It’s All About Perspective
“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?””
Jonah 3:10; 4:1-11 NIV
Do you believe that God loves everyone? Yes, I mean like, EVERYONE. That when we call Him a merciful God, His mercy extends to anyone who repents and believes in Him? Even those who have done wrong? Studying this text for today’s message blew my mind! Let’s look at it together.
In chapter 1, Jonah was swallowed by the whale. That’s the part of the story that most of us have learned. But why was he swallowed? Because he was being disobedient to God. He tried to run from God, and he ended up in the belly of the whale. He begged God to save him, and He did. How is it that, in chapter 2, he’s begging for God to save him, but in chapter 4, he’s angry that God saved someone else? What gives him the right? Actually, what gives us the right?
To feel entitled says “I deserve it.” So many times we fall into the habit of feeling entitled to God’s grace, His blessings, and His mercy. Especially as believers. We can be the worst! We think because we go to church regularly, fast, and try our best to live right, we should not have to endure anything. We feel like all of God’s blessings should constantly fall on us. The thing is, that belief is contradictory to what Jesus told us. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). He warned us that life would have its problems. He instructed us that we should find peace in Him.
This means two things: 1) the good we receive should be accepted with gratitude and 2) we should celebrate when God shows mercy on someone else.
I know, I know! The person that cheated on you shouldn’t be celebrated. The friend who betrayed you doesn’t deserve God’s blessings. The boss that wrongfully fired you shouldn’t be shown mercy when it’s their job that’s now on the line. But guess what, God made them too! He died for them too! He cares for them, too!
Jonah could not see how God would spare the people of Nineveh because he was too busy feeling entitled for his rescue. He felt like disobeying God because he knew God was going to have mercy on them wasn’t nearly as bad as disobeying God out of rebellion, like the people of Nineveh. How easy it is to be a lawyer when you’re on trial, then turn into a judge when someone else is!
Gratitude says, “every blessing is a gift. Every new day is a new opportunity to do something for God.” Mercy says, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). We must learn that gratitude and mercy are married. When you are grateful for how far God has brought you, for the many times He saved you, and for all the times He forgave you, it becomes second nature for you to want God to show mercy to someone else. You realize He didn’t have to do anything for you. That everything is a gift. And you learn to see things from a different perspective. You learn to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).
Today, I challenge you to alter your perspective. Who are you angry with? Who haven’t you forgiven? Who have you deemed as unworthy of your kindness or compassion? Look at them through the lens of what God has done for you. God sent Jesus to die for our sins so we wouldn’t have to. How huge is that! And how do we repay Him? Angry when things don’t go our way. Betraying Him when it’s not “cool” to worship and read the Bible. Putting everything before Him instead of spending time in prayer. There are chapters in all of our stories that we wouldn’t want read aloud. God still forgave you. He continues to forgive you. Are you grateful? Can you do the same?