are not appropriating it. While some of us are so busy trying to get it, we forget we already have it — in Christ.

Jonah looked back, remembered the Lord, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “It wasn’t worth it!” It is no sign of God’s mercy if you are getting away with your sin. If you keep clinging to worthless idols, you keep forfeiting the grace that could be yours.

3. A man of praise

But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). If Jonah could offer a sacrifice of praise from the belly of a fish, surely we can offer one from our distress.

Note that Jonah did not ask to be delivered. He simply started praising God in a difficult situation and giving thanks. All most of us know about giving thanks is associated with good times. We give thanks at family times — for the turkey, the harvest, the business, the baby. Jonah learned something liberating. He learned that giving thanks in everything would set him free.

When midnight comes, when we find ourselves in distress, many of us feel like giving up and wallowing in self-pity. We lapse into a martyr complex. But Jonah sang a song in the night and God delivered him.

Job did the same thing when he was stripped of his health, wealth and family. He responded by saying, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15). And the Bible says that God restored unto Job twice what he had before.

It was the same with Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail. Although they were chained to prison guards, at midnight those two men sang a song that opened prison doors. It would have been easy for them to have cried out about the unfairness of their punishment. After all, they had done nothing to warrant it. They had left their homes for the sake of the gospel. They had sacrificed much. They could easily have slipped into resentment. But the Bible says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, there was a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose’ (Acts 16:25-26).

Here are the keys that unlock the door: praise and thanksgiving. They will set us free. You say, “But I don’t have anything to praise God about.” Well, we don’t praise God for what He gives us; we praise Him for who He is.

Had Paul and Silas been like a lot of modern-day disciples, Scripture would have read, “At midnight, Paul and Silas whined and whimpered and questioned God.” But instead, like Jonah, they praised the Lord in the midst of adversity, and God set them free.

Could this be the very point at which our own deliverance is waiting? Praise is the garment we must put on as believers when we have a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3). Is it dark in your life? Do you feel as though you are in prison at midnight? Are you in the belly of a fish? Do not allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. Begin to praise the Lord. When we sing a song in the night, when we praise the Lord in adversity, God hears and acts.

There is no beautiful illustration of this than is found in 2 Chronicles 20:15-22:

Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with voices loud and high. So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.” Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.

During the reign of King Jehoshaphat, the Ammonites and the Moabites came up against the Israelites. Jehoshaphat knew he was out-matched. What could he do? He marched and  sang praises to God. In the hour of trial instead of cowering in fear he sang praises, and the outcome was glorious.

Are you in the fish’s belly? Are you in the dark, confused, in despair and distress? Never give up. You cannot keep a good man, a man of praise, down.

Here is a good place to begin finding the will of God. The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Did you hear that? This is God’s will. Our giving thanks is God’s will. This does not necessarily say that we are to thank God for the fish’s belly, but thank God in the fish’s belly.

Our faith is proven by our thanksgiving. There is quite a difference between those who walk by sight and those who walk by faith. Those who walk by sight can sing songs of praise and thanksgiving only when deliverance has come. Anyone can do that. We get a new job and we give thanks. We get a good report from the doctor and we give praise and thanks. But those who walk by faith choose to live in thanksgiving even in the midst of adversity. God says, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23).

4. A man of perception

“But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:9-10).

A casual reading of the text might cause us to pass over what Jonah said in the last part of 2:9: “Salvation comes from the Lord.” It is God who delivers. As long as there are still a few strings for us to pull, deliverance can be traced to our own efforts. We are not saved because we deserve to be, or because we are good, or because we are moral, or because we are intelligent, or because we are talented, or because we are American. Salvation and deliverance are “Of the Lord.” Jonah finally perceived this. He was not only a man of prayer and purpose and praise; now he was a man of perception.

Jonah was saying, “It is out of my hands. There is nothing I can do.” Jonah knew that only a loving God would take him back after the rebellion he had pursued. He knew that his deliverance had to be of the Lord.

God has a special way of bringing us to this point, doesn’t He? When we are rebellious, He has a way of getting us to the place where finally have to say, “Lord, it is out of my hands; there is nothing more I can do. Deliverance must come from You.”

It will be a happy day when we stop trying to deliver ourselves and become men and women of prayer, purpose, praise and perception, knowing that deliverance comes only from the Lord. Some of us are still in the fish’s belly because we have never gotten to that place of understanding. Some of us have become men and women of prayer, calling to God in our distress. Some of us have become men and women of purpose, realizing our disobedience wasn’t worth it. Some of us have even thanked God for the hard experience, and have become men and women of praise. But all of that is not enough. We need to take the final step of acknowledging that deliverance is totally of the Lord and unless He comes through we are sunk. Jonah came to that place when finally he said, “I can’t, but He can. Salvation is of the Lord.”

The apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Until now in Jonah’s pilgrimage, he had said, “For to me, to live is self.”[4] How would you complete that sentence? For to me to live — is what? For to me to live is selfishness? For to me to live is business? For to me to live is pleasure? For to me to live is my boat? For to me to live is money? For to me to live is my boat? For to me to live is pleasure? For to me to live is my boat? For to me to live is money? For to me to live is the kids? God did not keep Jonah down there one second longer than it took to get Jonah to repent and acknowledge his dependency on a loving God.

I really appreciate the final verse of this chapter. God spoke to the fish, and out came Jonah. The way of out of a fish’s belly is to be a person of prayer, purpose, praise and perception. And the word of the Lord will come to you a second time. Thank God He is the God of the second chance.

Thank God that you cannot keep a good man down.

[1] Blair, J. Allen. 1963. Jonah. Neptune NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., p. 65.

[2] Hawkins, O.S., 1982. Clues to a Successful Life. Nashville TN: Broadman Press, p. 94.

[3] Kendall, R.T. 1978. Jonah. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p. 129.

[4] Blair, Jonah, P. 72

World Missions Day

World Missions Day

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:11 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:11 PM


Acts 16:10

Acts 16:10

World missions is the very heartbeat of God. The Lord Jesus came "on mission" to our world when He clothed Himself in flesh and walked among us. The early first century church was a missionary church. The great Apostle Paul was not a theologian who became a missionary. He was first and foremost a missionary who was also a theologian.

God is still sending His people to the ends of the earth on missionary assignments today. He still calls particular people to particular places for particular purposes. Sadly, it has become strange in our modern day that "calling out the called" has become a foreign concept. Fewer and fewer congregations extend public invitations today and even among those who still do, there is seldom any appeal to "surrender" our lives to God’s call to service.

As I read and reread many of the great missionary passages of the Bible recently, I became captivated by a phrase found in the account of Paul's second missionary journey. The phrase says, "After he had seen the vision" (Acts 16:10). In this passage Paul sensed the call on his life to take the gospel to Europe.

He had returned from his first missionary journey and had written a letter back to the churches he had established along the way. We call this letter "Galatians" in our New Testament. Then, in Acts 15, Paul journeys to Jerusalem for the great church council. Twenty years had now passed since Pentecost. The issue was whether the Gentiles must follow various components of the Jewish ceremonial laws in order to be saved. Paul eloquently argued his case and the church settled the issue that salvation was indeed, by grace through faith in Christ alone.

After the Jerusalem Conference, Paul sensed the call to another missionary journey (Acts 15:36-39). Here we see a dispute arise between him and his missionary companion, Barnabas. The issue arose over whether young John Mark, who had left and returned home on the first journey, should accompany them on the second. Paul said no. Barnabas said yes. Who was right? In a sense they were both right. Paul's focus was on the mission. He was focused, single minded. He reasoned that if his young colleague had left before, he would do so again. After all, it was Jesus who had said that "no one putting his hand to the plow and looking back was fit for the kingdom." On the other hand, Barnabas' focus was on the man. Sure John Mark had failed. But, who hasn’t? Barnabas was living up to his name (Son of Encouragement). The church of the Lord Jesus needs both of these men. Thus, they split up. Paul took Silas. Barnabas took John Mark. And they both followed God's call to missions (Acts 15:40-16:5).

Then, an amazing thing happens. As Paul went on his way, he was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia they came down to Troas" (Acts 16:6-8). Paul met one closed door after another. But he kept on the move.

He kept moving forward. There was no rebuke because he tried to go to these other places. And then it happened... "A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying 'Come over to Macedonia and help us' " (Acts 16:9). And then the phrase—"After he had seen the vision"—he went straight to his place of calling.

The question on this World Missions Day is, "Have you seen the vision, the calling of God?" Have we seen the vision of our world? We are part of a global community that now numbers well in excess of six billion people, every one of whom is formed and fashioned by God. We who live in America make up a little more than 4% of this number. When you break this equation down into observable and identifiable components, it is alarming. Look at your particular congregation next Sunday. If there are 200 people sitting in the pews, then look at eight of them. Yes, just eight. That is an object lesson of how many people are in our world outside our own borders. If your crowd numbers 1,000, then look at forty of them. Those approximately four pews represent the proportion of Americans to the world population. While you are looking at these congregations observe that of the crowd of 200, 48 of them would represent how many people are living in China alone and 36 of them would represent the people of India. It is also alarming to think that half of the world’s wealth exists in those eight people in relationship to the crowd of 200. Those eight people representing the United States have a life expectancy of over 75 years while the rest of the world's life expectancy is barely 40 years of age. And their garbage disposals digest more food daily than eighty percent of the world’s men, women and children.

What must God think about those eight of us who figuratively sit in that congregation of two hundred? We are so blessed. Some of us think we are making a great sacrifice to invest one hour of our week in worship. The great commission is for the entire world. One of the fallacies of the modern "seeker friendly" church movement today is that so much of it is centered in self-interest and self-fulfillment. How can it be that 95% of those God is calling into ministry today are expecting to spend their time with those eight blessed people instead of the rest of the world?

Have you caught the vision? It was not until "after he had seen the vision" (Acts 16:10) that Paul headed out to what was then "the ends of the earth." Before every great spiritual accomplishment, God gives a vision for the task ahead. When He called Abraham He gave him a vision that his seed would be as "the stars" of the sky. When He called Joseph He gave him a vision of the crops bowing before him. Have you caught the vision God has for you and the job He has for you to do that no one else can do quite like you can?

It is also important to observe that after Paul had received the vision, "immediately" (Acts 16:10) he set out on his missionary journey. Some never know a missionary heart because they have no vision of the missionary heart of God. The vision for missionary service is still being given by the Father. We will catch the vision and "call out the called" when we realize the Macedonian call to missions is as much for us today as it was to those in the early church.

The Macedonian Call to Missions is Personal

"A vision appeared to Paul..." (Acts 16:9)

Note this particular call was personal. It was given "to Paul." God deals with us on a personal level. His vision for the better use of our gifts is personal. He still calls particular people to particular places for particular purposes. The only thing that keeps a lot of missionaries in the field in certain situations is the personal call of God to a particular place. God has a way of giving a vision for the task ahead and one man or one woman conceives it with Him, gestates it a while and later births it into reality.

The Macedonian call to world missions is personal. But it is of interest to note how it came to Paul. It did not come while he was hiding somewhere in a cave waiting for it. It did not come when he was sitting around like a monk somewhere waiting "to hear from God." It came to him when he was active. It came when he was on the move. It came when he was moving forward. It came when he was "risking his life for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26) and when he was making ready to go back and visit those he had seen on his first missionary journey to "see how they are doing" (Acts 16:36). And thus we find him going through Phrygia, Galatia, to the door of Asia, and then to Mysia, to Bithynia and finally to Troas (Acts 16:6-8). He was on the move.

Have you caught the vision? Most usually it comes to people who are doing something, who are on the move themselves, who are active. This Macedonian call to missions is, first of all, personal. It was "to Paul." Perhaps it is to you.

The Macedonian Call to Missions is Pressing

"A man from Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' " (Acts 16:9)

Paul saw the vision of a man who "pleaded" with him for help. The word translates a Greek word, παρακαλεω, which means to encourage strongly, or to beseech with strong force. This present active participle indicates that the tense is continuous. That is, this man in Paul's vision kept standing before him, he kept pleading with him, he kept saying, "Come over and help us...come over and help us...come over and help us." This call is not simply personal, it is pressing.

The Macedonian call is an urgent one. Our world is waiting. Millions in their own quiet ways are "pleading" today for God's people to "come over and help us." And they are not just on the other side of the world; some of them are right down the street. Over there in that transitional neighborhood is a single mother trying to work and raise her kids at the same time. She has been deserted. They are selling crack cocaine on her corner. One of the few role models her son has is the guy with the fancy car, the big gold chains around his neck and the chrome revolver in his pocket. She is pleading, "Come over and help me." The call to missions is pressing.

Somewhere out there today is a small child barely a dozen years of age. She comes home from school to take care of little brothers and sisters, to fix dinner, to wash and clean. Her mom is working two jobs. She has never known her dad. Can you hear her pleading, "Come over and help me?"

There is also a teenager out there somewhere today trying to cope with a mother who brings a different man home every weekend. Can you hear her pleading for help? Have you caught the Macedonian vision?

What about that young boy sitting at the lunch table by himself at school. No one seems to care and no one pays attention to him at school…or at home. He has never felt a mother's arms around him much less tuck him into bed at night. He has never heard his dad tell him he is proud to be his dad. In his own way he is pleading, "Come over and help me."

And what about that jail building we pass by on our way to work? In one of those cells is a man marking off "X's" on a calendar. He is sick and tired and about to give up hope. Can you hear him say, "Please, come over and help me"?

In that high-rise office sitting behind that big mahogany desk is a man with everything materially the world has to offer, except peace in his own heart. All his money and influence cannot keep his son away from dope or buy him happiness. His life is coming apart at the seams. In his own way he pleads, "Come over and help me."

And these stories could be multiplied many times over by the young mother who lies dying of Aids in Africa, the father scrounging for food in the gutter to feed his starving family in some Indian metropolis. Or, a myriad of other similar circumstances and situations. People all over the world are pleading, "Come over and help us."

Have you caught the vision? Have you heard the Macedonian call to missions? You will when you begin to realize it is personal and pressing.

The Macedonian Call to Missions is Precise

"...a man from Macedonia..." (Acts 16:9)

There is not only a "who" and a "when" in the call of God to missions but there is also a "where." Paul's call was precise. It was to "Macedonia." Each of us should ask ourselves where Macedonia (the will of God) is for us.

Have you heard the Macedonian call? Do you know the voice of God when He speaks to your heart by His Spirit and through His word? When I was a boy living on the East Side of Fort Worth I was usually playing ball on the old vacant lot up the street about dinnertime each evening. I can still hear my Mom’s voice echoing out through that kitchen door shouting, "It is time to eat!" I knew my mother’s voice. She didn't have to say, "This is your mother. Come to 3237 Crenshaw to the kitchen table." I knew she was speaking precisely to me and not to Steve or Jerry or any of the other kids on our block. How did I know her voice? I heard it every day. I recognized it. I listened to it. I obeyed it. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice…and I know them…and they follow me" (John 10:3-4).

This precise calling for Paul to come to Macedonia was one of the turning points of human history. Macedonia was Europe. Had Paul turned eastward to Asia instead of westward to Europe, it would have resulted in a profound difference in world history. The European continent became the center of Christianity. Thus Paul headed west, on to Macedonia, to Philippi, to Thessalonica, then to Corinth and Athens and eventually Rome would lay ahead for him.

Have you caught the vision? It is personal, pressing and precise.

The Macedonian Call to Missions is Practical

" us..." (Acts 16:9)

We are not called to sit, but to go. There is not only a "who," a "when" and a "where" in the Macedonian call but there is also a "what." The vision is a practical one. Our missionaries and the multitudes of people they are serving around the world today need help.

This man of Macedonia in Paul's vision was calling for "help."

I have personally seen this call for help in the very faces of men, women and children around the world. I have seen it in the face of a little child in the slums of Nairobi. I have seen it in the face of a Palestinian teenager in the refugee camps of Bethlehem. I have seen it in the tattooed face of a woman who once was a sorcerer but who now sings praises to God under a tin roof in a bush church in East Africa. I have seen it in the toothless smile of an old Masai warrior in the Kenyan bush. I have seen it in the blank stares of the masses in China. I have seen it in the empty look of a little orphan girl in Romania.

"Come over and help us" is the cry of our world. We have a huge world. I once heard my missionary friend, Tom Elliff, ask, "If you saw a large long telephone pole with ten men carrying it on one end and one man lifting the other end, where would you go to help carry the pole?" The American church should be asking herself why it is that 95% of those called to ministry in her churches stay here to preach the gospel while the whole world is calling, "Come over and help us."

I have a growing sense that one of the lost passions of the modern pastor is the failure to "call out the called." This is seldom ever mentioned. Thus, young men and women and older ones alike are not being challenged to ask what Paul asked on the Damascus Road, "Lord, what would you have me to do?" The Macedonian call to missions is a very practical one.

The Macedonian Call to Missions is Providential

"...we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us..." (Acts 16:10)

What a conclusion... "Concluding that the Lord had called us." There is something very interesting here. Paul was a spiritually led man with a sensitive heart who followed the Spirit's leading. When he was refrained from preaching in Asia (Acts 16:6-8) he did not wring his hands and say, "Well, I tried. It was just not what I thought it would be like." He kept on the move. He kept putting his hand on the next doorknob and when it would not open he went on to the next one. Some today seem to think they should simply sit and wait on their call. Some even quit the journey when they get to their own "Bithynia" and the door is shut. What is the moral here? When you sense the opportunity to show concern for others, move out, and go forward and the Lord will be with you.

God’s call did not come to Paul when he was holed up in a cave somewhere. He was no monk. He was no hermit. He was on the move. God was leading him. Incidentally, note that there was no divine rebuke when he tried to go to Asia or Mysia or Bithynia or Troas. God’s timing was just not right. Later, he would make his way through those doors, including to Ephesus. But it was not in God's timing as yet.

There is a key word in understanding this providential call here in verse ten. It reveals that he went on to Macedonia "concluding that the Lord had called us." This word "concluding" translates the Greek word, συμβιβαζω . It means "to come together" just as a sweater being knitted does not look like much until it is folded over and finally knitted together and it "comes together." It is the picture of a jigsaw puzzle that doesn't look like much and then a piece fits here and another there and it begins to "come together." In other words, in Paul's mind, it all came together. The vision, this missionary call, was a confirmation of God's moving in his own life.

Here in this verse we see the truth of Isaiah when he said, "Whether you turn to the left or the right you will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it' " (Isaiah 30:21). You will hear a voice. Where? Behind you. The only way this can be done is if you are on the move, doing what is right. This has happened in my own experience when I have headed in a direction and sensed that "still small voice" in my heart saying, "This is right." Often it comes in the way of a sense of peace, a release of conflict. And, it is accompanied by confirmation from His word.

Some today seem to want to be struck by lightning, so to speak, before they hear His call. No. Move out. Do something. Go somewhere. If it is not His will for you at that time, the door will close as it did for Paul at various places along his own journey. If it is His will, it will all "come together" and you too can "conclude that God has called you." Everyone I know who has been called and used by God heard the call, caught the vision, while they were on the move for and with the Lord and not while they were sitting and waiting for God to tell them what to do. My own call to ministry occurred the summer before my senior year in college when I was "on the go" in Mexico on a mission trip.

Have you caught the vision? It is personal. It is pressing. It is precise. It is practical. And, it is also providential.

The Macedonian Call to Missions is Pointed

"...the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them." (Acts 16:10)

This is our primary purpose for Christian missions..."to preach the gospel to them." This is a pointed call. We are not primarily to build hospitals or schools, to erect orphanages, to teach agricultural principles or any of a thousand other very worthwhile aspects of mission work. All of these should be done with the primary purpose of "preaching the gospel."

A few years later this same Apostle Paul would write to the Romans and refer to himself as one who was "separated unto the gospel" (Romans 1:1). The divine call of God upon our lives is one that truly separates us unto the gospel. It is pointed. Every other ambition or desire is to be relegated down the priority list of life and the extension of the gospel to the ends of the earth must remain our pointed priority.

No organization in the church has a right to exist unless its primary purpose is to extend the gospel message. The gospel is defined for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 in saying that "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and He was buried, and He arose again on the third day according to the scriptures."

The phrase, "preach the gospel" (Acts 16:10) translates one word in Greek, ευαγγελιζω. It means to share the good news, this gospel story, and to do so in a way that it calls for a decision. We are not simply to find the prodigal son out in the pigpen, then organize a team to build a roof over his head while others find him some adequate clothes and still others take him a hot meal on wheels each day. Our task is to get that boy to "come to himself" (Luke 15:17) and to get him back to the Father's house. Once there, if we recall, it is his father who begins to meet his every need when he returns with a repentant and contrite heart.

This is the church's vision; this is our calling, to "preach the gospel to them." The Macedonian call to missions is a pointed and specific call.

The Macedonian Call to Missions is Prompt

"...immediately we sought to go to Macedonia..." (Acts 16:10)

The Lord has given many a believer a vision that died because they did not act promptly in obedience to it. Not Paul… "Immediately" he set out. Even though some sense the call is personal, pressing and even precise, they – for whatever reason – delay the call and it never comes to fruition.

Note Paul's immediate response to the missionary call. There was no delay. "Immediately..." There was no doubt.

"Immediately..." There was no defiance. "Immediately..."

There is a very subtle yet very interesting thing taking place here in verse ten. Note the change of pronouns from "they" to "we." Back in verse 8 we read, "so passing by Mysia they came down to Troas." Then in verse ten we read, "After he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia." What happened? No doubt that Luke, the writer of Acts, had joined up with Paul at Troas and now begins giving a first-person report. Then, we read later in Acts 17:1 that the pronouns change back to "they" again. This, no doubt, indicates that Luke stayed in Philippi to establish and minister to the new church that was founded in that city.

Some of you may be hearing the Macedonian call to missions today. All that is left to do is to act promptly upon it. God will have his own way of seeing that others join you in the journey as happens here in Paul's own experience.

The Macedonian Call to Missions is Productive

"...we ran a straight Philippi" (Acts 16:11-12)

Philippi. Talk about a productive response to the call of God.

There is nothing like being in the middle of the will of God for our lives by responding with prompt obedience to His call.

This journey across the Aegean from Troas to Philippi is a fitting conclusion to this chapter of Paul’s story. Here Luke uses a Greek nautical term, ευθυδρομεω, which we translate "ran a straight course." What does it mean? Those who have sailed know that when the wind is in your face you have to zigzag across the lake to make any forward progress. But, when the wind is at your back, you can run a course to the other side that is straight as an arrow. You can just set the sail and go full speed ahead on a straight line.

Here in verse 11 we are seeing that the wind was at their back. And in more ways than one! When we catch the vision, get in the will of God and go forward, the wind of the Spirit is at our back guiding us and pushing us forward. Is it any wonder that those in life who continually try to sail against the wind of the Spirit never run "a straight course"?

Paul went to Macedonia, to Philippi. His first converts were a business woman named Lydia and an unnamed jailer. They became the pillars of the newly founded church there and this church financially supported the great Apostle the rest of his life and ministry. And, some twelve years later, he would write them a letter from his prison cell in Rome speaking to them of a life of continual rejoicing. We call this letter Philippians in our New Testament. And, it all began when he "caught the vision and concluded it was the will of God." And it so obviously was. When we trust and obey, we too find that the Macedonian call to missions is a most productive call.

So, this brings us to a final question. Have you caught the vision? There is nothing like being in the middle of the will of God. Move out, do something, and "whether you go to the left or the right" you too "will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it'" (Isaiah 30:21). And, then you can join Paul in "concluding that this is the will of God" for you.

Yes, the old hymn still rings true today:

We have heard the Macedonian call today

"Send the light! Send the light!"

And a golden offering at the cross we lay

Send the light! Send the light!


Let us not grow weary in the work of love

"Send the light! Send the light!"

Let us gather jewels for a crown above

Send the light! Send the light!


Send the light, the blessed Gospel light

Let it shine from shore to shore!

Send the light, the blessed Gospel light

Let it shine forevermore!

Where are the nine?

Where are the nine?

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:10 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:10 PM


Luke 17:11-19

Luke 17:11-19

With Thanksgiving approaching, we are reminded that giving thanks is a part of our country’s heritage. Jesus gave us principles for thanksgiving. His teaching is recorded in Luke 17:11-19 through His encounter with ten lepers.

I. Get up (vv. 11-13)

This has to do with fortitude. If we don’t, we may miss the Master.

II. Get out (v. 14)

This has to do with attitude. If we don’t, we may miss the miracle.

III. Get back (vv. 15-19)

This has to do with gratitude. If we don’t, we may miss the moment.

Are we really that far removed from this scene of Jesus and the ten lepers? The disease of sin is far more dangerous than that of leprosy. One destroys only the body, but sin destroys both body and soul. Desperation may bring you to Christ, but only gratitude can keep you there. May we find our place this Thanksgiving season at the feet of Christ. Jesus is passing by. Where are the nine?

For a more complete treatment of this passage, please see Good News for Great Days by O. S. Hawkins, pages 213-224.

What Can One Person Do?

What Can One Person Do?

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:10 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:10 PM


Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah 3:1-10

History is replete with stories of what one solitary person can do to change his or her world. Ask Moses what one person can do; after hearing God speak from a burning bush, he went back to Egypt and became the emancipator of his people. Ask Nehemiah what one man can do; after having heard the report of the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, he left his civil service job and went back to lead the rebuilding of the broken walls. What can one man do? Ask William Wilberforce of Great Britain; virtually singlehandedly he brought an end to slavery in that nation a century ago.

What can one person do? Look at Jonah. Remember, he had previously failed, and no doubt some people were saying that God could never use him again. But one of the greatest revivals in history came to the city of Nineveh, and it all began with Jonah, with one man who repented and got right with God.

The truth is, you are important. You could be the key to revival in your home, your church, your city, your nation, your world. Some people may look around the office in which they work, seeing all the others who live such ungodly lives, and wonder what could they ever do in such an environment.  What can one man or woman do in such a setting? Young people at school, overwhelmed when everyone else is going the way of the world, ask themselves that same question, “What can one person do?”

Let’s look at Jonah and continue using him as our example as we see what one man can do. We begin by noting that we cannot change our world until we correct our ways.

1. Correct our ways

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city — a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” (Jonah 3:1-4).

Some of us have forgotten that we have the ability to correct our ways. How?

A. Seize Our Opportunities

First, we can seize our opportunities. Jonah seized the opportunity of a second chance. It is one thing to be delivered and washed up on shore. However, merely being ejected from the fish will not solve all our problems. It is another thing to have a second chance and do something about it. God doesn’t just deliver us; He gives us a second chance. How regrettable it is that some never correct their ways because they do not seize the opportunity of the second chance.

I am sure that between chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Jonah, the main character lived in a state of wondering if God would ever use him again. Certainly God was under no obligation to do so. Trying to put myself in Jonah’s place, I suppose nothing would be more painful that the feeling of uselessness, the fear, that God had put me on the shelf, that haunting gnawing that because of a previous mistake God would never use me again. What a feeling of frustration and failure I would have. But listen to the word of God: “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” What a comfort it is to realize the best of God’s servants have made foolish mistakes, but were used again. God is not through with me yet, and He is not through with you yet.

The Bible is the continuous record of God coming the second time with another opportunity, and of men and women seizing the opportunity. In the garden of Eden, God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). As we all know, Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree. They fell. And what did God do? He came a second time in the cool of the day to mend the broken relationship.

God always comes a second time. What is the first time you heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His love for you was also the last time? The chances are that few of us would have come to know Him in the free pardoning of sin. Many of us are in the family of God today because the Word of the Lord came to us a second time, or a third, or a fourth, or a tenth time. Perhaps some reader today has gone her or his own way in life. Like Jonah you have disobeyed God and gotten out of His will. Let me assure you that our God is the God of the second chance, but it is not enough that He provides the second chance. We must seize the opportunity when it is presented.

Some say sadly, “I’ve missed God’s best for me.” Before we take off on a guilt trip like that, we ought to remember that we all have missed God’s best for us. God’s best was in the Garden. Ever since the fall of man, God has been the God of the second chance. We all have sinned, gone our own way, and are in need of a second chance.

We read of many in the Bible who took advantage of the second opportunity. What about Lot? Lot was a city boy. He grabbed the best land with the brightest lights. But he seized the opportunity for a second chance and repented before Sodom was destroyed.

And do not forget David, the king who had it all going for him and thought he could cover his sin when his lust had gotten the best of him. He seized his opportunity for a second chance, repented, and went on to the most effective years of his life.

And there was Samson, rugged and handsome, who had so much going for him until he fell into sin. But in his last days God gave him a second chance and he corrected his ways and seized the opportunity.

Many of us can identify with Simon Peter. Peter denied our Lord the night He needed him the most. Later Jesus met him on the shore and Peter corrected his ways by seizing the opportunity of a second chance.

And on and on we can go throughout the Bible. If God could use men like that again, He certainly can use us again. He can use us if we correct our ways by seizing the opportunity of the second chance.

Some sense the opportunity of the second chance but never seize it. We have no right to assume that God will go on giving us opportunity after opportunity to get right with Him. God is giving that second chance today. Nothing we have done is unforgivable, with the exception of our continued refusal to receive His grace.

What can one person do? We can begin by correcting our ways. How? By seizing the opportunity of a second chance.

The second chance came Jonah’s way and he responded in obedience. Some of us wonder why we do not obey God and, the truth is, we do not obey Him because we do not trust Him. If we really trusted Him, we would obey Him. But a step farther back to the root shows us that we do not trust Him because we do not know Him in the intimacy of Father and child. If we really knew Him, we would trust Him. Jonah had gotten to know God again in the belly of the fish and he trusted Him. Obedience naturally followed. When the Word of the Lord came a second time, Jonah obeyed. I believe that when he moved in obedience he began to anticipate what was going to happen. I can almost see him now, marching confidently in the power of the Holy Spirit to Nineveh, forgiven and grateful for a second chance.

Jonah had heard from God. What moved him now was the word of God. What moves you? Some of us wonder why God never seems to use us. The answer should be obvious. The real lesson here is that God gives us orders and when God gives us orders, He sticks with them. When God said “go” to Jonah, He meant it. God came a second time with the same message: “Go to Nineveh.” Could it be that God has told us to go and we have said no?

Do you see it? Obedience arises from faith and trust. Jonah had learned a great lesson in the depths. He had learned that if there were no valleys, there would be no mountaintops. He had learned obedience.

Jonah also repented of his ways. Before, God had said, “Go to Nineveh,” and Jonah went in the opposite direction. Now he had changed his mind and was enroute to Nineveh. That is repentance.

Repentance is a change of mind that is always evidenced in three ways. First, there is change of attitude, a change intellectually. Repentance begins with a change of mind. Second, there is change of affections, a change emotionally, a change of the heart. Third, there is a change of action, a change in one’s volition, one’s will. If we genuinely change our minds, our hearts will change too and our actions will follow.

The most obvious biblical illustration of repentance is found in the fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel in the story of the prodigal son. First, the prodigal underwent a change of attitude. The Bible says he “came to himself.” He changed his mind. Then what happened? He had a change of affections. He said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough to spare and I am perishing with hunger?” His heart was changed. After having a change of attitude, and a change of affection, he had a change of action. His will was changed. He said, “I will arise and go to my father. In Luke 15:20 the Bible says, “He got up and went to his father.”

And so it was with the prodigal prophet Jonah. He was now in the will of God. Could it be that revival is just waiting for us to get in the will of God/ I do not know where Nineveh is for you, but I know that God will “make known to you the path of life.” There you will find fullness of joy. There is something a lot more fun than being on a Mediterranean cruise to Tarshish, and that is going to Nineveh in the will of God. The truly happy people of this world are not necessarily those who look like it on the outside, but those who are happy on the inside by being in the will of God.

B. Sense our obligation.

How do we correct our ways? First, we can seize our opportunities; second, we can sense our obligations. God again told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and “proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah went to Nineveh and preached God’s message: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

As God’s messengers, we are obliged to take His word and not our own to the world. When we take our own views, we may persuade people to believe us, but when we take God’s word the Holy Spirit persuades them to believe Him. It is interesting to note in Jonah 3:5 that the Ninevites “believed God.” A lot of God’s preachers today are out of His will by preaching their own messages instead of God’s. Some see the Bible from the viewpoint of the world, and others see the world from the viewpoint of the Bible. Jonah’s message was not some compromising, watered-down, namby-pamby, candy-coated sermonette. No, he now sensed his obligation to be faithful to the word. He spoke the truth of God’s word. Paul later put it like this: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Cor. 11:23). Paul also said, “When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

Jonah could have gone to Nineveh and sought out the right contacts and said all the right things. He could have influenced others through his personality so that just the right people would recommend him with flowing words. And who knows? Perhaps he would have landed a position as chaplain to the king. Built Nineveh would never have come to repentance. How said is it today that so many preachers are interested only in titles and positions. This is why there are a lot of dead churches who are pastored by men who pull all the strings denominationally and politically — and revival never comes.

