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ALONE WITH GOD

Date: 
July 22, 2018 
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
JONAH 1:1-17

THEME: On your faith journey, it’s helpful to find a place to be alone with God…

 

INTRODUCTION

  • “Faith is a journey!”
  • In a sense, we are all on a journey – you and me and all who are gathered here today… we are all on a faith journey… sometimes it’s a very smooth journey, but more often than not, it’s like a roller coaster ride… there are times and places on our journey when we might feel very close to God and our faith gives us great assurance… but there are times and places on our journey when we feel estranged from God… we might even be angry with God… or we might be questioning God… and there might be times on our faith journey when we are trying to run away from God…
  • I wonder where your faith journey is leading you?
  • Jonah tried to run away from God, but he wound up “face to face” with God in the belly of a great fish…

 

JONAH

  • The sermon today and the sermons on the next two Sundays are based on the story of Jonah…
  • Jonah’s story, like the Easter story, is a resurrection story…
  • Jonah’s story is very hard to believe… perhaps it didn’t happen exactly the way the Bible relates it, but we can view it as a parable – a story which contains truth but doesn’t try to pretend to be historical truth…
  • The story of Jonah taught people that God’s concerns are wider than the interest of any one particular tribe or nation… for Jonah and the Hebrew people, this was not an easy lesson to learn…
    • Jonah, like you and me, believed that God was on his side and favored his people…
    • Jonah didn’t want God to care about the people of Ninevah, or anyone else, for that matter…
  • So when God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and preach a message calling for repentance, Jonah ran – or rather sailed – in the opposite direction… Jonah headed for Tarshish to hide from God.
  • While Jonah slept below deck, a great storm arose and threatened the lives of all the sailors… they prayed to their gods, and they woke Jonah up and told him to pray to his God – “Maybe your God will see the trouble we’re in and rescue us.” (vs. 6)
  • As the sea still raged, the superstitious sailors drew straws to see whose sin it was that had caused the storm… Jonah drew the short straw… and Jonah said, “Throw me overboard, into the sea. Then the storm will stop. It’s all my fault… get rid of me and you’ll get rid of the storm.” (vs. 12)
  • They took Jonah and threw him overboard. Immediately the sea was quieted. (vs. 15)
  • Now if that’s not unbelievable enough, here’s the next thing that’s tough to swallow – “God assigned a huge fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah was in the fish’s belly three days and nights.” (vs. 17)
  • In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus makes reference to the story of Jonah (Matthew 12:41)… Jesus said to his disciples, “Something greater than Jonah is here!”… For God to appoint a great fish to swallow Jonah and for Jonah to be in the stomach of the great fish is no greater event than Jesus, the Son of the living God, being raised from the dead…
  • Like the Jewish rabbis of his day, Jesus accepted the book of Jonah as history… Jesus calls Jonah’s experience in the “great fish” a “sign” of his own coming resurrection from the dead. (Matthew 12:38-41)
  • As our sermon series continues over the next two weeks, we’ll learn that Jonah experienced a kind of death, burial, and resurrection…
  • The fish was a miracle of God’s grace – it was God’s way of saving Jonah and giving Jonah a second chance, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
  • Did Jonah deserve to be saved? Whether he was deserving or not, God did choose to save him.

 

THE FISH

  • Is it really possible to survive in the belly of a great fish for three days and nights?
  • The answer, I’m told, is “yes,” especially if the great fish is a whale… it would be hot (over 100 degrees) and it would smell worse than the boys’ locker room after an overtime hockey game, and you would certainly need a light to read because it would be very, very dark… but there would be enough air and there would be enough fishstix to eat, but no tartar sauce)… and one could survive nicely, not comfortably, for three days.
  • Jonah’s faith journey led him to a fish’s belly…
  • I wonder where your faith journey will take you?

 

ALONE WITH GOD

  • “Jonah quickly discovered that the fish’s belly is not a happy place to live, but it is a good place to learn.”  And Jonah had a lot to learn. (R.T. Kendall from Travis Markes)
  • Lesson #1 – you can’t run away and hide from God…
  • Lesson #2 – when God calls you to do something, God will not take “no” for an answer…
  • Lesson #3 – we do need God…
  • In the belly of the fish, Jonah was alone with God… in the belly of the fish, Jonah found his own private sanctuary….
  • Being alone with God – without iPad or cell phone, without the television or computer, without family or friends, without places to go and things to do – provides us with a great opportunity… and I’d like to suggest that each one of you, young or old, find a place – a private sanctuary – where you can be alone with God.
  • A place where you can talk to God and God can talk to you <which we call p r a y e r>
  • A place where you can really sort out what’s going on in your life right now…
  • A place where you may discover God’s direction for your journey…
  • A place where you can pour out your heart to God, knowing that God hears and that God cares…
  • We all need to find that place where we can be alone with God without distraction and God can be alone with us…
  • “For three days in that smelly, dark fish belly Jonah pondered his situation. He did a lot of soul-searching. He eventually saw the foolishness of his sin. He saw his need for God and then he prayed.”
  • Jonah’s prayer takes up most of the second chapter of the Book of Jonah…
  • If you were alone with God, what questions might you ask God? What might you pray for? What words would you wish to hear God speaking to you?

 

CONCLUSION

  • I hope that your faith journey is closer to the beginning than it is to the end…
  • And the one thing I truly want you to remember on your faith journey is this: God is standing by ready to throw you a life ring, whether you deserve it or not, because God loves you… that’s grace!
  • I wonder where your faith journey will take you?

 

Sermon Seeds

  • Jonah’s Prayer – a sermon by Travis Markes from SermonCentral.com
  • The Sign of Jonah – a Lenten resource by Dr. Reed Lessing
  • Something Greater Than Jonah Is Here from www.abideinchrist.com
  • Great Stories From The Hebrew Scriptures: Jonah – a sermon by Rev. Andy Braunston

 

Worship Bulletin

Worship Insert