Life-Changing Decisions Part 1: The Reluctant Prophet

Sermon Transcript

Anybody ever been at night around your house, maybe in your car with your wife or your husband or maybe a family member, and you do this thing:

“Hey, what do you want to eat for dinner?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to eat for dinner?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to eat for dinner?”

“How about I give you three choices and you pick the choices of which one you want.”

“No. How about you pick.”

Anybody ever done that? Sometimes making choices or making decisions can just be unfun, right? I mean, we make a lot of decisions during the day and make a lot of things that we do and the fact of the matter is that sometimes we don’t like to make them.

But, the fact of the matter – and I want you to think about this and, for those that watch via the internet mobile app and those that are also watching via live stream, think about this as well as those here in the congregation. I want you to think about this. The place you’re at today, wherever you’re at in life, is a result, in many ways, of the decisions that you made in the past. Which means what you’re going to be in the future is based on decisions that you and I make right now.

So, how important is it to make good decisions? It’s huge. And, if we’re honest with each other – and I think we can all be honest – when we make decisions, often times we make them under the not optimal situation, right? Sometimes it’s decisions come in terrible storms.

They come in times that are just very difficult and we make these decisions and then we look at them and we look back and go, “Man. I made the wrong decision. I wish I would’ve done better. I wish I would’ve thought through this.”

And so, making decisions is huge. I don’t think I need anybody in here to even begin to start thinking about whether or not a series on making decisions would be something that would be worthwhile for all of us. We all know that. But, I want to challenge something here. Normally, we talk about making decisions. We’ve all heard it.

Maybe you’ve read a book or somebody’s told you, “You know what you do? You look at the pro’s and you look at the con’s and you make the right decision.” I would like to submit to you, during the next five weeks – because we’re in a series called Life Changing Decisions – I would like to talk to you about a different way to view the filter of how you make decisions. And we’re going to look at this over the next five weeks.

This particular thing: The decisions that we need to make before we make decisions.

And, oftentimes, we don’t think about this. I’ll give you an example. My dad was dentist and my dad got involved in what, at the time, were called ACLF’s. They were Adult Congregate Living Facilities. They eventually became ALF’s which are Assisted Living Facilities and, at one time, my family had quite a few of them. And, one of the things you would notice in running that business is that people would have a grandmother or maybe a mom or someone got older and they would come into the facility and, before long, they would decline and they would be looking at the end of their life.

And, all of a sudden, the family would have to start making decisions about what to do with that person. Because, they hadn’t made decisions before they got to the decision. And it wasn’t fun because they’re scrambling at the last minute.

They’re doing all this stuff to try to make decisions because they didn’t make decisions before. Many of us have done this – I know we all have. People via the internet too, via the mobile app. You’re gonna all agree with this. – We’ve all gone down to maybe buy a refrigerator, buy a new range, get a new car or maybe we go to buy a house and we get there and we make the decision. We pull the trigger. We’re gonna do that. And then we find out we can’t afford it or maybe the finances don’t go through and we’re like, “Man. I wish we would’ve sat down and made a decision before we made this decision before we got in this position.”

So, what I want to talk about is making those decisions before we make decisions and what are they? And, to do that, we’re going to spend the next five weeks, four after this week, looking at a book in the Old Testament called the book of Jonah. And many of you all know the story of Jonah. If you grew up in church at all, you know Jonah.

“Isn’t that the dude that got swallowed by the whale?” Or somebody comes along and goes, “Could a whale really swallow somebody for three days and three nights?” Or, “Was it a shark or was it a blue whale or was it an orca or was it whatever it was?” You know, people argue about those things and so on and so forth. But, we sort of know the story. We know the story about Jonah.

But, I want to look at Jonah because Jonah makes a lot of decisions in this book, but they’re not good ones. And the reason he made those decisions is because he didn’t take the time before he started making decisions to make the decisions that really matter. So, we’re going to look at that these next five weeks and I think it will be something that will help us all in our lives. I think it will make a big difference in your life.

And, what I would like to do is I would like for you to think of it in this way: Rather than life changing decisions – which, if you went online and looked up life changing decisions, it might be getting married or buying your first house or adopting a kid. Those are life-changing decisions. – I want you to look at this series as decisions that are life-changing in the sense that they give you life.

They’re changing your life as you make them. And we’re going to find out that Jonah ended this book miserable. And what I don’t want is I don’t want any of you all to be miserable. I want us to live an abundant life that’s full of victory and I think we can do that if we learn to make some decisions before we make decisions.

So, to introduce this new series, we’re going to look at Jonah 1 and we’re going to go 1-16 and I’m telling you you’re going to have such fun today with this passage of scripture and I think that even if you’ve read this thing many, many times, you’re going to pick up some new nuggets. And, if you’ve never read – maybe you’re here today for the first time. Maybe you haven’t been to church in a long time and maybe you’re going, “Yeah, I think I remember something about Jonah and the whale.” I think you’re going to enjoy it, too.

Because, we’re going to go through this story, we’re going to read through it, we’re going to make some comments and then do some take-homes and I think we’re going to be set up at the end of today to be going, “Man, I really want to get back here next week and I want to learn these decisions I’ve got to start making in my life before I start making decisions.” Sound fair? All good? All right? Okay.

So, let’s get into here. Let’s start off here in Jonah 1:1-16. I’m reading out of the English Standard Version. I will tell you that the book of Jonah, in my opinion, is one of the greatest written books in the Old Testament. It is just stellar to read in the original language with some of the way it’s written. I think the ESV does a pretty good job, though, of catching some of the stuff. And so, we’re going to go through this and, hopefully, you will enjoy it.

Jonah 1:1-16, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai.” Now, if we’re being honest. Let’s be honest here. Normally if you read that, wouldn’t you be on to verse 2? Right? Is that fair enough? Okay, well, we need to stop here for a minute because there’s a lot of things going on. I want us to backpedal here and go back all the way to like 700 something B.C. and imagine that we’re reading this and hearing this for the first time. A couple of things here.

“Now the word of the Lord came…”

When the word of the Lord comes in the Old Testament, that’s a serious deal. That means God’s got something for you to do; something for you to say. So, the word of the Lord comes to Jonah the son of Amittai.

Now, that would’ve been something that would’ve been important to people in this timeframe because if you remember in your Old Testament – if you don’t know that’s fine. I’m going to assume that you don’t know but some of you may remember this. – Solomon, when he died, Israel was one united kingdom with the twelve tribes. But, after Solomon died, it fractured off into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom had 10 tribes, and the southern kingdom had 2 tribes. And there was conflict there and there was bitterness there.

I mean, the northern tribes, they weren’t living very well. In fact, Jeroboam, who was their king, decided to tell everybody not to go to Jerusalem to worship. He had them worshipping golden calves. So, you can imagine the people in southern Israel were thinking, “Man, those guys are pagans. They’re no good. None of that stuff.”

But, Jonah, we find in 2 Kings 14, very little, little, little bit about Jonah. He prophesies later on to Jeroboam the 2nd and tells them even though they’re living really, really bad, he tells them that God’s going to give them even more land and prosper them. Whoa. Because, the southern prophets, Hosea and Amos, have also come into the northern kingdom and said, “God’s bringing judgment.”

Now, of course, Jonah, when he prophesied, he was talking about a period of time. After that, there was judgment that came that Hosea and Amos talked about. But, you can imagine, if you were in the southern kingdom and you knew that Jonah had a word of the Lord come to him, you’re thinking, “Those people up there, they don’t live right. They’re terrible. They’re like half-baked Jewish people and the word of the Lord has come to this guy? I mean, this guy here is prophesying good stuff to Israel when he should be getting down and dirty like our guys, Hosea and Amos? Tell them judgment is coming because you guys are living bad.”

So, this immediately sets up – especially if you’re reading this in the southern kingdom, you’re going to have one raised eyebrow going, “Who is this guy here? Maybe the message will be good but we surely don’t like the messenger.”

So, the word of the Lord comes to Jonah the son of Amittai and here’s what it says: “…saying, arise, go to Nineveh, that great city…” – Nineveh was a really big city at the time – “…and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”

 “Jonah, I want you to get up and go. I want you to arise and go to Nineveh and call out against it because Nineveh is an evil city.”

