This past Sunday Pastor John (Yeah, OK… me)… I shared about the struggle to rest in God while life is in a turmoil — to be content in Him alone. I mentioned Job, who after losing everything, still responded with praise to God – not that Job was pleased to lose everything, but that despite losing everything he knew he could never lose Jehovah! Loss of material things, even family, did not diminish Job’s ability to bless God, for God Himself could not be diminished.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart,” he summarized. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:20-22)
Job did not respond by complaining to the heavens saying “God, what are you doing? This is unfair! Lord, why have you taken everything from me?” Jonah, on the other hand, did respond that way… and over the loss of something much less significant!
Jonah, you may recall, had tried to run away from God. He did not want to deliver God’s message of judgment upon the Ninevites. Expecting they would repent and God would relent, Jonah did not want to look foolish when the pronounced judgment did not happen. So he ran…
Then follows the whole episode of the whale… Jonah survives, and obeys. Traveling three days through Nineveh he finally announces God’s judgment. Indeed, the people repent, and Jonah sits down to watch the outcome.
Well, it’s hot, but happily a plant grows up and this gives Jonah some shade. But then the next day a worm shows up and chews the plant. The plant withers and dies, and Jonah loses the benefit of its shade. He still has his life, his health, his friends and possessions, but he loses the shade plant that was never his in the first place.
Jonah gripes at God! “I’m so angry I wish I were dead,” he shouts (Jonah 4:9).
Jonah’s anger stemmed from pride. Jonah wanted to see God’s judgment fall, Jonah wanted to be comfortable while he waited and watched. God, however, responded to the need of the Ninevites to experience this ‘wake-up’ call which led them to repentance and to return to God.
God said ‘yes’ to the need, and ‘no’ to the want!
Jonah forgot that he, like Job, had come into this world as a baby, naked, and would, like all of us, depart the same way. Job, however, always remembered this and saw all the good things in his life as the gracious blessings of God that they were. Jonah viewed the good things of life as things rightfully his own. When the Lord took many things from Job, Job was content. When the Lord took one small thing from Jonah he was ready to die!
I like comedian Steven Wright’s line, “I have the world’s biggest collection of sea shells; I keep them on all the beaches of the world!”
But it’s true! What blessed creatures we are to live in a world of such beauty, marvel, and mystery.
“All things are yours,” said Paul, “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” (1 Cor. 3:22,23)
As my homeless, but contented, friend Mike observed, “People are so concerned with what they want that they cannot see what they need.”
Only in Christ can we find contentment.