As we get into this morning and you have a Bible you can turn to Jonah, or you can look at the scriptures up here. Either one is fine.
I want to show you some things just in preliminary. “This is my comfort in my affliction that your promises give me life.” If we’re detached from the promises of God then you can forget it. Your life is on a losing course. You’re on a course for destruction. You’re on a course for pain and anguish in your life.
It’s the promises of God that give us hope. Hope makes us not ashamed, Romans chapter five. Shame brings fear, and fear brings punishment. That’s what John teaches us. It says perfect love casts out fear.
Guess what? I have something that I know works 100% of the time. It always works. Whenever in doubt use this, love. The Bible says love never fails, never. Not one time has love ever failed. Every time I’ve had a conflict, even though in my flesh I want the other person to admit their wrong and at least give me some sense that they have acknowledged their fault is because I’ve not allowed God to be the one to deal with them. I want to be a little bit of God myself. I want that person to bow down to me a little bit.
When I release that and I love that other person, love never fails. Love believes all things, hopes all things.
I had a warrant for my arrest a few weeks ago. I didn’t tell you this before because I didn’t think you would want me to be here if you knew I had a warrant for my arrest. I kept reading it over and over again and sure enough it was a legitimate warrant for my arrest. In fact, the next day, on Friday, they were coming to pick me up. I was thinking, “This is a nightmare. This can’t be true.”
I read it again. I have my name on my daughter’s registration for her car so she can get her insurance, but she wanted to own the car so we have both our names on the registration.
As I was reading it, apparently she didn’t pay a parking ticket from a year ago. They have sent her six letters and she’s not paid it.
My older son may be disrespectful and disobedient but he’s responsible. My daughter is respectful and obedient and she’s irresponsible.
I’m getting ready to go speak at a conference and I’m looking at being in jail. By the way, I have a prison ministry on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I don’t want to be in the ministry there, I want to be the one doing the ministry.
I’m looking at this and I began to pray. I said, “Lord, you need to help me with this because obviously my daughter needs to learn something.” My first reaction was a fear reaction.
If there is a fear reaction, guess what that is evidence of? That you love yourself more than you love somebody else. Perfect love casts out fear. I’m not talking about the natural fear reaction against harm, that’s normal and God has given you that. It produces adrenalin to protect yourself. That’s normal.
In relationships, if there is a fear response, that is evidence that we love ourselves more than we love the other person because perfect love casts out fear.
I went into the house and my daughter happened to be there. She’s 22 years old and she doesn’t live at home anymore. She works for me full-time but she has her apartment in the city and she is at our house every day.
She and my wife are on the couch and they are talking. They paint together. In fact, the catalog that you have in your hands, my daughter painted all of those illustrations in there. The front cover, everything she did is done by her by hand. She’s an incredible artist.
I walk in the house and I have this paper and I said, “Jennifer, did you not pay a parking ticket?”
She said, “No.”
I said, “Well, there’s a warrant for our arrest. Tomorrow they are going to come and pick up both you and me and put us in jail unless you pay this.”
She said, “Yeah, right.”
I said, “No, really. This says there is a warrant for our arrest and that you didn’t pay a parking ticket. You didn’t pay a parking ticket a year ago in June.”
She said, “Dad, I paid that.”
“You didn’t pay it because this says you didn’t pay it,” I said.
“No, Dad. I paid that ticket.”
I said, “Jennifer, the problem is that you’re never willing to admit wrong. You get into situations like that and the first thing you do is you say you’re not guilty. Jennifer, they don’t make mistakes like this. You didn’t pay this ticket and you may have gotten other tickets that you’re not aware of, but you didn’t pay this ticket and it’s a clear sign of your irresponsibility and I want you to start waking up.”
I’m getting a little upset because she’s not admitting wrong. I hate when other people don’t admit wrong, especially when I’m the judge! [Laughter] Brother! I should be a judge. I would make a great judge.
My wife is sitting on the couch with her and she starts to move in more of an erect position. I call it an attack position. I’m in the right and I know I’m right so I can be a little more forceful. I said, “Jennifer, you didn’t pay the ticket.”
She looked at me and she said, “Read my lips. I paid it.”
