The Problems with Grace – Part 1

Jonah’s Problems With Grace

Jonah Chapter 1

The Problems With Grace Part 1

Nov 1, 2015 AM

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland


I.       Introduction (2Timothy 1:9)


A.    All year long, we have learned about GRACE – God’s kindness directed towards an unworthy, uninterested world.

B.     We have explored how good God was towards:


1.      An angry man like Moses

2.      An unsaved Gentile named Cornelius

3.      The guilty woman caught in adultery

4.      A foreigner named Ruth

5.      A repeating harlot named Gomer

6.      The evil brothers of Joseph who sold him into slavery

7.      The carnal Lot

8.      And then last month, towards great apostle Paul.


C.     God’s grace is simply amazing


1.      It’s kind, when we deserve harshness

2.      It’s patient, when we deserve none

3.      It’s life changing, when WE should be the ones to change

4.      It sacrifices self, for someone else, especially when they are so undeserving

5.      Who wouldn’t WANT to experience God’s grace, and enjoy it every day!!!


D.    We now focus on how some people STRUGGLE with God’s grace – God’s goodness – God’s kindnesses

E.     Notice 2Timothy 1:9, says that God “saved us, and called us … not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace


1.      Why did Jesus save any of us?

2.      Why does He use any of us?

3.      Answer: All according to HIS OWN purpose and grace!

4.      And there is the problem


a.       Oh we want God’s blessings - but on our terms.

b.      We want God’s attention - because of our good works.

c.       We want God to be good to US - but not to others who might be even less worthy of it!


5.      But God’s grace doesn’t work that way!

6.      As we are going to see in the life and struggle of the prophet Jonah with God’s grace


II.    Background on Jonah (Matthew 12:38-41; Jonah 1:1)


A.    A little humour


1.      A Preacher was doing his "Children's Church" sermon where all the youngsters come down front and hear a story.  The pastor was discussing the story of Jonah.  He quoted a few scriptures from Jonah 1 and 2.

2.      "Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice... And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." (Jonah 1:17 -- 2:2, 10)

3.      When the Pastor finished the scripture quotation, he started trying to get input from the youngsters to help him complete his mini-sermon.  He asked thoughtfully, "What does the fish vomiting Jonah out on dry land teach us today?”

4.      One of the youngsters spoke with great enthusiasm for the entire congregation to hear, "It proves, even a fish can't stomach a bad preacher!"


B.     There was a prophet named Jonah  (Jonah 1:1)


1.      He lived and preached a long time ago - about 862 years before the birth of Jesus. That’s nearly 3,000 years ago!

2.      He preached through all of the area around Galilee in North Israel (MAP)

3.      Jonah was a famous name in Israel – He was famous for many things


a.       For being very stubborn, and refusing to do what God had commanded

b.      For having a bad attitude about lost people

c.       For surviving in a whale’s belly for three days and three nights


4.      Yet, he was most famous for preaching the greatest revival meeting of all time – in the capital city of Nineveh, where there were 600,000 pagan, Gentile sinners converted, and saved from God’s coming judgment!

5.      862 years later, when people asked Jesus for a miraculous sign to prove that He was the Messiah (Jesus had already done many miracles, and proved it countless times already), Jesus instantly reminded them of Jonah (Mt 12:38-41).

6.      This is no fish story – it is an example of God’s grace in so many different ways!


C.    There was a massive empire, called Assyria (MAP)


1.      It’s capital city was Nineveh – 600 miles away from Jerusalem

2.      The Ninevites were PAGAN People!


a.       Built massive, pagan temples, Ziggurats – huge pyramids for human and animal sacrifices (GRAPHIC)

b.      Multitude of gods and goddesses – From Fish-gods, to evil gods like Marduk (PIC)

c.       There was no good afterlife in their religion - only eternal darkness at death. Everything that was good had to be gotten in this life!


3.      The Ninevites were Wicked People


a.       They lived as wickedly as Sodom and Gomorrah in their cities and homes

b.      They were brutal – their greatest weapon of war was terror! When the Ninevites captured a city they slaughtered all the leading citizens. When I say slaughtered, They stretched men out flat on the ground and tied their hands and feet to stakes and literally, with a knife, skinned them alive. They made pyramids out of human skulls to mark the route the conquerors had taken.

c.       They hated God, and they hated God’s people, the Jews! Constantly attacking and destroying entire cities and villages throughout Israel


4.      The Ninevites were Enemies of Israel


a.       They were an expanding empire – taking over countries all around little Israel (MAP)

b.      They had repeatedly marched through the area around Israel and Judah and slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews on their way to Egypt

c.       They didn’t care whether they killed men, women, children or infants

d.      As long as every nation feared them, the Ninevites were happy!

e.       Jonah had watched his own nation being chastened and judged by God at the hands of the Ninevites, and he hated the Ninevites for doing it!


