What is my role and how far do I get involved?
While studying and writing recently on the book of Revelation, I asked myself, “if the world is falling apart anyways, will what I do make a difference”? How can I make a difference and how should I be living as a Christ follower in today’s culture?
Why Care Now?
In today’s culture, the direction that the world is going, appears worse than ever. Sin is ugly, it is today and always has been. Throughout the Old Testament in the Bible, there is one story after another of sinful cultures. Did some of these people believe that they were nearing the end of time although Christ had not yet been born yet?
Then in the New Testament, believers wondered when they would be raptured to heaven. I’m sure that they wondered if they were looking at the “end times.” But here we are as believers more than 2,000 years later and many of us see some prophesies that have now been fulfilled since then. We see more and more sin and complacency. Scripture that tells us what people will be like in the end times certainly seems so real, such as the way that our children will be like and what the world will act like.
Our church is going through messages in the book of Jonah. Also, I watched an online video with my grandchildren just yesterday that told the story of Jonah. Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah and preach against their great wickedness. He went in the opposite direction, going far, far away from where God told him to go. His plan was to go 2500 miles in the opposite direction to a land that spoke a different language just to avoid what God told him to do.
Jonah got on a ship, on his run away from what God told him to do. There was a horrible storm and while others called out to his god to stop the storm, Jonah didn’t. All the people on the ship wondered who was responsible for this storm and, ultimately, Jonah took the blame because he knew that he did not follow God and His plan. Jonah offered to jump off the ship, but others did not want to be responsible for killing him Finally, they threw Jonah overboard.
Jonah Recognizes His Wrongdoing
A great fish that was prepared by God swallowed Jonah. Jonah prayed to God saying,
“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry…
His prayer went on for a while, but Jonah recognized his need to honor and obey God. He remembered the Lord and realized that it was the Lord who brought him out of the pit that he was in. Jonah says that he will make good on the vow he made to the Lord and he recognizes the sin of the people of Ninevah and their need for salvation.
Ninevah Finally Listens And Repents
I find the third and fourth chapters of Jonah particularly applicable to our day. God told Jonah, for the second time, to go to Ninevah. He learned his lesson from last time, and went. Finally, Jonah arrived in Ninevah and began preaching to them as God had told him. They listened and repented (changed their minds and behavior). To show their repentance, they even put on sackcloth and fasted as well. Even the king of Ninevah put on sackcloth and sat in the dust because of his realization of his sin against God. They recognized that they did wrong and the king proclaimed to the Ninevites:
By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.
God saw their repentance and relented, so He didn’t do what He threatened was coming to them for their evil.
Jonah Is Upset At God’s Plan And Process
Chapter four explains how upset Jonah was that God worked in the Ninevites lives. The Lord told him to go and warn them of their evil but Jonah did not listen and ran away. It was when Jonah returned from running away and preached like He told Jonah to that people repented and turned to God.
The process wasn’t smooth. Jonah didn’t understand why God told him to do this when the Ninevites were evil and he didn’t see them willing to repent. But God told Jonah to go to them and Jonah just ran away. Then God got his attention the second time around even though Jonah took the long way around before people began to repent. He had to get his heart right before God so that God would use him in the Ninevites lives.
This happens with us sometimes, doesn’t it? We can go far from doing God’s will before we come back and listen, then we finally get to see fruit in other peoples lives.
Jonah Is Angry
Finally, Jonah told God to take his life because he would be better off dead! He was angry at how God handled the situation with Ninevah. He was angry that God brought the Ninevites to repentance and forgave them. The Lord replied, “Is this right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went into the city and sat down in the shade. God even provided a large leafy plant for him to keep him cool and shaded.
I see how God used this as an illustration for Jonah. The plant withered and died. So now, there was no more shade from the plant that God provided for Jonah. A worm ate the plant, and Jonah felt sick and wanted to die again! Jonah seemed very bitter, angry, depressed and suicidal because things didn’t work out the way Jonah had envisioned they should be even though he could clearly see the work of God in the events. Then God replies to Jonah about the plant, “is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” Jonah says, “it is” and by the way God, I am so angry still that I want to die!”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
God Loved Ninevah
It is clear that God Himself loved and cared for Ninevah enough to send them someone to share His word with them and warn them that if they continued in their current direction, He would have to destroy them. His intent was for Jonah to be the one to tell them about their sin and their need for a Savior. Jonah ran away, and God brought him back. The message that God had for Jonah was that Jonah looked at himself as somehow better than those people who God sent him to help. Jonah was so wrapped up in his own righteousness that he felt he could condemn them outside of God’s plan.
What Will We Do? How Should We Be Involved?
What will we do when God tells us to share His Word? How do we look at the people He has called us to impact for Him? Will we run away, go so far away, unwilling to share even with wicked people or will we listen to God, follow Him and be part of what God does in peoples lives?
So, how and to what extent are born-again Christians to be involved in the world today, if the world is getting worse and “won’t change anyhow”? This is a serious, deep question that I believe we need to ask ourselves. What does God require of us? And what does He want us to do? Do I have the same love for the unlovable that God does, even beyond my own self-righteousness?
Paul Is Torn, Yet He Knows That He Must Remain
In Philippians 1:20-26, Paul states that he doesn’t know what he should choose and he was torn between these two options. He desired to “depart and be with Christ.” but he also knew that the church in Phillipi needed him and the ministry that he was part of.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
But So Much Evil Persists
We see so much evil in the world, like school shootings such as at Uvalde, crime in general, people standing in front of Supreme Court Justices homes, threatening to kill them and their family, if they make a decision regarding abortion that they do not like and agree with. And war ravages Europe.
Some people believe that the world is getting better since we have bigger, greater technology and advances in medicine and science. The world may appear like it is improving, but for what? We really don’t know how long we, as believers, in Christ will be around. Certainly we will be thankful as long as we are around, that science finds a cure to Cancer, Covid or other illnesses.
But Does The World Change For The Better?
Then there are those who say, “well, we are finally accepting people for who they believe they really are.” Is this good though? There is a huge difference though between caring about people who haven’t discovered who they are and may truthfully be confused and parading around in front of young children, taking them to bars and introducing them to immorality; while celebrating and promoting the choice to change their gender. They hardly know who they are and can’t make such a drastic decision at a young age.
Be Involved According To How He Has Gifted You
I believe for those who are able to be involved politically, they should do so; but politics isn’t going to change unbelieving hearts and politics never saved anyone from an eternity in heaven. We have no idea when Christ will return for us. He expects us though to live today and stand for Him. Live wisely! Our hope for eternity is based on our relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. This is amazing hope!
Have an eternal focus! Look at Esther’s life! She was there “For such a time as this”
Moses was a leader that God chose. He chose Abraham as well. Look at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.
In all these examples, God had a plan for imperfect, broken people to reach out and love other imperfect and broken people to change them for eternity. Consider what God wants from you and who He has called you to reach:
- First, we don’t know how we will impact people and who we will impact; but we know we will have an impact (for good or evil)
- Be obedient to God the first time, and don’t wait like Jonah did. Thankfully, Jonah did follow God and preached the second time
- God knows who we will impact even if we don’t and He knows whose lives will change as a result. He doesn’t expect to know the hearts of others or what will happen. He wants us to be faithful to do what He calls us to do
- Then, don’t fear. Don’t blame God either for the way He chooses to work His plan. His ways are not our ways and He knows better than we do!
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