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
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).