5.      The Ninevites were a Condemned People


a.       You will only live that way for so long before your sin catches up with you!

b.      Every nation has a period of time that where they seem to grow and expand, but at some point will have to give account to God, and be judged for how they lived

c.       Assyria (Nineveh was the capital) had become the greatest empire of its day

d.      But they were rapidly decaying, and would soon be judged by God

e.       It was at this time, God wanted to warn them through Jonah of the impending judgment


III. Message


A.    Jonah’s Calling (Jonah 1:2)


1.      He was Called to Go to Nineveh


a.       That’s didn’t make sense – he already had a calling – to get Israel to repent and get right with God

b.      And he was doing pretty good at it


1)      He was well known

2)      He was comfortable doing what he was doing

3)      He was not in any danger preaching

4)      He preached in lovely small country towns and villages around the Sea of Galilee

5)      You couldn’t ask for a better calling!


2.      And now, here he was being directed to go 600 miles away to leave his village ministry, and go to a massive capital city, full of blood-thirsty pagans who were explicitly the ENEMIES of God and Israel!


a.       Travelling 600 miles would take over a month one-way!

b.      All to go and warn some unworthy people of the coming wrath of God

c.       Warn them that their wickedness will soon be judged!

d.      To give them a chance, an opportunity to repent and be spared God’s justice!


B.     Jonah’s Choice (Jonah 1:3)


1.      He made a choice to go the completely opposite way – to Tarshish in southern Spain (MAP)


a.       He is pretty instant in his decision to NOT do God’s will

b.      That ‘but’ in verse 3 popped out far too quick!

c.       Nineveh was about 600 miles northeast

d.      Tarshish was about 2,500 miles due west

e.       Tarshish was the furthest port people sailed to before turning back


2.      Step by step, he determined to get away from Nineveh


a.       Went down to the main shipping port of Joppa

b.      Found a strong, sturdy ship sailing (well,what do you know…) for Tarshish


1)      This was no dingy – it was a massive sailing vessel that was well used to travelling the entire length and breadth of the Mediterranean Sea


c.       Paid for the travel ticket


1)      Probably a one-way ticket

2)      Probably a very expensive ticket


d.      Settled into his little cubby hole in the ship, and prepared for the long journey


3.      What was Jonah doing?


a.       Quitting! Plain and simple!

b.      Jonah Threw Everything Away – Rejected God’s Will

c.       Why?


1)      Because something didn’t make sense to him

2)      That is why most people won’t trust God and the Bible – it doesn’t make perfect sense all the time!

3)      It actually goes AGAINST us


4.      Where did he think he was going?


a.       Not just getting as far away from Nineveh as possible

b.      But getting as far away from God’s pressure as possible -

c.       As far away from the will of God as possible

d.      Is that even possible?

e.       Was Jonah THAT stupid? To think that God was already in Tarshish?

f.       No. But when you are upset at God, you don't think right (Ps 139:7-10) – you just want to run!


C.    Jonah’s Storm (Jonah 1:4-6)


1.      God began to bring pressure on Jonah


a.       For every ‘but’ of man, there is a bigger ‘but’ of God “BUT God…”

b.      Had started with just a still small voice

c.       Now, God used a Storm

d.      Next, God will use Embarrassment

e.       Then finally God will use a Whale!


2.      No ordinary storm – GOD sent this storm!


a.       As Jonah travelled the Mediterranean Sea, a storm blew in, and started beating against that strong, sturdy sailing vessel – smashing against it with ever higher waves and stronger winds

b.      It was a MAJOR storm – a kind of hurricane in the Mediterranean – Euroclydon

c.       It was smashing against the ship, and starting to crack it and break it into pieces!

d.      It began to sink!


3.      All the sailors were panicking


a.       Franticly trying to brace the ship, and reinforce the sides, and hold the ship together or else they were all going to DIE!

b.      And every one of those pagan, ungodly men became very religious in that storm


1)      Started crying out to the gods that they had been taught about – grew up with

2)      Started repenting, and promising their gods to be better men, and to give more of their time to doing good things instead of evil


c.       But the storm only grew worse

d.      And so the sailors started throwing the boxes and crates overboard to lighten the ship


4.      And where was Jonah?


a.       Jonah just slept on

b.      Didn't bother him – he didn’t care

c.       He would rather put up with anything else as long as he did not have to go to Nineveh!


