Why I Have More in Common with Jonah Than I Thought
If you asked me what I want to do for a living, I’d tell you I want to work in ministry.
What I really mean is I want to be a disciple. I want to tell people about Jesus all day everyday.
If I got an email tomorrow saying “We want to tell the world about God’s great love, and we want to pay you the moderate salary it would take to support your husband and yourself so that you can help us do it,” it probably wouldn’t take more than a second for me to drop whatever I was doing, jump up and down ten times, and say yes.
At the same time, I’m reminded that I’ve already gotten the job. The moment I got the message from Jesus saying, “I love you, and I’d like to bring you on board into the family of God and hire you to tell the world about my great love” and responded with a “yes,” I was a disciple.
Aren’t we all, those of us who have said yes to Jesus and taken up this race?
I get that. And I’m grateful for it every day. It doesn’t stop my heart from yeaaarrrrning to make a full time gig out of that role. Seriously, how great would it be to tell women and men and even the littlest of kids that Jesus loves them? That the things that seem to keep them down in the pit right now don’t have to keep them down in the pit forever? That abuse or illness or financial problems don’t mean your future is going to be the same as your past?
Sign. Me. Up.
Switch gears with me for a second… A couple weeks ago my friend Julie sent me a Max Lucado devotional, in which he talked about his father’s final years with a serious illness that left him bedridden. Apparently his dad lost the ability to talk or move, but even through it all never lost his faith. And that example of faith led at least one other person to put their faith in Jesus. That experience caused Max Lucado to wonder if ”knowing the value God places on one soul…” God had allowed illness into his father’s life to lead this other man to Jesus.
First – I know this is a bigger conversation, and believe me… As someone who’s gone through serious illness I’m not saying God causes illness, likes to see us ill, or cares more about the unsaved than the saved. I’m not weighing in at all with an opinion on what Max said, because that’s the kind of thing I’d want to have a loving conversation with all of you about and not just put an opinion out there. I’m just paraphrasing, because this phrase really stuck with me:
The value God places on one soul.
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT)
That’s the phrase that’s had me doing a whole lot of thinking, along with a little mental kicking and screaming, and finally a little submission. God places value on every single soul. He wants us to know He loves us. And there are some of us who God has been pursuing for a long, long time. And there are some people we know or meet in passing who God has also been pursuing for a long, long time.
Even if our full time paid gig isn’t to look these people in the eyes and say “Jesus loves you” (though again – how awesome would that be?), at the end of the day that’s our real gig. The one we’ve been recruited by the Lord to do. But we don’t always get to pick the assignment he places at our feet.
When God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell over a hundred thousand people who didn’t care about God that they should turn to Him and change their lives, he ran. He boarded a boat going in the opposite direction, got thrown overboard by the crew, was swallowed by a giant fish, and only then changed his mind and agreed to go to Nineveh. Not because he wanted to, but because it was clear that’s what God wanted him to do.
In Jonah’s mind, that wasn’t the assignment he signed up for. He wanted to work with “good” people. People who already knew God and not people who were so selfish, evil, and misguided that even they had to admit they were way off track.
I spend a lot of time telling God how I want this role of disciple to look. Usually it goes something like this: “OK, God. I want to tell people who are hurting – people who have been through some tough things, that You are with them, and You’re never going to let them go. And I’d like to do that alongside some other women and men who want to tell others how awesome you are. And eventually I’d like to do that in a city where I can have a dishwasher and a parking spot and a washer and dryer in the same building as where I live, because that will make my life as a disciple so much easier and then I won’t be so tired all the time.”
There are other things that go into my conversation. Things like how I’m shy and I get nervous in front of crowds and how when I was sick I had to pee every 20 minutes and I still have a little bit of PTSD around all of that, so if I’m going to tell people all about Him I’ll need lots of help. I think He wants us to share those kinds of things with Him, since He already knew it all when He chose us for the role anyway.
But as far as choosing our assignments goes, I don’t think we always have that choice. If God truly does place such a high value on one soul (and I think He does), maybe the greatest assignment we could receive is to be somewhere where that person he’s pursuing already is. Even if it’s somewhere we’d never choose for ourselves.
That’s where trust comes in, right? If I truly want to work for Him, then I need to trust that where He places me is the right spot to get that job done. I do fully believe I’ll work in ministry someday. He’s spoken that to my heart one too many times for me to deny. And I also believe God gives us free well to decide where we live and where we work, and ultimately the only thing that matters is that it’s all done in honor of Him. But when those times come where we find ourselves in a place we didn’t pick, and the answer keeps coming back “just stay still for now,” those are the times we can trust He’s up to something good even if we can’t see it right in front of us.
And we know that God causes everything to work togetherfor the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28 (NLT)
And those are the times to keep sharing, even if like Nineveh it seems like the most unlikely place for us to be.