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He Has Made Me Mad

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Have you ever noticed how the same people that make you so glad can sometimes make you so mad?

            The same bride and groom who can’t stop smiling and laughing every minute of the honeymoon can later be heard 3 houses down yelling, “You make me so mad!”

            The same baby you once doted over hits the terrible twos or the terrible teens and suddenly the doctor has to increase the dosage of your blood pressure medicine.

            One of the ways you identify your best friends is that you can both get mad at each other and still stay friends.

            Some of the people who make you glad can really make you mad. Does this apply to God?

            There’s an old chorus we used to sing in the church I got saved in:

            He has made me glad, He has made me glad, I will rejoice for He has made me glad. (2X).

            It was one of my favorites, because just singing it sometimes made a little more glad. But there were times when it was hard to sing this song, because quite honestly, He didn’t make me glad: He made me mad.

            When I would pray and He seemed to ignore me; when I thought I needed something, and He didn’t give it to me; when my life deteriorated into one big mess, and He didn’t straighten it all out---then I confess to you, I’d get disappointed, frustrated, and even angry at the Lord.

            I later discovered I was in good company, because the Bible tells us quite a few heroes of the faith got mad with God.

            Moses was glad to lead Israel out of Egypt, but then Moses got mad at God.

Ex 5:22-23 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? 23For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.”

            Job was a man who, according to the first verse of the book that bears his name, was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. And yet during his time of testing said in

Job 7:19-20 19How long? Will You not look away from me, And let me alone till I swallow my saliva? 20Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself?

            Even the apostle Peter—the Rock--- sometimes got frustrated with his Lord.

Mt 16:22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

            Sometimes the God Who makes you glad can make you mad. We know we ought not to feel that way, but sometimes it’s how we feel. Why do we get mad at God? How does God react when we get mad at Him? How do you get over being mad with God? How do you get from being mad with God to being glad in Him again?

            One of the classic cases in the Bible of a person being mad at God is found in Jonah 4. It’s a strange ending to a strange tale about a prodigal prophet that gets turned around, and yet still ends up getting mad at God. I want us to read this chapter tonight, and talk about why we get mad at God, and how we can get glad in Him again. Read vs. 1-4 with me.

PRAYER

            Why do we get mad at God? For some of the same reasons Jonah got mad with God. We get mad

I.              WHEN GOD DOESN’T DO THINGS MY WAY. (v. 1-4)

            Most of us like to get our way, don’t we?            

I’m extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.—Margaret Thatcher[i]

            But what happens when we don’t get our way? We do the same thing Jonah did—we get angry. Why is Jonah so mad? God doesn’t do things His way.

            In the opening scene Jonah is probably still in Nineveh, (cf. v. 5) looking around in horror as these people repent and believe God. Kind of a strange reaction for a preacher, don’t you think? Jonah is fuming to himself this isn’t supposed to happen! These people are supposed to die! If they keep this up, I know just what God will do! After all, Jonah is a prophet; he knows God is: gracious and merciful…, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. (v. 2).

            As it dawns on him that God will not destroy these wicked people, he finally explodes: I knew it! I just knew it! God, I knew this would happen! That’s the reason I ran off in the first place- I knew you would do this to me! I am so mad---I’m so mad I could just die!

             Some say he’s irate because God shows mercy to Israel’s enemies, the Assyrians. Others say Jonah is angry because his reputation is threatened because what he predicted didn’t come to pass. But if you could sum up the main reason Jonah is angry you could put it this way: God didn’t do it my way.

            How does God respond to Jonah’s temper tantrum? Not with lightening bolts or plagues, but with a simple question in vs. 4: Is it right for you to be angry at Me?

            The answer is no. Jonah should have been glad. He should have been glad God shows mercy to these repentant sinners. He should have been glad God works out His will in this world. He should be glad God is doing things God’s way because God’s way is the best way.  

            Isn’t that one of the most irritating things about God? He doesn’t do things our way.

            You make your plans and preparations and God short circuits the whole process. Your plans fall apart, you feel like a fool, and you get frustrated, or even angry at God. You pray for one thing, and He answers by sending you something else. How could He do this to me? When God doesn’t do things your way, it’s easy to get mad.

