God’s Great Plans

What’s your master plan? Most of us don’t plan what we’re gonna eat for lunch let alone what we’ll be doing 10 years for now. I believe in setting goals and making plans, but more than that I believe that God has a plan for all of us and no plan is greater or more elaborate than His plan for salvation.

Let’s look back at Jonah for a moment, he was swallowed by a giant fish! This is one of the crazier moments in the Bible, but it sure speaks to the extreme measures God is willing to go to demonstrate His love for us and help guide us down the right path. Just before this Jonah was drowning in the ocean, being tossed by stormy waves and did something he hadn’t done since he began running from God.

Jonah 2:7-9 (NLT)  As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.

 Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you. with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” 

The storm brought him to a place of repentance and that was when God sent the fish. The fish is a sign of the sovereignty of God and His faithfulness to rescue His people.

2 Samuel 14:14 (NLT)  God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.

I am always amazed at how great the love of God is. He looks down on us in all our sins, all our brokenness and He says, “I made you, I chose you, you’re my son, you’re my daughter, I love you!” He went to great lengths to devise a plan to rescue us from our sin.

Ephesians 1:7-10 (MSG)  Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

What I love is the fact that it was God’s plan to rescue us, it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that brought us freedom. It has never been our actions that earned our salvation. It’s never been about our good deeds, but Jesus’ great deed on the cross.

God’s capacity to forgive cannot be outdone by our capacity to sin. We all have moments where we fall short and struggle with sin. Can I encourage you to not give up! God hasn’t given up on you or stopped loving you just because you blew it this week. Keep spending time in prayer and studying His word.

I absolutely believe that in Jesus we find the grace and power to be completely set free from sin, but just as importantly we find mercy patience and love enough to forgive us every time we fall short.

I am reminded of the anguish from which Paul writes in Romans 7.

Romans 7:18-25 (NLT) I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart.23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Struggling with sin is not a new concept, but one that has plagued humanity ever since the fall of man. When we recognize we have fallen short we should always come to the Lord and repent, He is faithful and Just to forgive us. (1 John 1:9) I love what Paul writes next.

Roman 8:1-2 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

We don’t have to hide our face in shame, we don’t have to run from God and we don’t have to wait until we’re drowning in the middle of a storm like Jonah to come to the Lord and repent. We don’t have to drown in guilt and condemnation. God’s capacity to forgive is greater than our capacity to sin.

Don’t Be Like Jonah

Have you ever seen a movie and found the main character to be completely unlikeable? That’s how I feel whenever I read the book of Jonah. We grow up hearing this story, Jonah ran from God, Jonah was swallowed by a whale and then Jonah obeyed God. Yay! What a wonderful story, but there is more to the story. Yes, we should learn from our mistakes and obey God, but can I offer one piece of additional advice?

DON’T BE LIKE JONAH!

Now, I might be wrong, but I feel like this guy did just about everything wrong in this book. That’s not to say that Jonah was a villain. Come on, he was a prophet called by God to be His mouthpiece and deliver His messages. That’s pretty amazing and I’m sure Jonah was an amazing prophet, until the Lord said this:

Jonah 1:1-2 (NLT) …“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

Jonah’s like, NO WAY! He gets up and runs the opposite direction. Why would he do that? The reason makes me so mad, but the author of the book wisely doesn’t get into that just yet, so I will follow his lead and we will look at the reasons later. So Jonah gets on a boat with some sailors toward Tarshish. That doesn’t work out so well.

Jonah 1:4-6 (NLT) …the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.

When we make bad decisions God has a way of trying to help us along the right way. For Jonah that meant sending a storm to get his attention. Sometimes in our lives we go through storms and we cry out for God to stop them, when what we need to do is step back and examine our lives. Is it possible we’ve been disobedient? That isn’t to say every storm is a result of sin or disobedience, but either way we need to run to God and trust Him through the storm.

Jonah 1:8-10 (NLT) Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.

Whenever I read the Bible,  I try to put myself inside the story. When I was reading this not too long ago I stepped into the role of the sailors. Those poor men. They didn’t do anything to deserve the storm. I don’t believe it was God’s will for them to be in that storm, except for one important detail. They let Jonah into their boat.

Sometimes we go through situations not because of anything we did, but because of the people we’ve let into our boat. Who we decide to let into our lives is an important thing and many times will determine the direction and storms you face. Why? Because the people you choose to spend time with will influence you!

Often we choose our friends based on who makes us feel the best, or who we enjoy being around the most, and while that is a very important part of friendship we have to ask if you really want to be like them? Because we will always become like the ones closest to us. We don’t usually notice, because it happens very slowly over an extended period of time, but it happens every time.

Here are some good questions to ask: Who do you spend the most time with? Who do you most admire? Are those two groups of people exactly the same? If not why? We should spend time with the people we most want to become like. Seek those people out and ask them to be your friend or mentor.

And if you discover that you’ve allowed a Jonah into your boat what do you do?

Jonah 1:11-13 (NLT) And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” 12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” 13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.

We don’t like it when someone tells us not to hangout with someone. Cutting negative influences out of our life is something we resist greatly. No matter how bad the storm gets instead of ending the relationship, we just row harder and harder trying to fight the storm. That usually doesn’t get us anywhere we want to go. Sometimes we even end up damaging our life past the point of repair.

We have to take the difficult step of obedience.

Jonah 1:15-16 (NLT) Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

The moment they obeyed, the storm ceased. I don’t know what storms your facing in life right now, but take a look at who you’re traveling with. Are they bringing you closer to God or are they perhaps stirring up the waters of conflict in your life? Has the Lord been dealing with you about cutting ties with some of the negative influences in your life? Today might be the day you need to move past the point of contemplation into the dive of obedience.

It can be hard sometimes, because what happens to your friend once you let them go? What happens to Jonah? We have to learn to trust that God will take care of them. God will meet their needs. He most certainly knew exactly what Jonah needed.

Jonah 1:17 (NLT) Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

That’s right Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, but we’ll look more into that tomorrow.