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A Storm of Grace

Jonah: Learning to Celebrate the Grace of God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jonah 1:3-16

I. Introduction

How do we typically view the storms of life, the difficult moments that can bring us to our knees? We all face storms, and if we haven’t yet, Jesus promises we will.
John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.””
How do we respond when our life gets hit by a storm. I think I can safely say we all would like a life filled with sunshine and flowers. However, no one, if they live very long, can say that that’s been their experience. As we look at Jonah today, we are going to see God send a storm to him and also some unsuspecting sailors who will be with him and we are going to see God’s purpose for Jonah in this storm.
Read Jonah 1:1-16
In Jonah’s life, the storm was meant as discipline for his rebellion, but not all storms are meant for discipline. Some of our storms and difficulties in life do come because of the consequences of our sin. However, some come simply because we live in a broken world. ex. Covid. ex. Think of the storm that Jesus and His disciples faced out on the sea. There was no discipline, but simply a means to help them draw near to Christ. Some also come because of persecution. The church around the world experiences this kind of storm to the extreme. Many believers face death because of their faith. However, while persecution is not as extreme, we might still face some smaller storms such as loss of a job or reputation. For whatever reason the storms of life come to us, the storm is a grace of God used to help awaken us to the beauty of the Gospel! In his book, “Gospel Wakefulness,” Jared Wilson writes about the need for all of us to be awakened to the beauty and glory of God’s grace in the Gospel. What he means by this is, while we might know in our head what God’s grace is, our hearts do not truly understand what it is until we have come to the end of ourselves and had no where else to turn to but to Christ and His grace for us.
It is not that we are not saved, although we might not be, but we can be saved and still not fully know or realize the beauty of God’s grace. He tells us that the way to be awakened to this beauty of the Gospel and to have our hearts absolutely transformed by His grace is through the storms of life as we identify with Christ in His sufferings.
The knowledge we have of God has a hard time sinking down from our heads into our hearts until we have come to the end of ourselves and come face to face with the God who draws near to the brokenhearted.
And God uses the storms of life to bring us to the end of ourselves so we can fully trust and rely on Him. So there’s grace in the storms of life, and that is certainly going to be true for Jonah.
In the life of Jonah and some sailors he comes into contact with, God uses this storm to help them face their own brokenness and to fix their eyes on Him and to see the beauty and glory of His all sufficient grace! This storm is going to teach Jonah and us about God and about ourselves And will show us the depth of God’s grace towards us.

III. You Can Run but You Can’t Hide

a. Jonah gets up, but goes the opposite direction
b. Jonah foolishly thinks he can escape the presence of the LORD. (Omnipresence)
Psalm 139:7-8 “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”
c. Jonah hides in the lowest part of the ship
d. But the LORD follows Him and does not let him go
e. Ex – Classic cartoon chases where no matter where a character runs, the other one always pops up in front of them.
f. The storm is a sign of God’s continued love and judgment upon Jonah
g. Do we live in the knowledge and faith that God is ever present with us no matter where we go or what we do? How should God’s omnipresence affect the way we respond to His commands?

IV. Our Sin Becomes a Curse Upon Others

a. Sin never only affects us
b. Sin has consequences that affect others
c. The sailors’ lives are in danger because of Jonah’s disobedience
Jonah only tells them who he is after they ask. If he was doing his job as a prophet and as one who fears God, he should have been telling them about the one true God. However, he refuses to be a blessing to them and allows them to stay in their cursed position.
d. Ex. Sin is like a cancer. We want to eliminate it before it begins to spread and affect the other organs close by. Otherwise, one organ can lead to the death of the others.
However, what Jonah doesn’t know is that God is planning this storm to be a grace to him as God is changing his heart and getting his attention, but also as a means of blessing upon these pagan sailors to bring them to Himself as well.
e. God is calling us to be a blessing towards others. Do we live in the knowledge that what we do affects other people?

