If folks had a biblical person who they desired to be likened to, the man Jonah probably would not top that list. Yet, as members of the church of Christ, we should note that Jonah’s problem of refusing to carry out God’s will is oftentimes our shortcoming as well. For example, Jonah was told to go preach to a foreign people (Assyrians), yet we so very often fail to carry out God’s instructions.
Ironically, the reason that we fail to teach as we should is for the opposite reason that Jonah failed to teach the Ninevites. Jonah’s reason for hopping the first ship to Tarshish was in way connected to the church’s reason for failure to adequately evangelize.
For example, Jonah did not flee from God’s presence due to a lack of confidence in the power of God’s Word. Quite the contrary, he knew that if the Ninevites heard God’s Word they would repent and be saved by God (Jonah 4:2) Like the apostle Paul, Jonah recognized that God’s Word was his power unto deliverance (Romans 1:16). He also knew that the Word of the Lord would not return to God void (Isaiah 55:11).
Jonah did not flee from God’s presence due to a lack of courage. In fact, such backbone had Jonah that when the great storm from God came upon the ship that was carrying him away from Nineveh, he said, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea” (Jonah 1:12).
These are not the words of a coward! Also, Jonah did not lack confidence in the power of God’s Word. These were not the reasons that caused him not to want to preach to them. The reason that Jonah initially refused to preach to Nineveh was prejudice. The Assyrians were a savage, militant people much like the American Indian of the 1700-1800s, and like the Indian of our recent history, they were much disliked. Jonah did not lack courage to go to Nineveh, he merely did not want to preach to the lost souls there.
How paradoxical then that we so often do as Jonah initially did, and fail to fulfill God’s instructions in the area of evangelism. Our problem is not prejudice, for most members of the church truly want all souls to be saved. Our problem is a lack of courage (II Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 6:10) that is caused by a lack of confidence in the power of God’s Word (Acts 20:32; II Timothy 3:15; James 1:22; Hebrews 4:12; I Peter 2:25).
Brethren, with the desire that most Christians have for all souls to be saved, imagine what we could do if we had Jonah’s confidence in the power of God’s Word and his courage to act when necessary. Why, brethren, we would again be accused of turning the world upside down!!!
Oh for the faith of Jonah!!