Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh.
There’s no doubt that God will use anything at his disposal, even a major life crisis, to change stubborn minds and move disobedient people. This subject would be incomplete if we fail to deal with the uncomfortable process of how God uses a crisis to change rebellious hearts and minds.
Surprisingly, there are way too many stories in the Scriptures from which we can draw examples! Think back to the time when the people of God were enslaved by the ruthless Egyptian Pharaohs for four hundred years, or the time they spent wandering around the great and terrible wilderness for forty years, or the time they were captured and exiled to a foreign land for seventy years.
But here’s one example of God using a crisis to change someone’s mind. In the Book of Jonah 1:1, God gave a message to his prophet. He said, “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
The heart of God was broken because of the wickedness of the people of Nineveh (in the country of Iraq), which is now the modern city of Mosul. God commanded the prophet Jonah to go to the city and preach to the Ninevites. Perhaps they would repent and be spared God’s judgment!
Can you imagine that? What a privilege it was, to be chosen from among the people of God to be his special envoy for this divine rescue mission! But tragically, that’s not how Jonah saw it.
From the region of Galilee, an obedient Jonah would have to go north and east to Nineveh. But instead, a disobedient Jonah went south and west toward Tarshish. In a heartbeat, the appointed prophet took off in the opposite direction. Only then, did everything literally go south.
Jonah could have been spared from enduring a miserable experience if only he obeyed God. But his mind was already made up. Running to the seaport in Joppa, he boarded a ship going nowhere near Nineveh.
We catch the runaway prophet exhausted and fast asleep in the bottom of the vessel. Which goes to show that running from God is hard work!
We all know the story. The ship sailed into a violent storm that went from bad to worse. The desperate sailors prayed to their gods and threw the cargo overboard to keep the ship afloat. Even Jonah was rudely awakened by the captain who insisted that he too pray to his god. When the prayers to every which god didn’t work, the crew cast lots to see who exactly it was that got them into this deadly crisis. When the lots revealed that Jonah was the culprit, he told them to throw him overboard. Not only was the prophet was thrown into a raging sea that stopped the storm at once, but God also sent a great fish to swallow him alive.
How miserable it must have been to wallow in the dark belly of that fish! The foul stench must have been unbearable for this human sushi-of-a-man wrapped in seaweed. It had to be terrifying inside this watery grave!
Still, it took three whole days, in this God-awful crisis, for Jonah to come to his senses and change his mind. Finally, Jonah prayed to God from inside the fish, “As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple… I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows” (2:7, 9).
Then the fish spit Jonah out onto the beach. The resigned runaway prophet wobbled toward God’s direction—the wicked city of Nineveh. With each obedient step he took, his strength returned. The message is preached and the Ninevites are delivered through repentance (3:10). And this happened to be the biggest evangelistic event in human history!
God changed Jonah’s mind through a major crisis and moved him in the direction he was commanded to go. Likewise, God can and will use a crisis to change your mind and move you in the way that you should go. God will use whatever it takes to fulfill his purpose in and through you.
In-Home LifeGroup Study Guide
Allow each member of your LifeGroup to share their personal experience. Can you think of a time in your life when you suffered a major crisis because you were slow to obey God’s command or simply ignored his leading in accordance to his word in the Bible?
There were many instances in Scripture where the people of God suffered through a long-drawn crisis in their journey with him. What hardships did the Israelites face as slaves in Egypt, as wanderers in the wilderness, and as exiles in Babylon?
Read the first chapter in the Book of Jonah. Why do you think the prophet Jonah refused to obey God’s command to go to Nineveh?
Have you ever tried to runaway from your God-given responsibilities only to discover that he was waiting for you just around the corner?
How does the story of Jonah give you a greater understanding of God’s presence and mission in your life? Where is he calling you to go and make him known?
Pray together: Lord God, allow us to understand that you can and will use a major crisis to change our minds and move us in your direction. Free us from the pressure of temptation. Prevent us from running away from our God-given responsibility. Move us in the way that we should go. And lead us to fulfill the purpose in order to give you all the glory. Amen.