V. You Can’t Earn Your Salvation

a. The sailors try to row back to land on their own
b. Jonah tells them the only way to be saved is to throw him into the sea
i. Is he selfless?
ii. Is he still trying to run?
c. Sailors continue to try to avoid throwing Jonah out
d. Ultimately they realize the futility of trying to save themselves
ex. Star Trek - The Borg “It is futile to resist”
You have heard the phrase “God helps those who help themselves.” It sounds good and nice, but you will never find that phrase in the Bible because God’s Word actually says the opposite. He says we cannot do anything to help ourselves and that He helps those who realize that only God can help us.
e. While Jonah is a disobedient prophet, we do see God giving us a glimpse of a perfectly obedient prophet who will selflessly and obediently lay down His life for the good of all those who truly fear the LORD. We cannot earn and work for this salvation. We must simply cry out and trust the work of Christ who laid down His life for us!
f. Are you still trying to find your own way to survive the storm? It is natural for us to seek to solve our own problems since that is what we have been taught to do. However, when it comes to our sin and rebellion, He doesn’t want us to try to fix it on our own. He already has the only way to fix it and He wants us to simply trust and obey Him. He wants us to trust in the death and resurrection, not of Jonah, who was a sacrifice for that storm, but of the perfect prophet, the Son of God, Jesus who came to be the sacrifice for our sins. There is no other way for us to escape the wrath of God, but to find God’s love and acceptance in Christ alone!

VI. God’s Purposes Will Be Accomplished

a. The storm is a sign of God’s sovereign rule over creation and over His people (Sovereignty)
b. God’s grace is shown to His people in that even while we rebel, God will still accomplish His purpose even in spite of ourselves.
Isaiah 46:10 “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’”
Psalm 33:11 “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”
Prov 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
c. God used Jonah’s disobedience to bring about the salvation of these pagan sailors. (Omnipotent)
d. Jonah, however, missed the blessing of seeing these sailors express their faith in the LORD.
e. How is God wanting to use you to bring His grace towards others? Know, God will accomplish the plans He has for you and for those around you. But we can very often miss out on the blessings He has for us because of our unwillingness to be used by Him. Don’t close your eyes to how God wants to use you. Be on the lookout each day for how He wants you to be a light pointing others back to Him.

VII. Conclusion

a. Jonah’s nap on the boat was merely symptomatic of a deeper problem he was facing. Jonah was asleep spiritually and missing out on the great joy and wonder of God’s grace both for him and for the people God was calling him to minister to. We have seen God begin the process of waking Jonah up to the wondrous mysteries of His grace, although Jonah is not quite there yet. He still has some ways to go to truly see and be amazed by the heart of God.
b. But part of God waking Jonah up is through the use of this storm. If we are to be awakened to the joy and awe of the glorious grace of the Gospel, we too must endure the storms of life, whether they are part of our discipline, or simply part of living life in a broken world. These are the storms that will help open our eyes to God’s grace for us and His grace towards others!
c. Tim Keller in “the Prodigal Prophet” writes, “Jonah could not see that deep within the terror of the storm God’s mercy was at work, drawing him back to change his heart. Its not surprising that Jonah missed this initially. He did not know how God would come into the world to save us. We, however, living on this side of the cross, know that God can save through weakness, suffering, and apparent defeat.”
d. Imagine what emotions those who were watching Jesus die were feeling as Christ calls out “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani” as the sky grew dark. Or as he cried out” It is finished” and yielded his final breath, and as the earth shook and the veil tore inside the temple. Yet it was through the greatest storm the world has ever felt that God was putting on the greatest display of grace anyone has ever seen.
The next time we face a storm, while we pray for the storm to pass, also ask God to open your eyes to His grace and then allow Him to use you through that storm to share His grace with others.
e. Maybe you have never put your faith and trust in Christ before and this life is getting to be more than you can bear. This is part of God’s grace to each of us to help us see our need for Him and to make us aware of His love and grace for us. Jesus alone can walk through the storm with us and to bring peace to our hearts. We do not need to fight for and earn God’s grace. We simply need to trust Him and cry out to Him in humble submission.
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