I said, “That’s it. Not only are you irresponsible you are never willing to admit wrong. Until you get that settled in your life, Jennifer, you’re going to have problems the rest of your life. I’m not going to pay this for you. They’re going to come and pick you up tomorrow.
“Do you know what this is doing? Your irresponsibility is not only affecting you it’s affecting me. Do you realize I might not being able to speak at conferences? If I end up with an arrest record that could forfeit me to speak at other places.”
Do you see what I’m doing right now? Protecting me. This is all about me, really. I’ve been offended. This is about my character.
She was now fuming. My wife starts to get involved, and before she said a word I said, “And you always back her. That’s why she’s like she is. She’s never willing to admit wrong because you don’t help her understand how wrong she is. I’m leaving. I’m not doing this anymore.” I just walked out of the house.
I took the paper with me because now I have to pay this thing because she’s not going to pay it. I called the number that was listed there and I said, “Ma’am, I’ll bring the check right down. How much is it?”
She said, “Can you give me that again?” I gave it to her and she said, “Sir, there has been some kind of mistake. This ticket was paid for.” [Laughter]
I said, “No, that’s impossible. Check it again please.”
She said, “Sir, things like this don’t usually happen but it was paid. It was paid over a year ago.”
I said, “Ma’am, please just check it again. It can’t be paid.”
“I’m sorry, it was paid.”
“He did it again.”
She said, “Who might that be, sir?”
“The Lord. The Lord sets me up like this all the time. He puts me in positions like this. God does this to my life. He keeps raising the bar. I thought that anger and all those things were totally out of my life. I teach on these things.”
When it came to really putting me in a corner where I could be arrested that made the real Mark Hamby come out. How do we respond when we’re put in positions like that?
Psalm 119 goes on to say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray but now I keep your Word.” The purpose of God allowing affliction to come into our life is very simple. He wants us to be able to trust His Word.
If the affliction does not cause us to go deeply into His Word then you’re missing the opportunity. That’s when He really opens the door for us. Do you want to know where I think you should go mostly? I love going into the book of Psalms.
Psalms, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, they are filled with insight. David crying out, “Help me, O, God.”
I went through affliction that lasted 13 years: chronic fatigue, colitis, depression, and fibromyalgia. I didn’t know why I had those things. It was because there was an anger, a control deep within me that no one realized. Even I didn’t realize it.
Here I was successful as a pastor, successful as a speaker, but on the inside do you know where my problem was? It was in my home. My family wasn’t following me. It churned my insides and because of that it started to wear me out physically. It wore my health out.
“That I might learn your statutes that I might know, Lord, that your rules are righteous and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” I’m telling you. Listen to this. I shared this a few weeks ago and a lady came up to me and she pointed at me and she said, “That is not true. God does not do things like this.”
He does! God afflicts us. In fact, in the book of Lamentations chapter three it says that He causes grief but not willingly. He causes grief because He loves us. That’s why God causes grief to come into our lives. He wants us to learn to trust Him.
The only way that’s going to happen is if it moves you into His Word to get used to His promises. His grace will be sufficient, but it doesn’t come quickly. “Come boldly to the throne of grace that you may obtain mercy to find grace to help in the time of need.” That phrase in the Greek, “to help in the time of need,” do you know what that literally means? In the nick of time.
God doesn’t always just rescue you just like that. Just because you’ve prayed and had a heart change it doesn’t mean that the circumstances are going to get better right then and there, but they will eventually. Just trust God. He will rescue you.
It’s interesting. Sometimes we’re in that state and we say, “Lord, I’m going to wait. My eyes fill with longing for your Word. When will you comfort me? Though I become like a wineskin in the smoke and I don’t forget your statutes.”
One day I was sitting in the stalls with the sheep and the muck. I was at my sickest point during this time and I just said, “Lord, it’s over with. If this is where you want me to serve you then I will serve you here. If all I’m going to do for the rest of my life is muck stalls I’ll do that.”
I’ll never forget there was a change. I had a meeting with God that day when I finally surrendered. It was over with. I wasn’t going to try to control my family anymore. I was going to be an instrument of change in their lives.
