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How To Stay Close to God

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HOW TO STAY CLOSE TO GOD

TEXT: Jonah 1:1-9

“Getting A Second Chance From God.”  Isn’t that good news!  God is the God of the second chance.  Moses broke the tablets of the law, but God gave him a second chance.  Samson sinned, but God gave him a second chance.  Peter cursed Jesus, but God gave him a second chance.

Jonah is a story about a man who rebelled against God and then was swallowed by a great fish.  But the Book of Jonah is not about a fish; in fact, only three verses deal with the fish.  The other forty-five verses tell us the real message of Jonah’s story.  It is a story of someone like you and me.  It is a story of his struggles, problems, and prayer life.  It is a story of his second chance, his successes and failures. 

In order to understand this book you must look at it from two very different perspectives.

O.S. Hawkins wrote a book about Jonah called, Meeting the God Of The Second Chance.  In it he outlines the book of Jonah in the following ways: When you examine it from Jonah’s perspective you will find a story of a man’s pilgrimage.  Chapter one deals with his rejection of God’s will or purpose for his life.  How do you deal with or relate to God’s will and purpose for your life?  Chapter two deals with Jonah’s reflection.  There in the belly of the fish Jonah began to reflect, pray and praise God.  Chapter 3 deals with Jonah’s correction.  After the fish regurgitated Jonah onto the shore God gave him a second chance and he corrected his ways.  Then chapter four deals with Jonah’s objection of God blessings on someone else.

When you examine the Book of Jonah from God’s perspective you will find a very different story about God’s providence in our lives.  Chapter one deals with God’s election.  It shows us his sovereignty and how He is in control of everything.  Chapter two deals with God’s protection.  It shows us how God took care of Jonah even though he disobeyed Him and prepared a fish to swallow him so he wouldn’t drown in the ocean.  Chapter three deals with God’s perfection.  One of God’s main purposes for your life is that you be like Him. (Romans 12:2) Then lastly, chapter four deals with God’s affection.  In other words, God loves you.

I.          YOU OBEY THE WILL OF GOD Jonah 1:1-3

Here in these verses we find how God revealed His will to Jonah and how he responded to it.  Instead of going to Nineveh he ran away from God and went to Tarshish.

A little boy had run away from home and was finally found by the police continuously walking around his block.  “Why did you keep walking around your block?” the officer asked.  “Because my parents told me I couldn’t cross the street.” the boy replied.

Are you like Jonah.  You have been running away from God’s will for your life.  Instead of going to Nineveh you’re on a boat that’s sailing to Tarshish.  Where are you headed in life?  Really there are only two roads in life.

Matthew 7:13-14  13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

In the Christian’s life there is a road that leads to obedience to  God’s will and a road that leads to disobedience to His will.

A.        In verses 1-2 we are given three aspects of God’s will.

1.      God’s will is SPECIAL IN NATURE

a)      How special would it be for God to personally speak to you? 

b)      God is interested in you as an individual.  He knows your name, your parents, your brothers and sisters as well as your background.

2.      God’s will is SPECIFIC IN NATURE

a)      God gave Jonah three commands. 

b)      Arise, go and cry.  God pointed Jonah in a specific direction.  Nineveh was a city that was founded by Nimrod and became the capital of Assyria located along the Tigris river in what is now known as Iraq.  Archeologists excavated the city in 1843-1845 and discovered that it was 60 miles in circumference, its streets were twenty miles long and its walls one hundred feet high and wide enough for three chariots to drive across the top.

3.      God’s will is SERIOUS IN NATURE

a)      Not only was the size of Nineveh great but also their sins were great. 

b)      God said, “their wickedness has come up before me”. Tiglath-pileser a famous Assyrian king was so brutal in his rule that he burned children alive, flayed his captives alive and then put their skulls in giant piles.  This is why God commanded Jonah to go and preach against their sins.

How did Jonah respond to God’s will or purpose for his life?  In verse three it begins by saying, “But Jonah...”  Really that tells us the whole story.  He did the opposite of what God wanted and ran away from God.

B.        In verse 3 we see three facts concerning Jonah’s disobedience.

1.      He PLANNED IT OUT

a)      He made a plan to avoid obeying God’s will. 

b)      He planned to go to Tarshish which was in Spain over 2000 miles away.  Tarshish was as far west as one could go, while Nineveh was to the east.  Jonah’s decision to disobey God was premeditated because he found a ship and then bought a ticket. It is interesting to me how everything in his plan seemed to fall perfectly into place.  But just because everything seems to be working out in your life doesn’t mean that you are doing the will of God.  Because, whenever you run away from God, Satan will always find you transportation.

2.      He PROGRESSED DOWNWARD

a)      Once you step onto the pathway of disobedience, the road is going to be a continuous, ongoing downward digression. 

b)      Jonah went down to Joppa.  Then he went down into the ship, he went down into the sea and eventually went down into the belly of the fish. 

c)      Most people don’t just take a giant step away from God and one day find themselves in the belly of a fish.  It is daily step-by-step process of one thing leading to another.

3.      He PAID A PRICE

a)      Notice in verse three it says that Jonah “paid the fare.”  The most expensive thing a person can do is RUN FROM GOD.

A young man was brought up in a Christian home where God and the Bible were first in everything.  As he grew older he refused to believe and became increasingly rebellious.  Finally he said, “I’m sick and tired of Christians.  I’m going to look for a place where I can avoid them.”  So, he pack his clothes and left home.  He got on a train, only to find that two passengers seated behind him were talking about the Bible.  “I’m not going to stay here.” he muttered.  At the next stop he left the train and went to a restaurant.  To his dismay, some elderly ladies were talking about the second coming of Jesus at the table next to him.  So he went to a nearby dock and bought a ticket on a cruise ship thinking it would be the best way to escape from all the Christians.  But, when he left port he discovered that it was filled with Christians who were also taking a cruise.  Thoroughly disgusted he made his way downstairs to find the bar.  On his way he found the captain of the ship and asked, “Can you tell me where I can go to get away from all these Christians?’  The captain looked at the man and said with a grin, “You can go to hell, you won’t find any Christians there.”

C.        To know God’s will is the greatest KNOWLEDGE.  To do God’s will is the greatest ACHIEVEMENT.

II.       YOU REMAIN SENSITIVE TO GOD Jonah 1:4-5

Jonah thought he had successfully run away and was through with God, but God was not through with Jonah.  Jonah had tried to run away from God, but God found him.  What is even worse is that God found him asleep.  This shows us how insensitive, indifferent and unconcerned Jonah was.  This is what happens when you leave the will of God.  You become unresponsive to God.

A school teacher got a note from a student’s mother that read, "My son, Andy, is a very sensitive boy. If you have to punish him, just slap the kid next to him.  That will frighten Andy."

A.        3 lessons that will help us become more sensitive to God

1.      The lesson of the STORM

a)      Verse 4 says that it was the Lord who sent this storm. 

b)      God sends storms of chastisement on His people when they are out of His will.  The wind and the rain that beat against us are God’s  way of getting us to wake up and come to our senses.  Some storms in your life occur because that is the only way God can get your attention.

2.      The lesson of the SAILORS

a)      Literally the word “sailors” comes from a Hebrew noun which means “salt.” 

b)      We are told in verse 5 that these seasoned “salts” “became afraid.”  They were afraid because they realized that this was a supernatural storm.  As a result “every man cried to his god.”  As the old saying goes, “There are no atheists in fox holes.”  Isn’t it amazing how we are ready to turn to God when troubles and storms arise in our life?

3.      The lesson of the SHIP

a)      In the last part of verse 5 it says that “they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.” 

b)      This is typical of how we try to solve our own problems and don’t want to get to the root of the problem.  The real problem wasn’t the cargo, it was sin.

B.        Nothing weighs more than sin.

III.    YOU STAY IN TOUCH WITH GOD Jonah 1:6

A.        Jonah’s sin had desensitized him so much that he didn’t even want to pray to God. 

1.      When you live with open and unrepented sin in your life, you cannot communicate with God.

2.      Prayer should be a way of life for all of us and not just a case of emergency.

B.        8 Hindrances To Prayer James 4:1-12

1.      A lack of UNITY - (vs 1)

2.      A lack of PRAYER - (vs 2)

3.      A lack of RIGHT MOTIVES - (vs 3)

4.      A lack of GODLINESS - (vs 4-5)

5.      A lack of HUMILITY - (vs 6-7)

6.      A lack of FAITH - (vs 8)

7.      A lack of CONFESSION - (vs 9-10)

8.      A lack of FORGIVENESS - (vs 11-12)

C.        PRAYERLESSNESS begets CARELESSNESS 

1.      To look around is to be distressed.

2.      To look within is to be depressed.

3.      But, to look up is to be blessed.

IV.    YOU LIVE CONSISTENTLY FOR GOD Jonah 1:7-9

A judge asked a women her age.

        “Thirty,” she replied.

        “You’ve given that age in this court for the last three years.” said the judge.

       “Yes, I’m not one of those who says one thing today and another thing tomorrow.”

The one thing that bothers me most about Jonah is that he had lost his testimony or witness for the Lord.  Every time a Christian leaves the Lord he not only hurts his own reputation, but also the whole cause of Christ.  Jonah had lost his identification.  He had forgotten who and what he was.

A.        How can you tell if you have lost your reputation?  Here in these verses we are given three ways to test your reputation.

1.      By your CONDUCT

a)      It is a sad day when a prophet of God has to be asked, “What is your occupation?”  If someone has been around you for a period of time and doesn’t know that you are a Christian, that is pretty good proof that you have left the will of God.  If you want the world to heed, put your creed in your deed.

2.      By your COMPANIONS

a)      Jonah was asked, “What is your country? From what people are you?"  The people you associate with can ruin your reputation. Tell me who your companions are and I will tell you who you are.  George Washington once said, “Associate with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”  As the old saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

3.      By your COMMUNICATION

a)      A lot of things are opened by mistake, but none so often as the mouth.  Jonah’s profession did not match his practice.  He was talking the talk, but not walking the walk.  Our words my hide our thoughts, but our actions will reveal them. Actions speak louder than words.  If he really feared God he would be on a ship going to Tarshish when God told him to go to Nineveh.

B.        People look at you six days out of the week to see what you mean on the seventh.

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