Preaching that does not bring and women face to face with their sin and with God’s will for their lives never produces repentance. The preacher who refuses to renounce sin, who seeks to make others feel comfortable in their sin, is often covering his own. I know of a preacher who prides himself in not making his people feel guilty. He preaches about soothing things, good things, popular things. Jonah sensed his obligations and sounded forth the frightening message from God.

That message certainly was not a popular one. It certainly would not make people feel comfortable. Pastors who sense the obligation of being faithful to God’s word are those who love their people too much not to tell them the truth from God’s word. We must “preach the message that God has given us.” The greatest revival in the history of the world came to Nineveh because Jonah preached God’s message, and not what the people wanted to hear.

We see here the need for a delicate balance in the preaching of God’s word. Yes, there is a second chance. Yes, we have a redemptive message in the gospel. Yes, God can forgive and cleanse the past. But the teaching of these truths must be done in such a way that anyone who is contemplating a life of sin would not say, “I’ll go out and sin and God will forgive me.” If anyone says that or believes that, he or she knows nothing of the grace of God and of repentance.

This message cannot be preached unless we ourselves are correcting our ways. The only message with power is the message that is preached with a pure heart by persons of clean hands ? all else is sounding brass and clanging cymbals.

There do not seem to be enough preachers today who sense their obligation to the word of God. Some mean are soothingly, softly whispering, “Believe, believe, believe.” That kind of preaching is popular today. Do you know why? It calls for no change of lifestyle. It is foreign to the preaching that brings revival. It has forgotten the word repentance.

Woe to the preacher who does not warn his people that judgment is coming. We are not going to get away with sin. Each of us is going to stand before God, and if any of us says, “I’ll live however I want because I am under the blood,” we should examine our own salvation. Many have been living a lie for years; and all the while, judgment is coming. God has a limit to his patience with us.

We do not choose what we preach as ministers of the gospel. We do not have a choice of what we preach week by week. There are times in my study when I am absolutely overcome when I sense that God has spoken to me through His word for our people. Pulpits are not private platforms to espouse personal philosophies or political views. The only preaching God honors is “the message that I give you.” In my pulpit I preach the Bible for two reasons. First, I am not smart enough to preach anything else. If I were to preach on social issues, there are sociologists in my congregation who would know far more about them than I. If I were to preach on political issues, there are politicians who would know more than I do in that field. Second, I am too smart to preaching anything else because I know that God blesses His word and it will never return void.

What is this message God has called us to proclaim? Paul said it best: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). This is the word of God that is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

There is no limit to what can happen in a fellowship when we preach the message God gives us. God says, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Is. 55:11). “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:8).

Note Jonah’s message: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” God could have leveled Nineveh without any warning. But in his love and mercy He warned them first. He gave them time to repent. He gave them a final opportunity.

Nineveh would be overturned. The judgment of God was coming. The wrath of God was enroute. Here was a message from God, a message of wrath and judgment wrapped in a message of love and mercy. We find the same ideas in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Where is the message of love? “For God so loved the world.” Where is the message of judgment? “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish.”

This sermon that brought such a mighty revival contained only one sentence: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (Jonah 3:4). It shows us that God is serious about His word and we must not be ashamed to preach it. Jonah went to Nineveh more concerned about being faithful to God and the message he was to preach than he was in getting the key to the city from the mayor. A lot of us today are more interested in being accepted as “one of the boys” than we are in delivering an uncompromising message of judgment that calls for repentance. The reason some ministers do not preach God’s message of judgment and wrath today is they are ashamed in this modern world to admit they believe in hell and judgment. But there is a greater tragedy than that. The reason some others do not preach God’s message of judgment and wrath today is that they are ashamed to admit they do not believe in hell and judgment.

One of the devil’s foremost lies today is that the message of judgment scares people away from church. In our plastic society, men and women are wanting to know the truth. Growing churches are churches that proclaim the “message God gives them.” The folly of this present church age is that many think they can attract people by boasting that they are too progressive to believe in such things as judgment and wrath. Sadly, their churches are empty and dead. When we read the history of revivals we find that they were all born out of preaching about the wrath of God.

However, I’m not just pointing a finger at those of us who are preachers. Mostly, it is lay men and women who have not seized their opportunities and sensed their obligations. We have not changed our world because we have not corrected our ways. What can one person do? We have seen what one person can do in a negative sense? A Madelyn Murray O’ Hair can get prayer out of the public schools almost singlehandedly because she set her mind to it. Pray to God that all Christians were as committed to Christ as she was to atheism.

We are putting a lot of blame on churches for the decline of influence of Christianity in American life today, but may I ask, “Where have the Christian lawyers been?” Where have they been while liberal forces have made the First Amendment to be what it was never intended to be? Where have the Christian lawyers been while liberal organizations have stripped nearly every moral fiber that this nation was built on and turned the tables on the intent of our founding fathers? Where have the Christian attorneys been?

Many Christians have fallen into the trap of universalism. Some time ago, I received a fundraising letter from a leader of a major church-state separation organization. This Baptist minister was accusing conservative Christians of trying to “Christianize America.” He was attempting to raise funds to head off their influence. I was shocked and appalled. I am unapologetically trying to Christianize America. Why? Because the Bible still says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In fact, we should not simply be trying to Christianize America; we should be trying to Christianize the world. This is the commission our Lord has given us.

Where have the Christian educators been? We are watching our education system crumbling at the hands of humanists. Christian teachers in public schools are no more allowed to espouse Christian morals and virtues in the classroom that were teachers in Russia. They are just as banned by law from doing so as schools in the old Soviet Union. On the day of the horrible explosion of the shuttle Challenger, Billy Graham made a classic statement to the media. He said, “America is stunned. It has caused us to pray. Students are praying in classrooms all over America today where it has been voted illegal to pray.”

Where have all the Christian doctors been? Abortion has taken millions of innocent lives while judges and politicians argue over when life begins. God made it plain in His word. He said, “Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you and called you by name.”

Where have the Christian businessmen and women been? Our cities have sunk to a level of debauchery and degeneration that would make Sodom and Gomorrah blush.

The question returns to us, “What can one person do?” We can correct our ways and then we can change our world.

2. Change our world

The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened (Jonah 3:5-10).

It is amazing what happened when one man got right with God. When one man, Jonah, corrected his ways, he changed his world. The whole city of Nineveh came to God.

A. Faith

In Nineveh, there came faith. “The Ninevites believed God.” The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Jonah went to Nineveh and delivered God’s word. They heard, and the result was that the believed God. It does not say they “believed Jonah.” No, “They believed God.” This should be the aim and end of all preaching, that men and women believe God. These people of Nineveh believed that God was speaking to them through His prophet. It never occurred to them that this was Jonah’s philosophy. He was nothing more than God’s delivery boy with God’s message, and consequently they “believed God.”

I wonder if it could be that men and women in our offices, neighborhoods and schools are wanting to believe, but God’s problem is with us. Imagine, God wants to use us to bring faith to others.

When men and women get right with God, the lost are attracted. Let a Jonah get right with God and the entire city of Nineveh gets saved. Let a woman at a well drink of “living water” and she brings out the town of Sychar to the Lord Jesus. Let the disciples tarry in an upper room and three thousand people will be saved at Pentecost.  One of the ways to know if revival has come is that it always results in a multitude of people being swept into the kingdom. Revival leads a man, as it did Jonah, to go to the lost, and God moves in with great power. One person can be the spark that leads multitudes to the Lord Jesus. Jonah brought faith to Nineveh.

B. Fasting

The Ninevites combined prayer with fasting. Spiritual matters consumed their interest. Here is a test of genuine revival. It involves a change of heart. Our Lord Himself said that some things happen only as a result of prayer and fasting. I seriously doubt that there is any great moving of God’s Spirit in revival that has not been born out of prayer and fasting.

The first thing they did after they believed God was to proclaim a fast. Fasting seems to be one of the lost words in our Christian vocabulary today. Fasting can be defined as the voluntary denial of food in order that the face of God might be sought in earnest, definite, persistent, and believing prayer. Fasting and prayer are inseparable.

Why should we fast? Look at the Ninevites. All through the Bible people have fasted when they met God. Do you remember Moses in the wilderness?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant — the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28).

Later the Israelites were involved in a civil war between the sons of Israel and the sons of Benjamin. The Bible records, “Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord” (Judges 20:26). Later when Saul died, it is said of David that he and “all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan” (2 Samuel 1:11-12). When David’s boy was sick, the Bible said he “pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the night lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them” (2 Samuel 12:16-17). When Nehemiah heard of the reproach of the broken-down walls of Jerusalem he said, “I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). The Jewish Queen Esther said, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:16).

Jesus fasted. He was “led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry” (Matthew 4:1-2). The early church fasted. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3). In the early church “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord in whom they had put their trust” (Acts 14:23).

Why is it that so many today who seek after God totally neglect this truth of Scripture? Many churches today make their major decisions by their bank accounts and economic forecasts. Whatever became of prayer and fasting? Why should we fast? We should fast because it is practiced all through the word of God and it is God’s plan for brining things to pass in the life of individuals and churches.

Another question should be: “When should we fast?” Look at the Ninevites. We should fast when our walk with God needs to be deepened and our faith restored. We should fast when victories need to be won. WE should fast when decisions need to be made. In Antioch they fasted when they sent out the missionaries. We should fast when power needs to be secured. We should fast when revival needs to be experienced.

Where should we fast? Should we fast privately or publicly? There are needs for public fasts. We see it here in the book of Jonah, when the king ordered the fast. However, I believe that our basic need today is for private fasting. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen and your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18).

C. Forsaking

There was also forsaking. “Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” When the people heard the message God had delivered through Jonah, conviction of the Holy Spirit set in. Although they were living wicked, immoral, licentious, sinful lives, then there came faith and fasting, followed by a forsaking.

It is interesting to note that “all of them, from the greatest to the least” fasted and forsook their evil ways. Sometimes people try to convince us that the message of God’s wrath and judgment is only for the unlearned and uneducated. Some sit comfortable in their padded pews with their five-hundred dollar suits looking down their liturgical noses at those who are so religiously naïve that they accept the message of God’s judgment. In Nineveh, all the people believed.

All human beings are the same in that all have sinned, and all have a part of them that will live forever. Repentance is a universal need. In fact, the one who took the lead was the greatest of all, the king of Nineveh. It was personal sin from which each of them turned. It is one thing to talk and pray about the sins of others, but it is another thing to come before God and say “Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?”

Herein lies real revival. It is repentance. The Ninevites changed their minds and “believed God.” Consequently, this changed their hearts and they called a fast. And this changed their volition; they gave up their evil ways. They proved it by their works. This was genuine repentance, a forsaking.

Some people are not sure what repentance is today. Some think it is remorse, being sorry for one’s sin. Remorse may lead to repentance, but remorse is not repentance. The rich young ruler “went away sorrowful” but did not repent.

Others think repentance is regret, wishing our deeds had not happened. Many persons who regret their sin have never repented. Pontius Pilate is the most obvious biblical example. Many today substitute regret for repentance and fool themselves in the process.

Others think repentance is resolve; that is, they decide to do better in their own efforts and strength. But resolve is not repentance.

Still others think repentance is reform, turning over a new leaf. That is what Judas tried to do. After betraying our Lord for thirty pieces of silver, eh went back to the temple and tried to give the money back. HE went to the wrong people. There are many who have tried to substitute reform for repentance.[1]

Repentance is a change of mind which results in a change of heart which results in a change of action. We see it plainly here in the life of the Ninevites.

What can one person do? Look at Jonah. Does anyone want to influence a nation? Revival in Nineveh started with one man. It spread to the people, and they in turn influenced the leadership. There is a sense in which most leaders are really followers. When enough people are moved, we can reach to the top echelons. This is why it is so important for the church to correct its way and begin to change its world. IT is vital today for the church to take the message God has given us and become salt and light in the world instead of simply in the church. We can change our world as Jonah changed Nineveh. We could become a place of faith and fasting and forsaking. Revival can affect the whole world.

D. Forgiveness

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:10). This was the result of it all.

Does God repent? Does God change His mind? “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). “I the Lord do not change. So you, O Descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Malachi 3:6). God is not a man, that he should lie, nor the Son of Man that He should change is mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19).

Other verses in the Bible say such things as: “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:6). “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster he had threatened” (Exodus 32:14). Perhaps the most familiar is found in 2 Kings 20:1-6:

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,  “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

So back to the question: Does God change His mind? The answer is no and the answer is yes.[2] In His character, the answer is no, for He is holy and just and unchangeable. In His mercy, the answer is yes for He turns His face to any seeking sinner, saying “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” God repented of the punishment He said He would bring to Nineveh when they had repented of the evil they had done.

While preaching some time ago at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I saw this illustrated while walking from my hotel to the school to preach. Those who have visited the Windy City know that it is not called that for nothing. Anyone who has walked the streets of downtown Chicago knows that the wind as it come off Lake Michigan blows like few other places in the world. I started my walk from the hotel against a strong wind. The wind was so strong that it seemed to hold me back as I tried to walk. I literally had to lean into it. I had not gotten very far when I realized I had left my notebook in the hotel room and needed to go back for it. When I turned and went in the opposite direction, the same wind helped me along the journey. IN fact, it almost blew me over. Now, the wind didn’t change, but I changed in relation to it. F.B. Meyer said that is how some of us find ourselves in relation to the will of God. When we are out of His will, the wind of the Holy Spirit blows against us. We repent, turn around, change directions and then the wind of the Holy Spirit helps us along. God never changes. What happens is that we change in our relationship to Him.

“God saw what they did,” and He sent a mighty revival. The Ninevites gave up their evil ways. A lot of people today want to see revival but too few want to pay the price. What can one person do? It is clear that one reason God sent revival to Nineveh was that Jonah experienced revival in his heart. He was the key. You could be the key. Perhaps there is a Jonah reading these words, some person whom God is convicting to correct his or her ways and thus to become an agent of revival. How thankful we should be that our God is a God of the second chance.

What can one person do? Ask Jeremiah Lamphier. He lived in the 1850s when America was in a sad and sickened state. There was a great luxury on the part of a few and great poverty on the part of many. The crime rate soared. Violence was common. City streets were unsafe. Free love was espoused by some and home and family seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Economic instability haunted the nation and unemployment raged out of control. Corruption and injustice shamelessly walked hand in hand in high places. The slavery question and racial divisions separated family and friends. Many wondered if the “land of the free and the home of the brave” was not writing the last chapter of its history.

In 1857 Jeremiah Lamphier bore a tremendous burden for revival. He called on a handful of faithful Christians to meet with him in a location on Fulton Street in New York for a prayer meeting in behalf of revival. He arrived at the appointed place on September 23, 1857, and was later joined by five others.

That inauspicious meeting was the beginning of a mighty prayer meeting from which dozens like it were launched across the country. It wasn’t long before businessmen were closing their businesses and joining in prayer meetings to beseech God on behalf of their beloved country. Many were converted at those prayer meetings.

Throughout the land a divine fire broke out and white-haired penitents knelt with little children to receive Christ. Whole families of Jews were converted to their true Messiah. Hardened infidels were melted, some being led to Christ by the testimonies of children. Some of the most amazing aspects of this revival were recorded in only a few little-known accounts. Its blessing was not confined to land; the Spirit literally moved on the face of the waters. Vessel after vessel arriving in New York harbor would come under the same tale of a mysterious conviction breaking out among the crewmen. Entire crews would find Christ at sea as they entered the atmosphere of the harbor.

Day after day the prayer meetings continued. It is estimated during the months of the revival’s greatest intensity, no less than 50,000 people a week were swept into the kingdom of God. Conservative estimates claim that more than a million people met Jesus Christ as savior in less than a year as revival spread. [3] What can one person do? It all began when Jeremiah Lamphier corrected his ways and set out to change the world.

My cry today is: “Lord do it again! As you did in the days of Lamphier, do it again!”

