Whale of a Tale: Don’t Ignore God

Have you ever wondered what the inside of a whale looks like or smells like?

Probably not. And if you were inside of a whale you probably couldn’t see much unless you attached one of those head lights people wear when they go down in caves. Even then, I’m not sure you’d want to see the inside of a whale, let alone smell it.

Today kicks off the first Take Up the Challenge Monday! This month we’ll focus on listening challenges.

I’m about to talk about a man who spent 3 days and 3 nights inside the belly of a whale. Now the Bible doesn’t exactly mention a whale, that’s a common myth actually, but a whale serves my point, plus it makes for a clever, if not a little cliched, title.

Background

Jonah was an Israelite prophet who was called by God to take a message to some very wicked people in a city called Ninevah. This would be like God calling you to go someplace crazy like the hangout place of the Russian Mafia to preach the Good News. You’d be scared out of your mind. Could you do it?

Jonah was probably afraid but he probably also felt put-out. He was probably thinking, “Why do all these other prophets get to go talk to nice Jewish people in Israel and Judea, but I have to go someplace like Ninevah? This is so stupid, God.”

Maybe not quite like that, but you get the point. So Jonah ran away from God, and jumped ship to Tarshish. While out at sea, God caused a great storm to come upon the ship, and the sailors became afraid and were throwing stuff overboard. Jonah immediately knew it was his fault they were going to drown at sea so he volunteered to be thrown over. At first, the men tried to do it on their own and row back to shore, but the storm kept getting worse and worse. Finally, fearful of the Lord and for their lives, the sailors threw Jonah overboard. And Jonah was swallowed up by a “huge fish” (for all intents and purposes, it could have easily been a whale) and stayed there for 3 days and 3 nights. Read Jonah’s story in Jonah 1-2.

Talk about hospitality! I’m sure Jonah had the best of accommodations – slept on a feather down bed on Vera Wang sheets, had steak and lobster  while having access to his favorite television programs and his Facebook account. Nope! It was probably pretty dismal and scary for Jonah inside the belly of a large fish. He probably spent a lot of time wondering why he didn’t listen to God.

Now a man being swallowed by a whale and living there for 3 days and 3 nights because God put him there sounds really fishy… maybe even a bit like a fairy tale. But God put this story in His Word for a reason, and the Bible is the infallible Word of God, every word God breathed.

Now I’m not saying you’ll end up as whale food if you don’t listen to God. But the Bible is pretty clear about the consequences to those who do not listen to Him, who run away from Him, and who do not seek the Lord. It can be pretty painful and scary. Look at the lives of some of the people in the Bible. Adam and Eve? Sin entered the world, work, childbirth, marriage, and creation were cursed to name just a few things. David and Bathsheba? Their first child conceived outside of marriage died. Judas Iscariot? He betrayed Jesus and then he killed himself. These are intense consequences.

How Do We Listen to God 

These days God doesn’t exactly come down out of the sky and walk in our front doors and settle on the couch to say, “Hannah, I have a life plan for you and here’s what it is.” God doesn’t just pop by for an unexpected visit with details about everything you’re supposed to do in your life. He doesn’t exactly pick up His cell phone to give us a call whenever we’re straying from the path He designed for us. So how do we know what God is really saying to us?

1) Open yourself up to listen to God. The things of the world weigh in on us and we get distracted, busy, worried, stressed, anxious, and apathetic. Cut out the distractions and set aside time for you and God.

2) Spend time in His Word. Jesus says in Matthew 4 that we cannot live on physical food alone and that we must also live on the words that proceed out of God’s mouth. Do this by reading the Bible! Start with reading 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

3) Be guided by the Holy Spirit. We’re not alone. God has given us His Spirit to guide us. Read the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 or about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 for more insight and evidence of the Holy Spirit working in your life.

4) Look at His creation. God has given us a beautiful portrait of Himself that we can see through the created world. Take time to appreciate the lessons of nature.

5) Look to the life of Jesus. How did Jesus live? What did Jesus teach while He was on earth? What were Jesus’ final words to His disciples in Matthew 28?

6) Seek godly counsel. Read Proverbs 12:15. Weigh advice against what the Scriptures say and what the Spirit of God confirms in your heart.

“Get to know God in the silence of your mind, the quiet of your heart.” *Photo Credit: Alicia

This Week’s Challenge

Open yourself up to hear the Lord. Rid yourself of distractions. Set aside a few minutes each day to just sit quietly and listen. What do you hear? Read Psalm 42. Meditate on 2-3 verses a day for this week (for 5 days). Notice the emphasis on verse 10 “Be still and know that I am God.” Make this your life verse for the week. Get to know God in the silence of your mind, the quiet of your heart. I encourage you to journal your thoughts and prayers from this week’s challenge.

Drop a Line: How is God speaking to you?

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