Sharing our faith is not what it used to be. Not that it was ever easy, however, the challenges we face today in communicating the message of Jesus are greater than they were in previous generations. As a culture, our collective knowledge of Christianity is rapidly diminishing. The effort of bringing someone to a place where they can make a decision for Christ runs deeper than a single service or conversation. It takes a concentrated effort to get past the offended climate of today’s culture. The result? 47% of Christian millennials think evangelism is wrong (according to Barna).
We all have people in our lives that don’t know Jesus, but we often aren’t willing to take on the responsibility of sharing God’s love and truth with them. Perhaps it’s not even something you’ve thought about.
Jonah thought about it. He thought a lot about the people of Nineveh and sharing God’s message with them. It’s not what he wanted, but after scarcely avoiding death and a renewed determination to obey the Lord he walked into the capital of Assyria and proclaimed the message the Lord gave.
“You guys are super sinful and in forty days God’s gonna destroy your city. You all dead Suckers.” *drops mic* Exit stage left. No altar call. Just the harsh reality of the consequences of sin.
It turns out the people of Nineveh didn’t need the altar call. They responded immediately with repentance and mourning. The king even called for the whole city to fast for the duration of the forty days. God responds to their humility and willingness to turn from their sins the same way He responds to us. Mercy. God decided not to destroy the city.
Jonah looks at God’s outpouring of mercy and proclaims, “THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED!”
Jonah is angry! He tells God that this is the very reason he didn’t want to come here in the first place. He KNEW God was merciful and would spare the city if they repented and Jonah wanted to see them burn! He basically said, “if you’re not gonna destroy the city, then kill me now,” marched off and waited to see what God would do.
This is like a reverse prayer.
Imagine a preacher giving an altar call in front of 120,000 people and they all respond with a desire to get their life right with God and preacher gets mad about it. I struggle to put myself in Jonah’s shoes on such a large scale. It sounds a bit absurd.
Next, in Jonah chapter 4 is this weird part where God gives Jonah this plant to provide shelter and protect him from the sun. The next day God sends a worm to kill it. Jonah is again, “angry enough to die!”
God then makes sure Jonah understands the issue. Jonah cares passionately about the destruction of the plant, but cares little about the destruction of 120,000 people. Again, that sounds absurd. Jonah is putting his own personal comfort far above the eternal destination of a whole city. Jonah cares more about his comfort than souls. His preferences are more important the people in Nineveh.
This is the heart of this series. Let’s prioritize people over our preferences. Serving God is not about always getting our way, pursuing our own personal peace, comfort, and satisfaction. I believe we have a God given mission and assignment. We have the purpose of loving people with the love of Jesus. We have the purpose of showing people the truth of Jesus and leading them into freedom.
When we take the entirety of our world this seems almost an impossible task, however, salvation is not a numbers game. It’s personal. You likely aren’t assigned to the whole planet, but God has most certainly placed people in your life to purposefully pursue. Perhaps some people immediately come to your mind, perhaps not.
Either way, the starting point is the same. We have to genuinely be concerned for their eternity. It matters if my neighbors end up in Heaven or Hell. This should move our souls and stir us to action.
Many times it doesn’t.
My challenge is simply this: PRAY. Ask God to move your soul with compassion for the lost. Ask God to give you a burden for your neighbors, friends, and family. We need to feel the weight, the significance of the task at hand. We can’t pray effectively for our neighbors until we feel the urgency and importance of our assignment so pray and ask God to give you a burden, then pray for your friends as you would pray for your very soul.
What happens next, may not be exactly what you wanted. It likely will take longer than you had hoped. Endure. Work hard to build a relationship with them and take advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and compassion for them.
After all, God was not made to serve us, rather us to serve God. On the day I stand before God, I hope as we look back on my life that I worked hard to fulfill His purposes and not my own. Certainly, I don’t want to stand before the Almighty staring at missed opportunities and proclaim, “but God, that’s not what I wanted.”