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Help! What Else Are You Going to Yell When Trapped in the Belly of a Whale?
Floundering around in the water, sinking like a stone, Jonah suddenly found himself inside a huge fish praying to God for help.
I need a little help here
That’s where you start. You don’t begin by trying to work out exactly how God might want to be addressed – “I beseech thee, almighty God, creator of the universe …” You don’t begin by reviewing your own unworthiness and the various sins you’ve committed since you drifted away. There are times when urgency totally eclipses formality.
Return to me
You may be wondering how you’ll ever come back to God. Like Jonah, you might feel you have to face up to doing what he was telling you to do.
Don’t let that deter you. Be honest with yourself and tell God exactly how you feel. Tell him, “I’m afraid of what you might ask of me, but I want to get back into your will. Help me, Lord.”
You could be restored to God as you read these words.
I once knew a man who drifted far away from God. He got into an adulterous relationship and refused to face up to his rebellion. One day he had a heart attack. Lying in the ambulance, he overheard the paramedics saying they didn’t think he’d make it. As he lay there, helpless, he cried out, “God save me!” Though backslidden, like Jonah, he knew enough about God and his mercy to call on him again.
“Help!” is a cry God will not ignore. You could be restored to God as you read these words. Why not cry to him for help even now, at this very moment?
God is Sovereign
Jonah acknowledged that God was behind everything that was happening to him. “You hurled me into the deep,” he said. “All your waves and breakers swept over me” (Jonah 2:3). He knew that God had been pursuing him and he was his captive.
When we become children of God, we are never free agents again. We are never at the mercy of circumstance. We have been bought with a price; we belong to God; we are in his hand. He is our new master and we are his captives.
I’m a slave to you
In his letter to Philemon, Paul didn’t begin, “Paul, a prisoner of the Roman guard …” He wrote, “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Philem. 1:1). In his letter to the Romans, he didn’t say, “Try hard to be slaves of God.” He said, “[you] have become slaves to righteousness … [you] have become slaves to God” (Rom. 6:18, 22).
As a Christian, you’re Christ’s slave. That’s why you feel so desperately uncomfortable when you stray from the will of God. Something in your heart says, “You really shouldn’t be doing this.” The voice belongs to your new owner. He troubles your conscience.
Accept your sentence
As he continued his prayer, Jonah said, “I am driven away from your sight” (Jonah 2:4). “Banished,” the New International Version translates it. Imagine a medieval knight discovered in a plot against the king. He stands before the king who passes sentence, “You’re banished from the land.” Slowly, the full horror of banishment dawns on him. That’s how Jonah felt – not just judged but banished, outside, away from where he ought to be. He didn’t argue against his sentence. On the contrary, he acknowledged the justice of it. “…yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.”
Follow Terry Virgo on Twitter: @terryvirgo