Is it now time? When the Bible has been laid aside as an error-filled and worn-out book of antiquity, while humanistic philosophies are being taught instead, is not our only hope genuine revival? When the heart of the church in many quarters has turned to stone, when the pulpit has become a dispensary of worldly philosophies, when our educational systems seem like citadels of unprincipled corruption and forthright atheism, is it not time to pray, “Lord, do it again as you did in the days of old?” Is It not time for the people of God to barrage heaven with cries for revival?

When old-fashioned evangelistic methods, once openly espoused, are condemned as crude and manipulative, and the altar call after hellfire-and-judgment preaching is denounced as a fear tactic, is it not time to cry out to God for a return to Him?

When we see our nation sinking rapidly into the quicksands of immorality and insensitivity, with a seeming inability to call ourselves to arms, we should cry, “Lord, visit us again with Your sovereign power!” When from television, newspapers, and other public media, we hear the raucous cries of a thousand voices calling our children to lifestyles of godlessness, we should be moved to pray, “Lord do it again, ‘Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6).

When we see churches settling down to tolerate comfortably a declining civilization and adjusting their demands to accommodate indifference, we should know it is time for real revival. Nothing else will do.

When we see Christians pitifully struggling with a half-hearted zeal to regain their first love, seeking to nurse a quiet desperation within the hearts, we know that revival is the only answer.

But most of all, when we imagine we can hear our savior, who wept over Jerusalem, weeping over this sin-cursed earth, we should be moved to pray with Isaiah, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1).

What can one person do? Look at what Jonah did.

[1] Hawkins, O.S. 1984. Where Angels Fear to Tread. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, pp. 84-86

[2] Kendall, R.T. 1978. Jonah. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p. 203

[3] Hawkins, O.S. 1980. When Revival Comes. Nashville TN: Broadman Press, p. 32.

Warts and All

Warts and All

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:09 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:09 PM


Jonah 4:1-11

Jonah 4:1-11

When Oliver Cromwell sat for the official portrait that would portray his appearance to future generations, he was said to have instructed the artist to paint him just as he saw him. He wanted no flattery to be involved in the portrait. In Cromwell’s words, he instructed the artist to paint him “warts and all.” Since that day the phrase “warts and all” has been used around the world, expressing the desire to give a true representation, to show all the defects as well as all the good points.

Jonah concludes the book that bears his name by showing us a picture of himself “warts and all.” I have written several books, and at the conclusion of one of the, I will soon begin the next. I have thought about Jonah as he wrote, and I am afraid, had I been he, I would have been tempted to stop at the conclusion of chapter 3 with the mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit in revival on Nineveh. Great revival came and glory fell. But Jonah doesn’t end the book there. He goes on and adds the fourth chapter to show us what he was really like. I believe he did so in order that we might see ourselves in this chapter.

Jonah’s “wart” was a spirit of resentment. He could not stand the fact that the Ninevites had received the blessing of God. Also, his own pride had been crushed, in that he had proclaimed “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned,” but God spared Nineveh. So Jonah went outside the city, sat down filled with bitterness, and wished he were dead. One would think that after had obeyed the word of God, had gone to Nineveh as God had commanded, and had seen the glory he saw, he would be rejoicing. But no, he sat alone, wallowing in anger. None of us is immune to this plague of resentment that ate at Jonah. It sometimes comes on us too, and often it comes right after some victory — a time when we are so prone to defeat. We are tempted to let yesterday’s victories suffice for today’s commitment. WE find ourselves sitting with our chins cupped in our hands, wallowing in self-pity.

Jonah had lost his sense of perspective. He resented that God forgave and blessed someone else. He began complaining about little things. He was occupied with self. Listen to Jonah 4:3: “Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Note the personal pronouns.

We lose our concern for ourselves when we fall prey to resentment. Jonah’s sin of resentment is revealed to us that we might see ourselves. Here we see not only the destructive results of resentment, but the divine response to it.

In the sovereign work of God which we call revival, we must remember that we cannot orchestrate it, nor can we duplicate it, nor can we manipulate it. It is a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. We cannot control him, but we can grieve him and quench him. One of the primary ways the Spirit of God is grieved and quenched in revival is by the sin of resentment. Let’s look at it and learn to deal with it.

1. The destructive results of resentment

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a plant[a] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left — and much livestock?” Jonah 4:1-11

Resentment affects us in damaging ways.

A. Destroys Our Peace

Resentment destroys our peace. One would think that Jonah would have offered up a sacrifice of praise for the mighty outpouring of revival in Nineveh. Instead, we read, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.” The word angry means “to burn.” Jonah was burning with anger. He was fuming. One of the first things which happens is that resentment destroys our peace and happiness. A grumpy Christian is no commendation for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came to give us life and to give it to us more abundantly. The evidence that one is really filled with the Spirit of God, and is abiding in revival, is “love, joy and peace.”

Jonah began to pray. It is quite an interesting prayer. It begins with the phrase, “I knew.” What a contrast that is to the Apostle Paul, who said, “I know.” “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). To the Romans Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). For Jonah it was simply a theory. He was living in the past. “I knew.” For Paul it was a present confidence, “I know.”[1]

What are you saying today? Are you saying “I Knew?” Or can you say, “I know”? Some of us are so full of resentment that the only thing we know about the peace of God is in the past tense. What a tragedy?

Jonah knew what it was to obey God, but he had no joy in that obedience. There are Christians like he was, those who obey out of sheer necessity but with no joy or peace. In his anger Jonah was totally blaming God. But the problem was not with God; it was with Jonah. Have you ever known anyone filled with resentment? Think about their countenance. Resentment destroys our peace.

B. Diverts Our Purpose

Resentment also diverts our purpose. Jonah was saying, “If I can’t get my way, I don’t want to live.” He was down in the dumps. His pride was hurt because he felt that his ministry had been discredited. Now his resentment was diverting his purpose. He wanted to die. He was so self-centered that twice in this chapter he said, “I wish I were dead.” Once he said it when he realized that what he had preached was not going to come about, and then he said it because of the “catastrophe” of losing his shade tree. The city of Nineveh had been saved and he was focusing on a vine. His purpose had been diverted through resentment. How many Christians have had that experience?

Had Jonah wanted to go outside the city and watch Nineveh burn? Perhaps he hoped a few of the people would come by and say, “You were right.” Once, he had a purpose and he fulfilled it victoriously but no more. Now, his resentment had diverted his purpose and he was wishing he were dead.

The prophet Elijah had a similar experience and said the same thing a few decades earlier. Interestingly, Elijah’s depression also came right after a great victory. Immediately after defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, the Bible records:

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:3-4).

Like Jonah, Elijah went out and sat down. Elijah sat not under a vine but under a juniper tree and, like Jonah, he requested to die. Remember, Elijah and Jonah were men who had been greatly used by God. But in allowing resentment to harbor in their hearts, they both not only had their peace destroyed but now their purposes were diverted. If it could happen to those mighty men of God in the Bible, surely it can happen to us if we are not on guard.

We see who Jonah was really interested in. He said, “It is better for me…” His resentment was causing him to make decisions on a what’s-best-for-me basis. I wonder how many of God’s people have had their purposes diverted because they did not get things their way and allowed resentment to well up within.

C. Diminishes our Productiveness

Resentment also diminishes our productiveness. Twice in Jonah 4:5, the Bible tells us that Jonah “sat down.” Once he had taken God’s message through the streets of Nineveh, obeying the word of God and preaching God’s message. He was so productive that a whole city came to God through his preaching. Now we see him merely sitting, half hoping Nineveh will fall so he can say, “I told you so.”

How depressing these first few words are: “He went out of the city.” If ever there was a time Jonah needed to be in Nineveh, it was during the days following the revival. Thousands had repented and were in need of guidance and teaching. Instead, they were left like sheep without a shepherd.

Some of us have “gone out of the city” in the past when we should have “gone in.[2]  Some of us went out to escape the burdens and heartaches of others when we should have gone in to put an arm around them. Btu in our resentment and self-centeredness, our productiveness was diminished. Have you ever thought how much of our spiritual lives are taken up with sitting? Christians go to church and sit during the worship service; they sit in Sunday school class; they sit in Bible studies,; they sit in choir practice; they sit in mission meetings; they sit in committee meetings; they sit in organization meetings. When we really think about it, much of what is done in most churches is little more than sitting!

Why did Jonah sit there? He wanted to see if God was going to destroy Nineveh. The city was rejoicing in the blessing of salvation and revival, but one person would not join in the rejoicing. Those who are filled with resentment are like that. They become touchy and quick to take offense. They find themselves a spot somewhere outside the city; and instead of rejoicing with the men and women who have been set free, they focus on themselves. Those filled with resentment are the ones who are always talking about their rights, and seldom, if ever, do they talk about their responsibilities. Why? Their productiveness and purpose are gone. Gone is their sense of mission. Gone is their sense of usefulness.

D. Distorts our Perspective

Observing the destructive results of resentment, we see that it also distorts our perspective. Jonah was complaining about a vine and couldn’t have cared less about the thousands of souls who had just repented of sin. For Jonah to sulk about a vine at a time like that was sheer folly.

We can shut the light of the sun out with a penny, if we hold it close enough to our eyes. A resentful person loses his or her sense of proportion and begins to pick at little things. We sometimes see it in families or businesses, and, regrettably, even in churches. Some churches with multimillion-dollar budgets have deacons and leaders who pick at items that make no difference whatsoever in kingdom advancement.

Jonah was not at all happy when thousands were saved, but he was “very happy about the vine.” It is astounding how little it takes to make some people happy. What makes you happy? Some Christians rejoice only superficially when others are saved and are very happy when their personal needs are met. Jonah was “exceedingly happy” about the vine. Earlier he was “Exceedingly angry” about revival. We can tell a lot about people by observing what makes them happy and what makes them sad, what makes them laugh and what makes them weep. When we get out of the will of God, our perspectives are distorted.

Jonah’s happiness was determined by the changing conditions and circumstances of his life instead of by the unchanging God who controlled those conditions and circumstances. This is an easy trap in which we might fall if we are not careful. We will get more concerned over our vine than over people’s souls. At the moment I penned these words I was looking out my study window to the building across the parking lot that houses our clothing ministry. One particular man caught my eye. He was pacing back and forth. He is unshaven and his hair is matted. He is like so many others who came by our church every day in downtown Fort Lauderdale. He is, in the words of long-time pastor, author, and former president of LifeWay Christian Resources, Jimmy Draper, “the shadow of a man he might have been.” He is alone, with no one really to care if he arises tomorrow morning to beg through another day. Jonah did not care about the people of Nineveh. He was obsessed with his own comfort. But let’s examine ourselves before we are too quick to condemn him.

Each of us should ask the question, “What is my vine?” in what do I trust and find joy? What blessings am I tempted to place above the divine blessor? If I am God’s child and I start finding my greatest joy in the blessing. He might just send a worm to my vine to conform me to the image of Christ. IN Jonah’s case God prepared a worm and the vine was gone overnight. Some of us wonder why we used to be happy in the Lord Jesus and now we are angry. Some of us feel He has left us. Could it be that we started delighting more in the vine than in the Lord Jesus? Could it be that He sent a worm to show us it is not the temporal but the eternal that is really important?

Perhaps some of us find ourselves sitting beside Jonah on the hill overlooking our own Nineveh. Our vine is gone. That thing on which we centered our entire lives is gone. We can learn a lesson from Jonah: All is not lost. God is alive and He responds to our resentment with his love just as He did in Jonah’s case. But Jonah was not nearly so bad off as some of us. At least he recognized his plight and recorded it for posterity. Some of us will not be vulnerable enough to open up as Jonah did.

2. The Divine Response to Resentment

A. Patience

God responds to our resentment with patience. After Jonah acted as he did, telling God that he wished he were dead, God patiently responded with a question, “Have you any right to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). We often hear the phrase “the patience of Job,” but here we see the patience of God. I am surprised that God did not slay Jonah on the spot when he requested it. But instead of taking Jonah’s life, God began to work on him to bring him to himself. Our heavenly Father responds to our resentment with patience.

One moment Jonah was very happy about the vine, and the next moment he wanted to die. He took issue with God. He accused God of failing to keep his word. Jonah thought he knew everything. What audacity.

God could have said, “You are right to be angry.” Some people today suggest that this would have been the right reply; Jonah would go on his way and get over his resentment by being justified in his anger. A lot of counselors give that kind of advice. God could also have said, “You are wrong to be angry.” A world of people today thrive on being told how wrong they are, and love to feel guilty. But God did not condone and did not condemn.

Some of us need to see that if God did not give up on Jonah, He has not given up on us. I am thankful that God has been patient with me. It is wonderful to know that God still uses men and women who are frail and have failed. Some of us tend to have the idea that those who have seen the glory of God are somehow more free of problems than we are. I remember as a young Christian reading Jack Taylor’s book, the Keys to Triumphant Living. It made an indelible impression on my life, as it has with scores of thousands over the years. I had never met Jack Taylor and thought to myself how he must live above difficulties and trials. Later, God caused our paths to cross and we have become lifelong friends. We have had wonderful times through the years vacationing and playing together as well as praying together. I found that he has as many struggles and shortcomings as I do.

There is a little of Jonah in all of us. We too have said things and done things as believers that could have caused God to finish us off, but He responded to us with patience. Is there anyone who needs a touch from Him today?

Standing somewhere in the shadows
You’ll find Jesus;
He’s the one who cares and understands.
Standing somewhere in the shadows
You’ll find Jesus
And you’ll know Him by the nail prints
In His hands.

B. Protection

God also responds to our resentment with protection. God provided a vine to give shelter to Jonah and protection from the sun. God’s intention with the vine was to comfort his prophet. He chose to use the protection of the vine to teach Jonah and us a valuable lesson: Soon the vine dies but God does not.

In Jonah’s moment of need, he looked to the vine instead of God. How much better would it have been had he fixed his eyes on the Lord. How many of us, in a moment of need, have looked at our blessings instead of at the heavenly blessor, only to find them gone and all hope vanished? How much better had we too fixed our eyes on God.

Earlier the Lord had asked, “Do you have right to be angry?” Now He probed deeper with the question, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” (Jonah 4:9). Jeannette Clift George blessed us in a women’s conference at our church. Many will remember that she played Corrie ten Boom in the motion picture The Hiding Place. She told us about wonderful times of fellowship she had with Corrie before her death. Corrie ten Boom along with her father and sister Betsy hid Jews from the Nazis in their clock shop in Holland. They were discovered and sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Horrible suffering followed, which resulted in Corrie’s heart hardening toward God and a spirit of bitterness and resentment filling her life. Through it all, Betsy kept an open heart for God and spread the love of the Lord Jesus throughout the camp by her countenance and conversation. Betsy died in that Nazi prison and Corrie heard God ask, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” Upon her release, she picked up where Betsy had left off. Corrie ten Boom is in heaven today, but she left us The Hiding Place and many other books telling of God’s patience, protection and pardon. “DO you have a right to be angry about the vine?” In our complaining God has a right to ask that question, doesn’t He?

There is a sense in which even the worm was there for Jonah’s protection. That word came when he needed it the most.

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to  break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).

Jonah needed the worm so that he might start looking to God and not to the vine. Thank God for the vine. But thank God for the worm too. Through we may not realize it, He continues to protect us from ourselves by often removing our vines when He sees they are occupying the center of our attention. The very thing you may have considered your adversity, your worm, may be there from God’s protecting hand.

C. Pardon

God also responds to our resentment with pardon. Here is amazing condescension! To think that God would come down and reason with Jonah as He did, God is saying, “Jonah, have you forgotten how I dealt with you? I could have cut you off when you sailed for Tarshish, but I didn’t. I didn’t have to prepare a fish to protect you when you were thrown into o the sea, but I did. I responded to you with patience and protection and now with pardon. Should I Respond any differently to those in Nineveh?”

God was revealing to Jonah that since He was good to him when he did not deserve it, why should He not be good to others who do not deserve it? He was trying to teach Jonah the lesson Paul sought to teach the Ephesians.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:30-32).

AS you read these words, are you suffering from resentment? If so, then you know that it destroys one’s peace, diverts one’s purpose, diminishes one’s productiveness and distorts one’s perspective. Resentment is a sin and is to be dealt with as any other sin. It is to be confessed and forsaken.

The story ends without our ever knowing what happened. Did Jonah go on in his resentment to the bitter end? After all, when a book ends, the way in which it ends is what is most intriguing .Who of us did not weep when we read the last page of Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Perhaps it ends as it does because each of us is Jonah today. Perhaps the Lord has shown you to yourself, warts and all, and you can complete the story.