Do you want to know what I had to do with my daughter when I called that lady? I had to walk into my house on my knees. Do you want to know what my daughter did when I humbly apologized? She did not receive it; nope, not for a second because I’ve done it too many times. There has to be a genuine life change where my life speaks louder than my words.
How do you handle when people resist? When people don’t accept your apology? That’s the real test. Is it genuine in your life?
It says, “If your law had not been my delight I would have perished in my affliction.” It takes us into the Word. It actually covers us. It gives us sustenance and strength.
“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet,” you’re familiar with this. “I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord.”
Isn’t it interesting? We quote this verse, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path,”but we never quote the next part of it. “I am severely afflicted.” That’s why he says, “I need your Word as a lamp to my feet because I don’t know where I’m going.”
“Give me life, Lord, according to your Word. Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules.” How do you give offerings of praise when you’re afflicted? Not an easy thing.
“You are my hiding place and my shield. I hope in your Word.” Psalm 119 is pregnant with this. “I hope in your Word. It’s my only hope.” Hope makes us not ashamed.
“Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love and teach me your statutes. I am your servant. Give me understanding that I might know your testimonies.” You’re familiar with Psalm 19, it says, “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul. The testimonies of the Lord are sure making wise the simple.” Are you guys’ familiar with that? It’s a song too, right Jeff? (Mark singing the song). Beautiful song. I used to love to sing that verse. It’s lodged in my heart now because I’m able to sing the World.
Interesting verse. “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.” That’s the first thing that happens to us.
“The testimonies of the Lord are sure making wise the simple.” Do you want to know what that is? The word ‘sure’ there is the word for trustworthy. It’s also the word for, guess what? The word for foster home. It’s also the word for a nursing father. I can understand a nursing mother, but a nursing father?
That’s what the word means. It means that God’s testimonies – what are they? That He loves us. That He’s faithful to us. He’ll not give us more than we can handle. No good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly. Those are God’s testimonies. They’re sure. He’s like a nursing father. They make wise the simple. They turn us in, they give us hope, they give us comfort and assurance.
“With my whole heart I cry, ‘Answer me, God.’” I’m showing you this because we’re going to go into Jonah. This is what Jonah was going through. He said, “Take my life. I can’t stand this anymore,” but there was a problem. Jonah didn’t connect his afflictions with the Word and with the promises of God.
“I will call to you, save me, that I might observe your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help. I hope in your words.” That is our only hope.
“Great peace have those who love your law. Nothing can make them stumble.
“Let my cry come before you, O Lord. Give me understanding according to your Word. Let my plea come before you. Deliver me according to your Word.” Look at how many times the word, the word, the word. Folks, it is our sustenance and our strength. It has to move you there.
I’m finding today where people are being moved to lawyer’s offices. People are being moved to psychiatrists and psychologists and every other place under the sun. Save your money. The word of God is the greatest counsel in the world.
In fact, if you have problems with 10-18 year old children, Lamentations 3 says it all. That’s the greatest counsel you will ever find in your life. He says, “I feel like I’m being dragged through the mire like stones coming in my mouth.” Why does God allow these things?”
God says, “For one reason and one reason only. So that you will understand my mercy and my compassion, to give you hope.”
“I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant. I do not forget your commandments.”
As we go into Jonah I want you to remember what he failed to do. When you go the other direction like Jonah did, everything seems bigger than it is. Dennis Rainey came up with this acronym, HALT, and I also added hormonal. “If you’re hungry, hormonal, afraid, angry, lonely, or tired, things will look bigger than they are.”
Don’t make decisions when you’re in any of these states. Do you know how many times we make decisions? Usually it is in those states. “I’m leaving.” “I hate you.” We say things when we’re in that state. Don’t do anything because in the morning God’s compassion is new. It’s kind of a cool thing. Think about that. God’s compassion is new every morning.
Are you familiar with the verse that says His mercy is new and fresh every morning? That’s not in the Bible. Someone made that up and turned it into a song but that’s not what the scripture really says. The scripture says, “It’s because of his mercies we’re not consumed. His compassion is new every morning.”
If His compassion is new every morning wait until the next morning before you make decisions because God just might make you think differently about the whole situation; situations in which you think there is no tomorrow.
