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1st Week of Lent
Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh. (Jonah 3:3)
What a great prophet! Here’s a man who journeys into the dark heart of a savage empire to proclaim a message that may well get him killed. But he tackles his God-given assignment and gets incredible results. Courageous, selfless, obedient: that’s Jonah!
That may be the Jonah of chapter 3. But if you look at the other three chapters of the Book of Jonah, you’ll discover that our “hero” is not really all that heroic. He runs away from God’s first call to Nineveh; he puts others at risk to save his own skin; he’s unmerciful, self-pitying, and angry (Jonah 1:3, 7; 4:1-3, 9). As the story ends, Jonah sits sulking while God patiently reasons with him.
Jonah’s full portrait is not a pretty picture! But whose is? We all have our unseemly moments of rebelling against God’s plan or sinking into self-absorption. In fact, as we give more attention to prayer this Lent, we may see areas where we’re being called to be less like Jonah and more like Jesus. As we do, we can find at least two encouraging messages in Jonah’s story.
First: Just because you have faults and failings doesn’t mean God can’t work through you. So often, seeing our dark corners and unheroic characteristics, we tell ourselves that we’re too weak and imperfect to undertake some calling that God puts before us. But God isn’t hampered by our limitations! His power working through us is what brings results. Does he seek our cooperation and holiness? Of course. But even if our motives are mixed, even if some parts of us are not beautiful yet, we can still do something beautiful for God.
Second: The work God gives you to do for the good of others is for your good too. It wasn’t just to save the Ninevites that God sent them a prophet: he wanted to save the prophet as well! Likewise, when God calls you to give of yourself, it’s also to give you more of his life. Even if the task reveals a hidden fault, as with Jonah, God is there to flood the area with his light and healing—to do you good.
“Lord, thank you for the story of my brother Jonah. And tell me please: what beautiful thing are you calling me to do for you today?”
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19; Luke 11:29-32
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