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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Caring and Moving

Getting people to care is always the hardest part. We can promote our cause and try to make people do what we say until the cows come home, but if people don't care, we are wasting our breaths. So we have to begin there. We get people recycling, for example, by showing them the destruction it has on our wildlife when we don't. We hope that this will get people concerned and taking responsibility for their trash. Or, in order to convince people to start taking care of their bodies, we show them the long term effects that neglect can have on us like sickness, cancer, or even death. We hope this does the trick and gets people caring about their health. We understand that in order to get people willingly moving, we must first get them caring. 

Jonah was one who suffered with a caring deficiency. God had a special assignment meant just for him - to go tell the people of Nineveh to repent or they will be destroyed. But instead of obeying, he went the other way and consequently found himself sleeping with the fishes - literally! What Jonah lacked was not competence or a sensitivity to hear the Voice of God. What Jonah lacked was heart. To put it plainly, He simply did not care about the people of Nineveh.

Well, we know how the story ends. Jonah eventually does what God asked Him to do, but even then his heart was still stuck in selfish land and continued to lack true concern for the thousands that God had just spared. So God used a simple illustration of a plant to get Jonah thinking and maybe even caring.

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

"Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals.
Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

‭‭Jonah‬ ‭4:1-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God was basically saying to Jonah, "Look, I need you thinking outside your own little world. You're more torn apart by your own discomfort than you are with the fact that thousands of people were about to die. If you care for something that is here today and gone tomorrow, how much more do you think I care (and I'm trying to get you to care) about those people living in spiritual darkness?"

Wow. Jonah knew then that God was not just looking for his obedience, he was looking for a changed heart. God knew that if He could get Jonah caring, He could get him moving - not reluctantly, but willingly - even to minister to people that he didn't think deserved God's mercy.

And God still speaks this same message to us. He's says, "Who will care? Who will be concerned about the millions of people that don't know Me? Who will care enough to weep for them? Who will care enough to pray for them? Who will care enough to go to them and tell them about My Love, about My Son??"

God knows, He needs us caring to get us willingly moving.

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