There is a cycle of life, “death,” and new life God intends for your good!
The other day I walked past my flower garden and saw three monarch butterflies enjoying the nectar from the marigolds and mums. I marveled at their beauty and took tons of pictures! I love the life cycle butterflies go through. There is so much to learn and ponder from it. From a tiny egg, to a caterpillar, to a cocoon, to a butterfly!
The life, “death,” and new life the butterfly experiences can be applied to so many situations you face in life as well.
In writing my story I’ve felt like a caterpillar creeping along. It has been a struggle to make it a priority in my life. I realize the struggle is in my thoughts, the battle between believing that I really have something important to write and believing it’s a waste of time. My doubt gives reason to fill my time with other things that seem to be more important. Other things that have quicker results.
Those butterflies were a reminder that God uses a similar cycle in my life to accomplish His will.
Life, “Death,” New Life!
And that cycle reminds me of Jonah.
When God called him to go and announce His judgement on the city of Nineveh, he didn’t want to do what God asked him to and boarded a ship sailing in the opposite direction.
Jonah thought he could out run God.
Jonah thought he could escape God’s calling.
But, the relentless love of God chased after Jonah!
God caused a powerful storm that threatened to break the ship apart and all the sailors prayed to their gods for help and lightened the ship by throwing cargo into the sea.
Meanwhile, Jonah slept in the hold of the ship!
The captain couldn’t believe Jonah was sleeping through all the commotion and told him to pray to his god for help.
Jonah’s disobedience to God didn’t only affect him, it affected those who were near him.
Once lots were drawn and Jonah was found out the sailors didn’t know what to do with him. They were in danger of losing their lives all because Jonah was running from God.
“What should we do with you to stop this storm?”
Jonah realized he needed to die so they would live.
He told them to throw him overboard and the storm would calm.
The sailors didn’t want to throw him to his death. They tried rowing harder, they prayed to the Lord, Jonah’s God. They pleaded that they not die for Jonah’s sins, but also, that God wouldn’t hold them responsible for his death.
What the enemy means for harm, God intends for good!
And so, they picked Jonah up and threw him over board and at once the storm stopped. They immediately believed in God, offered Him sacrifices, and promised to serve Him.
If the story ended there Jonah’s life had purpose. He gave testimony that his God was the True God, maker of land and sea. He told his story that he was running from God and the storm was because of his disobedience. And Jonah prophesied that by throwing him into the sea, the storm would stop.
And because of Jonah’s message all the sailors put their faith in the One True God!
The very message God sent him to tell Nineveh; God’s judgement was coming to destroy them, came upon Jonah.
God is a just God.
Disobedience must be dealt with.
But the story doesn’t end there…
Jonah was sinking under the raging waves to certain death on the ocean floor. It was there in the midst of his trouble he remembered God and he cried out for help.
God is a gracious God who is attentive to all who cry out to him!
God arranged for a fish to swallow Jonah!
Realizing he was rescued, at least for the time being, he continued his prayer to God. There in the belly of the fish Jonah acknowledged it was God who saved him and he offered up praise and thanksgiving to God. Then he promised to fulfill his vows, which I believe was his promise to go to Nineveh as God had called him to.
Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights.
God ordered the fish to spit Jonah out of its mouth, onto dry land.
Life, “Death,” New Life!
When God told Jonah the second time to take His message to Nineveh, Jonah obeyed! And when Jonah walked the streets of Nineveh, shouting of the judgement of God, the people, from the least to the greatest, repented and turned from their evil ways.
“When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.” Jonah 3:10
The evil deeds being done in the city of Nineveh deserved the punishment of God’s judgement.
The disobedience of Jonah deserved God’s judgement.
Jonah was “dead” in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, and was brought back to “life” as the fish spit him out on dry land. What looked like God’s judgement for disobedience upon Jonah worked together for the good as a sign to the people of Nineveh that he was sent by God with a message from God.
“What happened to him (Jonah) was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.” Luke 11:30
Jesus used Jonah’s story to validate His purpose here on earth. Jesus was sent to earth by God with a message from God. “Repeat for the kingdom of God is near!” But where Jonah’s “death” and “life” saved the people of Nineveh from God’s judgement while here on earth, the death and life of Jesus saved all the people of the world from God’s judgement while here on earth, and for all eternity!
I love the stories God has recorded in His word of those who didn’t get it right, but through their “mistakes” I learn of God’s grace and I understand that God truly does intend to work everything together for the good. This story of Jonah reminds me there is a much bigger picture to my life than what I realize. Though I may not have been running from God’s calling, I have put off and avoided writing my story. I have “run the other way” doing things I’ve wanted to do.
There is a certain dying to self that is required in fulfilling God’s calling!
I will only experience the joy of new life when I am willing to die to the life I have now.
My story is a story of this cycle; life, “death,” new life, and I realize that even the writing of it requires I stop running from the calling of God, choose to die to self, and surrender to the new life He has given me.
May my story be God’s message to bring truth, conviction, and new life to those who will read it.