THE UNWANTED VISITOR NAMED “TROUBLE”

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TEXT:                                     Jonah 2

INTRODUCTION:

Jonah 2:1-2 “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.”

In the next few verses– Jonah Describes Horror of his experience in fish’s belly.  Jonah was in the state of Despondency. He felt so hopeless in his situation.   Verse 7-9 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple. 8″Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy. 9But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

Has anyone here ever had a “Jonah Experience?”  Have been a number of times God has had get my Attention…I Had put my life together in such a way—I thought had world by tail. One day—my whole world fell apart when an unwanted visitor named “Trouble” made its visit. It came KNOCKING at my DOOR.

Do you know what I did? Exactly what Jonah did in verse 7 “…I remembered the Lord…”

It’s easy to forget God when life is going smooth. Yes, it’s always easy to pursue our own purposes—own agenda.

Up until this time Jonah had mistaken idea about God’s Call on his life. He thought it was something could take or leave at own choosing.

  • God had told him to go to Nineveh.
  • He had Evaluated God’s Plan
  • And Decided go in a Different Direction.

On his way, thinking that he has already escaped from God, thinking that he outsmarted God, thinking that God already gave in to his stubbornness, God decided to send him a visitor to speak to him: The visitor named “TROUBLE.”  Before you close your ears and minds about this topic, I want us to understand that trouble always carries with it a message from GodTROUBLE TALKS.  It’s one of the avenues that God is using to speak to us. When trouble comes into our lives, be sure to listen—it’s talking!

The QUESTION is: What is it saying? What is the trouble in your life saying to you?  Is it merely a chance OR is there something to be perceived & understood out of situation?  C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, But SHOUTS in our pain…” 

What is God trying to say to you and me? Are we hearing the message? How will you and I respond to the message?

When trouble comes it is telling us to:

1.    TALK TO GOD.

Can you imagine what this experience must have been like for Jonah? He’s being tossed all over the Sea. Trying to stay alive as along as he can. When all of a sudden this huge, gigantic fish comes up out of the water. Opens his mouth. And Jonah has just enough time to say, “Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!” When the fish opens his mouth and swallows the prophet.

If this was a sperm whale, then under normal circumstances, it would have over 100 degrees inside that stomach. And the gastric acid in the whale’s belly would have been corrosive enough to slowly eat through Jonah’s clothing and leave his exposed skin permanently damaged. Only the supernatural care of Almighty God would enable Jonah to survive this. And Jonah could have said, “This is ugly! If getting thrown overboard wasn’t bad enough, now I gotta deal with this???!!! Why is God making my life a living hell? Why couldn’t he just let me drown in the Mediterranean Sea?”

But instead, Jonah did the one thing he was trained to do from the time he was a little boy. Chapter 2:1 says that “From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said, “In my distress, I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help. And you listened to my cry.”

Now Jonah did not say one single word to God the whole time he was on the boat. But once he was thrown overboard, he said, “Oh God! Save me, Lord! I’m up to my neck in trouble! I need you more than ever!”

Before you start cracking on Jonah, try to remember that we’re just like he is. When things are going well in our life, we figure, “I don’t have too much to pray about. I’m in my thirties. I’ve got a nice family. I still have my whole life in front of me. Everything is going fine.” But as soon as things go south, it’s “Oh God! I really need you now! I’m in deep water! I can’t make it without you! You gotta help me!”

James 5:13 asks a probing Question “Is any one of you in trouble?” God poses that question to us this morning/evening: “Is anybody here in trouble?”  The trouble may be:  Financial – Emotional – or even Relational.  There are a great variety of experiences that can fall under broad scope of word trouble. Is there trouble in your life?

I’m glad the Bible doesn’t just leave us with the question. James 5:13 Follows up with this Answer: He should ____? what–PRAY.  When trouble comes, we must PRAY!

There are a number of things we tend to do as a substitute for prayer:

  • Try to solve the problem at the best we can;
  • Get Counseling;
  • Consolidate our bills, etc.

None of those things are wrong—but that’s not what the Bible is telling us.

“Is any one of you in trouble?”

  • Let him go to Psychiatrist? No!
  • Visit his financial consultant? No!
  • Leave town & take Sabbatical? No!

The Instruction is – He should “PRAY

TROUBLE IS OUR DIVINE WAKE-UP CALL TO TALK TO GOD. Many times we can get into a spiritual slumber—and it’s hard to wake up.

Illustration:

When I was in Cambodia few months ago, Pastor Sam called me at about 5:00 a.m. I was still in a deep sleep due to exhaustion. So when I answered the phone & heard him say “Good Morning” before he could say anything else, I said “Thank you.”

Have you ever Hung up on God?  When we do that He does exactly what Ptr. Sam did—he called back. God will keep calling until He gets our Attention—and that’s good.

