We have a great and powerful God and there is nothing He cannot accomplish. Through wonders, signs, and miracles He brings about His will, and He uses whomever He pleases to accomplish it. God uses servants with willing spirits, like Abraham, Joshua, Samuel, and Isaiah. Men who were ready to answer God’s call whenever it came. But what about those with reluctant spirits? What can God really do with them? What does God even want with them? Remember back in Psalm 111:9 when the psalmist said God “provides redemption for His people”? This includes even those with reluctant spirits. God wants to redeem the reluctant spirit, and He is willing to provide whatever it takes.
Jonah is a perfect example of this. God gave Jonah a mission, provided him with an opportunity, and Jonah ran (Jonah 1:1-3). He ran because God’s Spirit prompted him to do something he didn’t want to do. This is often the case when God reveals His will to us. Moses did not want to go to pharaoh, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, Jesus did not want to suffer crucifixion and asked for the cup to pass from him.
Sometimes this prompting of the Spirit is an occasion when God makes it clear that there is someone we need to forgive, there is a habit we need to give up, a relationship we need to get out of, or something we need to start doing. Last month, for me, it was a sermon I didn’t want to preach, but God kept bringing me back to it. For Sharon, it was a combination of many things, but it began with giving up her habits.
Sharon was one of the first people I studied with when I came to River City Ministry. She has been growing closer to God, she was baptized last year, but she was stuck in a cycle of bad relationships. The more she read her Bible, the clearer it became to her that she could not please God and keep on having sex when she wasn’t married. Sharon knew this, but she had lived this way so long… the easiest way to deal with it was to act like it wasn’t real, not address her situation, and just stay put.
When God told Jonah to go, he did more than just stay put, he ran the other way. Because of the pains of his past, the cruel things he saw the Assyrians do to his people, Jonah refused to go. He said “…I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity… That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.” (Jonah 4:2). So he boarded a ship headed to the edge of the known world and God began providing his redemption. “…the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” (1:4). God provided the storm to begin the process of bringing Jonah back to Him. When the sailors realized the storm was because of this Jonah running from his God, they asked all about him and Jonah said, “I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (1:8-9). This was something Jonah needed to realize himself. If he took stock of this in the first place, would he have ever tried to flee? Jonah needed to stop and think about who his God was.
Jonah saw who God was, and he realized that he was in the wrong, but the only solution was bleak. “’Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and I will become calm…’” (1:12). When the men finally did this the storm stopped and the sailors worshiped the one true God. Sinking into the sea, Jonah thought this was the end, but hey, at least he got out of going to Nineveh. Little did he know, God was not done with him. God did not want Jonah dead, he wanted him redeemed.
“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”(1:17, emphasis added). God provided Jonah an escape from death, he preserved Jonah’s life, and even though he was stuck in the belly of a huge fish, he was alive. It may have been a miserable three days, but it got Jonah out of deaths grips and back where he needed to be.
Sharon’s time in the deep came too. She dealt with the sin problem but she was still stuck in the same kind of abusive and destructive relationship that she knew since childhood. This time, when the abuse got worse, she considered suicide. Like Jonah, she thought, “I’m going to die, but at least I will be done with this life.” But God did not want Sharon to die, he wanted her to be redeemed. God provided Sharon with something that she did not have the last time she was in this kind of relationship. God provided a family for her; a father in heaven who she now knew to be a loving and caring God, and church family, friends who she knew loved her and would help. And help they did.
Jonah needed some help too, and, as always, God provided. When the whole city of Nineveh repented, Jonah was so filled with anger and self-pity that, again, he wanted to die (4:1-4). “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.” (4:6, emphasis added). But God was not done, “But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.” (4:7). Then Jonah became so angry he wished he was dead (that’s pretty angry). But God provided the plant and the worm so He could provide Jonah a lesson; “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?”’ (4:10-11).
I am proud to say that Sharon found her redemption, not just the redemption of her soul, but also the redemption of her relationship, life, body, and image. She was able to find help at RCM and RCC. She is now out of that relationship and looking for a man who cares more about God than himself, a man who cares about her, and God, enough to wait, to treat her right, and to marry her. She turned to God and her church family rather than taking her life. She is now living alone and is safe. And, God has revealed how precious he believes Sharon to be, which has helped her to find healing and rediscover the image of God that he placed within her. And as great as her story is, like Jonah, Sharon’s story may not even be about her, it may be about those around her who hear her story and turn to God because of it.
In the end, God wants the same thing for a willing and a reluctant spirit, redemption. The truth is, no one, not even Abraham, Joshua, and Samuel were always willing, and Moses and Jonah were not always reluctant, like us, they were some of both. Either way we choose to be, God will accomplish His will. But if we surrender, we will find that God provides opportunities for growth, which, although painful at times, lead to redemption. If we stand in His way, God will still accomplish His will, He may just have to run over us to do it.
Sharon's story is far from over. She is struggling to come out of her past and into the life God wants for her. Please pray for her to have the strength and determination to cling to God rather than harmful relationships.