I’ve wandered far away from God,
Now I’m coming home.
The paths of sin too long I’ve trod
Lord, I’m coming home.

I’ve wasted many precious years,
Now I’m coming home.
I now repent with bitter tears,
Lord, I’m coming home.

I’m tired of sin and staying, Lord.
Now I’m coming home.
I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy word,
Lord, I’m coming home.

My soul is sick, my heart is sore
Now I’m coming home
My strength renew, my hope restore,
Lord, I’m coming home.

Did Jonah learn his lesson? I’m convinced he did. He didn’t stop at the end of chapter 3 with the great revival, but he went on to show us himself, “warts and all,” and he let God have the last word.

[1] Kendall, R.T. 1978 Jonah. London; Odder & Stoughton, p. 234.

[2] Blair, J. Allen. 1963. Jonah. Neptune NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., p. 167.

Ultimate Love

Ultimate Love

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:09 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:09 PM


Romans 5:8

Romans 5:8

The tragic thing about living a life without Christ is those who do can never know how much the Father loves them. Our God demonstrated his love when we were least deserving. He did something. He gave us his only Son who “died for us.” No wonder, the Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

The Proof of His Love (“But God demonstrates His own love toward us”)

God proved his love for us. How? The Bible says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” (Galatians 4:4) There is something in all of us that longs to be loved. And God loves us so much that He sent His Son. You are an individual, loved by the Lord. And, the love you can voluntarily return to Him is indescribably valuable to Him.

The Phenomenon of His Love (“in that while we were still sinners”)

The phenomenal thing about the love of God is that it is expressed to us not when we were perfect or deserving. It came to us “while we were yet sinners.” Jesus came and clothed Himself in human flesh. He became what we are so that we could become what He is. He was forsaken so that we might never be forsaken. As someone said, “The Son of God became the Son of Man in order that the sons of men could become the sons of God.”

The Price of His Love (“Christ died for us”)

He died your death so you could live His life. He took your sin so you could take His righteousness. The price he paid to “demonstrate” His love was great. Every lash of the whip, every sound of the hammer, was the voice of God saying, “I love sinners.” It isn’t any wonder the songwriter of old said, “Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan. Oh, the grace that brought it down to man. Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span.…AT CALVARY.”

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Worry

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Worry

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:08 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:08 PM


Matthew 6:25-34

Matthew 6:25-34

At least one sage has observed: “Worrying is a lot like rocking in a rocking chair – it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere!” This crazy world is laden with situations and circumstances which lead many of us to a life an anxiety, anguish, and anticipation of the awful – worry!

Years ago a popular song asked the question, “Worry, why do I let myself worry?” Yes, why do I let myself worry? Why do you let yourself worry?

In a certain sense, the Christian – the born-again believer in a benevolent Lord – is under more pressure than the lost person. This is because of the spiritual stand to which the Christian is called. A pig is under virtually no pressure in the mud puddle. He merely settles in and becomes comfortable. On the other hand, a lamb feels sheer discomfort there! Why? It is against his nature.

Many Christians squander their time worrying about the past and the future, not to mention the present. They are guilty of presuming on yesterday and procrastinating on tomorrow. Because of this unChristian anxiety which often petrifies us, worry can lead to innumerable disorders – ulcers, colitis, rashes, facial tics, emotional disorders, “nervous breakdowns,” strokes, heart attacks, and even death.

One unnamed philosopher expressed it:

To worry about what we can’t help is useless. To worry about what we can help is stupid!

An unknown poet aptly put it:

Worry is an old man with bended head,

Carrying a load of feathers

Which he thinks are lead.

And one Chinese proverb summed it up:

The legs of the stork are long, and the legs of the duck are short. You cannot shorten the legs of the stork, nor can you lengthen the legs of the duck. Why worry?

We will never wrestle with worry and overcome it until we understand this overriding truth: Worry is not only frowned upon by God but is forbidden by Him! Many of us assume that God merely looks upon worry with a frown, but the fact is: He strictly forbids it in His Word.

Most every person, Christian and non-Christian, worries about worry, asking, “How can I wrestle with it and win?” How can I cope? How can I keep from falling apart?”

Our Lord and Savior addressed this exact issue in the Sermon on the Mount found in chapters 5-7 of Matthew. Our understanding Lord presents guidelines for grappling with and winning over worry.  First of all, we have to:

Acknowledge the Source of Worry

Matthew 6:25-33

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink: nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on? Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

When Jesus declares “Take no thought,” He does not mean to adopt a flippant, devil-may-care attitude which sidesteps and sneers at the serious issues of life. “Take no thought” in the original language meant “not to have a divided mind, a mind torn between two main objects.” That is the condition of the backslidden Christian who, in the words of Billy Graham, tries to live “with one foot in the church and the other foot in the world.”

James 1:8 refers to that kind of person: “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Dear reader, worry is doublemindedness.  It is faithless, foolish, frustrating, and futile to worry. When you make a habit of worry, you manifest your lack of faith and trust in the Lord who asks you to cast all of your care upon Him, because He cares for you (see 2 Pet. 5:7).

It is foolish to worry. Jesus teaches us to look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant a crop, so they don’t gather a harvest – and they don’t have to maintain barns or storehouses. The Heavenly Father feeds them. And our Master asks all of us, “Aren’t you better than they?” We are human beings gifted by God with intelligence – the ability to reason for ourselves and to make choices. In Christ, we are safe and secure. He has promised to care for us. “Just remember in His Word how He feeds the little bird; Take your burden to the Lord, and leave it there.”

In this passage Jesus indicates that worry is sheer folly. It is significant that Jesus does not ask us to behold the mighty eagle as it soars “on the mountain high.” Instead He uses the littlest of birds, a field sparrow, as an illustration. He takes note when that tiny bird is injured and falls to the ground. One of those teeny-weeny feathered creatures cannot hurt without the God of the universe stopping to express His heartfelt concern. The birds cannot store up food for the winter; they are pitiful and inferior alongside us. Yet, God provides for the little field sparrow’s needs. Our Provident Lord cares infinitely more for us!

Birds are amazing creatures. I am always intrigued with them while visiting my in-laws at Pflugerville, Texas. Right outside my in-law’s dining room window hangs a hummingbird feeder. Those wee hummingbirds, two-and-a-half-inches long at the most, hover at the feeder, their wings beating ninety times a second.  Once a year they leave that ranch and fly south over the Gulf of Mexico to Panama – and every year they return to that same ranch! How do they do that? God helps them do it! He created them with that precise homing instinct. Imagine it. And he cares far more for us.

Jesus reminds us that the Heavenly Father takes care of those birds. He has promised to watch over us without fail. “His eye is on the sparrow,” dear Ethel Waters used to sing. “And I know He watches me.” Our provisions, like the birds’, come from the plentiful, protective hand of Almighty God.

Said the robin to the sparrow

“I should really like to know

Why those anxious human beings

Rush around and worry so.”

Said the sparrow to the robin

“Friend, I think that it must be

That they have no Heavenly Father

Such as cares for you and me.”

Worry. We worry over possessions, over provisions, even over God’s promises. Worry indicates that God is not enthroned completely within us. When anxious, fretful worry pervades our lives, it tends to place a question mark over our profession of faith. It is foolish to worry.

And it is futile to worry. Jesus posed a piercing question, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?” The Greek word used here for stature can also mean duration of life.  Worrying is not going to help increase your actual physical size, your standing in the community, or your prestige. Jesus also indicated that worrying can add no length to your life. Think of it. Our times are in the hands of God. The Psalmist wrote that our days were already numbered before we ever lived a single one of them. Why worry then?

One reason we are consumed with worry is because of impatience. It’s easy to preach and teach patience – waiting on the Lord to move in His own time – but it’s exceedingly difficult to practice waiting. That’s one of my pressing problems. I want answers now, action, results. I’m always in a hurry, but the Eternal God is not. He sees all of eternity with one bat of His eyes. We become fretful and impatient if there are not almost immediate answers and concrete results.

Jesus nowhere taught us to hurry and scurry, along with our worry. With His help, we must learn to wait on the Lord, and we must also recognize that it is foolish and futile, to no avail, to worry.

This reminds me of a parable about the clock. Sometimes clocks, especially grandfather clocks, have continued to run for a century or more – simply by ticking twice a second. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

But suppose the old clock were given a human’s brain and disposition. Instead of faithfully and loyally ticking without all kinds of doubt and questioning, the clock would begin to fret and worry. It would think to itself: This’ a drudge. It’s not fair. All I do is tick and tock. I’m working myself to death. And the monotony of it all is devastating. It would work itself into a frazzle.

The clock would begin to compute, putting a horrible strain on its works. Two strokes a second. Tick. Tock. One hundred and twenty strokes a minute. In an hour – 7,200 ticks. In a day – 172,800 ticks. Whew! The little clock tries an analyst, therapy, and pills.

Mercy, in a week – 1,209,600 ticks. And in a year – 62,899,200 ticks. And then the distraught clock starts to multiply by decades. The stress and strain are wearing away at the inward workings of the old clock as it counts the ticks, fretting with 628,992,000 ticks a decade. Finally, the old clock flies into a thousand pieces. Booiinnggg!

“It stopped short, never to go again . . .” Why? Because it worried itself into destruction. And the same is happening to real people all around us. They’re coming apart at the seams because they are filled with fretfulness instead of faithfulness.

You remember the amazing account of John 11. Jesus received word from Mary and Martha of Bethany that their brother, Lazarus, was seriously ill (John 11:1-3). Yet, the Lord Jesus deliberately waited before going to Bethany. In fact, He tarried until Lazarus had died. (v. 11). When Jesus finally arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead and in the tomb for four days (v. 17).

Martha, all upset, hastened to meet Jesus, explaining, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21, NASB). Later, when He came near Mary and Martha’s home, Mary spoke those same words, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

What did Martha and Mary’s words reveal? They had put their heads together and, in their frantic anxiety, had expressed puzzlement as to why Jesus had waited. When you meet two different people in two different places at two different times, and they speak the same words, you can readily recognize they have been together talking. They had worried themselves sick. They had asked each other, “How can Jesus do this? How can He procrastinate when we’ve called for Him? He must not care. We’re among His best friends. Why, He’s stayed with us. We’ve fed Him and his disciples so many times. We and Lazarus always welcomed Him with outstretched arms.”

But Jesus had far better for Mary and Martha. Because of their shortsighted worry, they could not believe in miracles. When Jesus promised Martha, “Your brother shall rise again,” she could not understand. She replied, “Lord, I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” Little did Martha realize the divine serendipity which lay ahead. Earlier, upon receiving news of Lazarus’s sickness, the Master had explained to His disciples, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (v.4, NASB). Jesus had known Lazarus’s sickness would not lead to a final death.

Verses 34-44 record Jesus’ weeping over Lazarus, His going to the tomb, and His calling Lazarus from the dead. “Lazarus, come forth,” He shouted. And Lazarus did precisely that! Jesus always has the best in mind for us. Why do we fail to trust Him implicitly? Why are we impatient and fidgety about waiting on the Lord?

Throughout the Psalms we are admonished to “wait on the Lord.” Psalm 130 is especially significant.

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.(vv. 5-6).

What does that mean? The Psalmist waited on the Lord and His promises far more than those who waited for the sun to rise. Perhaps the Psalmist had in mind those who worshiped the sun or those who were astrologers endeavoring to track the sun in its course. “Tomorrow” is without a doubt the most popular song from the musical Annie. It went, “The sun will come up tomorrow.” Two facts are certain. Number one – we are going to have to wait for the sun. We cannot hurry it up. It doesn’t rise by our watches. We must wait for it. Number two – it always rises. You never wait for Old Sol in vain. If you wait on the Lord, you exceed those who wait on the sun.

God is always right on time, and He always comes through; no matter how desperate we may be, we never wait for Jesus in vain. That’s why it’s foolish and futile to worry.

Worry never solves a single problem. In fact, it compounds your problems. It is the most useless activity in life. It is futile. What good does worry do? It does not empty tomorrow of its trails, but it does empty today of its triumphs! Many live in the past, lamenting, “If only . . .” They spend life crying over the proverbial spilled milk. “If only I had married so and so . . .” “If only I hadn’t married so and so . . .” “If only I had gone to college . . .” “If only I had changed jobs when I had the chance . . .” Those who live in the past are crippled in the present and paralyzed in the future.

Innumerable people worry and wring their hands over tomorrow. “What will happen?” “Will my spouse leave me?” “Will I lose my job?” “Will the Russians control outer space?” “What will happen to the prime lending rate?” “Will I have cancer?” These folks are so obsessed with the future that the present marches on by. I repeat: It is OK to plan for the future within reason. But it is not OK with God for you to worry over the past, the present, or the future!

It is not only foolish and futile to worry, but also downright frustrating. Jesus asked, “And why take ye thought for raiment?” In other words, why worry about the cut of your clothes? In eternity it will not matter whether your suit cost $79 or $579 or whether your dress was $109 or $1009. Why do you worry?

Our wise Lord then suggested we think about the lilies of the field. They don’t toil. They don’t spin. They don’t punch a clock. They don’t work in an office or factory, but let’s gaze at their grandeur. “And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Jesus further wanted us to consider how they grow. The mystery of growth is one of the unsolved riddles of life. How does a tiny seed ultimately become a flower? How does a finite speck of protoplasm become a human being with all his intricacies of circulation, respiration, elimination – all the bodily processes and functions? In the winter the flower lies as if it were dead in the earth, covered with frost and snow. Yet, in the spring it sprouts up – stalks, leaves, blossoms, and all. And the same God of glory who oversees the lily, watches over you and me! Consider the lilies, how they grow. God does it! “They toil not, neither do they spin.” They do not have to strain in order to produce growth and beauty. They are carefree.

Jesus observed that “even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” We cannot begin to visualize the opulent, lavish kingdom of Solomon – his resplendent crown, robe, and vestments; his palace with cedar furniture overlaid in gold; and his magnificent Temple, which had been the all-consuming dream of his father, David. All of that wealth, according to Jesus, pales into obscurity when compared to the radiance of a flower. All of Solomon’s glory was from without. It was artificial, trumped-up, ostentatious. The lily’s glory is within, a natural outworking of God’s delicate touch.

Lilies, grass, and other vegetation do not last long. The moment we cut a flower, it begins to die. It is here today in all its gorgeous hues – it is gone tomorrow. Isaiah wrote: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it . . . The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (40:7-8). The flowers blossom and too soon die. But you are immortal. God cares infinitely for you. Worry, worry, worry – about the past, about the present, about the future. Hear me: It is foolish, futile, and frustrating to worry . . . and

It is faithless to worry. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds His listeners that “if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matt. 6:30). He chides us for not depending on Him, asking us to quit worrying about what we are going to eat and drink and wear.

And Jesus calls to memory the truth that the Heavenly Father knows we have these needs (see Matt. 6:31-32). “O ye of little faith,” Jesus rebukes us. Worry, He teaches, reveals a lack of faith and trust in God’s promise of protection and provision.

Genuine Christian living is nothing more than my “reacting.” “We love him,” wrote John, “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Why do we love Him? Simple. Because He first loved us. He commands us: “Be ye holy.” Why? “Because I am holy.” The real test of spiritual maturity is not our actions – but our reactions. My main problem is not acting right but reacting right. This is the message of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus deals almost exclusively with our reacting. Listen to His teaching in Matthew 5:38-46:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow from thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

During Roman oppression a Roman official or military man could command a Jew to carry his baggage or luggage a mile. That was the legal standard, yet Jesus speaks of volunteering two miles instead of the mile limit. Amazing! He teaches us to turn the other cheek, and let’s quit trying to skip around that teaching. He means exactly that. Do not retaliate. It is better to allow your oppressor another blow than to strike back. If a person sues you for one garment, grant him another one also. Now, all of this sounds crazy to an unspiritual world, but it works. The acid test of our spiritual maturity is not how we act, but how we react.

Now what does this have to do with worry? Worry is a reaction, a reaction to situations. Faith is a reaction to the Word of God. If your life is governed by the Word of God, if you feed upon it – and abide in Him as His words abide in you – then faith will become your automatic reaction to crisis or impending adversity. But if you are controlled by circumstances and situations, then worry will become your reaction to crisis. Worry is not an action on your part – it is a reaction. It is only “natural” for a backslidden Christian to worry.

