Many years ago in a small church on Les Iles de la Madeleine, where my family was in our missions work at the time, a young pastor and his family stopped by and he taught a message that has stuck with me ever since. This pastor had all the zeal of a young man starting out on his preaching career, and it was great to hear him lay out a message that has repeatedly convicted me over the years.
He spoke on Jonah's call to Nineveh. From all I've gathered, Nineveh was a pretty ferocious place, and not too friendly to strangers, so Jonah was naturally reluctant when God called him to go there and preach a message he knew they would not want to hear. It was too bad for Jonah that he didn't follow God's "plan A," though, because "plan B" wasn't nearly as easy.
If Jonah had only trusted God to be in control of the wild Ninevites and to have His will done (recognizing that God's will might not be the most comfortable for Jonah), he would not have had to endure the three nights in the whale, or what was perhaps worse, the agony of knowing he was running from something God had called him to do. As we all know, God had to take some serious steps to get Jonah to realize that he was better off simply following God's call and trusting Him to take care of the rest.
The question for us, which the pastor raised that chilly day on the islands, is what is our Nineveh? What is it in my life that God has called me to do that I am trying not to think about or even outright refusing? Is there anything that God is prompting me to root out of my life that I like having around: a guilty pleasure or a corner of heart not fully surrendered? A friend I know I really should share the Gospel with?
It is so easy to look on at what Jonah did and condemn him for his foolishness in trying to run away from God when we are doing exactly the same thing in our own lives. For some, going to Nineveh represents a major change like getting rid of that music you're addicted to but your dad disapproves of. For others, it may be seemingly smaller, like getting up earlier in the morning or reading the Bible daily.
No matter what it is for you, or me, though, if there is anything or any area in our lives in which we are not completely surrendered to God and following His will for our lives, we are no better than Jonah. And if you are continuing to run from your Nineveh and haven't had your experience in the whale yet, you can bet it is coming, and it won't be fun.
"Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly, and said, 'I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." - Jonah 2:1-2