D.    Jonah’s Problem (Jonah 1:7-11)


1.      Jonah KNEW exactly why all this was happening


a.       Jonah had been silent up to this point

b.      Just stayed out of the way

c.       He wasn’t about to “own up” to all the danger that he had put everyone in

d.      Until the men saw all the facts point to Jonah

e.       And they demanded of him, what had he DONE to bring this disaster on them!


2.      Jonah finally admits to everyone what GOD was doing


a.       I am a Hebrew

b.      I fear Jehovah – I am in trouble with Him.

c.       You see, My God is the God of HEAVEN (the God of the storms)

d.      And the Creator of everything that there is – the sea and the dry land

e.       And I am running away, fleeing from God’s presence (as if that was possible)

f.       But I fear He has caught up with me!


3.      And THAT terrified those sailors

4.      But there was ONE question Jonah did NOT answer


a.       WHY? Why are you running from your God?

b.      Funny isn’t it, that other people can see our own stubbornness and stupidity, and we can’t


E.     Jonah is a Mess (Jonah 1:12-15)


1.      Jonah USED to be soft towards the will of God – when it suited him (2Kings 14)


a.       He enjoyed being used of God

b.      He enjoyed watching God’s word humble men and women, and get them to turn back to God just by his preaching and praying in those small villages and towns around Galilee

c.       But not anymore!


2.      Jonah had now decided to fiercely fight God’s will – resisted God’s clear words to him!


a.       He let his own feelings, pride, frustrations, anger, bitterness, and bad attitudes make him hard, and cold towards God’s word, and towards preaching, and towards souls!

b.      He ended up resisting all the pressures from God to do His will


1)      The Spirit of God speaking IN him

2)      The storm from GOD that had come AGAINST him

3)      The sinking ship around him

4)      Nothing moved Jonah – nothing changed Jonah’s attitude now


c.       Jonah would rather have DIED than do what God told him to do!
Talk about a stubborn man!


3.      Jonah was a mess!


F.     Yet even in this first chapter, in the belly of a whale, Jonah has experienced God’s Amazing Grace


1.      Gave Jonah a great calling! God graciously gave JONAH (not another prophet) the job of preaching a city-wide revival – that’s cool! A Missionary’s call. God could have called anyone, but in His grace, he picked unwilling, unworthy Jonah! THAT’S grace!

2.      Allowed Jonah to run for a while away from God – to learn he cannot live without God

3.      Protected Jonah in the storm

4.      Gave Jonah some souls saved! Jonah ‘Accidently’ converts an entire boatload of sinful, pagan sailors! (1:14-16)


a.       Without even trying

b.      And with a bad attitude – even a death wish!


IV. Jonah’s Problems with Grace


A.    Jonah has about a dozen problems with God’s Grace – with God’s goodness towards people!


1.      Not with God’s goodness and kindnesses toward HIMSELF

2.      Or towards God’s own people. The Israelites

3.      No.

4.      His problem was when God showed GRACE towards those MORE unworthy!!!


B.     You wouldn’t believe ANYONE would have a problem with God being good and kind towards people

C.    But in the Bible you have several


1.      Jonah is one – doesn’t want any grace shown towards the Ninevites!

2.      The prodigal’s older brother (Luke 15:11-30)

3.      The Pharisees (Luke 5:30; 15:2)

4.      The goodman of a household that gave people better wages than they earned (Mt 20:8-12)

5.      Grace is NEVER fair! THANK GOD!


D.    Here are just a few problems Jonah had with Grace – maybe YOU have some of these:


1.      Jonah was not ignorant of the grace and goodness of God – he intensely appreciated it when it was poured out on himself and his people. He just did not like it wasted on unworthy people!

