Saturday, December 13, 2008

Four Principles of Evangelism from Jonah

Jonah is a prophet written about in the Old Testament. It's maybe my favorite prophet book. It's very small probably the oddest.We can learn a lot from his encounter with God. In case you don't know the story or have forgotten, here's what happens. Somehow Jonah gets called by God to leave where he is and go preach to Nineveh, a city that's pretty messed up.

But Jonah runs away. He goes to another place and God causes a huge storm to nearly capsize the boat. They decide to throw Jonah overboard and he gets swallowed by a big fish, and then the storm stops completely. In the belly of the fish Jonah prays a heartfelt prayer, and God lets the fish spit him up on land.

Jonah finally decides to preach to the city, telling them to repent. But then Jonah gets angry that God lets them repent, because he wants to see a fire show. The end. Kind of a weird way to end a story, but here's some principles I've learned about evangelism from it:

  • Evangelism always requires going (1:2). People usually won't learn about Jesus by themselves. Instead God chose people to teach others about Himself. His design is for us to "go." We need to leave our comfort zones, the things we're used to. We have to leave our everyday routine and be bold enough to penetrate the lives of others, if we really want to be serious about others knowing Christ. Going is never easy. It means going to places we don’t know, where we’re the outsider, where we’re uncomfortable. It means taking a huge leap of faith. When God says “Go,” don’t stay.

  • We'll never be good enough to teach someone, but God will use us anyway. By our standards Jonah was not the ideal person for the job. He didn't even want people to be saved! He had a lot of weaknesses, but God used him anyway. God can use feeble and stubborn efforts to affect many people. We’ll never be good enough to teach others about God. What God wants is willingness. Walk out on faith and God can do the rest.

  • We'll never know who's receptive until we try (3:5-6). The Ninevites were an evil people, a people evidently evil enough that God gave them two options: repent or die. This was their last chance. No one expected them to repent, but they did. It is not our job to judge men’s hearts, only to share the message. It’s usually the most unlikely people that become Christians. God just asks us to spread the seed, not to judge what soil would be best for it.

  • We can't get angry at the world for being worldly. People can't act on knowledge they don't have (4:11). The Ninevites didn’t know their right hand from their left, meaning they didn’t know right from wrong. Many times we're so judgmental toward non-Christians for their immoral lives: abortion, divorces, bad language, drugs, whatever. But what do we expect? Christ said if we love Him we'll keep His commandments. So what should we expecting from people who don't love Christ? Bad lives. So instead of looking down our noses at people, we should teach them, knowing that our God is one who is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, who relents from sending calamity” (4:2).


david said...

Very good and very true. It's a wonderful thing that He will use us (nothing but the donkeys who bring Jesus into town!), as imperfect as we are (in my case, my speech impediment), He uses us regardless, if we have a willing heart to go.

Are you preaching this this morning?

Thanks for these thoughts.

Doug said...


The story of Jonah is an awesome one. It's teeming with things for us to consider. Here is something noteworthy. Jonah isn't told by God to tell them to repent, nor does chapter three suggest he did. In fact, if you look at the king's statement in verse 9, it suggests that Jonah never told them to repent.

The people of Ninevah reached that conclusion on their own, ultimately believing that JWHW would turn his wrath from them. That to me is amazing.

I love the story because it breaks down presuppositions we might have about people. Jonah learned a grave lesson. So should we.

God bless you brother and I hope we can get together soon!


alisha dawn said...

I really like the story of Jonah and a lot of other minor prophet's sense taking the class at sibi.
Thanks for those reminders in our ministry I forget those often.
Good applications too.

brettincasie said...

I love this last point! Totally agree. Thanks for the reminder.

Joshua Tucker said...

Thanks for the comments guys.

David - No I preached on the beatitudes, but I have taught a class on this.

Doug - Interesting thoughts. I agree that we can't know who's receptive and who's not.

Alisha and Brettin - I'm glad it was encouraging for you both.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Thank God for you taking the time... Evangelizing this story about JONAH. We often forget God's grace and mercy he have shown us. We often forget God so loved the world; which includes everybody. We often forget God maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Very good job!
I pray you continue allowing God to use you. Be Bless