We cannot nourish worry and faith at the same time. How often we have prayed, “Lord, remove my burden. It’s too heavy for me to carry,” and then gone ahead and carried that heavy weight by ourselves. Why? Because we react from the standpoint of worry instead of from the stance of waiting upon the Lord.

When we worry, we are admitting, “God, I really don’t believe you’re big enough to handle my situation.” What an insult to God! Maybe you protest, “But I don’t know why God does things the way He does!” Frankly, I don’t either. In fact, if I could understand it with my two-by-four mind, there wouldn’t be much to His providence.

Jesus indicated that when we worry, we are acting like the Gentiles. Now most of us are Gentiles; I am not a physical Jew. Here Jesus was actually speaking about those without God, the unbelievers, the heathen. The pagans then and now live as though God does not exist. When you as a Christian worry, you are living like the lost. It is faithless to worry.

So, what distinguishes between the believer and the unbeliever ought to be reaction. Rather than worry, the believer is called on to wait upon the Lord. The committed believer trusts God in spite of what seems to be. One Christian minister who had suffered an unjust persecution was asked, “How is the outlook?” To the question he answered, “The outlook is dark, but the uplook is wonderful.” That’s faith for you! The uplook is wonderful!

But you say, “I know all of these things, but I still can’t get a handle on winning over my worries.” Remember that it’s not enough merely to acknowledge that the source of our worry is our doublemindedness, our divided minds. We must now

Apply the Solution to Worry

Matthew 6:33-34

Browsing the book stores is enjoyable, but at times it can become distressing. The stores are packed with volumes on anxiety, fear, stress, and worry. Most of these books claim to have answers. The sad awareness is: Most of them deal with the treatment of the symptoms and not the disease itself.

If you have a disease and only the symptoms are treated, you may improve for a while, but chances are the symptoms will manifest themselves once again.

First, we must grapple with the cause of worry before we can begin to effect the cure. Jesus certainly would not teach us not to worry without showing us how to keep from it.

valuable priority is the first step in overcoming worry. What is this priority, this matter that ought to have first place in our affections?

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (6:33).

For most people the overpowering concern is, “I must first live . . . I must first make money . . . I must first clothe and feed and house my family.” Jesus reverses this order and urges us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Then, with the proper order and perspective established, “all these things shall be added unto you.” All around us people struggle to provide for themselves and their families, but most of them have perverted priorities. Until, with the help of Christ, we rearrange our priorities, we will never “get it all together.” Why? I repeat: because we are not seeking His kingdom first.

Henry Drummond, powerful preacher and author of The Greatest Thing in the World, penned these lines: “Above all things, do not touch Christianity, unless you are willing to seek the kingdom of heaven first.” How many are dabbling with a form of Christianity without seeking the kingdom!

Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness means a total surrender, a complete commitment. It involves acknowledging God’s reign and rule over our lives. The kingdom must have a King. When we enthrone Jesus as King, a magnificent promise is ours: “All these things shall be added unto you.” What does Jesus’ promise imply? All our needs and all our tomorrows.

When we seek God first, we always find Him because, long before we ever thought about seeking Him, “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). This is the valuable priority in overcoming our fears and worry. This is why the Psalmist could exult, “I sought the Lord . . . and he heard me . . . and he delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4). We will never, never overcome worry until this valuable priority has precedence in our lives.

vital principle is also involved. Jesus closes out this section with reference to tomorrow:

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (6:34).

Take no thought? Does this really mean we are not to think about it at all? Does this indicate that it is wrong to save money, have investments, or own insurance policies? No, that’s not the point here. Jesus means not to worry about them. I love that old abbreviated expression, “Not to worry.” That’s all – not to worry. There is nothing wrong with seeking a sturdy shelter in the storm. Jesus is not forbidding that, but once you are safe and sound in the shelter, you should not continue to worry.

“Take no thought.” Here again is reference to the thinking processes. The thrust of Jesus’ teachings is: “Redirect your attention to the Lord.” God places tremendous emphasis on our thought life. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Isaiah 26:3 consoles us: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”

There are three days in every week over which we ought not to worry – today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Those who fret about yesterday are guilty of pity. Those who fret about tomorrow are guilty of procrastination. Those who agonize over today may be distrusting of the Lord’s goodness.

Some of us are promising God our tomorrows. Did it ever occur to you that God has never promised us tomorrow? And how could you promise God that which you may not have? This is exactly why Jesus admonished us, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. “Tomorrow I’m going on a diet.” “Tomorrow I’m going to quit smoking.” “Tomorrow I’m going to begin tithing.” “Tomorrow I’m going to make my stand for Christ.” “Tomorrow I’m going to stop worrying.” We put matters off until tomorrow because we hope they will go away and we won’t have to face them – and tomorrow never comes!

When you are anxious about the future, you cripple yourself in the present. Oh, it is foolish, futile, frustrating, and faithless to worry. Here Jesus is teaching us to live one day at a time. Jesus was and is the world’s greatest psychiatrist. This is the vital principle by which we can put the handle on worry. One day at a time. Julia Harris May wrote:

Live day by day.

Why art thou bending toward the backward way?

One summit and another thou shalt mount.

Why stop at every round the space to count

The past mistakes if thou must still remember?

Watch not the ashes of the dying ember.

Kindle thy hope. Out all thy fears away –

Live day by day.

One step, one day – day by day with Jesus.

In this passage (Matthew 6:25-33) the Great Physician has plainly described for us the symptoms of this God-dishonoring and soul-paralyzing disease of worry. First, we are to acknowledge its source – it emanates from a divided mind. Once we realize this, we can apply the Physician’s prescription to our worry. Believe it. It is possible for you to live above worry. How? Through a valuable priority of seeking first the kingdom of God, and through a vital principle of living one day at a time. The bottom line is: We must deal with worry like we would any other sin – Confess it and forsake it!

Stop presuming on yesterday and procrastinating on tomorrow and “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . . all these things shall be added unto you.” Yield your frayed, tattered, worry-enshrouded existence to the Lord Jesus Christ. Climb out of that rocking chair. It doesn’t get you anywhere anyway.

You will win over worry, and Jesus will stay right beside you. And as your worries are treated by the Great Physician, you will be tracing the rainbow through the rain!

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Loneliness

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Loneliness

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:08 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:08 PM


Genesis 28:10-16

Genesis 28:10-16

Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran.  He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:10-16 NASB)

Students of human behavior have observed that loneliness is the No. 1 plague facing Americans. Is that not also true of mankind at large? “The pain of loneliness is universal,” wrote Ida Nelle Hollaway.[1]

Thomas Wolfe, the famous novelist, penned these lines:

Loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon… is the central and inevitable fact of human existence. When we examine the moments, acts and statements of all kinds of people — not only the grief and ecstasy of the greatest poets, but also the huge unhappiness of the average soul, as evidenced by the innumerable strident words of abuse, hatred, contempt, mistrust and scorn that forever grate upon our ears as the man swarm passes s in the streets — we find, I think, that they are all suffering from the same thing. The final cause of their complaint is loneliness.[2]

A sense of loneliness has permeated literature, music, and drama. Through the years, songs of loneliness have flowed over the airwaves — “None but the Lonely Heart,” “Alone Again Naturally,” “One Alone,” “All By Myself,” “Bluer than Blue, Sadder than Sad,” “Feelings,” “You’re Only Lonely,” “Only the Lonely,” and even “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave M, Lucille.” I could fill up this chapter with song titles. Ditto with books about loneliness, depression, sorrow and forsakenness. Motion pictures and plays are shot through with loneliness. Carson McCuellers, who is well-remembered for A Member of the Wedding, wrote, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is indeed a tragedy of isolation and loneliness.

Therefore, we should not feel surprised that loneliness appears early in the Word of God. It was God the Creator who decided, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18a NASB). And there are theologians who claim that God created mankind because He, the creator God of the universe, was lonely and wanted fellowship and companionship with His creatures.

Young Jacob was haunted by this same feeling of being cut off, estranged, isolated, barren and alone. In Genesis 28 he was existing in a state of loneliness for this was his first time away from home. Jacob’s hunter-brother, Esau, was used to the vast outdoors. But that was not the case with Jacob, the homebody, the cook and errand boy for his mother, Rebekah. He was accustomed to being by the home fires and enjoyed the sound of human voices and the comforts of home.

Now he was alone and grappling with a gnawing sense of loneliness, accompanied by fear of the unknown and fear for his life itself. It reminds you of a song by Merle Haggard — This Loneliness is Eating Me Alive.” And loneliness was doing exactly that to Jacob.

Then the sun began to descend below the horizon. In spite of the Oriental heat, it soon began to chill. The fingers of darkness crept over the land. It always seems to become lonelier when that happens. Fearful, nervous Jacob began to seek a place to rest. He thought of his warm pallet back home and the solicitous voice of his mother. Perhaps he longed for her good-night kisses.

There was no pillow, no furnishings for a bed, so he substituted a rock and lay down fitfully. No doubt his fevered brain returned to family laughter of bygone days. But then each noise of night time stirred up uneasiness and fright within Jacob. Every rustling leave, every nocturnal insect, every slight breeze, every call of a night animal or bird conjured of visions of harm and calamity.

Young Jacob finally dozed off to sleep and God visited him. In a dream God presented a vision of a ladder which reached clear to the throne of heaven. There was young Jacob, fearful and frightened with a stone pillow and nothing for cover but the black blanket of night. The Almighty never cares about our surroundings when He chooses to visit us.

Maybe you can identify with Jacob — living in loneliness.

Lonely people include the executive on the way up who no longer talks to his wife; the young man or woman alone for the first time in an apartment complex in a large city; the suburban housewife surrounded by small children and by neighbors whom she does not know. There are lonely people among the “swingers” who spend their evenings in darkened bars, hoping for someone to talk with. Couples who just moved for the third time in two years may be lonely. They despair of making friends before they have to take up roots again because of a job transfer. The airlines personnel who meet many people eon airplanes, know very few. The salesman who has to travel all week, and his wife who stays home alone may both be lonely. Don’t’ forget the “migratory workers” a group which includes more people than just those who follow the crops. Professional sportsmen, entertainers, long-distance truck drivers, oil specialists, and scientific engineers, as well as military personnel, are all “migratory workers.” They have to travel long distances in order to do their work.[3]

We live in the midst of loneliness, and all of us have lonely periods. A husband and wife have an argument. They are momentarily estranged emotionally. She retreats to the bedroom and closes the door. He buries himself in a football game on TV or drives off to play video games. Even though they may love each other dearly, they are temporarily lonely in spirit. No person is free of feeling lonely, even amid a crowd of people.

Walk down a busy street and intently watch faces. You will come away downtrodden, noticing pain, sadness, upset, and sometimes blank, stoic stares. At least half of the people will be single — never-married, widowed or divorced. Divorce is of epidemic proportions, and many people are merely living together — thus when a living-together couple breaks up, there is no statistic on the books, but deep emotional and psychic pain is nearly always the result.

And many people are not gregarious and outgoing .They have difficulty relating and making friends; they tend to become more and more withdrawn into themselves, and they often feel that no one cares.

In this chapter I present four secrets that will enable us not only to deal with loneliness, but to overcome it — and to live beyond it. Part of our problem is that we all too often deal with the fruits and not the roots. Until we begin to deal with the root, we will simply continue on a never-ending treadmill of loneliness, never actually moving but staying in the same spot, even though we are desperately trying to make progress.


And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place and tarried there all night because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. (10-11 KJV).

Why does loneliness set in? Before continuing, let us not confuse two words — alone and lonely. They are not necessarily synonymous. I know many people who are alone but not lonely. I know of others who are surrounded by people and yet they live in loneliness. What makes the difference? We are coming to the answer momentarily.

Why was Jacob lonely? One solid reason is: he was lonely because his betrayed, double-crossed, irate brother Esau was in hot pursuit of Jacob. Every Sunday school child has heard the story of how Jacob, egged on by his mother, connived to steal the birthright which, by Hebrew tradition, belonged to Esau. No wonder Jacob’s name meant “trickster” or “supplanter.” Why was Jacob lonely? Most would reply that Jacob was lonely because his brother was chasing him, and they would stop right there — no analysis, no going deeper.

Yet we ought to proceed one step further. Why was Esau chasing him. The answer is self-evident. Jacob had cheated, lied, stolen and done treacherously. Jacob never learned to handle his isolation and loneliness until he began to assume responsibility for his own deeds.

Society is filled with people sometimes called sociopaths and, in extreme cases, psychopaths. They never accept the blame, even if they are wrong a thousand times. They despise responsibility. They are never to blame; others are always at fault. Over a period of time, these people build up far-out defense mechanism for themselves and become totally blinded concerning their own condition.

All of us have a streak of sociopathy. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Our hearts are deceitful above all things and are desperately wicked. As my friend Grady Wilson put it, “There’s a little bit of Watergate in all of us.” It is easy to blame our “Esaus” for the predicaments in which we find ourselves, all too often self-induced difficulties. The habit of passing the buck started in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. But Adam and Eve did it, not the serpent. He merely laid the temptation in front of them. Even could have refused the fruit. So could have Adam. Years ago there was a song, “Put the Blame on Mame, Boys.” Put the blame on Esau, put the blame on the devil — but never yourself. And that’s why people can never overcome estrangement or loneliness. They never seem to realize that they might sometimes have a hand in their own loneliness.

Quite frankly, many are lonely because of sinful and unscrupulous schemes and actions like Jacob. Others are lonely because of present failures. Still others are lonely because of future bugaboos. Loneliness is often associated with ingrown self-pity.

Once a young man visited the study of the late and great preacher, T. Dewitt Talmage. He lamented, “Dr. Talmage, I have no will to live. I’m not sure of my salvation. In fact, I’m not even sure about the existence of God. I really wish I were dead!” Dr. Talmage replied, after the young man had requested the church remove him from the roll, “All right, we will remove you if that is your wish, but first I want to send you out on an assignment. Will you go?” The fellow would and did.

Dr. Talmage asked the young man to visit an old man who was dying of cancer. Reluctantly, the fellow left to contact the man, who lived in a decaying section of the city.

Hours later the fellow returned and happened to catch Dr. Talmage in his office. With a radiant light on his face, the young man exulted, “Dr. Talmage, it was wonderful. I visited the old man in his rags and poverty. Would you believe it? — the man asked me how he could be saved and could prepare to meet his God. As best I could I showed him the plan of salvation. He bowed his head, Dr. Talmage and called on the Lord to save him! His last words to me were, ‘Son you are an angel. I’m ready to meet God now. Thank you so much for coming!’ Dr. Talmage, leave my name on the roll and give me another assignment for visitation!”

In a short time, the young man had his relationship with the Lord rekindled. He had discovered a secret: Only by staying busy for God can we overcome depression, doubt and self-pity.

Jacob was responsible for his own loneliness. The primary reason for Jacob’s loneliness, and ours, is that we shut ourselves in and others out. The poet Edwin Markham fashioned these immortal lines:

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a think to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

The morbidly lonely person is often avoided by others. They recoil from negativism and self-pity. “Misery loves company,” the old expression goes, and people want no part of miserable self-pity. People cannot stand self-pity. Write it down and underline it in red: Loneliness is not so much a matter of isolation as it is of insulation. I have no idea how you actually feel — I cannot plumb the depths of your heart. Only the All-seeing Eye can. Perhaps I would react exactly as you do to your own particular set of circumstances. But I remind you that insulation is not the way out of your dilemma. If we are ever to wrestle with and win over loneliness, we must dig down to the root cause. Most of the time we find ourselves there.

Amazingly, most attractive, vivacious people become lonely derelicts. Are you lonely? At the same time, are you willing to touch the sensitive nerve? Are you willing to do a “root canal” of your inner being? Do you shrug off the causes of your loneliness? Begin by asking, “What do I have to do with it? Are only others to blame? Why am I in this fix?

There is a possibility that your loneliness is the result of circumstances beyond your control, but that possibility is rare. The biblical principle goes, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). The simple truth is: We will reap what we sow. It applies in all of life. One preacher called it “The Law of the Harvest.”

The fact is: IF we are lonely, we should find another lonely person and pour our lives into them. IF we merely open ourselves before long people will materialize from all over, ministering life and love to us. Many of us are Dead Sea Christians. The Dead Sea receives, and the flow stops there. Bodies of water can stagnate unless there is a flowing in and flowing out. Many people are on the receiving end too much of the time. Believe it or not, the more you receive without giving, the deeper you will sink into isolation, insulation and loneliness.