Nineveh was an Assyrian city and, talk about corruption. There was greed, lasciviousness, there was prostitution, whoredom, false gods. All of it was going on. I mean, you name it, Nineveh had it. He said, “Jonah, I want you to get up and I want you to go and I want you to preach to them and say that their evil has come up before Me.”

That’s normally God’s way of saying, “Hey, their evil has come up before me and it’s time to do something about it.” Now, in the Old Testament, you know how this works.

There’s not one example of a prophet that God says, “Hey, I want you to go do something” and then they go do it. There’s no way in the world any one of us ever, – would we? – ever if God told us to do something we’d go do something the exact opposite. No. Not any of us, right? Not the ten o’clock service. Maybe the eight thirty or the eleven thirty – those pagans – but not this service, right? We always do what we’re supposed to be doing, right? Okay.

So, here’s the deal. As you’re reading this, maybe if you’re southern Israel you’ve got your eye raised or whatever and God says, “Go do this Jonah. This is where you’re going to go.” And then, all of a sudden, we get this adversative word: “But.”

Jonah 1:3, “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”

That’s like, whoa! God says, – it’s beautiful, too, in the original language – He says, “Rise and go.” And then Jonah “Rose and fled.”

See how that works? Okay, it’s the “but” Jonah. God says, “Do this” but Jonah goes, “No. I’m going to do what I want to do.” And we don’t even know why he does it at this point. We don’t even know what he’s thinking. All we know is like, whoa! Nobody in the Old Testament, nobody gets told by God to go do something and runs from Him. What is up?

And so, he wants to go to Tarshish. Tarshish would have been, in that day and age, the furthest place you could have gone in the world. It was like the furthest corner of the Earth. He wants to go to Tarshish and he wants to run away from God.

“So he went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish…” – Now, this is important because Jonah is making decisions and the Bible tells us that he’s going down. You’re going to see this word often as he makes decisions. He’s going down. So, he’s going to go down to Joppa and he’s going to find a ship that’s going to Tarshish. Now, this is really cool. Think about this: The ship that’s going to go to Tarshish is going to be a Phoenician ship and these people are really good at navigating the waters. The children of Israel were land people. They were not mariners.

So, Jonah is making a really good decision by getting a good ship that knows how to go. But, his good decision that he thinks is a good decision is not a good decision because he’s going down. None of us would ever, ever, ever be in a situation where we thought we were making good decisions but they weren’t godly decisions, right? None of us. Okay.

So, “He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare…” – that’s important here. He paid the fare. You know, back in those days there wasn’t like Royal Caribbean and Carnival. I know you all probably know that, right? But, there wasn’t that.

You didn’t just like pay a fare and get on and go, “Yeah, here’s my deal. Let’s get the band. I’ve got the Coke package; the soft drink package.” None of that. He pays the fare. Maybe he had to pay for the entire fare of the ship because they didn’t pick up people. So, that means dude, this guy is committed. He spent everything he’s got to get on this boat and again, what happens? He went down into it. Notice here that he’s going down.

“…to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.”

Again, away from the presence of the Lord. This is really well written stuff. He’s doing his thing. He’s going. So, we’ve got God who said, “Get up and go” and Jonah gets up and runs. So, you’ve got the “but Jonah.” God says this… “But Jonah.”  Well, this is great literary work because now, we’re going to get “but” the Lord. So, now God’s sort of coming back into the picture.

Jonah 1:4, “He hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.”

Now, this is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful literary stuff here. God has said, “Jonah, I want you to get up and go to Nineveh.” But Jonah gets up and flees. But, God hurls a great wind. And this word “hurl” you’re going to see often as we go through this story because everybody else is going to be hurling stuff. But, only God’s hurl wins.

Can I tell you something? When God is deciding that He wants to do something, you and I can do whatever we want to do. We can try to act however we want to act. He wins. Every time. Okay? And we’re going to see this here.

So, “The Lord hurled a great wind…” – this is beautiful, too. Look at this. The sea is obeying God. The wind is obeying God. In fact, the ship is personified here in a literary way. The ship is threatening to break up. In other words, the ship is like, “We’re gonna break up. I’m choosing to break up here.” So, the ship is obeying God. Everybody is obeying God but Jonah. But Jonah. So, God throws this wind. Let’s continue on. It’s a great story here.

“Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god.”

