I’m so sorry for the late email today. I hope wherever you are you are enjoying a day that is as beautiful as the one we are enjoying here in Richmond. The sun is out and there’s a crisp breeze in the air. I’m planning to take a few moments later to go out take it all in. Before I get outside to enjoy the sun though, let’s talk about resistance.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Jonah. We’ve grown up hearing about Jonah’s stubborn resistance to God’s instructions since our earliest days in Sunday school. We’ve heard about the big fish and the three nights Jonah spent inside the gigantic animal’s stomach. We know the story, I’m sure. Yet, there are some finer points to the story I’d like to highlight in today’s email.
1) When we resist God’s instruction we bring storms to other people’s lives.
Verses 4-6 of Jonah 1, tell us that God sent a huge storm as a response to Jonah’s disobedience. (Notice it doesn’t say he allowed it. He SENT it.) The storm didn’t just affect Jonah. It affected everyone on the boat he was trying to to escape upon. Jonah’s disobedience at the very least made everybody’s life on the boat uncomfortable. At worst, Jonah’s resistance put the lives of everyone about the boat in danger.
How often do we choose to resist God’s instructions, taking up with people, places and entities as places of refuge while we try to do things our own way? These verses call us to look at these decisions more closely. They call us to remember that our decisions to be disobedient don’t just affect us. When we go in the opposite direction of God’s instruction, we put other people in discomfort and sometimes in jeopardy.
2) God’s grace and mercy are not ours to distribute. He distributes them as he wills.
Jonah’s disobedience was based on his judgement of Nineveh. He assessed the people of the city and decided they didn’t deserve grace. The story starts off with Jonah’s response to God’s instructions and is revisited later on the story as well. Jonah’s mind was made up. Nineveh didn’t deserve mercy! The people were far too evil to be recipients of God’s grace!
How many of us do this? We may not go as far as Jonah to say people are “too evil,” but most of us do try to put the stop on God’s free flow of grace from time to time. How many of us pass judgement on others, thinking to ourselves “they don’t deserve…(fill in the blank)”?
Jonah’s story makes it clear that we don’t have the right or the authority to decide who gets grace and who doesn’t. Grace is not ours. It is God’s. When he sends us as instruments of his grace it is not up to us to be judge and/or jury. Our job is to follow instructions and be the gracious instrument we have been assigned to be.
How does this apply? Whether it is hiring someone that doesn’t quite “look the part” or making a decision on whether or not to give money to a homeless person on a corner, or resolving a rift in a friendship, we are often guided toward decisions that are counter intuitive. We are often guided to extend grace in ways that don’t make sense to us. We have to remember in these spaces, if God guides us to do something - the grace we’re extending isn’t ours. It is His!
3) There is nothing we can do to thwart God’s plans. Period.
Whether we like it or not, if God wants something done it is going to be done. If he wants us to do it, we will do it. We can resist. We can fight. We can run. But ultimately, what God wants, he gets. Period. He is sovereign.
God makes this clear over in the book of Isaiah:
I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
I don’t believe God forces us to do anything against our wills. However, I do believe he knows how to change our wills. He knows how to bend us toward his purposes and the Bible is pretty clear about the fact that he doesn’t shy away from putting us in circumstances that push us toward his purposes. For instance, he gives us choices like these:
“would you rather do as I have instructed, or spend your life in the belly of a fish?”
What would you decide? …Exactly. lol!
When it comes to the will of God, we do best to realize that he is sovereign and in absolute control of everything in the universe. I totally agree with the theologian R.C. Sproul who says “there is not one rogue molecule in the universe.”
This week, let’s take a look at our lives closely and seek to find what kinds of instructions God has given us. I don’t think we’ll have to do to deep of a search. Most of us are acutely aware of the directions God is giving. Let’s check our responses to God’s instructions. Have we been obedient? If not, let’s dedicate some time this week to resolve to stop running. Let’s try to get in line with what God is doing. Let’s lay down our judgements about situations and outcomes and just do as we’re told by our Heavenly Father.
After all… resistance is futile.
Questions! (I love this part!)
- Can I see any area of my life where my disobedience is costing other people? Am I bringing storms into other people’s lives by resisting God’s instruction?
- Am I an open conduit of God’s grace? Do I use my own judgement in distributing his mercy or do I rely on his purposes and reasoning?
- In what kinds of ways do I resist God’s instruction? Do I acknowledge what he says and run in the other direction? Do I try to “confuse” myself about what he has said? Do I try to hide by doing “good” in other areas to compensate for disobedience?
- Why am I resistant to God’s instruction and what does my disobedience to what he has instructed me to do say about my faith and trust in him?