BY JOSEPH BRAZIL
Ask any child in Sunday School what they’re favorite Bible story is and you’ll probably hear the same answer. Moses parting the Red Sea, Jesus walking on water, or the walls of Jericho falling down, are all likely top choices. But one reigns supreme.
Jonah and the big fish.
Even as an adult this account perplexes me. It’s really an awesome example of how important we are in God’s service. For those a little sketchy on the story’s details, here’s the unofficial Cliffnotes version. Jonah was called by the Lord to go minister to the abominable city of Nineveh, but Jonah refused to obey and took matters into his own hands, paying cash for a fare on a boat headed for sea. The Lord created a storm and threatened to sink the ship. The crew ends up throwing Jonah overboard and the seas grew calm again. Jonah is then swallowed by a huge fish. He has a change of heart and cries out to God who has mercy on him and has the fish spit him onto dry land.
Long story short, Jonah goes to Nineveh and the entire city repents and turns to the Lord.
I think you’d agree we’ve all had “Jonah moments,” those times when we clearly feel God convicting us to answer His calling. I want to say I’ve always made the right decision in those situations, but I haven’t and there have been times when I’ve opted to ignore or flee, as Jonah, thinking I can evade God’s plan.
Here’s an example. I went to college to become a high school history or English teacher. I graduated and landed my first job teaching English. After a few years I began having serious doubts about whether or not this was what I wanted. The grass was suddenly greener on the other side. Never mind how God had led me into the profession and had opened doors for me that I couldn’t ignore were only due to His divine ability. I wrestled for several months about staying and following after the plan He had for me. It was a frightening time, the same to a degree as Jonah must have felt, seeing the stormy seas around him.
At the time, I was about ready to quit teaching altogether. I didn’t want to be disturbed from what I wanted: to abandon teaching and start a new career. But God had other ideas. He confirmed to me an alternative to teaching high school, and, frankly, I was scared to stay the course, not knowing what the end result looked like.
I’ve always been an “I have to have everything laid out in front of me” person. As hard as I tried ignoring Him, I knew what I had to do.
If you’d told me after I graduated high school I would one day be teaching elementary students I literally would have laughed in your face. I’ve just begun my fifth year teaching elementary students this month. In that time, God has revealed to me many blessings, and has shown me the reason why He led me away from what I thought I wanted. It’s been a worthwhile sacrifice, even if I had to give up teaching students Shakespeare and Tolstoy in exchange for ten and eleven year olds whose literary interests go about as far as Captain Underpants and Origami Yoda.
I still wrestle with balancing what I want versus what God has called me to do. But the heaviest counterweight to my doubt is the peace He has given me, something the Apostle Paul writes about in Philippians 4:7:
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The truth is we don’t always know the why, who, or what when God calls us to move in a given direction. I, for one, am glad I don’t know the finer details, because my human nature would only foul it up. What I do know is God’s will is perfect. He’s never late and He’s never early.
He’s always right on time.
One of my favorite musicians said in an interview once how life is happening right now. There’s no warm up for the things about to come.
In our Christian walk, we have to be ready each day for God’s designed purpose.
Pray with me this week and ask the Lord to make these services known to us so we would have the strength and confidence to follow.
Joseph Brazil is a teacher from eastern New Mexico. He enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, watching sports, and studying blues guitar. He is a student of history, and likes sharing with his wife in a good period-piece flick. You can find him on Twitter at @blackdog575.