I’ve been there before. I’ve been in those ‘no tomorrow’ decisions. Almost always it’s been in situations between me and my wife, sometimes with me and my son, where finally I’ve had to go out and just cry out to God and say, “God, if you don’t change her I can’t take this anymore.” Do you want to know what? God’s never changed her once. [Laughter]
God wants to change me so that I can be an instrument of grace in her life. That’s what I’ve been called to because that is what marriage is about. Marriage isn’t about fantasies and all of that. Marriage is about being changed into the image of Christ and that’s why he’s given this to us.
Did you know that whom the Lord has joined together that no man is to separate? Did you know that? How many have heard that before?
Does that mean that God joins us together? Whom the Lord joins together, does that really mean that? Does that mean that God is responsible for bringing us together? Absolutely! I wouldn’t take that lightly.
Either God made a mistake, and sometimes that is what happens. We get married and all of a sudden things start going bad and we think, “This is not working.” God causes affliction. God causes grief. Not willingly, but in order to change us, and mostly he does it in our marriages.
Sometimes if the marriage is going well he’ll do it with our children, and if the children are going well and the marriage is going well he’ll do it with your job or with your health. He’s going to change you in some way. It’s not going to just happen where you’re going to go through life and things are just going to be peachy all the time.
“Be not hasty in your spirit to be angry for anger rests in the bosom of fools.” Don’t be hasty.
David and Goliath; did you know that Goliath appears twice and David and Saul appear 131 times in that same two chapters? Two chapters, 131 times, but Goliath appears twice. We’ve made it a story of David and Goliath, but God made it a story of David and Saul, of faith and flesh, but we’ve made it a story of the big giant so we can do flannel graph stories with kids, you know? [Laughter]
Jonah and the whale, but the whale appears twice. The cows appear throughout the book of Jonah. It’s a story of Jonah and the Cows, did you know that? You’re thinking, “Aw, come one. I’ve never seen cows in the book of Jonah.”
Oh, really? If you have your Bible, turn to the last word in the book of Jonah. It’s a very unusual word. If you have the NIV version – we’re going to have a burning afterwards anyway because that one totally blew it because they didn’t put the right word in whatsoever. If you have the NIV read the last word, city, right?
Anyone have a New American Standard version? What does it say? Animals. How about a King James Version? Cattle. Cool. How about an English Standard Version? I have one and it says cattle. New Living – cattle.
We have three English versions that say cattle or animals, and one English version that says city. The question is, how do you respond when God asks you to do something uncomfortable? That’s what he’s asking Jonah to do.
Listen to this, the last verse. “And should I not spare Ninevah, the great city where more than six score thousand persons can’t discern between their left hand and their right hand, and also much cattle?” This is so obscure. Out of the middle of nowhere the book of Jonah ends with this, “and much cattle?” and a question mark, too.
How many agree that this is weird? This is weird. This is out of the middle of nowhere. This is about Jonah’s anger about not following God’s call to go and preach to the Ninevites. There is a great revival that takes place, and the book of Jonah ends with “and much cattle?” It’s weird. The question is, why?
When I find stuff like this in the word of God, remember we talked about the hope is in the Word? Jonah missed it. Jonah missed it to the very last word that God gave him. When God does weird things like this you have to say, “Okay, let’s find out what is going on here. What is the deal here?”
God said to Jonah at the very beginning, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” This is about anger. The word anger is throughout the book of Jonah. Jonah says, “Yeah, I have good reason to be angry. I even want to be dead.” Boy, when your anger leads to this kind of suicidal depression you know you’re in deep trouble, and this is what happened to Jonah. “I wish I was even dead.”
There are four main causes of anger: fear, frustration, hurt, and selfishness. Perfect love casts out fear. Frustration is another cause of anger. We built a new home about six years ago and one of my pride and joys in my home is the woodwork we have.
I have a staircase that is wide at the bottom and goes up and swerves around, and I have wood paneling that is quarter-sawn oak. The paneling was done by The Carriage Barn antique shop. I went all out with it. I love this woodwork.
We have sepily. Sepily comes from Africa and it’s the most beautiful wood I’ve ever seen. It’s like mahogany and cherry mixed together. I love my woodwork, I just love it.
My son, David, was moving his stuff out three weeks ago and I wasn’t home and now I have these marks in the woodwork up my stairway. They’re bringing their barbells down there, and David has a chair in his room and he wants to take it over to the college.
I said, “That would be fine but you wait until I help you take it down.”
He says, “What’s the big deal. I can take it down.”
I said, “No, I don’t want you taking it down. I’ll be here when you do it.”
He said, “Dad, what’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is that I don’t trust you. You already dented the wood.”
He said, “I didn’t dent that, Jonathan…”
“I don’t care who did it, I don’t want you doing it yourself.” He’s looking at me and I said, “I don’t want…” and I had to raise my voice level a little bit so he would back down. If you’re raising the level for other people to back down you’ve already lost their respect.
I could have said in a very meek tone, “David, I understand. In fact, I will go out of my way to help you as soon as I can.” Maybe what I needed to do was to help him right then and put my other things aside and really be a servant.
What I was doing was protecting one of my idols. Whenever we act that way, one of the things we do is protect one of our own idolatries. We do that so often. Moms tend to do that when they’re perfectionistic in their homes and their children make a little bit of a mess. They start getting on their kids’ cases and always in their face. Frustration.
David was frustrated and he couldn’t even enjoy his dad because I protected my idols more than the relationship. When we place responsibility above relationship it always leads to frustration. Remember that.
Does that mean that we don’t always hold our kids accountable? Does that mean we don’t make our kids responsible? Absolutely not! It’s how we speak about it. We need to model for them how we want them to become. When we provoke our children, in their face parenting, always in their face, no breathing room, our words are not going to change our children’s hearts. God’s Holy Spirit is going to change our children’s hearts especially when they see us modeling how we want them to become. That’s the key.
They’ll be responsible when we become who we are to become. In fact, the reason I serve Christ today isn’t because of His commandments. It’s because of His love and sacrifice.
Fenelon, in his book Education of a Child, which I think is one of the greatest parenting books I’ve ever come across, was written 400 years ago. He said, “Don’t respond to a child in his first emotion or in your first emotion.”
If you respond to a child in your first emotion he’ll see that you’re governed by mood and impatience.
“Don’t respond to a child in his first emotion for his heart will not be in a state to profit from your correction, but rather correct your faults and let that serve as a model for him to correct his own.” That’s real wisdom.
In response, reciprocal response in a child’s life or in a spouse’s life, when we have been on the other end of being provoked their response may be power, revenge, attention, or inadequacy. These are four typical responses of foolishness in children and in spouses.
One, we might want to have a power struggle with somebody; and number two, we may want to get back at them. When there is divorce in a family it’s very typical for teenage children to want revenge. What you must do in that case is you must affirm to that child that they have every right to be upset, every right.
Unless you do that you’re going to force them to continue to be vengeful because eventually you have to let them see that all-in-all God is allowing these things to take place in our lives so that we might learn to truly trust Him to become more like Him.
Sometimes children just want attention. There is insecurity and they just keep acting in a certain way just to get attention. I had a little girl in school and she kept coming up for spankings every day. Do you want to know what I did after I spanked her? I cried and I hugged her and I read a Bible verse and sent her back to her room. She was an elementary girl.
Come to find out years later that her mother had been abusing her. She wanted to come and get spanked so she would get the hug after she was spanked. Isn’t that amazing?
Children who have some type of physical defect or emotional defect or mental defect, these type of children may also act in certain ways just because of this inadequacy. What you have to do in these cases is be consistent every time. Make a big deal out of little successes in their lives.
I want to focus on revenge here because this is what Jonah wants. He wants revenge. I find this typical in marriages. When you can’t have revenge, when you really can’t do anything about it, guess what happens? It leads to depression. It leads to anger and then depression.
What do you do when you’re in that state? You rise up to flee from the presence of the Lord. That’s what Jonah did. If you look at this there is a nice chiastic structure, “From the presence of the Lord he went down. He went down from the presence of the Lord.” It’s kind of framed in this beauty of when you go from the presence of the Lord, there is only one place to go and that’s down. That’s where we go.
What does God have to do? He’s hurled a great wind. Not just a wind, but a great wind. There was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. This is what God will do in our lives. When we resist what God has assigned us to do, has God assigned you to a difficult relationship? Has God assigned you a difficult child? Has God assigned you a difficult neighbor? A difficult boss?
Whatever your assignment is with God, how do you respond to His assignment? If you don’t respond and you don’t willingly submit to what he’s trying to teach you then He’s going to hurl some things at you.
Resistance is designed by God. “In the day of prosperity rejoice. In the day of adversity consider God has appointed both.”
What do we do in the day of adversity? Let’s see what Jonah did. Did you know that the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God? It’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance.
Guess what my Jonathan did? Every time I did this, he got angrier. Every time I did this, Jonathan submitted to my authority 100% of the time. Why didn’t I use this more often? Because I wanted to be in control and because I wasn’t conforming to the image of Christ yet.
What did they do? The men rowed and tried to get away from the storm because they didn’t want to throw Jonah over, and then the men cried out to God. This is a cool statement here. The men cried out to God.
This is what God is trying to teach Jonah to do. When you’re in situations that are out of your control there is only one place to go and that is to the throne of grace crying out to God. That’s what Jonah has not yet learned.
Jot down Psalm 34, “Three times I cried out to the Lord and He heard me and delivered me out of all my fears.”
The Lord appointed a great fish and then Jonah prayed. It was not until God had to bring him down the lowest parts of his life, and sometimes that is where God has to get us. I’ve heard so many testimonies where people have to go all the way down to the bottom before they get it.
“Okay, God. I’m not going to resist you anymore.” You don’t have to go down to the bottom to pray. You can do it right today. You can do it. You don’t have to go down to the bottom. The Lord said, “I want you to do go Ninevah,” after he got spit up on shore by the fish, “and preach.”
Jonah cried out. He’s finally getting it. Now notice what the King of Ninevah does, and isn’t this interesting? This is over in that part of the world where our soldiers are right now, right. Could you imagine a revival taking place there? It could happen. It happened in this day.
One man went and preached and the people of Ninevah believed God and proclaimed a fast, and there was a decree proclaimed and published by the King himself, and the nobles saying, “Let neither men nor beast, herd nor flock taste anything.” Why the animals? Why can’t the animals eat and drink? Why inflict them?
“Let them not feed nor drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth.” Do you know how itchy sackcloth is? If there are 120,000 people in the city, do you know how many animals must be there? My guesstimate is at least around one million, maybe a quarter million. There have to be so many animals in this part of the world at this time.
Look at all the different kinds of animals: flocks, herds, beasts. We’re talking all animals. They have to put sackcloth on these animals. You’re talking about people having to sew this stuff on. This is a lot of sackcloth. This is a lot of animals.
Notice what it says here, “And let them be covered with sackcloth and cry mightily unto God.” Not just the people. Remember what the men did when they were rowing the boat? They cried out to God.
Remember what Jonah finally did when he got spit up on the land by the fish? He cried out to God, and now what are the animals and the people in Ninevah doing? They’re crying out to God.
What does that have to do with anything? “God saw their works and that they turned from their evil way. And God repented of the evil that he said he would do unto them and he did it not, but it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was very angry.”
You see. Jonah may have cried out to God and Jonah may have prayed, but he wasn’t really changed on the inside. He’s ticked.
It’s interesting. When you have gone through hell in your life in a relationship and you surrender to God, but the other person doesn’t admit wrong and all of a sudden they get blessed and they go on in their life like nothing was ever wrong. They’re even thankful you’ve changed but they still don’t accept any personal responsibility for their part in the situation. How do you feel about that? That is the real test for how God is working in our life.
I was reading in the book of Timothy this morning. It says God will give them knowledge of repentance to come to the truth. We have to leave that thing in God’s hands. Vengeance belongs to God not to us. We shouldn’t even be thinking of vengeance. We should be thinking of how we can encourage this person to grow in their life in Christ.
“He prayed unto the Lord.” That’s good. I love this prayer. This is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible. “I knew you were a gracious God, and merciful, and slow to anger.” Look at the contrast. Jonah is very angry and he says to God, “and you’re slow to anger,” and Jonah can’t stand it.
“And great kindness, and you would change your mind of the evil you would do to these wicked people. Therefore, take my life.” Isn’t this a cool prayer? I love this prayer. It’s so real. “God, you went ahead and did it anyway. I go ahead and preach to these people and they all get saved.”
Can you imagine pasturing a church? Wouldn’t this be cool? “What are you people doing coming forward and getting saved? Get out of here. I don’t want anyone getting saved today.”
Unrighteous anger is rooted solely in the preservation and self-centeredness and perceived rights. It’s the impulsive response of the experience of being deprived of what we think is due us. That is what we are looking for.
It’s about our idolatry. Deprivation of desires can lead to a host of inner turmoil such as anger, depression, and other physical illnesses. I know because I experienced it. I’m a living testimony of the destruction that anger can do in a person’s life.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick. There is a biblical definition of depression. Not able to obtain, not able to get what you think you need in life. Not able to change that other person because he doesn’t meet my needs.
I know a man in North Carolina, a lovely man. The first time I met this family, I’m telling you, I thought, “Wow, here is a family that’s got it made. They are the most wonderful beautiful family I’ve ever met in my life.” I stayed with them.
He wrote me a letter when I got back home. The letter said this, “Two years ago I was in jail for beating up my wife because I had such an angry temper. I hated her so much. I found myself in jail that night for beating up my wife.
“In jail I started to realize what a wicked person I really was and it was all about me. When I came back out my wife had a restraining order on me. I couldn’t even go back home. We were part of a healthy church. I teach Bible study, and there I was in jail.”
It made me think of, “and God hurled the great wind and the ship was destroyed.” That is what God had to do in this man and today they have an incredible family because God had to deal with this man’s heart issues of his anger.
We don’t have to go to the bottom. We don’t have to be at the bottom. The more we feel deprived the more we exert pressure until our felt needs are met. I’m so good at this. The more pressure we exert the more we drive a wedge between ourselves and those we love.
If you get into this pattern of forcing other people to change so that you can feel good about yourself, which is what happens in marriage. We get to that point where unless this person changes I can’t enjoy my life. God has not called you to be happy. He’s called you to be holy.
Happiness will come, but holiness has to come first.
Whenever our perceived rights have been violated we either have a fight or flight response. That’s what Jonah did. The first thing he did is he fled, and the next thing he’s is doing is he is going to fight, but when you’re in a position where you can’t really fight what do you do? When you can’t really change people and you can’t change God, what happens? This is what happens.
“And the Lord God said, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry, Jonah?’ And the Lord , prepared a gourd to give Jonah protection from the sun. God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the gourd?’” This is the second time God asked the question, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” The third time, actually.
He said, “I have good reason to be angry.” Isn’t that something? When we get in a situation in marriage or parenting and you’re upset and someone says, “Do you really have good reason to be angry?”
“You’d better believe I have good reason to be angry.” If you’re angry that is evidence that the fruit of the Spirit of God is not in you at that moment, unless it is anger for the purpose of stopping sin.
God has given us the natural ability to stop sin to restore righteousness, or to protect a loved one. That’s different. That’s anger that needs to be. That’s adrenaline anger. That needs to be. God gets angry at those types of things.
“Do you have good reason to be angry?”
Jonah says, “Yes, I have good reason to be angry, and I’d rather be dead. That’s how angry I am.” Selfishness leads to anger. Prolonged anger leads to depression. Depression removes hope. The lack of hope makes one ashamed setting the stage for a life filled with self-centeredness, self-injury, or violent behavior. That’s what it does. It needs to be nipped in the bud.
How is it nipped in the bud? You just surrender. You say, “God, I don’t know what’s going on. You have to change my heart. I can’t do this myself. Change me, O God.” God will change you. If you pray that honest prayer, “God, I don’t want to be like this. I want to be an instrument in the hands of a mighty God. I want to be a fit vessel for your use. I know that I cannot see the sin that’s really within me, Lord, so you’re going to have to deal with me. Lord, whatever it takes change me into your likeness.”
If you’re not prepared to die don’t pray that prayer because that’s what it might take. If you’re not prepared to have relationships unravel don’t pray that prayer because that’s what might happen, but the fruit of that prayer will be incredible because God will use you and that’s what I want in my life.
God prepared the waves, the wind, the whale, the worm, and even the wonderful shade from the weather. God prepared resistance and blessing for Jonah to help him see the needs of his own heart.