This is a prevalent sin among church members. Many of them join the church and think in terms of “what has the church done for me?” somehow they never seem to understand that when a person embraces Jesus Christ, the tables are turned. In Christ, even for the brand-new Christian, there is supposed to be service toward others. Life in Christ is a radical move away from preoccupation with self — self-obsession, self-worship, self-pity. Christianity is a gospel of giving.

Paul, on the road to Damascus, first asked, “Who are thou, Lord” Perhaps he already knew, but it is clear that when Jesus’ identity was established in Paul’s mind, he immediately asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” That’s one of the first questions a born-again believer ought to ask.

Too many of us have been building walls instead of bridges. Loneliness will abate as we, through Christ’s name, reach out to others.

Then I want you to notice a…


And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 28:12-14 KJV)

After Jacob had fallen asleep, the Lord showed him the remedy for loneliness. How? Jacob became aware of the Lord’s abiding presence. Thankfully, many of us have had special experiences with the Lord in the nick of time… just when we needed them most. Maybe it was a verse of Scripture which became your rhema, your special word for that occasion. Perhaps it was a sermon, and you felt every word was prepared especially for you in your condition. Or it was a clear-cut answer to prayer, or deliverance from the jaws of death, or a person who entered your life (and later you asked yourself, Was that God’s angel sent to me?).

In a moment of your loneliness — as you traced the rainbow through the rain — God has revealed Himself to you. For that time you felt that no one on the face of the earth ever had exactly that kind of close, intimate relationship with the Lord. Yes, you felt special to the Lord, and you are special to Him.

Jacob clung to the presence of God at Bethel. The prevailing presence of God was the was the remedy for his gnawing loneliness.

To me the ladder represents communion with God. I think in terms of the Lord Jesus being that ladder from earth to heaven. How I love that old chorus, “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” The predominant truth is: God always takes the initiative with us. Christianity is not man seeking God — it is God seeking man. The entire meaning of God’s Word is that seeking God who goes after his lost creatures. Christmas and Easter and every Christian observance point to the God who always takes the initiative.

The grace of God is manifestly revealed here in this passage. Jacob was a conniving, scheming fugitive who had lied and cheated. What had he done to deserve this holy moment with God? Nothing! He deserved exactly the opposite. And none of us have done anything to deserve the “marvelous grace of our loving Lord!” Jesus Himself the Ladder, stated in John 1:51, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter you shall see heaven open and the angels of God descending and ascending upon the Son of man.” Jesus has reached down to where we are.

As Julia H. Johnston has expressed it:

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt

Marvelous, infinite matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe;
All who are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.[4]

And none of us deserve this marvelous, infinite, matchless grace!

The Ladder is reaching down to you at this moment. He is the remedy. The ladder extended clear down to where Jacob lay in his lying, cheating and stealing. Maybe you are presently lying in corruption and sin. Perhaps you consider yourself too sophisticated to admit your guilt, even to God who will listen to your confession in secret. Jesus, with every drop of His blood, reaches down to you.

Could it be that the bonds of sin are strangling the life out of you? Jesus will break those bonds and allow you to breathe the invigorating breezes of heaven. You are lonely — then let Jesus fill the void within your heart and life. The weakest, vilest sinner can, through the Ladder of the Lord, climb from the pit of degradation to the foot of the eternal throne, and that is why we can sing:

Oh the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span!
At Calvary!    - William R. Newell

Then we notice the angels. They ascended on the ladder, symbolic of our prayers going up to God, I believe. They descended, representative of our answers to those petitions. For years, many evangelicals shied away from the doctrine of angels. The Bible is chockfull of angels. I refer here to Hebrews 1:13-14, “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” In addition to the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit, the angels of God minister to us with comfort and with watchcare. What a sweeping relief when Jacob finally realized his reasons for loneliness and the remedy for it. We need never again yield to feelings of loneliness if we will remember that Jesus reaches down to where we are and loves us unconditionally.

Remember there is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

Obviously, it is wrong to equate loneliness with being alone. Aloneness can be a blessing, a source of growth and of joy. On the other hand, being with others does not insulate us from loneliness. It is true to say that loneliness is a feeling of aloneness, a consciousness that no one can completely share our feelings or completely understand our thoughts.[5]

Being alone is an integral part of spiritual growth. How often we preachers have talked about a “quiet time” with God, and how few of us practice it! Our own Lord withdrew for fellowship with His Heavenly Father. Then He returned and ministered to the pressing, teeming throngs. It is abnormal not to seek solitude occasionally. One comedian feared being alone to the extent that he hired people to sit up with him all hours of the night. Sometimes he would finally fall asleep at four or five in the morning.

Many people hate solitude because they are afraid of introspection. They are afraid to face themselves in private! So they surround themselves with activity, hubbub, hustle. Those who habituate bars and taverns must receive extra power from the devil to drink glass after glass of booze and sit up all night, and then try to show up for work at 8 or 9 in the morning!

In being alone, Jacob met God. If he had surrounded himself with an entourage of laughing, talking companions, he never would’ve experienced this amazing encounter.

Has it occurred to you that more often than not God reveals His plan for our lives when we are alone? Moses was alone on the backside of the desert when God revealed Himself. Elijah was alone under a juniper tree when God came. And Jacob was alone with stones for a pillow when the Lord revealed Himself as the Ladder to heaven.

Being alone for a time is not all bad, then, is it? So you have plenty of time alone — by yourself? Have you ever thought of praising God for that time — those precious moments for communion with God, for collecting your wits, for going deeper in the Word, for writing a spiritual diary, and for generally growing as a follower of Christ Jesus? You can be alone, but you don’t have to be lonely. There are reasons for loneliness, and there is a remedy for it. Then there is a


And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of (v. 15 KJV).

The “still small voice” can only be heard when all other voices have been hushed. What a magnificent revelation and promise god gave to Jacob that night! He received the promise of God’s divine presence. Jacob felt lonely to the core, but the Lord assured Him, “I am with you.”

If only we could realize that we are never truly alone when the Lord Jesus Christ lives within our hearts!

I’ve seen the lightning flashing,
I’ve heard the thunder roll.
I’ve seen storms breakers dashing
Trying to conquer my soul.
I heard the voice of Jesus telling
Telling me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.[6]

That was the promise of God to Jacob. I will never leave you alone. I will be with you. I will never forsake you. And many of us ought to hear that right now. In our loneliness we often feel that no one cares, that no one is there. But Jesus cares. And He is always there, but we have to be reminded of it.

Jacob also received the promise of God’s divine protection. He had been cringing at the thought of Esau, but God declared, “I will keep you.” You ought to hear that today. God has never gone back on His promises, not one time. He always follows through. When He promises to guide you, He will do it. When He promises His presence, He will be there. When He promises His protection, He will do precisely that — protect you. God continues to promise: “I will keep you in all the places you are going.”

But there is even more. Jacob also received the promise of God’s divine preservation. He felt forsaken by all his friends and most of his relations. He was bereft before God promised, “I will bring thee again into this land.” Don’t you need to hear that within your heart? At that moment you may see no escape out of your predicament. You may feel there is no way of coming back to the place you once were with God, but God promises that He will preserve you and restore you. Claim that promise as your own!

In these verses we also discover God’s divine promise. God had emphatically promised Jacob He would carry on the seed of Abraham in the lineage of the coming Messiah, yet now the possibilities seemed remote... but God had promised, “I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Allow the Holy Spirit to fortify your heart with that truth. God is going to perform as He has promised. Lay aside your preoccupation with loneliness and forsakenness and trust God’s absolute word.

These are comfort in and precious words, but they belong only to those who camp at the foot of the cross which unites heaven and earth. Are you lonely? What are the reasons/ Are you even partly responsible? There is a remedy for it. Jesus is reaching down to you right this moment, and the revelation is here. He will give you the promise of His presence and protection. Then will come your


And Jacob awakened from his sleep and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not (v. 16 KJV)

What was Jacob’s response when all of these factors began to mesh — when he began to realize the reasons for his loneliness, when he saw the Ladder reaching down as a remedy, and when he received the revelation of the promise of God’s presence?  He exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.” God was there all the time, and I didn’t even know it. Note the tenses — is and knew. And when all was said and done, God reaffirmed His promises: “I will not leave thee until I have accomplished my purpose,” in essence.

Dear friend, in the words of Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” He is in the place near you, and perhaps you are not aware of it. You who are lonely have the promise of God’s Word, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted/And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (PS. 34:18 NASB). Tender-hearted Jesus calls:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30 KJV).

Surely the Lord is in that place by you. The fact is, He has been there all the time. HE was beside you in that bed of pain, and you might not have known it. He was with you in that precarious church, work or home situation and you knew it or not. He walked with you on that rocky pathway, and you were not aware of it, even as the two disciples were unaware that Jesus was walking with them on the road to Emmaus. They were alongside Him but could not recognize that it was Jesus Himself.

He was weeping with you in your anguish and pain and you knew it now. He was holding your hand in the deepest of despair, and you were insensitive. Yes, and He was there in those haunting moments of loneliness. Jesus was there all the time, and you might not have known it.

So, I challenge you to join Jacob in responding, “Surely the Lord was in this place and I knew it not.” It is intriguing to note in Genesis 28:19 that Jacob changed the name of the pace from Luz to Bethel. Luz meant “separation” and that is what loneliness does. It separates us. But Bethel meant “house of God,” the dwelling place of God Himself. To me, that chant change of names implies a spiritual lesson: We must separate ourselves from the world, and in so doing, we will enter the house of God.

As you step into the conscious presence of the Father, through the Ladder, you will declare: “Surely the Lord is in this place and now I know it!” glory in His presence. Praise Him for His providence. Thank Him for His protection. Magnify Him for His never-failing, never-ending promises.

Yet, some are seemingly locked into loneliness. Although no one else seems to understand, there is One who does. His name is Jesus. Annie B. Russell touchingly put it:

There is never a day so dreary,
There is never a night so long,
But the soul that is trusting Jesus
Will somewhere find a song

There is never a care or burden,
There is never a grief or loss,
But that Jesus in love will lighten
When carried to the cross.

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus,
In the heart He implanteth a song:
A song of deliverance, of courage, of strength,
In the heart He implanteth a song.

“Wonderful, wonderful Jesus!” “His name is wonderful!” “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.” “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know.”

Jesus cares; Jesus understands. Jesus experienced the abysmal impact of loneliness. Just when he needed His friends the most — when He was impaled on that cruel cross — they forsook Him and fled. Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. None of them would stay awake during His vigil in dark Gethsemane. And then on the cross, the Father turned His back on the Son. Talk about loneliness! In the awesome agony of that excruciatingly lonely moment, our Lord literally screamed aloud, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?”

No human words can describe His loneliness on the tree. It is no wonder that He is now able to empathize and sympathize with us in our loneliness. Jesus has felt the pain we feel — and infinitely worse because He “became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God through him.” There is a real sense in which Jesus does feel the pain you feel. He sympathizes with you in your loneliness. HE enters into our struggle with loneliness and isolation.

And He goes beyond sympathy to empathy. Sympathy is defined as feelings of pity for another person, but empathy goes far beyond mere feeling sorry for a person, pity. Empathy means actually to feel with and become involved with another. The perfect picture of empathy is found in Matthew 9:35:

But when He saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

The phrase, “moved with compassion,” literally means that His heart went out to them. He was caught up in their sickness and suffering. He was saddened because of their sins. His was and is a divine empathy.

Paul capsulated His empathy in Philippians 2:

Who being in the form of God, thought I not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (vv. 6-8).

And James wrote:

Behold we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful (5:11 NASB).

Jesus sympathizes and empathizes with us. He hurts with us. One of the early church leaders believed in an idea called patripassionism. It meant that while the Son was on the cross, the Heavenly Father suffered with Him. For surely we know that God the Son has suffered for us and even now suffers with us.

Jesus has incomparable compassion, standing nearby to comfort and cheer. Many years ago it was a custom for mothers to say to their hurting, injured children: “Let mama kiss it and make it well.” Beloved, that’s what Jesus does! He kisses us through the Spirit and makes us well.

Many of us have tried every avenue and outlet but Him. Folks have tried alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, expensive hobbies, material possessions, and a thousand other pursuits. Nothing will fill the emptiness of the heart until Jesus is invited in. With Him you need never be lonely. He will keep you company morning, noon and night. He will sit with you in your sicknesses, ease your suffering, bind up your wounds, dry your tears.. and help you to open yourself to include others in your life. He will lift you from loneliness to love and lilting life in Him.

There’s within my heart a melody;
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
“Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be sill”
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumb’ring chords again

Tho’ sometimes he leads thro’ waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Tho’ sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See his footprints all the way.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know,
Fills my ev’ry longing, Keeps me singing as I go.[7]

“Surely the Lord is in this place.” He understands your loneliness, and He has promised to stay with you while you are tracing the rainbow throw the rain.

[1] Ida Nelle Hollaway, Loneliness: The Untapped Resource (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1982), p. 34.

[2] From The Hills Beyond (New York: Harper Brothers, 1941), p. 186.

[3] Velma Darbo Stevens, A Fresh Look at Loneliness (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1981), pp 9-10.

[4] Words by Julia H. Johnston, 1910. Copyright 1910. Renewal 1936 extended. Hope Publishing Co., owner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

[5] Hollaway, ibid., pp. 75-76.

[6] Author unknown. The tune to “Never Alone” was composed by B.B. McKinney.


Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Impulsive Behavior

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Impulsive Behavior

Friday, May 7, 2021 3:07 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 3:07 PM


Matthew 6:19-24

Matthew 6:19-24

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:19-24 NASB)

Visualize this scene. A Christian couple is at home going over the bills.  This couple ordinarily has smooth sailing in their marriage.  Because of tiredness and pressing bills, Bill and Jane begin to become testy with each other.  Before long they are yelling at each other – behavior that is totally uncharacteristic of their relationship.

Later, Bill and Jane make up with tears, and Bill, shaking his head in disbelief as Jane dabs her eyes with a tissue, apologizes “Honey, I’m sorry.  I just don’t know why I do like that.” Jane answers tearfully, “Darling, I’m so sorry that I called you those silly names. Please forgive me.” But why do Bill and Jane act like that?

Ron is a faithful deacon in his church. His church activities are a blessed relief to him after the pressures of the office. In heavy traffic he is driving home from work. He is a representative of his Lord Jesus Christ.

Ron is driving the best he can, but an impatient driver is tailgating him.  The tailgating continues for miles, it seems. All the while Ron is fuming and turning red around the collar. Then Mr. Tailgater passes and screams unintelligibly at Ron. Ron, the ambassador for Christ, yells back: “You stupid jerk, why don’t you learn how to drive? You dummy!” Why does Ron act like that?

Have you ever had those impulses – or worse? “Why do I do what I do?” is an age-old question. Impulsive behavior is sometimes understandable in the unregenerate, but why do genuine followers of Christ think, speak, and act inconsistently with the gospel of their Lord?

The Apostle Paul struggled with this dilemma. Yes, Paul, the superlative missionary who carried the gospel, either in person or by letter to the entire known world. Yes, Paul who wrote thirteen books of the New Testament. Yes, Paul, the Christian martyr who lost his head on a Roman chocking block because he had preached the Word of the Lord without fear or favor.

For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do (Romans 7:19).

How many times have you asked yourself, Why did I do that? Why did I lose my temper? Why did I laugh at an off-color story? Why did I spank my child because I was angry? Why did I indulge myself in that moment of gossip? Why? Why? Why?

Deep within us there seems to be a mechanism which drives us to continue doing (and thinking and saying) what we do not really want to do. How can we isolate this impulsive behavior and deal with it?

Years ago our denomination sponsored simultaneous revivals, and the watchword was: “Christ is the Answer.” And for a fact He is! And he has the answer to our impulsive behavior.

In His Sermon on the Mount, He goes to the root of the matter and deals with our entire being: our affections (our hearts), our attitudes (our minds), and our actions (our wills). In a moment I am coming to His premier teachings about our life-styles, our impulsiveness, our contradictions.

There is a chain reaction in that our affection affects our attitudes, and our attitudes obviously affect our actions. So, why do we do what we do? We move in the direction of an answer by making a platform of the following premise: What we do is determined by what we think and what we think is determined by where our hearts our (our affections are)! This goes straight to the core of impulsive behavior.

We not only act impulsively, but we buy impulsively. Check your home sometime and catalog the unused items you bought on impulse. No wonder so many people are in trouble credit-wise. They all too often buy goods which are absolutely unnecessary for their comfort and pleasure.

An unknown author wisely wrote:

Sow a thought, reap an act;

Sow an act, reap a habit;

Sow a habit, reap a character;

Sow a character, reap a destiny.

That’s how vital our thoughts are!

We think evilly or wrongfully and fly off the handle. Our thoughts all too often are inconsistent with the mind of Christ. So, many of us go through life frustrated and defeated in the Christian walk. Let me repeat for emphasis: What we do is determined by what we think, and what we think is determined by where our hearts are.

In this premise we discover our basic problem. Before the fall in Genesis 3, the proper order of decision-making was first the mind, then the emotions, then the will. But now, under sin, man-kind has subtly reversed God’s divine order of making decisions. Satan does not appeal to our minds initially. Where does he probe with his crafty guile? At our emotions, at our hearts. Why do I do what I do? Because I am a sinner, even though a saved sinner, and too often I make my decisions beginning with my heart instead of beginning with my head.

Let me put it like this. Our admiration guides our affection. Our affection then governs our attitude. Consequently our attitude guarantees our action. This affects all three areas of our being – our soul; the heart – the affections. Our spirit, the mind – the attitude. Our bodies, our wills – and our physical actions. Why do we do what we do? First . . .

Our Admiration Guides Our Affection

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doeth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Admiration involves thinking highly of a person or object; it also implies an exaltation of the person or object admired. The wrong kind of admiration can turn into a form of idolatry. There is a sense in which we love the persons or objects we admire.

Jesus expressed it: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” A person’s treasure is what he admires. His affection is centered on his treasure, the person(s) or object(s) he admires. If one’s treasure is in the world, one will love the world. I am not referring to the globe on which we live – but the evil system which Satan has let loose in the world.

In reference to this evil system of the devil, John the beloved apostle warns us:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (I John 2:15-17).

It all begins with our admiration, our affection from the heart.

All Eve did was admiringly glance at what Satan, the serpent, offered in the Garden of Eden. Her admiration guided her affection. In the first place, Satan was suave and debonair. Only after God cursed him, did he crawl on his belly in the form of a snake. Satan plucked Eve’s heartstrings with his appeal. It started in her heart. Then, her affection began to govern her attitude. The temptation worked into her mind, and finally her attitude guaranteed her action. It was no surprise that she ultimately accepted the fruit and ate it.

And the process was the same with David, a man after God’s own heart. Why, all he did was take an admiring glance at Bathsheba while she bathed. Then his admiration guided his affection; his affection began to govern his attitude. What was born in his heart bore down on his mind. His attitude guaranteed his action, and an adulterous affair with Bathsheba was the result, not to speak of the crimes and sins David committed in connection with his lust, including the orchestrated death of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband.

Why, why, why do we do what we do? Too frequently we make our decisions by letting our hearts precede our heads. Jesus declared: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will you heart be also.”

Many people spend all their time laying up treasures on this earth, ending up with nothing here or hereafter. The moths eat their tailor-made clothes; the rust corrodes their sleek, expensive automobiles. Thieves break and enter, stealing their priceless antiques and costly jewelry. Many a person who thought he could succeed by bowing down to the gods of this world has suddenly found himself with nothing. It is no wonder Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37).

Lew Sarett wrote of those preoccupied with material possessions:

To him the moon was a silver dollar, spun

Into the sky by some mysterious hand; the sun

Was a gleaming golden coin—

His to purloin;

The freshly minted stars were dimes of delight

Flung out upon the counter of the night.

In yonder room he lies,

With pennies on his eyes.

Our Lord opens with a negative word. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” Our Lord constantly warns against earthly materialism. Don’t let things possess you. Things never really satisfy. A new suit is all right for a few weeks – all your friends have already seen it by then and no longer make compliments. A brand-new automobile is OK until the new car smell goes away. A bouquet of flowers begins to decay before we ever get them delivered. “The world passeth away,” wrote the Apostle John. Decay sets in moment by moment and hour by hour. There is change all around us. At times, nothing seems constant but change.

How foolish it is to set our affections on the possessions of this earth! Let Paul the apostle express it for us:

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-2).

I am a little amused at those who continually try to build up their self-image through their physical appearance. This world is passing away all around us. Many do not like to think on these truths because of impulsive behavior. They look at life through their emotions rather than their minds, making decisions based on the impulse of the split second. They are, as one singer put it, “hooked on a feeling.”

There is also a positive word from the lips of our Lord. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” Here is a word of encouragement about investments.  We hear plenty about wise investments this day and time – IRA, tax shelters, commodities, stocks, bonds, insurance, mutual funds, you name it. Here Jesus gives exceedingly wise counsel about investments which will outlast recession, depression, war, and every imaginable “crunch.”

Let me make a note here. There is nothing wrong with material possessions kept in proper perspective. Abraham was wealthy. Job was affluent before calamity struck, but the Word of God declares that “the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12a). David certainly was not in the welfare line, and his son Solomon was considered the richest king of his era.

You have often heard, “Money is the root of all evil.” That’s an incorrect quotation of I Timothy 6:10, which states: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” The love of money is wrong. Money can bless or curse, all according to what we do with it.

Many wealthy people I know are laying up treasures in heaven. In fact, many times it is those of us without a lot of material possessions who strive to lay up treasures on earth. The “have nots” often covet the possessions of the “haves.”

It is all a matter of the affections. What our Lord forbids is the worship of our possessions, allowing them to preoccupy and consume us. Neither in the pursuit nor in the pleasure of things should they become our chief concern. I repeat: “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”

If your treasure is deposited on earth, your heart will follow it. Likewise, if your treasure is deposited in heaven, your heart will follow it there. Why do we do what we do? Basically it is because we have laid up our treasures on earth, and consequently our admiration is guiding our affection which eventually governs our attitude – which inevitably guarantees our actions.

Our Lord presents the secret to becoming genuinely interested in Him and His enterprise. “Put your treasures in heavenly pursuits, and your heart will follow.”

If you put your treasure in a vacation home, your heart will be there. If you put your treasure in a beautiful body, your heart will be there. And if you put your treasure in the work of God, your heart will be there. I repeat: There is nothing wrong with a vacation home, a new car, or a beautiful body – unless they come before the Lord and His business. Jesus is speaking about priorities. During the Second World War, certain projects were labeled TOP PRIORITY. The kingdom of God has TOP PRIORITY with the devoted Christian who has his priorities straight.

Perhaps you are asking, “Why don’t I care more about the work of God?” It may be that you have misplaced your treasure. Your heart is not caught up in the kingdom because your treasure is laid up in the pursuits of the carnal system around you.

Walter R. Bowie’s poem, “The Empty Soul,” speaks volumes:

At the end will be but rust,

Where earthly treasures are;

They whose yes are in the dust

Will never see a star.

They who came to Bethlehem

And only dross have sought

Will take away alone with them

The emptiness they brought.

Since the fall, mankind has been governed by sinful desires, improper affections, and self-centered lusts. People are controlled by their emotions or desires. Such is the effect of sin on a fallen race.

How do we deal with this impulsive behavior? We pray that God will help us to be governed by His will rather than our emotions and feelings.

One of the real tragedies of sin is that it upsets God’s order of decision-making. We do what we do initially because our admiration guides our affection. When this happens we then realize that

Our Affection Governs Our Attitude

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Why do we do what we do? Second Corinthians 4:4 gives an explanation: “. . . the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Satan has blinded what? “The minds of them which believe not.”

Here Jesus speaks about eye trouble. The light of the body is the mind. Sin blinds those who are unbelieving and without Christ. Sin also dims the vision of Christians, although it can never totally blind them. Nonetheless, sin harms our vision of reality and values.

Yes, our admiration guides our affection, and then our affection governs our attitude. Sin blinds the minds of the unsaved, and it dims the vision of the saved.

The Lord illustrates this principle in verses 22 and 23. Sin blinds people’s eyes to truths which should be perfectly obvious. Even as Christians try to accommodate their sins against the Lord, they often excuse themselves with, “Well, I just can’t see that. I don’t think God should expect such and such from me.” The fact is: The rebellious Christian simply does not want clear vision. The unsaved person wants no vision at all.

Our sinful nature leads us to look at the world through distorted lenses. These warped lenses of sin make us sidestep responsibility, also causing us to bypass and ignore the truth. Aging is one example. Many people simply do not want to believe they are aging, that wrinkles are appearing, that the muscle tone is sagging, that skin blemishes and varicose veins are developing. Many an actress has gone insane or killed herself because youth was fleeting and the crow’s feet were appearing. Yes, our bodies are deteriorating, and we might as well adjust to that manifest reality.

This spiritual myopia may spread to every nook and cranny of our lives. I am afraid many professing Christians are ignoring the clear truth of God’s Word when they think about an illicit love affair. A large number of professing Christians are living together without the benefit of clergy. Years ago we called that, with disdain, “shacking up.” Now many Christians are condoning the practice with alibis like this: “Why, if they truly love each other, there’s nothing wrong with it.”

But that’s not how God feels about it. After all, He performed the first wedding ceremony in the Garden of Eden. He wants men and women to commit themselves to each other in the bonds of holy wedlock – “to live together after the ordinance of God.” Even though they may claim commitment to each other before God, they ought to make it official before the state and mankind. Yet, we are living in a day when men and women are blinded to the clear-cut teachings of God’s Word. Adultery and fornication are just as wrong today as they were when Jesus walked the Palestinian countryside. Why do so many Christians think living together is OK? Because they are making decisions from the emotions and not from the mind of Christ.

And this carries over to money. The stark fact is we own absolutely nothing. We will not carry one penny from this world with us. We will leave the scene exactly as we came in – naked and with nothing (see Job 1:21). Imagine it. All around us people are being governed by the stock market and the prime rate. We cannot carry that money with us, but we do not want to face it.

As a pastor I have conducted hundreds of funerals and followed hundreds of hearses in the funeral processions to the cemetery – but I have never seen a hearse with a “U-Haul” trailer behind it! The truth is: If we don’t use it, we will leave it. We had best lay up our treasures in heaven. Then our treasures will have already preceded us. They will be waiting for us in heaven!

What one does is determined by what one thinks. What one thinks is determined by where one’s heart is. Our admiration guides our affection. Then our affection begins to govern our attitude. Next

Our Attitude Guarantees Our Action

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Thoughts. Then affections. Then attitudes. For emphasis I repeat the chain: Our admiration guides our affection. Our affection governs our attitude. Our attitude guarantees our action. They fit like the fingers in a carefully-measured glove.

Paul spoke of one deserter: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10a). Why? Because Demas had diverted his affections to the world and its cares. The attitude of his mind was altered, finally resulting in his leaving Paul. James 4:4 cries out: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

Having distinguished between two treasures and two eyes, our Lord now makes the distinction between two masters – God and mammon. The key word here is serve. “No man can serve two masters.” Serve in this context means slavery. Why can’t we serve two masters? Because their orders are diametrically opposed. One commands us to walk by faith; the other by sight. Jesus made it plain: We cannot serve two overlords. Those who serve God think, live, speak, and act by faith. Those who strive to please men alone walk by sight.

Mammon, most commentators think, stood for the god of material possessions. Mammon was a personification of wealth. We will either serve God or the god of possessions.

One commands us to be humble; the other proud. One demands that we set our affections on things above; the other on things here upon the earth. One commands us to believe before we see; the other to see before we believe. “No man can serve two masters . . . Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” Jesus emphatically stressed.

This is also why the Lord Jesus drew the line with this statement: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt. 12:30). There is no middle-ground here, no fence-straddling. Many people have tried to serve two masters, but it simply will not work.

Without our priorities in proper perspective, without the decision-making process in spiritual sequence, and without clear vision, we can become slaves to the things which were intended to serve us.  These earthly things meant for our benefit and good can become our deities. We can begin to build our lives around them. I like golf, but I have not let it master me. Many men and women are mastered by golf. It becomes the controlling force of their lives. Name it – hunting, fishing, business, clubs, fund raising, cars, boats, jewelry, antiques, eating, drinking – and it can become a minor deity.

I heard of a farmer who stayed away from church all during the fall and winter because he was afraid the pine needles on his acreage would catch afire and burn his property. He stayed right there every minute worrying over the slim prospects of a fire. He was blessed with huge acreage, pine trees, natural resources, and 500 head of cattle, but he never trusted God with them. His attitude about life was reflected when the spring arrived. He returned to church and would often ask the treasurer to change a one dollar bill for him so he could give a quarter in the collection to show his gratitude to God! That’s a true story!

With a self-serving attitude, we end up serving dumb idols. That farmer did, and his life was wizened and spiritually impoverished. That happens because we reverse God’s decision-making order. We become pitiful beggars, groveling before the pathetic thrones of materialistic idols. We become mastered by our appetites and become slaves to our possessions. Our goods become our gods! What a tragedy!

The worst detriment to the cause of Christ is God’s people holding onto the world with one hand and to Him with the other. Many of us are spiritual schizophrenics, trying to live with dual life-styles and personalities. The disoriented Christian is miserable. The world looks at the backslidden, idolatrous believer and thinks he has never been saved!

Mahatma Gandhi, had he become a Christian, could have won millions of Indians to Christ. Perhaps no one man has had more impact of his country than Gandhi did on India. Late in his life he observed, “I would have become a Christian had it not been for Christians.” What an indictment of unconcerned Christianity!

Now, the question is no longer why but what. What can you and I do about this impulsive behavior? What can we do about this maddening inconsistency, this ride on a spiritual see-saw? Up and down. Up and down.

This sounds so simplistic – but it works. We can repent. And what is repentance? It is a change of mind which affects a change of heart that affects a change of volition. We do what we do because we have been making our decisions in the wrong processes, and we must willingly change our minds – repent. Here I am not speaking about repentance in connection with salvation, unless, of course, you are not a Christian. But Christians are commanded to repent. “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev. 2:16; see also Rev. 2:5; Rev. 3:3, 19). Believers are continually called on to change their attitudes and their minds.

To this day there is a difference of opinion about the true spiritual condition of the Prodigal Son when he left home. Was he saved or lost? Was he merely a backslider or was he unregenerate? Many are inclined to believe that he presents a picture of the backslider who falls out of fellowship with his Heavenly Father, but I am not going to split hairs.

What counts most of all is that the Father was willing to receive his wayward son. Luke 15 deals arrestingly with three parables – first, the story of the lost sheep; second, the story of the lost coin; and third, the story of the Prodigal (or lost) Son. After the boy traveled to that “far country,” he dissipated his resources. That is often the case of a country boy who goes away to “the big city.” He wants to do everything and buy everything in sight.

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself [author’s italics], he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants(Luke 15:14-19).

Down in that hog pen, that boy was really asking, Why did I do this? Why did I act like this? His admiration had guided his affection; his affection had governed his attitude; and his attitude had guaranteed his action. As a result he was eating swine feed instead of a sweet feast with his father. Right there in that sty, he repented: “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee” (v. 18). That was a clear-cut statement of repentance. How was he enabled to make stand? The previous verse indicates: “And when he came to himself, he said . . .” Only by that realization was he able to repent.

He changed his mind. When he changed his mind, his volition – his will – changed. The remainder of the parable (vv. 20-32) details his going home, his heartfelt reception by his father, and the resentment of his older brother.

Size up the ingredients of the Prodigal’s odyssey. He regretted his deed. He blamed himself for his sin. He acknowledged his father’s right to be displeased, confessing, “I am no more worthy to be called thy son” (v. 21b). He had already resolved to make it right before leaving the swill and the swine.

What can we do about our impulsive behavior? How can we do away with having to ask ourselves the embarrassing question, Why did I do that? Regret your impulsiveness. Lay all of your impulses at the feet of Jesus. Acknowledge your sin of impetuosity. Recognize that God has a right to be displeased. Vow that you will stop letting emotions dictate rather than your mind controlled by the Holy Spirit. Allow the Word of God to shape every aspect of your life, including your decision-making.

The overriding question is: Who will you serve? You cannot serve two. You will never have victory over impulsive behavior until the ownership of your life is straightened out. Does Jesus Christ have you? Repent and serve the living Lord only. Step by step you will trace the rainbow through the rain . . . to victory and triumph.

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain