God spoke through Jonah and his preaching changed people’s lives. But behind this man’s celebrated ministry lay an intense private battle as the deep wells of selfish desire, love of comfort, and resentment towards God erupted repeatedly in his life.
The outline of Jonah’s story is simple. God called this man out of a settled ministry in Israel to preach in Nineveh, a city notorious for its wickedness. Jonah didn’t like the idea, so he got on a ship and sailed in the opposite direction. God intercepted the ship by sending a storm and when the crew realized that the storm had come because of Jonah, they threw him overboard.
God rescued Jonah by providing a great fish that swallowed him, swam to the shore, and then spat him up on the beach. At this point, Jonah decided he had better do what God said, so he went to Nineveh and preached the message God had given. When the people heard Jonah, they believed God, repented of their sin and were saved from immanent judgment.
You might think that a man who experienced miracles in his own life, and whose ministry was used by God to transform one of the most cities of his time, would get beyond the struggles that ‘ordinary’ Christians experience. But Jonah shows us something different. At the end of the book, after the miracle of being saved by the fish and after seeing a whole city repent, Jonah was angry, dissatisfied and out of sorts with God. Instead of rejoicing, he slumped into despair, and became convinced that his life had no further meaning or value.
By any standards Jonah lived an extraordinary life. Few have the privilege of preaching with such power that a whole city is transformed, and nobody I know has experienced God’s grace through being swallowed by a fish! But despite Jonah’s uniqueness, his story speaks to our more ordinary lives in powerful ways.
Jonah’s confession maps out our battle and gives testimony to the patience, perseverance and ultimate triumph of God’s grace in the conflicted experience of a Christian believer. Our journey with Jonah will help you to explore the dynamics of your own struggle with God. It will challenge your self-interest, and give you a fresh glimpse of God’s invincible grace.
Adapted from the introduction to Jonah: Navigating a God-Centered Life by Colin S. Smith (Christian Focus 2012).
About the Author:
Colin Smith serves as Senior Pastor of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church. Colin is the author of several books including Jonah: Navigating a God-Centered Life (Christian Focus, 2012). He can be heard daily on the Unlocking the Bible radio broadcast.
Praise for Jonah: Navitaging a God-Centered Life:
“Here is a pastor reading the book of Jonah and finding a preacher who wants settled ministry, not challenges; who wants to see his enemies crushed, not converted; who longs for God’s grace in his own life, but not in the lives of others; who knows how to speak God’s words with faithfulness, but who wants to see only the component of judgment worked out in reality; a preacher who is angry and who wants God to be angry too; a man who wallows in self-pity and hates it when God exposes that self-pity for the idolatrous arrogance it is. It is not difficult to see the relevance of such portraits in our own day. And what does it say of God, that he keeps working away at Jonah as he keeps working away at the Ninevites?”
-D. A. Carson ~ Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois
“The strength of the book is that it echoes the ministry of a prophet, speaking God’s words into a culture which resists that word.”
-David Meredith ~ Chairman of Affinity and Minister of Smithton Free Church of Scotland, Inverness
“No matter how well you think you know the story of Jonah, you will be blessed and enlightened by this book from a gifted pastor who has both a good grasp of Scripture and human nature. In these pages we see ourselves, running from God but always brought back by God’s intervention and grace. In this helpful exposition we will recognize the same providence and patience of God in our lives as Jonah experienced. Read this book and share it with a friend. ”
-Erwin Lutzer ~ Senior Pastor, Moody Church, Chicago, Illinois
Where to Buy:
Jonah: Navigating a God-Centered Life is available at any good Christian Bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below: