WHERE IS YOUR FOCUS?
Jessica Albritton, Family Connections Minister, LHBC
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
When I was in seminary I witnessed an exchange in the registrar’s office one afternoon. A student comes in, clearly mad, slams a piece of paper on the desk in front of the receptionist, and begins complaining about a charge on his account. He could not understand why he was being charged for facilities use when he was an off campus student. The receptionist was nice about it and explained the fee was for all students, on and off campus, as well as their families. Because of the fee all students and their families could swim in the pool, check out library books, grab a coffee from the coffee shop, use the on campus gym, etc. All facilities usage was lumped into that fee. He was not having it. He continued to throw a fit and demanded the fee be removed. The receptionist kindly explained she had no authority to take the fee off and apologized multiple times. The kicker? The fee was only $20 for the entire semester. Another student and I looked at each other and exchanged a look expressing you’ve got to be kidding me. I was tempted to throw a $20 on the counter and exclaim, problem solved. Before I could do that however, the registrar popped his head out of his office in the back, looked at the student, and said, “you know, it sounds like you haven’t had your quiet time with the Lord this morning… You might want to go do that before you yell at anyone else unnecessarily today.” The angry student’s expression changed, clearly embarrassed. He mumbled a sorry under his breath, grabbed his paper and left the office, went across the hall to the business office and paid the fee. The receptionist looked up, clearly upset, and said, “What in the world! Why was he so angry about that?” I am not sure what he was so mad about but I can only assume it wasn’t about a measly $20. I was reading the book of Jonah the other day and had a similar thought when I came to chapter 4. Jonah gets mad that God forgave the Ninevites, so mad in fact he tells the Lord he would rather die than see them receive forgiveness.
In chapter 4 verse 1 scripture reads, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” This is in response to God’s decision to show mercy and compassion to the Ninevites after they turned from wickedness and repented. That verse is literally translated, “It was evil to Jonah, a great evil and it burned him.” Later in the chapter we see Jonah go up on a hill to watch the destruction. He believes the Ninevites’ repentance is temporary so he climbs up a mountain, sets up camp, and waits for them to mess up. Jonah believed the Ninevites would eventually turn back to their wicked ways and when they did God would smite them, and he wanted to see it.
What’s so sad about the whole situation is the fact that Jonah had just experienced God’s forgiveness and received a second chance to make things right after blatantly ignoring the Lord, running far away, and spending 3 days in the belly of a fish for it. God forgave Jonah much but he didn’t consider any of that. Instead he could only focus on the sins of the Ninevites. When Jonah looked down from the top of the mountain he couldn’t see the radical transformation, he couldn’t see how an entire city moved from darkness to light. Instead he was more focused on his own temporal physical needs.
The problem Jonah had is the same problem we all are capable of having. When we forget the gravity of our own sin and only focus on the sins of others we become bitter and angry. But when we recognize all we have been forgiven of we become compassionate followers of Christ that point people to Jesus. What about you? Do you care more about your temporary comforts, or the eternal needs of those who rub us the wrong way? Pray today to soften your heart for those lost and far from God. Pray for opportunities to extend grace and compassion to those that need a relationship with the Father.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see those far from you. Lord turn my focus off of myself and help me to love others like You love me! In Jesus name, amen!
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.