When I started this series “Follow” I had a clear direction I wanted to go in. Actually, honestly speaking, I wrote the last one first. The idea was going to be to build to that moment where we are Following Jesus to get to this final point. Yet, the more I kicked the idea around in my head, the less “right” it began to feel. Then it hit me. The direction God wanted me to go. It was over yogurt with a person that we began talking about Jonah and, specifically, Nineveh that I felt the calling of God. Ironically, my first reaction was to hope that God was calling me somewhere else. Yet the more I thought about that, the more ironic it seemed. As much as I love good irony, if I was going to be obedient to God, if I was going to Follow, then I was going to need to go to Nineveh.
I have found, with respect to the prophets, we all want to be Isaiah. We want to be the people who minister in the King’s courts, with the prestige of standing before important people, saying important things, importantly. Likewise, none of us want to be Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet.” We would rather not be the people thrown into pits, bruised, abused, and ignored by our own people for following God. Yet, when it comes down to it, I think most of us are Jonah. We want to follow God only insofar as God does not ask anything of us that we don’t want.
Jonah does not question that it was God speaking to him. Jonah knew full well that God had commanded him to go to Nineveh. Yet he went to Tarshish not wanting to go where the Lord was calling. He didn’t go to Tarshish in some misunderstanding of where God was calling him to, but rather to run from the Lord. The God he knew was fully powerful and sovereign, he ran from in a misguided attempt to hide from a God who is omnipresent.
Following goes beyond unfamiliarity, uncomfortability, and unsafe and moves straight to those areas in which we are unwilling. The story of Jonah is our own. The book Jonah does not end. It stops. You are left wondering whether Jonah repented of his way of thinking or whether he was doomed to remain stuck in his spiritual fussiness of uncaring. After walking Jonah through a visual representation of God choosing whom He saved, the book of Jonah ends not with a period but with a question mark of God asking,
“Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” – Jonah 4:11 NIV
…and there Jonah ends. No resolution. No falling action. No moment of dynamical realization for Jonah to go back even one more time and preach his heart out to the Ninevites. Just this lingering question of whether Jonah followed.
For us, we are left with the same question. Will we follow God even if it means that he will lead us to a place we do not want to go? At its core, following into Ninevah is an issue of whether we trust God enough to argue against our own self interest. Trusting God means that His way takes supremacy over the things we want because we know he is greater than our wants. God knows best, even when we know nothing and don’t agree.
When we follow God, eventually, we will end up going somewhere that we don’t want to go. Whether this means sharing our faith with a group of people we are not particularly fond, staying in a place God has called us to, or removing a portion of our life for His glory. Chances are, at some point we will do all of those things. We will come to a point where we must sacrifice our preference and desires on the altar for God. The heart is corrupt and must be removed. God seeks to give us a new heart, one that breaks for the things that His heart breaks for and one that similarly joyful. We are made a new creation, not a renovation of the old.
God is sovereign and ultimately the will of God will be enacted fully and completely. The question remains of will we follow. Will we leave our security? Will we leave our preference? Will we leave our strength? Will we be willing to go where God is leading? Ultimately, when we follow God, our prayer should resemble that of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane “Not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42, NIV) Our God will take us to places where we will not immediately want to go. If we believe He is a good God, we will follow. Even if we follow begrudgingly, we follow.
Question for Thought Where has God led you that you didn’t want to go? Why was it difficult to go there? Did you end up going? Feel free to comment your thoughts below or email at email@example.com