Will we learn anything?

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Today Floridians are digging out of Irma’s destruction, that entire state torn by hurricane winds and floods.  It’s a day when some will weep over loss and others will rejoice in what the dawn reveals. This day is also significant that it is the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. 19 terrorists visited destruction and death on us that those of us alive that day will never forget. 9/11 changed so much about the world.  But, all in all, after tragedy, after storms, after attacks,  life goes on.  In no way am I intending to dismiss the sorrow and cost associated with loss when I say that. But, despite all the fear and frenzy that come before, during, and after terrible times – the sun comes up, life finds a ‘new’ normal, and we press on, too often failing to learn much if anything.

Jonah, the preacher of the Old Testament, is best known for his time in the belly of a fish. An event that should have changed him for the rest of his life, did not! Here is his story briefly.  God spoke to him and gave the assignment to preach in Assyria to Israel’s enemies. Willfully, he took off in the opposite direction, found a ship and sailed right into a storm. Realizing that his disobedience was the cause, he told the sailors to pitch him overboard and he was promptly swallowed up by a big fish. In spare detail we are told this – “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17, NIV)

The preacher prayed an eloquent prayer of confession as we all are so prone to do when life gets rough. He ended that prayer with this statement –  “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:8-9, NIV)  Sounds good, doesn’t it? He learned something, he found a new direction, right?

Well, not so much, actually.  Yes, Jonah did go to Nineveh. He did preach and there was something of national spiritual renewal. But, the preacher’s heart remained rebellious and he sulked about his ‘success’ knowing that it meant that Assyria would not be judged by God. He desired their destruction caring nothing for the lives of those people.

Look at his willful prayer of justification for his rebel ways. ” his change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”(Jonah 4:1-3, NLT) Right to the end of the book, Jonah remains a willful, selfish man that seems to have learned nothing from his ordeal in the fish!

Remember the national unity that broke over America on 9/12/01? Remember how people were so kind and helpful to each other in the days when our national psyche was bruised and we forgot our divisions?  It did not take very long for the old ways to sweep over us, and even worse divisions now exist all these years later!

Here is my strange line for the day.  Don’t waste a tragedy!  What does that mean? Hurricanes blow. Terrorists strike. Cancer comes. Children rebel. Business fails.  What I know, from the Scripture and from my life experience is this: God is at work around us and will work through the things that we cannot understand, that hit us hard. Will we feel the impact, make a temporary change like Jonah, and then go back to doing the same things as before? Or, will we humbly seek the Lord, learn, grow, and become His intimate friend?

The story of another man offers a much different example to us. Saul was an angry man, hating Christians and seeking the destruction of the Jesus’ sect. He went off in a rage to find new Believers in Damascus, but God met him on the road. “When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?” He said, “Who are you, Master?” “I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”  (Acts 9:3-6, The Message)  We know him as Paul, the apostle, a man forever changed by his encounter with God. He was blinded by that meeting, but found healing for his eyes and his heart and went on to change the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He kept on learning from the many tragedies that he experienced along the way.

His words that express hope in the Lord are the word from the Word today. All of  “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us..”  (2 Corinthians 1: 9-10)

As a new week begins, walk wisely with the Spirit. Let God lead you through the trials, an eager student, ready to learn, growing in grace and the beauty of the character of Jesus!  Don’t waste a tragedy!

______________

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be

 Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above
Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love

 Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan
© Words: 1923. Renewed 1951 Hope Publishing Company CCLI License # 810055

 

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