Here’s this month’s Gone Fishin’ Newsletter.
Gone Fishin’ Monthly Newsletter – March 2020
“But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”
So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”–for the sea was growing more tempestuous. And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows.”. (Jonah 1:4-16).
We had a great time last month. The weather was a lot warmer, and the pop-up market and events stage drew the people in. It made for an interesting day. More on that later.
Last month we discussed the story of Jonah – his Rebellion, his Repentance, and finally his Restoration.
This month, I want to focus on the sailors’ conversion.
God was angry with Jonah for running away, and was moving the circumstances of his rebellion. He sent a great wind that caused a ‘mighty tempest’.
The sailors’ false gods.
This was obviously bad enough to tear the ship apart. And the sailors did exactly what the world does in times of disaster; they prayed to their god. It could have been a physical god or one they made in their head to suit themselves, we don’t know.
Often when you turn on the telly and there’s a big disaster going on (such as the coronavirus at the moment), they canvas your prayers, regardless of who to – Allah, Budda, Confucius, Jesus, – they don’t care who your ’god’ is. They don’t want to offend you by stipulating who you should pray to, they just want you to do your part in trying to save the world.
But the sailors received no satisfaction from their empty prayers. They must have thought it was the end, as they disposed of their cargo – a sure way to bankrupt your business! Even that didn’t improve anything, so they went down to find Jonah. Maybe if he prayed to his God, things might change for the better. They expected him to be doing his part on his knees. Instead they found him curled up, asleep. They woke him up and berated him for not praying.
The sailors’ foolish gesture.
The sailors then took things into their own hands. They cast lots, to find out who was responsible. They didn’t know it, but God was orchestrating their decision. The lot fell on Jonah. And without hesitation, they accused him, and started questioning him. Jonah admitted to them who he was, and what he had done. He told them that they should toss him overboard to calm the sea.
But then the sailors did something strange. They jumped on the oars and tried to row the ship ashore – a last ditch effort to save the ship and everybody onboard. But it was a meaningless gesture. It was never going to work. It would have been like trying to roll a 10-ton boulder up a steep cliff with your bare hands. The storm was just too great. Sometimes that can happen when you are at your wits’ end; you’ll do anything it takes to make things better, regardless of how trivial it may seem.
The sailors’ fearful gratitude.
Weary after giving up trying to row back to shore, the sailors realised that Jonah was right. The only way for the storm to cease was for them to be rid of him from the ship. But first they prayed that God would not hold them accountable for his certain death. The last thing they wanted was for God to deal harshly with them for taking the life of one of His prophets.
Then they threw Jonah overboard, and immediately the storm abated. This filled them with even more fear, so they took vows and offered sacrifices to the Lord.
Well, what an interesting turn of events this turned out to be. Jonah was in rebellion from God, but God still used it for His glory to save others!
And there is also an underlying Gospel imagery in the story. Let’s take a closer look:
Our gods have all vanished.
Like the sailors, we like to fashion a god of our own liking. We dream up how this god is so wonderfully impressed with us, and we will do anything in order to appease him. But when faced with the turbulence that life throws at us – sickness, staring at death, fear of what is on the other side of life – our gods abandon us. They are useless. They don’t hear or respond to our prayers. Nor can they appease our afflictions and worry. That’s because they only ever existed in our minds. Our faith is unfounded, and we can gain no foothold when thrashed about by uncertainty.
God has made Himself known, but He is not the god we intended. So we have turned our back on Him and placed our faith in worthless idols.
Our good works are in vain.
The sailors’ gods ignored them, so took matters into their own hands. And when God ignores us and doesn’t answer us, we attempt to garner His approval by impressing Him with our own strength. We believe we are achieving something grand, but we are just wearing ourselves out getting nowhere. All our rushing around achieves nothing. It may impress others, but it certainly doesn’t impress God.
Good works will never get us to heaven. No matter how much we do, it will still count for nothing when faced with the judgement that awaits us. All they amount to is filthy rags. We need another way out.
Our goal is for vindication.
When the sailors realised that salvation was not forthcoming, they finally took heed to the prophet’s words. They prayed that the blood of Jonah not be on their hands as they delivered Him to a certain death. God heard their plea, and when they threw him overboard, the sea abated, saving both the ship and the crew.
Faith in our own ability will never save us, for we cannot save ourselves in our own strength. Rather, blood must be spilled. Someone needs to pay the price. Someone needs to die – either you or someone else. The sailors placed their faith in the substitutional death of another.
We also, must repent of our faith in our false gods, and our meaningless good works. Christ wilfully offered up His life to save and redeem mankind. To ignore this is certain peril for us. We have no other hope apart from faith in Jesus Christ.
And this is what we need to tell the world! We point them towards faith in Christ.
There are so many ‘nice’ people out there, who believe that their gods and their good works will make up for their lack of righteousness. But when they stand before God on judgement day, their gods will desert them. Their good works will be exposed as futile. They will be called to render a payment, and the time will have passed to accept the payment of another. They will be destroyed in the final storm.
Let that resonate in your heart, and drive you to spread the Good News!
Last month I spotted two people sitting outside the café, chatting. Their names were Errol & Christina. I didn’t know if they were a couple or not, but it didn’t really matter. I gave them million dollar bill tracts each. Errol countered by saying that a million dollars doesn’t go very far these days (the cheek of it!). So I gave them trillion dollar tracts instead, and ask them what happens after we die. Errol took charge of the conversation. He said he believed that we don’t have much time on this planet, so we need to spend it wisely – help others as best as you can, look after one another. He explained he had a Roman Catholic upbringing, and that he followed the Golden Rule; that is, to treat others how you want them to be treated.
I asked him that when he died and stood before God on judgement day, would any of that matter? He said, as far as he knew, yes, it would count for something.
So after introducing myself, I took them both through the Good Person Test. They both failed miserably.
I explained how all the lies they had told, all the things they had stolen, all the times they had blasphemed God, and all the adulteress and murderous thoughts they had stored where no one else could see them – all this was doing was storing up God’s wrath that will be poured out on them on judgement day.
Errol was unmoved. He was adamant that he could earn his way to heaven. I told him that he was counting on his good works to mask the bad things he had done, and that he was like a person who as trying to trick a judge to ignore the charges against him, and instead look at all the good things they had done. But the judge is there to determine if a crime had been committed, and if so, mete out justice accordingly.
I gave them an analogy. They were on a plane, flying at 10,000 feet, and suddenly all the engines stopped. They needed to get out of the plane. There was a parachute sitting there. The parachute was there to save them, but instead of strapping it on, they were relying on flapping their arms.
None of this was working, so I left them more literature, imploring them to read it, and moved on. About an hour later when I was leaving for the day, I passed them still sitting there. I yelled out “Remember: faith in Christ, not good works. Parachute, not flapping your arms, OK?”. They smiled, gave me the thumbs up, and waved goodbye.
Errol & Christina are in a storm. They could be destroyed any moment; death could be just a moment away.
But instead of placing their faith in someone else to save them, they are foolishly trying to row the ship to safety.
Please keep them in your prayers!
I’ll see you at my place this Saturday at 10am for prayer before heading out again!
Witnessing Tip: Watch that mouth!
Just because the world gets to use expletive and colourful words to express their feelings,
it doesn’t mean you get to copy them!
A Christian should always temper their words with kindness:
“The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”