Prospering In Unlikely Places
Sometimes life takes us places we never expected to go.
And in those places, God writes a story we never thought would be ours.
What was your favorite Bible story when you were little? Mine was “Jonah and the Whale.” In my mind it was a mixture of my love of the sea and the story of Pinocchio.
My parents implanted in my heart the lessons of God’s forgiveness and the importance of obedience. The wicked city of Ninevah needed repentance and forgiveness, but so did Jonah. “Obedience is doing what you are told to do when you are told to do it and with the right heart attitude.” As a child, I got the part that Jonah was not doing what he “was told to do when he was told to do it”; when he got on a ship going 2,500 miles in the opposite direction from Ninevah. But I would be an adult before I understood the end of the book of Jonah.
Jonah struggled with God’s plan. The people of Ninevah were cruel and vicious people who assaulted the Jewish nation. Jonah hated the very people he was sent to give God’s message of warning and redemption. Though a trip in a large fish changed Jonah’s direction, the last chapter leaves the story hanging on one word, “attitude.” Look at Jonah’s response to God’s forgiveness of Ninevah.
(v. 1,3-)” But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for them which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”
The story of Jonah ends with Jonah sitting on a hillside looking out at the city of Ninevah and pouting that God had forgiven a town with 120,000 children (couldn’t tell right hand from left) plus adults. Jonah surely didn’t have the attitude of obedience.
As an adult, the story of Jonah leaves me with one question, “How do I react when God’s plan isn’t mine?”
The person in this week’s CCA Bible reading gives us a sharp contrast of attitude. Unlike Jonah, Joseph did not know God’s plan for his life. He would encounter the hatred of his brothers, being sold into slavery, false accusation, and being forgotten in an Egyptian prison. If anyone had to “right” to pout and doubt God’s plan, it was Joseph. In the darkness of the pit, his brother threw him into, the darkness of the accusations and the loneliness of a dark prison; Joseph’s attitude flourished.
God’s plan for our life may not be our plan. There may be things we don’t understand with our human eyes and things that cost us comfort and all we have grown accustomed. But it is there God calls us to trust Him.
The critical difference in the attitude of these two men is their ability to trust the hand of God. Joseph never allowed the circumstances of his life to change his faith or his character. He prospered in prison and later in the palace. And as a result God used Joseph to save the young nation of Israel from extinction.
“How do I react when God’s plan is not my plan?” It’s tough to grow in unlikely places, but it is in those places that God calls us to flourish. “Father, I am weak and don’t understand your hand in my life. Please help me to see you in the darkest moments and grow closer to you. Holy Spirit please help me to live out the fruits of the Spirit when I only want to have “sour grapes.”. And Father please help my response to my circumstances bring glory to you.