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Games People Play
Jonah 4:1-11


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." (Copied)

When the first mind game,"If I can't pitch, I'll take my ball and go home!" didn't work, Jonah changed games, he said, "If I don't get my way, I'll hold my breath 'til I turn blue!" And when that mind game backfired on him, he said, "I'm going to be mad, even if it kills me!"

Jonah 4:9 Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." The truth is, this is no game, anger can kill. It may not be as quick as an automatic weapon, but it is just as deadly. In the introduction to their book Anger Kills, Williams & Williams say: "getting angry is like taking a small dose of some slow-acting poison--arsenic, for example--every day of your life. (p. vii )

When Steve Tran of Westminster, California, closed the door after activating twenty-five bug bombs, he thought he had seen the last of the cockroaches that shared his apartment. When the spray reached the pilot light of the stove, it ignited, blasting his screen door across the street, breaking all his windows, and setting his furniture ablaze.

"I really wanted to kill all of them," he said. "I thought if I used a lot more, it would last 

longer." According to the label, just two canisters of the fumigant would have solved Tran's roach problem.

The blast caused over $10,000 damage to his apartment building. And the cockroaches? Tran reported, "By Sunday, I saw them walking around."

Anger is one letter short of danger. Don't blow your screen door off trying to deal with a 

cockroach irritation in life.-(From Fresh Illustrations))

Ephes. 4:26 says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,"

Besides that, how many of you like being around angry people?

How did God respond to Jonah's games? 

God shows loving patience. Remember, He cared for Jonah even while he ran, but apparently, Jonah didn't see His care, so God illustrates His nature to Jonah

Jonah 4:6-8 So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day, and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 And it came about when the sun came up that God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life." 

Then God gets the last word.

Jonah 4:10-11 Then the Lord said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work, and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 "And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

This book we've been studying isn't about Jonah, though it bears his name, and it isn't about me, though I've related to the story-it is a book about God! A God who demands righteousness. A God who tells His prophets what to do, and won't take no for an answer. A God that controls the winds and the waves and the fish of the sea. A God that can hurl a great wind and prepare a great fish. A God that can sustain a life in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights. A God that will hear the cries of a pagan nation and forgive them. A God that takes time to teach his errant prophets.

And He is a God that can use the story of a rebellious man to teach the greatest lesson of all.

"For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." ( Matthew 12:40 KJV)

No, this isn't a story about Jonah at all-It is a story of a God that can do the impossible and that takes notice of great cities and lousy prophets-and you, and me.

Today is the time to stop playing mind games with God, and submit to Him. It is time to accept His will for our lives and submit to Him, it is time to live out a gracious life that is empowered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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