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Thinking of God by Larry Sheehy
Its important how we respond to God
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It’s Important How We Respond to God
     It may not always be clear what God is trying to tell us or what he wants us to do in a given situation. This wasn’t true in the case of the prophet named Jonah. His story begins by saying, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai:  Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
    The next line reads, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.”  It’s hard for moderns to understand his mindset.  He may have had the common misconception of God as limited in power beyond the immediate area. Whatever the case, Jonah was convinced to go to Nineveh, where he preached God’s love to the pagan Assyrians, resulting, to his dismay, in their salvation.  
    Jonah doesn’t stand alone in his initial disdain for God’s will.  Every person accountable to God is guilty of rejecting him at some point.  The Bible says, “...all have sinned....”  (Romans 3:23)  Adam and Eve tried to hide from God (Genesis 3:8).  The reasons and excuses for this foolishness are numberless.  They may sound justifiable at the time.  Jonah tried to explain to God why he hadn’t wanted to go to Nineveh.
    “O Lord, is this [God’s forgiveness] not what I said when I was still at home?  That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.  I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
    What arrogance! However, we shouldn’t be too quick to judge ourselves better.  It’s easy to justify rebellion, to complain God’s will is too hard, not fair or too difficult to comprehend.  Like Jonah, we may find him too compassionate toward sinners (except in our own case, of course), or too harsh against those sins we see as understandable, if not justifiable.
    Like Jonah and the other Old Testament prophets, Christians are called to declare the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to dying men and women.  We, of course, need the message as much as others - sometimes more so.  Jonah was accountable for his mission and responsible for preaching God’s will rather than his own. We shall also answer to the Lord for faithfulness in preaching and teaching.  If angels and apostles stand accountable (Galatians 1:8, 9), so do we!  
    Those who hear the message are responsible for how they receive the good news.  The prophet Isaiah said, “Lord, who has believed our message?”  (53:1) Along with the people of Nineveh, we must listen to what God says, and follow him.  Jesus often concluded his messages with “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  His brother, James, gives an indication of what this idiom means when he says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”  (1:22)
    Sometimes, God’s will isn’t very comfortable or easy, especially when we’re influenced by human judgments and motivated by pride.  But if we allow the Holy Spirit to help us control our minds, we will be able to overcome the world’s attempts to mold us, and find ourselves running toward God, instead of away.
    Larry Sheehy is an elder and pulpit minister at Statesboro Church of Christ. He can be reached at (912) 764-5269.
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