Can one person make a difference? History is full of accounts of single individuals who have made a difference. Military battles that have turned on their axis by the actions of one heroic person. Think of the artists and the contribution of their individual lives, from Michelangelo and Da Vinci to Brahms and Beethoven. Think of the scientists, inventors, explorers, and technological experts who have literally changed the course of history.
God can use just one person. He used one Good Samaritan. One Good Shepherd went searching for just one lost sheep. Elijah stood alone on Mount Carmel. Jesus was one man. God often looks for one person willing to make a difference—one person willing to run with Him.
Jonah was one man. His story is a reminder to us that when we are running with God we can make a difference. Jonah 3 teaches us two big lessons about God’s nature and how we can run with Him.
God Can Use Anybody
Jonah had run away from God but was given a second chance to participate in God’s work. Jonah tried to run from God’s presence, but he never spent one moment away from God’s goodness and grace. God was not happy with Jonah, but never for a moment did He forsake Jonah.
That’s God’s promise to you and me too. Hebrews 13:5 says “…for He Himself has said, I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”
God’s love is relentless. He pursues us graciously even when we have rejected His plan for our lives. Don’t let the devil tell you your past mistakes and failures have disqualified you from serving God. God uses broken people, because it’s the only kind of people there are.
Look at who He used in the Bible. Noah was a drunk. Jacob was a liar and a thief. Moses was a murderer. Rahab was a prostitute. David committed adultery and then arranged for someone’s death to cover it up. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Manasseh practiced child sacrifice.
The enemy wants you to think the pain and failure of your past disqualifies you. But God redeems your past and can even turn it into a platform for your usefulness in ministry.
God Can Forgive Anybody
Nineveh was a “great city” meaning it was large, populous and powerful. But Nineveh was a bad city. It was unabashedly ungodly. Sexually, they were totally unrestrained. Spiritually, they were clueless practicing witchcraft. They were incredibly violent impaling, beheading and even skinning their enemies. They respected neither age nor sex and followed a policy of killing babies and young children so they wouldn’t have to care for them (Nahum 3:10). It’s obvious why Jonah didn’t want to go at first.
Jonah spoke a simple message—“You have 40 days and then God is going to judge this place.” The result was miraculous. Everybody from the least to the greatest turns to God. They put on sackcloth and ashes. The king hears and he repents too. He even orders that no one, including the animals, eat or drink anything while they seek God’s forgiveness.
God saw their actions and He changed His mind. He had intended to wipe out the Ninevites, but instead God responded with grace. Our God can and will save anybody. 2 Peter 3:9 reminds of that fact:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
If God can forgive and change Nineveh, God can forgive and change anybody!
What is required for God to forgive?
First you must believe. The Ninevites went from unbelieving to believing. Next you must repent. Repentence starts with conviction. The Ninevites knew they were a mess and they showed it by putting on sackcloth. Then they confessed. They called out to God for His mercy. Finally, they changed. They turned from their wickedness and God saw their new righteous deeds and He forgave them.
What does it take to run with God?
Jonah demonstrated faith. When he went to Nineveh, he didn’t even have his message yet.
Hebrews 11:6 “and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Have faith that God loves you and does forgive you. Not just can, but HAS. Have faith that God can use you. Have faith that God can do more than you think. You do your part and let God do His part.
Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the presence of faith. When you have faith, you can develop courage. Jonah had to have courage to run with God. For all Jonah knew he could have ended up impaled on a pole or skinned alive. God sent Jonah to these people…alone.
God said go, so Jonah went. God said speak, so he spoke. He did his part and allowed God to do His part. It was not an easy message to share, but Jonah gave it anyway. It was his obedience to speak a hard truth that God used to bring life.
Jonah ran with God. He experienced God’s protection and witnessed His power. In the end, Jonah is remembered as a faithful servant of God. If Jonah had kept running from God, God would have probably still gotten word to Nineveh some other way. But because he stopped running from God and started running with God, his life was changed, a city was saved, and God was glorified…even until today.