Now, these mariners, they believed in gods, but they believed in what is called a polytheistic existence. They believed there were many gods. You know, gods of the cucumbers, gods of the sea, gods of the tomatoes, gods of your arms, gods of the sun, gods of the moon, and gods of the harvest.

So, you had to make sure all those gods – I mean, that would be tough. Wouldn’t it? Having a bunch of gods you’ve got to make happy? So, what they do is is they start crying out to his god. Which is interesting because here’s Jonah in the middle of a great wind, like a typhoon is hitting, and the pagan mariners, they understand it’s time for prayer meeting and Jonah the prophet doesn’t do that.

It’s almost comical. It’s comical that the pagans get what’s going on and he doesn’t. So they cry out to the gods and they “hurled…” – here’s a “hurl”, okay? – “…they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.”

So, they’re doing what they think’s the best thing to do. The ship’s taking on wind, it’s about to break up. Let’s hurl off… but see, God’s hurled the wind. And when God’s hurling, you can hurl whatever you want to hurl. God’s still going to win.

So, “They hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah…” – So, this is great. God says, “Jonah, I want you to get up and go.” But, Jonah gets up and runs. But, God hurls a wind. But, Jonah had gone down – once again, gone down, into the inner part of the ship and had laid down and was fast asleep.

It’s like, dude. You’re in the middle of a typhoon, the boat is breaking up and you’re going to go down and try to take a nap? Can I tell you something when you’re running from God? You will not be able to take a nap. They’re going to come get you, okay? You’re not going to be able to take a nap very well.

So, he’s asleep down here in the boat and “the captain came…” – this is Captain Stubing from The Love Boat. Remember him? Okay. – “…the captain came and said to him, What do you mean, you sleeper?” He’s like, “Dude. This is the time, right now, that all of us try to get ahold of whatever god it is that is creating this problem for us and one of us needs to get ahold of this god. Start praying to whatever gods you know. It’s not time to be sleeping, dude.”

“Get up…” – it’s obviously a little slight here. He tells him to arise; God told him to arise. Jonah’s not listening to anybody and now He’s using the pagan Captain Stubing from The Love Boat to tell him, “Get up, dude, and call out to your God.”

Now, you and I know as we read that he’s got the right God. I mean, Jonah really could, right now – Jonah’s got the right God. Jonah could say, “God, you know what, man? I should’ve listened. Sorry. Captain, dude. If you could just turn around the boat and we go back to Joppa, I’ll go preach at Nineveh.” Everything would be great.

But, none of us ever, when we get into bad situations and we’re running from God would keep going. None of us would do that, right? Not the ten o’clock. Maybe the other services, right? Okay.  

So, “Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” You’ve got to understand the way they worked back then. There were territorial deities that they knew a god controlled this part of the land and this god here and this god here. He’s like, “Maybe if you would stop sleeping, you could start praying to your God” which is hilarious because the captain here is more prophetic than Jonah at this point.

He’s saying, “If you call on your God, it might happen.” He’s actually right. He’s more prophetic than Jonah at this point. He says, “So, maybe we won’t perish.”

Jonah 1:7, “And they said to one another, Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.”

They don’t know any better. They’re like, “Hey, man. Let’s get some Yahtzee. Dice out and roll and see. Get some bones out and throw them on the ground and let’s see who it is that’s creating this problem for us.”

Well, of course, we already know God is in control. God’s got it all handled and it says here in the Bible that they cast the lots and it fell on Jonah. Now they’re like, “Now we know. The sleeper boy is the one that has us in this situation.

“So they said dude, Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us.” Obviously, you know what’s going on here. Obviously, you’re the one that is creating this issue. We’re all going to die. We know how to sail boats. The storm we’re in, we’re going to die if we don’t get an answer. You need to tell us why this is going on.

And they asked, “What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” They’re like, “Dude, can you tell us about yourself? Did you like kill somebody or something? Did you come out of prison? I mean, who are you? What is going on?” And Jonah answers, “And he said to them, I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord…” – Now, you’ve got to say that with a wink, right? He’s not fearing the Lord at all right now, right? He’s on the run. You’ve got to love that. You ever met anybody like that?

“Oh yeah, man. Me and God are cool, man.” You’re like, “Dude. You and God are not cool. You’re like running away, here.” But, anyway. If that’s you today, just, you know, take a deep breath. It’s alright. Okay.

“I fear the Lord, the god of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Now, that would have been a moment for them because we see here “the men were exceedingly afraid and said, What is this that you have done!” Because, see, they know a secret.

“For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.”

So, here’s the deal: Jonah gets on the boat and he says, “Hey guys, listen. My God, He’s been telling me to do some stuff and I’m running from Him.” They’re like, “Okay.” And, especially if he’s got all the money. They’re like, “Mr. Moneybags, you’re more than welcome to run from your God.”

So, he gets on the boat and, in their mind, you can run from gods because gods are only over territories. There’s not one god that controls everything. So, they go to Jonah, they rolled the lots, Jonah is the guy. Jonah, why is this happening to us? And Jonah says, “Well, hey. I’m a Hebrew and the God I fear, He’s the guy that controls the dry land and the sea.” And they’re like, “Dude! You can’t run from that God. If He controls the water, then no matter where we go, you’re in trouble. And if He controls the land… you’re telling me your God controls all of this?”

They were totally messed up at this point because they knew that he was fleeing God and now they have the revelation that this God that he’s fleeing, he can’t flee. Because, that God is the God of the sea and the land. Which means there is no where you can go that that God is not there.

So, “They said to him, what are we going to do with you, that the sea may quiet down for us? What do we do? Because the sea is growing more and more tempestuous.”

Now, you all know the story. You all read your Bibles, right? You know the story. Jonah says, “Alright, guys. Alright, Captain Stubing. You’re right. You’re right. I’m running from God. I need to repent. We need to go back to the port. I need to go preach at Nineveh. I need to take care of the situation.”

Right? That’s what happens, right? None of us ever, when we’re in a really bad situation – our marriages are falling apart, finances are falling apart, sons and daughters aren’t having a relationship with us – none of us would just keep going, would we? We always just repent on the spot and get everything right, right? None of us are like this. Look what Jonah does. He decides to take his chance at the hurl.

“He says, Pick me up and hurl me into the sea.”

God’s the one that’s hurling! You can’t out hurl God. Okay?

“He says, Throw me into the sea and what will happen is the sea will quiet down because it’s of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”

This guy is so, so determined to not do what God has called him to do that he’s like, “Just throw me in the water. Take me out. I’d rather die than live this way.”

You know, it’s funny because, oftentimes in our lives, we get to the place in our lives where we think that we’re going certain things or we’re acting a certain way and somebody comes along and says, “Hey, you know what? This might not be the best situation for you. We love you. This is not good.”

And sometimes, we get so determined in our ways thinking that our ways are better than God’s ways and all we’re doing is making bad decisions and going down, down, down in our decision making process. And, here’s the deal. Guys, gals. Listen to me. God’s glory is going to be shown no matter what decisions we make. Pharaoh is a great example.

God says to Pharaoh, “Hey, I’ve raised you up for this purpose. I’m going to show my glory in you.” Pharaoh could’ve chosen to love God and turn to Yahweh. And we would be reading in scripture about the Pharaoh that turned to God, shunned all the Egyptian idols, shunned all the Egyptian gods and worshipped God. But, instead, He says, “If you don’t want to do that, My glory is going to be shown because you’re going to be drowned in the sea.”

You know, it’s interesting, too, isn’t it? Because, Pharaoh drowns all the young men, the Egyptian boys, early on in that story. Remember that? You reap what you sow. He drowns in the water later on. See how God does that? So, the point is is you and I, we’re going – God’s bigger than you and me. He’s going to accomplish what He’s going to accomplish whether you and me are on the agenda or not. But, the difference is making the decisions to be on His agenda leads to life giving decisions rather than ones that take away from our lives. Let’s continue on here.

So he says, “Throw me in.”

Jonah 1:13, “Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to the dry land…” – look at how noble these people are. Rather than throwing him in the water, which most of us probably would have done at that point, right? Like, dude…

“…but they rowed hard to get back to the dry land but the couldn’t, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.” You can’t out-row God. You can’t out do anything. But, this is their nobility. They’re trying not to throw Jonah overboard.

“Therefore, they called out to the Lord…” – Whoa. Did you see what just happened here? These guys now are calling out to Yahweh. Whoa. The reluctant prophet, Jonah, who doesn’t want to go tell the city of Nineveh about God because he doesn’t want to evangelize the pagans has evangelized the pagans even when he didn’t want to. Now they’re calling up on God. God will get His stuff done in your life whether you agree with Him or not. Because, He is God.

“They called out to the Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O lord, have done as it pleased you. So they picked up Jonah and they hurled him…” – once again. You know? You can hurl all you want against God. God’s still gonna get His deal done. – “…hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.” Can you imagine being on that boat? Like, you throw Jonah overboard and, all of a sudden, the big typhoon just stops? You’re like, “Whoa.”

Look here: “So, the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and they made vows.” Which means, what this is saying here is that they not only made a sacrifice to God, they agreed to pay vows to this God. Which means, they had made a decision in their mind that they would visit the temple in Jerusalem at some point to pay those vows.

These people have been converted. Jonah running still is accomplishing all that God wants to accomplish even though he’s running. And the thing is is we find later on in the book that Jonah is miserable at the end of this book. He’s miserable. And the deal is, for you and me, we can either choose to make these life changing decisions that will give us life or we can run in our own direction. We can run with our own decisions, we can do all the things that we want to do and it’s not going lead us anywhere.

But, God is still going to accomplish His purposes because He’s God. So, what can we take home? What can we walk out of here with as we’re sort of getting this series introduced here to us? What can we walk out of here with?

First of all, God’s ways are beyond ours and his actions are not contained by our understanding of them.

See, Jonah could not understand what God was doing. We’re going to find out later that the reason he doesn’t want to go to Nineveh is because he’s afraid that Nineveh might repent and not get destroyed. Why? Because he’s gone to the northern kingdoms in their times of sin and debauchery and he said that God was going to bless them; that God is a good God. He’s a loving God.

Jonah did not want the Ninevites to have any chance at all for repentance. And so, he flees. But, what Jonah doesn’t understand is that what God is doing is He’s giving Israel a chance to come back with God but He has to deal with Nineveh and the Assyrians because they’re ready to go to war against Israel and that’s going to give God chance to work in their lives. Even though they’re living a bad life, He’s trying to work with them to get them back on the right page.

So, He goes over to Nineveh and one of two things is going to happen. Either He’s going to preach judgment and they’re going to be judged which means Israel is not going to be attacked. Or, they will repent and because they repent they’ll work on themselves and Israel will still have time. Jonah can’t understand the bigger picture.

And, let me honest and let me be frank with you. Most of us can’t understand the big picture either. And, what we want to do is we want to understand why God says stuff. We go, “Ah, man. Turn the other cheek? That doesn’t work. We know that doesn’t work. I mean, I know you said it, God. But, that doesn’t work!”

But, what if it does? What if it does?

You say, “Well, yeah. But, I can’t forgive that person. I mean, they’ve done this to me every time. Over and over again. And I know, God, that you say to forgive seventy times seven. But, that just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t understand that. It doesn’t work in the real world.”

But, what if it does? What if God’s ways are really beyond you and I’s ways? What if He really is bigger? I mean, honestly, would you want to worship a God that wasn’t? He’s bigger than us and His actions are not constrained by whether or not you and I get them. And this is huge for us because, when we start talking about making these decisions that we need to make before we make decisions, we’re going to have to start asking some questions.

Where are we going to get our answers from? Where are we going to get our decision making from? And, if we don’t understand it are we not going to do it because we don’t understand it? Are we not going to do it because we don’t like it? Are we going to make decisions contrary?

Because, the Bible says in Proverbs 14:12 and, in case you miss it, Proverbs 16:25, “There are ways that look right to you and me, but where they end is death and destruction.”

Secondly, why run?

I think this is exactly – when you read this book, you have to ask this question. Why run? What do you think you’re going to accomplish? You know, some of you all, you greet me after church and you say, “Do you have a camera in my house? Are you watching over me? Do you know what’s going on?” No, I don’t in any way, shape or form. I don’t know the NSA at all.

The bottom line is this: Why run? What do you think you will accomplish? Some of you all, in your life, you know that God’s called you to do some things. You know He said, “I want you to make this right. I want you to do this.” And you’re here today and you’re going, “Ah, man. My mail’s getting read and, man, this is just bowling the ball right down the center of the lane. He’s hitting every pin.”