2.      God’s Grace sees the need of the Ninevites to repent before it is too late!


a.       Jonah did not think the Ninevites deserved the chance to repent and be spared judgment

b.      Remember, he hated them for all they had done to his people, and even his family


3.      Grace was opening opportunities for pagan Gentiles to get saved – GENTILE DOGS!


a.       While Jonah was only interested in JEWS having an exclusive relationship with God

b.      Jonah only saw the Jews as God’s people, and then everyone else as Dogs

c.       Grace sees everyone the same – as lost! Whether Jew or Gentile!

d.      As the apostle Paul wrote in Rom 3:22,23 “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God


4.      Grace seeks the lost, warns the uninterested, and loves the enemies of God (Luke 19:10; John 1:10-12)


a.       Jonah just could NOT understand any of that

b.      To Jonah, that is extreme!

c.       It was NOT the kind of grace that Jonah wanted to preach and live by

d.      These Ninevites were the enemies of God (Romans 5:6,8,10; Eph 2:12,13)


5.      Grace uses the people that don’t want to be used


a.       You think that is cruel

b.      But God thinks it is awesome to use EVERYBODY!

c.       Why would you think that God only uses people that find it easy to do what He asks?

d.      There are very few of those – thank God for those

e.       The rest of us have to be convinced that God knows what He is doing

f.       Jonah was willing to do God’s will as long as:


1)      It was easy – preaching to his own people, in his own language was acceptable to him

2)      As long as it made sense – obviously Jonah would preach and warn his own people

3)      As long as it was something he already wanted to do – which is what MOST OF US think too!


6.      Grace sacrifices good people’s feelings and even lives, to save bad people


a.       Jonah – God didn’t care about JONAH’S feelings about things

b.      Jesus – he saved others, Himself He cannot save!

c.       Have you noticed that when you live for the Lord, your life sometimes is spread more thinly and your hardships more hurtful than the people you are trying to win to Christ?

d.      God burdens the hurting with a call to go and love and offer second chances to those who have hurt you!


7.      Grace won’t let us quit


a.       Jonah did not want to be forced to do what God said do

b.      Thought he could just quit, and everything would be fine

c.       But grace doesn’t let us quit, folks!

d.      You can’t just quit folks!

1)      Can’t just quit being a parent, a wife, or a husband

2)      You can’t just quit being a Christian because it has gotten hard, or “complex”


8.      Grace doesn’t let us stay the way we are – is always working on us and in us


a.       Jonah didn’t think HE needed to change

b.      Did not want to get right HIMSELF

c.       You see, Jonah needed to repent of his hard heart

d.      He only wanted everyone else to repent, but not himself


V.    Invitation


A.    God’s focus was bigger than Jonah’s


1.      Jonah just cared about the small villages and towns around Galilee

2.      God cared about an evil Empire


B.     Do YOU have any of the same problems with God’s Grace?


1.      Do you hate grace when it seems like it is wasted on unworthy people, like your neighbours who seem to not have a problem in the world, while you struggle just to breathe under the pressures you are facing?

2.      Do you reject the grace of God that calls us to go to the ungodly and encourage them to repent before it is too late?


a.       Remember, Jonah did not think the Ninevites deserved the chance to repent and be spared judgment

b.      Who do YOU think is undeserving of God’s forgiveness and salvation from the wrath to come?


3.      Do you despise it when God allows unworthy people to be in charge of our lives?

4.      Do you only worry and pray for your family, and your own kind of people? When there are people, countless millions around the world who hate you and hate God, but need to be warned, before it is too late!

5.      Do you run from God because he doesn’t make perfect sense?


a.       Grace seeks the lost, warns the uninterested, and loves the enemies of God

b.      Remember that God, because of His kindness, went after YOU even though YOU were not seeking Him!


6.      Will you finally accept that Grace uses the people that don’t want to be used?


a.       God thinks it is awesome to use EVERYBODY!

b.      Why would you think that God only uses people that find it easy to do what He asks?

c.       Don’t be like Jonah, who was only willing to do God’s will as long as:


1)      It was easy – preaching to his own people, in his own language was acceptable to him

2)      As long as it made sense – obviously Jonah would preach and warn his own people

3)      As long as it was something he already wanted to do – which is what MOST OF US think too!


7.      Will you allow God in His grace sacrifice good people’s feelings (YOUR feelings) and even our lives, to save bad people?

8.      Folks, Grace won’t let us quit! One of the ways you know you are born again, is God won’t let go of you!!!

9.      Don’t you hate it that Grace won’t let us stay the way we are – is always working on us and in us


a.       WE need to change

b.      WE need to get right OURSELVES


C.    Let God’s Grace work in you  - no matter where you are at


1.      Wicked and Unsaved – like the Ninevites, about to face the righteous wrath of almighty God

2.      Religious and Unsaved – like those sailors

3.      Stubborn and hard hearted – like Jonah

4.      Let God have His way with you!