Date Posted: April 30th, 2012
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it…” Jonah 1:1-2
Put yourself in Jonah’s shoes. He has a successful ministry among God’s people. He has a good life in a good place doing good work. And now the word of the Lord disturbs his comfortable life. Our culture says “Live your dream,” but God has a way of disturbing our dreams.
We all have hopes and dreams of what our lives will be. We have plans for our families. We have plans for our finances. We have plans for our futures. Then God breaks into the plan—a child is born, a loved one dies, the market crashes, you lose your job, and suddenly your life is not what you thought or what you planned.
When God stepped into Jonah’s plan, his heart was revealed. Jonah’s self-centeredness was hidden under the surface of his successful ministry, but it was exposed when God called him to leave something old and to start something new.
If your plan becomes more important than God’s
Jonah ran away from the Lord. Jonah 1:3
Jonah knew he couldn’t escape God’s presence. What he is running from is God’s call. When he gets in the boat, he is giving up being a prophet. He is resigning from the work God called him to do. He is saying, in effect, “There are other things to do in life besides bringing the Word of the Lord. I’m quitting this ministry. I’m going to make a new life in Tarshish.”
Jonah planned where he wanted to live and what he wanted to do, and when God disrupted his plan, he quit. If your plan becomes more important than God’s plan, you cannot live a God centered-life. What if God wants you in another place? What if God calls you to a different life for the sake of people who need to hear the Gospel?
How can I cultivate a God-centered life?
1. Recognize that whatever you are doing now is only for a time
The world wants you to believe that everything is stable, secure and permanent. But it is not so. The home where you live is yours for a time. The work that you do is yours for a time. The people you love are yours for a time. One day, your home will be lived in by others. One day, your work will be continued by others. One day, your money will belong to others.
James says, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). David says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Hold lightly to what you are doing now. It will not be forever.
2. Keep your dreams on the altar of God
I have hopes and dreams for the future, we all do. But we have no rights. There are no certainties. God is free, at any time, to disturb your dream and to give you a completely new calling. So, keep your dreams on the altar of God.
None of us knows the sovereign purpose of God, but because God is always at work, it is reasonable to assume that while He planned for you to be where you are today, His plan may have you in a different place a year from now. A year from now, you may be with Christ. A year from now, you may be worshipping in another location. A year from now, God may have you in another part of the world, doing something you never imagined yourself doing.
If God should call you to something new, it will be a defining moment for you, “Lord, help me keep my dreams on Your altar. Don’t let me be like Jonah. Don’t let me get so comfortable in my home, with my friends, in my ministry that I would be unwilling to do something completely different for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the lost, for the sake of the Gospel.”
3. Practice making yourself available to God
The more comfortable you are, the more difficult it will be to obey God’s call to something new. When you love what you do, when you are happy in your life, when everything seems to be going well, it is really hard to keep your heart in a place where you can say to the Lord, “If there’s something else you want me to do, I’m willing to do it.”
Have you ever honestly asked if God wants you on the mission field? Have you explored whether there is some way He could use the gifts He gave you in cross-cultural ministry? When you think about your career, what you do when your children are at school and when you think about your retirement, have you come before the Lord and asked how you can be most useful to Him? Or it is just all about you? Practice making yourself available to God.
This LifeKey is based on the message “Resist God’s Call to Something New,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, from the series, “How to Avoid a God-Centered Life!” preached on January 11, 2009.