But, the fact of the matter is that I’m going to ask you this: Why run? What do we think we’re going to accomplish when we decide to do it our way? What do we really think we’re going to accomplish? God is going to get His deal done whether you and I are on the team or not. And why be miserable? Why try to do it your way and be miserable? You’re not going to accomplish anything by running. And here’s another one.

Point three. God’s plans are never thwarted by our puny efforts and stubborn wills. Let’s just be honest. We try. I’ve tried. I’m sure you haven’t tried. You can just pray for the pastor because he’s the only one in the room that has done that. But, His plans are never thwarted by that.

So, what I would ask you is – and I’ll ask the whole church this and I’m asking everybody at Grace this: Let’s make a decision to make learning from this story a priority in our life. Let’s say, “Hey, you know what? I need to be here. I need to focus on this. This is practical stuff.”

And, you know what? You probably know people that need this too. You probably have friends and neighbors that you could bring in here. This is non-threatening stuff. Nobody’s going to be mad. Nobody’s going to be upset. This is stuff that people need to hear. This is life changing stuff for people.

Here’s what I want you to do, because I’m going to close with this. I want you to go home today and I’m going to ask you to do something. For those of you all that watch me on the mobile app or internet as well, if you’re live streaming, listen to me. I want you to go home today and I want you to get your Bible out and I want you to open it to the gospel of Mark and I want you to go to chapter 4.

And I want you to read the story where Jesus says to the disciples, “Hey, let’s get in the boat and let’s go to the other side.” They get in the boat with Jesus. Mark says, “A big storm comes up and the boat was threatening to break apart.” Does that sound somewhat familiar? They go to find Jesus and where is He? He is asleep in the boat. Whoa. They wake Him up and they say, “Look. We’re dying. We’re going to parish.” And Jesus walks out on the boat and He says, “Peace. Be still.” And the water and the storm cease.

What’s Mark telling you? Mark is telling you that the God who calmed the sea for Jonah is in the boat with the disciples. He can calm the storms. Why don’t you let Him do that in your life? Why don’t you let Him do that? So, if you’re like, “I’ve been living my life with a little bit of Jesus.”

Or maybe you’re sitting here going, “I’ve been living my life without Jesus.” Why don’t you really let Him run your boat? Why don’t you really believe that His ways are better than ours even when we don’t understand them? Why don’t you make a commitment to say, “You know what? I am going to really be proactive here and I’m going to learn some of these decisions like taking responsibility.”

We live in a society where nobody takes any responsibility for anything. Have you noticed that? It’s everybody’s fault. Maybe one of the things that we need to do before we even start making decisions is taking some responsibility. Maybe we need to start figuring out where we’re going to get our decisions from. Is it going to be from God’s word? Are we going to do what God says or are we going to go, “Nah, that doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. Yeah, God. I know you made the heavens and the earth and I know that you formed me when I was in mother’s womb. But, you don’t really get the way life works.”

He’s like, “Really? Tell me about it.”

What about having a made up mind? Most of us make our decisions in the heat of the moment. What if you made up your mind before you ever got to that decision? How much better would your life be? You know people and you know you. This is something we need to be at. This is something we need to drag people to. Because, this is life changing stuff. Let’s embrace it. Let’s see our lives change for the glory of God.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank you so much for Your goodness and Your mercy. We thank You, Lord, for all the great things that You do for us. Lord, I pray that as we leave here today, we would leave here knowing that we really have heard a word from You. We know, Lord, that we oftentimes run.

We know, Lord, that we oftentimes make our decisions based on what we think is best and not on what You’ve told us is best. Lord, many of us are running from things right now. Lord, this is a moment to have with You, right now and for the next few weeks, to really put some priority in our life and make the decision that I’ve tried it without the Lord, now I’m really going to try to live my life with the Lord and I’m really going to trust Him. So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here, that You would watch over us and protect us.

I pray that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You would continue to help us be a light into the Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton areas for Your glory. I pray, Lord, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, we just thank You for all that You’re doing in our lives, Lord. We thank You for what You’re going to do over the next few weeks. Bring us back safely when we meet again. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said amen. Have a fantastic weekend.