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Games People Play
Jonah 4:1-11

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I hope you've enjoyed our study of Jonah these past few weeks as much as I have. I don't know about you, but I've related to Jonah's mistakes. When he tried to outrun God, I thought of times when I've been out of the Lord's will and resisted His Word. When He conspired with others to try to out row God, I thought of times when my rebellion affected others. As he was sinking to the bottom of the sea, I thought of times when I blamed God and others for problems I created myself. 

Then when he was safe in the fish God prepared, I thought of the many times that God provided for me, even when I didn't know it at the time. When God used Jonah to bring revival to Nineveh, I thought of times when God did great things in spite of me. And when Jonah's prejudice surfaced after the people repented, I was reminded that I often see people differently than God does.

Today, as we conclude our study, let's look at Jonah's severe immaturity that surfaces in the closing words of this book. As we do, we'll observe mind games he plays with God. First, in the beginning verses of chapter 4, Jonah says to God, "If I can't pitch, I'll take my ball and go home!"

Jonah 4:1-2 But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, "Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. (italics added)

Like the Prodigal's brother, those who witnessed Jesus responding to the harlot who poured the costly perfume on his feet, and the workers who labored all day in the parable of the Vineyard, Jonah wanted grace for himself but not for others.

Jonah was the kind of guy that wanted to be in charge of his own destiny-he hadn't learned to submit. He actually thought he could change God's plans! He thought that if he ran to Tarshish, he could stop the flow of God's grace.
Maybe I'm smarter than that-maybe I know that I can't outrun God or stop Him from doing His will, but sometimes, I'll have to admit, I'm tempted to take credit for what God does when I do submit. Really, what's the difference? That's just watching him pitch, but taking credit for the throw.

It would be easy for MVP quarterback Curt Warner to give a "stay with it and pull yourself up by your own boot strap like I did" speech, but he doesn't. According to Warner, much of the credit for his remarkable turn around goes to his wife Brenda, and his relationship to Jesus Christ. 

At a Billy Graham event during the fall of 1999, Warner told the crowd, "It [his success] has nothing to do with how I work out in the off-season, or my diet. The secret of my success is simply Jesus Christ." (From Fresh Illustrations)

When his first mind game,"If I can't pitch, I'll take my ball and go home!" didn't work, Jonah changed games. This time he said, "If I don't get my way, I'll hold my breath 'til I turn blue!"

Jonah 4:3-5 "Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life." 4 And the Lord said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?" 5 Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 

He tells God he would rather die, than see Nineveh live. Wow-that's sick. Did it work? Would God remove his grace from the Ninevehites so his Prophet will be happy? 

Jonah makes himself a shade, gets comfortable then waits to see if God will change his mind and destroy the city. He is concerned with his comfort, but he hopes God will zap others

Did he really think he could force God into changing His mind? Its an old story, perhaps you've heard it before, but Jonah's game playing reminds me of the challenge Ingersoll gave God 

When the infidel Robert G. Ingersoll was delivering his lectures against Christ and the Bible, his oratorical ability usually assured him of a large crowd. One night after an inflammatory speech in which he severely attacked man's faith in the Savior, he dramatically took out his watch and said, "I'll give God a chance to prove that He exists and is almighty. I challenge Him to strike me dead within 5 minutes!" First there was silence, then people became uneasy. Some left the hall, unable to take the nervous strain of the occasion, and one woman fainted. At the end of the allotted time, the atheist exclaimed derisively, "See! There is no God. I am still very much alive!" After the lecture a young fellow said to a Christian lady, "Well, Ingersoll certainly proved something tonight!" Her reply was memorable. " Yes he did," she said. "He proved God isn't taking orders from atheists tonight." 
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