            But you shouldn’t be mad—you should be glad. You should be glad because God’s plans are always better than our plans. They are better because they bring Him glory, because they bring us a greater good. You should be glad instead of mad because there is no better plan than God’s plan.

            Isaiah 55:8-9 8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Ro 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

            Should you ask God for what you want? Should you plan and prepare? Certainly. But when God has other plans, don’t get mad—be glad.

            Hope for the best; prepare for the worst; be thankful for what God chooses to send.

     This really is some good advice. Trusting God means even when He doesn’t do things like you’d like, you don’t get mad, but you get glad that He always does what’s best.

            Jonah shows us another reason people get mad at God:

II. WHEN GOD TEACHES ME LESSONS I DON’T WANT TO LEARN. (v. 5-9)

            Teachers hear it all the time in the classroom: why do we have to learn this stuff? Why do have to learn how to speak proper English/how to do Algebra/how to dissect a frog/how to read Greek(that’s me in college.) Getting a good education sometimes means learning lessons you would never choose to learn.

            In the classroom of life, some of God’s lessons are no fun. In fact, if He asked me (which He hasn’t) if I wanted to learn some of them I’d say Thanks, but no thanks, Lord.

            But God sometimes makes us mad by insisting we learn some hard lessons.

            V. 5 tells us Jonah stomps out of Nineveh, finds himself a good sulking spot, builds a little lean-to for some shade, and plops himself down to see what God’s going to do. After all, God never directly tells Jonah He isn’t going to destroy Nineveh- maybe He’ll change his mind. Maybe the Ninevites will go back to their evil ways, and God will start the fire and brimstone storm.

            While Jonah is sitting there pouting God sets up the classroom.

            First, he sprinkles a plant with some real Miracle-Gro on a plant that sprouts up and shades Jonah from the hot sun. In v. 6 very grateful= deliriously happy. Jonah’s not only glad for the shade, but he knows God produced that plant. Maybe he’s thinking OK, this means God must have changed his mind. The fireworks should start anytime now!

            God continues the lesson: He appoints (= same word used 1:17 to describe God’s preparing the fish) a worm to kill the plant. Just as the plant is dying, God prepares (same word) a scorching wind to beat down on Jonah’s head so hot it drains all his energy.

            This is the last straw. Jonah thinks to himself Not only is God not going to destroy Nineveh—He is deliberately toying with me, first sending the plant, then killing it, and now leaving me with no shade in the hot, hot sun! Jonah yells out to God again I can’t take any more! Kill me and get it over with. God tries to reason with Jonah, but Jonah’s already given up. I’m so mad at You, God, I just want to die!

            But he should have been glad. God is patiently teaching this hard-headed prophet some lessons on mercy---not just how to receive mercy, but how to share mercy with others. God shows Jonah so much mercy, but he’s just not getting it.

            God is a patient, persistent Teacher. Some of His lessons are not easy; most of them take time to learn. Others involve experience—even painful experiences But these are lessons you need to learn if you are going to be what He wants you to be. He will continue to work on teaching us- even when if it make us angry.

            But it ought to make us glad. It ought to make us glad God is such a patient Teacher. You’re glad somebody patiently taught you to spell, even when you didn’t want to learn “I before E except after C”. You probably got tired of memorizing the multiplication tables, but somebody stuck with you, and now you’re probably glad you know how to figure out how much money you make a week. A lot of very important things you learn only because somebody patiently and persistently works with you until you get it down.

            God works with His children- even when we get angry- to teach us lessons we need to learn. That ought to make us glad, not mad.  

            Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

            John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

            John Wooden coached college basketball for UCLA teams for 12 years, during which they won ten NCAA championships…but Bill Walton, who played for UCLA remembers Wooden as more than a basketball coach. "His interest and goal were to make you the best basketball player but first to make you the best person," Walton said.

     "Once you were a good human being, you had a chance to be a good player. He never deviated from that…He was your teacher, your coach. He handled us with extreme patience…He didn't teach basketball. He taught life.”[ii]

            What John Wooden did in a small way, God is doing in a big way in your life. When He places you in that class that is challenging, difficult, or painful, you and I should be glad, not mad. He loves us enough to teach us lessons that we would never learn any other way. Learn the lesson, and be grateful for your Teacher.

            The last two verses show us one final reason Jonah was mad:

III. WHEN GOD LOVES PEOPLE I DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT. (v. 10-11)

            …you can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. - Anne Lamott[iii]

            If you could sum up the message of Jonah, it would be this: God doesn’t just love some people; He loves everybody.  I don’t know if you and I can understand how disturbing and infuriating this message would be to most Israelites. To them, Israel was God’s chosen people; God doesn’t really care about anybody else, especially Israel’s enemies.

            God hammers home this lesson to Jonah in v. 10-11. You were miserable because the plant died, even though you didn’t spend any time planting it or growing it. But I created every one of the people of Nineveh, and because I made them, I care about them. They are so spiritually backward they are like children who don’t know their right hand from their left. Why shouldn’t I show them mercy? Jonah forgot a very important truth: God chose Israel as His people for the express purpose of showing His love to the Gentile nations.

Genesis 22:18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…

Psalm 86:9 All nations whom You have made Shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And shall glorify Your name.

            Throughout the OT God tried to impress the fact that He loved everybody, and that Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles to point them to God’s love. Yet Israel hated the Gentiles, and Jonah’s hatred for them made him so mad when God spared them that he wants to die.

            But he should have been glad. God’s compassion for these Ninevites was an expression of His compassion for everybody else—including Israel, and including. He should have realized an important truth: It’s only because God cares about everybody that He cares about anybody.

            When you think about the people God cares about, it might make you mad.

Ever wrestled with the deathbed conversion of a rapist or the eleventh-hour conversion of a child molester? We’ve sentenced them, maybe not in court, but in our hearts. We’ve put them behind bars and locked the door. They are forever imprisoned by our disgust.

And then, the impossible happens. They repent. Our response? (Dare we say it?) We cross our arms and furrow our brows and say, “God won’t let you off that easy. Not after what you did. God is kind, but he’s no wimp. Grace is for average sinners like me, not deviants like you.”[iv]

            God is telling us He cares about murderers, thieves, prostitutes- even terrorists. God cares about the people that mistreat you, hurt you, or hate you. God cares about people you don’t even care about. He cares about them so much that He sent His Son to die for them.

            You and I might get angry and say, “God, how could you forgive people who do those things?” and He might say, “How could I forgive you?” Mercy is given not to those who deserve it, but to those who do not deserve it.

            That should make us glad. If God can show mercy to a city full of violent, vile sinners like Nineveh, He can show you mercy, too. If God can forgive hardened criminals for their sinful acts, He can forgive you. If He cares about the people who have hurt you the most, that just proves that He cares about you, too. It’s only because God cares about everybody that He cares about you. And because He cares about everybody, you and I should care about everybody, too.     That ought to make us glad, not mad.

            We don’t know if Jonah ever got glad with God. The book ends with God patiently trying to reason with His prodigal prophet, like a Father tries to reason with an angry, stubborn child. I wonder if God ends this book this way to say to everybody who reads it you have a choice. You can choose to stay mad, or you can choose to let God make you glad again. You can choose to put and murmur, “He has made me mad,” or you can sing, “He has made me glad.”

             The next time you are tempted to get mad because God didn’t do things your way why don’t you choose to be glad that God always does what’s best?

            The next time you are tempted to get mad because you don’t like the lesson God is trying to teach you, why don’t you choose to bow your head and thank God for His patience and wisdom?

            The next time you are tempted to get mad because God loves the people you don’t especially care for, why don’t you choose to be glad God loves everybody---including you.

            Tonight I challenge you, the next time you are tempted to get mad at God, choose to chuckle to yourself, and say Lord, help me be glad in You!  


----

[i]Robert J. Morgan, Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed.

[ii] Hal Bock, Associated Press, "A Coach for All Seasons," The Spokane-Review (12-4-00), p. C8;

[iii] Bird by Bird. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 8.

[iv]Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace (Dallas, Tex.: Word Pub., 1996), 41.

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