Sometimes God is saying – “I want to talk to you, I’ve got some things to say to you & you haven’t been listening.” He will use other people to speak to you, sermons, devotionals, etc. and if you will not pay attention and still hung up on God, God will use the unwanted visitor – trouble = Attention-Getter!  That’s exactly what God did to Jonah. He audibly spoke to Jonah about His plan of saving Nineveh, instructed him well, showing to him what would happen, but Jonah hung up on God…God decided to send Jonah a visitor, you know the story…and God got Jonah’s attention.

 If you’re in trouble — the Divine phone is RINGING. TALK TO GODThis morning is excellent time to take that matter to God in prayer and let Him carry it.

Sometimes trouble is saying to us

2.    TURN TO GOD.

God uses trouble to tell us that we’re going the wrong way and that we must turn back to Him.

Jonah next acknowledges the Providence of God, in verse 3: “You hurled me into the deep…all Your waves and breakers swept over me.” Underline (at least in your thinking) the words “You” & “Your”. Jonah knows that it wasn’t chance, circumstance, luck, or blind fate that caused his dilemma. Neither does he blame the sailors; they were merely God’s instruments, His means of discipline and restoration. Jonah understands that his deliverance had been directed by the Hand of God, Who rules His creation.

GOD’S INTENTION IS TO RETURN JONAH BACK TO A RIGHT RELATIONSHIP. How do we respond to correction? A father who loves his children doesn’t turn his back when they go astray. God’s discipline is evidence of His love for us. James Montgomery Boice reflects, “It is better to fall into the hands of God, even in correction, than to be apart from Him.”

Jonah recognizes that he was alienated from God. Everything seemed lost as he sank beneath the deep. No more would the voice of God come to this prophet…or so he thought. Jonah cries in verse 4, “I have been driven from Your sight.” The word “sight” could be translated “favor”. The door of life appeared to shut with a terrible finality. Each wave howled into his ear: “Jonah, you deserve this.” In verses 5-6 Jonah describes the horror of his plight. The “roots of the mountains” refers to the mountainous ocean depths. Underwater archeology reveals that some of the largest mountains on earth are those beneath the ocean.

Though things couldn’t seem worse, Jonah exercises hope in verse 4: “…yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.” Faith drives us to “look again,” TO TURN ONCE AGAIN TO GOD.

In our lives, God has basically three ways He speaks to us.

  • The preferred way is the still small voice of the Holy Spirit in our heart and conscience. If we will hear at that level He doesn’t have to use the other two very much.
  • If we won’t hear His voice in our hearts, He will graciously send someone with a word to speak it into our ears. It may come through a sermon; it may come in the form of godly counsel; it may come as a prophetic word. If we will hear at that level we don’t have to get the message so much from external circumstances.
  • The last resort is this Messenger called “Trouble”. That’s when God is shouting to get our attention. Sometimes trouble is telling us to TURN.

Jonah was headed toward Tarshish. That was opposite direction from where God told him to go. How many know, God helped Jonah correct his course? He sent this big fish called “Trouble” to turn him around & get him going in right direction. Jonah 2:10 says “So the Lord spoke to the fish (God can speak to our problems) and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” (Messy but effective)…Jonah could have traveled in a nice comfortable boat – but since he didn’t choose to go that way; God prepared another means of transportation-a big, ugly fish.

It was a terribly uncomfortable trip for Jonah—but it was also an awesome expression of God’s mercy & grace toward Jonah.

Guess what the next verse says? Jonah 3:1 “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the 2nd time saying “Arise & go to Nineveh, that great city and preach to it the message that I tell you—SO, Jonah rose and went to Nineveh…”

GOD DID NOT GIVE UP ON JONAH. The journey was not the short/easy route—but God got him there. When I was reading this whole chapter, I paused for a while, closed my eyes and thanked God for His abounding grace and love.  Literally, God gave Jonah a 2nd chance!

Illustration:

I blew it big in my early teens, late teens, early 20’s and for many times I blew it big! Many had known me as someone who doesn’t eat this and that, who only wears this and that, who loves going here, there and everywhere, but only few, as in few, individuals know me.  They know me personally, the things I’m going through, etc…they know the many things I blew up big in my life! BUT I THANK THE LORD THAT HE HAS NOT GIVEN UP ON ME, NO MATTER HOW BIG TIME I BLEW UP THINGS IN MY LIFEHE WOULD NEVER LET ME GOHE WOULD OPEN DOORS OF OPPORTUNITIES, USE YOU MORE ON THE TIME YOU LEAST EXPECTED IT, AND A WHOLE LOT MORE.

You may feel like you’ve blown it big—maybe you have. But could I say to you—it’s not too big for God to salvage. my mistakes were not bigger than God.

Yes, I feel the pain of my past disobedience, but I also know the power of God’s Redemption. Do you need another chance? “…the word of the Lord came to Jonah the 2nd time…”

I’m glad God didn’t Reject David when he failed, Peter, Me and the rest of us.  The troubles that we faced and encountered in life surely made us turn back to GodI once heard Jack Taylor say, “If you fix the fix that God has fixed to fix you, He’ll fix a bigger fix and still fix you.” I thought that was very insightful as to how God works.

In book of JUDGES we find a cycle of God’s dealings with His people. The cycle goes something like this:

  • God in His generosity & goodness blessed them.
  • In midst of that Blessing, they Forgot God and went own way.
  • God sent a Messenger called “Trouble” saying “Turn Around-(stop going your own way, stop doing your own thing, stop seeking own desires, and Return to Me)
  • In the midst of trouble they turned back to God and Cried out to Him.
  • In answer to their prayer God delivered and once again blessed them.

That was Israel’s experience. Sometimes it is our experience. But it doesn’t have to be. “Enoch walked with God and was not because God took him, for he had this testimony, that he pleased God. HOW MUCH BETTER IT IS TO SIMPLY WALK WITH GOD THE WAY ENOCH DID AND AVOID ALL THOSE TROUBLES. There’s the hard way and there’s the easy way. But you know what, after doing it the hard way a few times I’ve decided that I like the easy way better.

We may spiritually sink as deep as Jonah, yet God will not abandon us. Jonah was thrown out of a ship, but not out of the sight and grace of God. We have Christ’s added promise: “I will never cast you out”…you “will never perish” (John 6:37, 10:28).

Trouble is always telling us to TALK to GOD and to Assess our ways…and if we had seen that we’re in the wrong path, it’s time to TURN TO GOD.  The other thing Trouble is always telling us is to:

3.    TRUST GOD.

Trouble in our lives is not always a consequence of disobedience or bad choices. Sometimes it is. It was in Jonah’s case. David experienced a lot of trouble because of his disobedience.

But sometimes trouble comes because we are serving God. Sometimes we experience rejection or persecution on the job or at school or in some other context because we represent the Lord.

  • John the Baptist was not beheaded because of some sin. It was because of his stand for righteousness.
  • Stephen was not stoned because of rebellion against God but because he was preaching the truth.

That’s why Paul wrote Timothy and said “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” There are some things in life that we just have to endure-they are not our fault, they are not judgment from God. Yes, we pray, we talk with God about them. But the ultimate thing we must do is trust God with them. “The just shall live by faith.”

In II Corinthians Paul talked about the troubles he was experiencing—hard pressed on every side, ship wrecked, stoned, imprisoned, beaten. His troubles far surpassed anything I have experienced.

It can be a serious test of our faith when troubles come and we don’t understand why. Our response in that kind of situation is crucial. If we get mad at God, if we resent God and other people, we can become hardened and bitter in our hearts. That’s why the Bible tells us to “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it comes the issues of life.” The most important thing is to keep our hearts right.

Ps. 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Do we trust God to take care of us in life or do we try to go it alone, thinking we can handle everything by ourselves?

Illustration:

I remember many years ago a young wife and mother came to see me about some trouble she was having in life. I don’t even recall what the trouble was. Her father was a high-ranking police officer and did not go to church anywhere. I don’t think he believed in church at all. She said to me, “Please don’t tell my father that I came to see you for help. He believes that a person should take care of themselves and not lean on anyone or anything.”

Brothers and sisters, that kind of attitude and action will last only so long.  Someday everybody who believes that way will come to the end of their rope and will begin to realize they are not all-sufficient. God allows people to come to the end of their rope so they will realize that He is God and He alone can help them in life!

The ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God allows the visitation of troubles is TO ENSURE THAT WE SHALL LEARN TO HOLD HIM FAST. The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak is that God spends so much of his time showing us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find or follow the right road.

When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, likely we would impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm brewing and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we would thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn to lean on him thankfully. THEREFORE HE TAKES STEPS TO DRIVE US OUT OF SELF-CONFIDENCE TO TRUST IN HIMSELF.

CONCLUSION:

Is there anything going on in your life that you don’t understand? Is there trouble anywhere? What do we do about the trouble?

  • We pray—Talk with God! We allow the trouble to drive us to God. We spend time with God. We don’t  just speak to God we speak with God. We allow Him to speak into our lives.
  • We consider our ways—Turn to God!  In the light of God’s word we make sure we’re going the right way. If we’re headed to Tarshish when we should be going to Nineveh, we turn around.
  • We rely upon God for help—Trust God! We make a choice to commit the problem to Him and watch Him work.

His invitation for us to give Him the problem is irrevocably linked to His promise to take care of the problem.

Listen to His promise in Psalms 50:15 “…call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you; and you will glorify Me.”

Isn’t that wonderful? Not only does He promise to deliver us-but He promises to do it in such a way that it brings glory to His name. God says to those in trouble, regardless of what kind of trouble it may be, “…Call upon Me in the day of trouble…”

Can we just respond to Him in that way this morning? If there’s trouble in your life would you stand and join with me in calling upon the Lord?

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES:

  • The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
  • Richard Tow
  • Dr. Marc Axelrod

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