March 22, 2020

March 22, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve been isolated or quarantined? What was it like to finally be released? How do you look forward to resuming normal activities in today’s chaotic times?

Open: We are in a period of strange circumstances that, for most of us, are unprecedented. Few of us have experienced isolation or restriction of our activities. Jonah, the prophet whom God told to go to Nineveh and preach, rebelled against God and ended up in the belly of a great fish. Although we are not inside a fish, our movements and normal tasks are severely limited. The lessons found in the life of Jonah can give us much insight for such a time as this.

Key Verse: Jonah 1:17. “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”

Focal Passage: Jonah 2:1-10.

Crying out to God is more important than crying about our circumstances

  • Why is it so hard to put the worries and troubles of our life aside, rather than letting them swallow us?
  • Read Jonah 2:2. What happened to Jonah when he turned his attention from his circumstances to God?
  • What are some of the issues in life that might make us feel hopeless? If we continue to focus on the problems, what happens to our spirit?
  • During this time of our enforced isolation in today’s world, where is God? Read James 4:8a. What do you have to do to get His attention?

Focusing on His promises is more important than focusing on our problems

  • Read verses 3-4a. What are the disasters Jonah recounted in these verses?
  • Read verse 4b. What changed Jonah’s focus? Do you feel like you’ve been swallowed by a fish? What would change your focus from pain to worship? What are some of the promises of God that will bring your heart peace and comfort during this time?

Worshiping our Master is more important than worrying about our mess

  • Read Jonah 2:5-6. Jonah’s “mess” continued. As he graphically described being in the belly of the fish, what did he experience? If you had actually been Jonah, how could it have gotten much worse? How about for you now?
  • What did Jonah start doing? Why is it not possible for you to keep your mind on your circumstances and worship at the same time?
  • Where is your focus when you are worshiping? What are some fruits that will be in your life if you choose to worship? What will worry bring you?

Our crisis is never greater than our God

  • Read verse 9. How did Jonah turn his heart around by focusing his attention toward the Lord God?   
  • Was Jonah trusting God for deliverance, or trusting Him because he thought his life was almost over? Do you think he actually envisioned deliverance?
  • Read verse 10. What all could Jonah have concentrated on while he was in the fish? How did his heart change?

Close: We are living in days that are strange to most of us. Not only are they filled with normal concerns, but for many of us there are hours of additional stress that we are not usually concerned with: school children at home, bored and possibly unsupervised; keeping minds occupied for hours and hours, rather than shorter segments; challenging ourselves not to be overcome with worry, fatigue and pressure that doesn’t seem to end. It is so easy to get sidetracked by worry, even though we know it doesn’t bring hope, help or in any way relieve the pain.

Jonah was in a desperate situation! If we had been swallowed by a fish and left for three days, we would definitely have figured that the end of our life had come—just as Jonah must have felt. Although we are not in a fish, our concern about the quarantine of our normal way of life, with restricted ability to enjoy restaurants, places of entertainment, congregational activities like church, ball games or other pleasures, is a mental disruption that shows us we need to retrain our focus to get it back on God and worship, rather than on our circumstances!

It is definitely fitting that we study the lessons provided by Jonah. Our lives today, while extremely hard and challenging, are showing us that we have become much too dependent on social interaction, outside entertainment, and myriads of choices for our time. We can start by remembering those early pioneers—our forefathers—who lived a simpler life, enjoying family and neighbors. Most of all, we should choose to use this time to worship our God, rather than focusing on the difficult time we are having. He is so worthy!