It’s interesting. This guy had a revival. There was a revival that took place; 120,000 people that got saved. God changed the hearts of men in the ship and the men and women and children of Ninevah, and also and last, “Should I not spare that great city Ninevah where there are six score thousand people that can’t discern between their right hand and their left hand?”
The book of Jonah ends and God says, “and also much cattle.” Why? Why does it end like this? There has to be more. Isn’t there another chapter here? What is going on here?
What are the animals doing? You have to be 16 years old and younger to answer this question. What are the animals doing right now? What has happened to the animals? Come on, you guys can think of it!
Okay, you can be 90 years old and younger. [Laughter] What has happened to the animals? They haven’t been fed nor watered. What else do they have on them? Sackcloth. I don’t know how many days have gone by without them eating or drinking.
Does anyone have a pet here and not fed or watered them for a couple of days? I have a Yellow Lab and if I don’t feed my dog by nine o’clock at night my neighbors will call the police on me because he will bark. He will not let me go to bed. He’ll bark the whole time. It’s a consistent every three-second bark.
Picture a million of those animals in Ninevah, a quarter million, 100,000, who cares how many? More than two it’s a lot of noise. [Laughter] A lot of animals making a lot of noise. They haven’t eaten or drunk anything, and they have this itchy stuff all over them. A lot of noise: barking, oinking, mooing, baaing, the whole nine yards. Goats and cows. Who would probably be the loudest? [Mark mooing] That was a pretty good one wasn’t it?
Picture all this stuff that’s going on and Jonah is sitting up on the hill pouting that he didn’t get his way. He hears all this noise and he’s not getting the message. God has given him a message, “Jonah, even the animals are crying out to me and all you’re doing is sitting there pouting.”
The book of Jonah ends with animals because he is trying to teach us that when God has called you to do something difficult and you don’t know what to do, there is only one thing to do and that is to cry out to God. Just cry out to God as loudly as you can and don’t go anywhere else until God speaks to your heart what you are supposed to do.
Don’t do anything until God shows you what you are supposed to do, and I promise you he will. It is the very second beatitude. The first one is, blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God, and the second one is blessed are those who cry. It is a second level beatitude but it’s an important step to take, and when we cry out to God, God will hear us.
Let me close this session with a story. I’d like to close it with two stories, but let me close it with a story I wasn’t prepared to tell you.
In 1990 something, I was at this church, this hick church out in the middle of a cornfield with a couple of hundred people. I had taken a whole ninth grade class to Gettysburg. I didn’t want to go. It was just the teachers going but they didn’t want to go by themselves because this particular class was notorious for being really bad, especially these five boys. Four of the five were bad so the teachers made it so that I had to go with them.
I drive to Gettysburg and I’m there for three days with these unruly kids. These were pastor’s sons, deacon’s sons, trustee’s sons. They always went to the line. They never got caught but you knew they were doing something wrong.
On my way home with these five boys, in fact, one of the boys in the car is one of the boys I told you about who is in jail right now. He was the good kid, and he was sitting right next to me. On the other side is Danny Kennedy. He’s looking at this truck that has a four wheeler in the back, and he says to the boys, “I can hotwire that in 90 seconds and he’d never know I took it.”
After spending three days with these kids I just lost it. I was tired. I didn’t want to be with them anymore. I looked at Danny and I said, “Would you shut your mouth? Just keep it closed. For the next six hours while we drive this car if I hear you speak one time I will drop you off and I will call your parents to come pick you up. I don’t want to hear anymore out of your garbage, stinking mouth. Keep it closed.”
All the guys were like, “Whoa, he’s lost it,” and I had. I lost it. So I’m driving and Holy Spirit convicts me and I hear God tell me, “Mark, do you love me?”
“Then feed my” what?
No it doesn’t say that. Why does everyone think it says that? “Feed my lambs.” Lambs are always first.
So I’m thinking, “Okay, I’m going to feed them but I’m going to sacrifice them first, and then I’m going to feed them.” [Laughter]
This kid is just so unruly. All these kids are bad. I know these kids are bad they had just never gotten caught. I looked at him and I said, “Danny, listen. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have talked to you that way. I’m very sorry. I’m just tired, but I don’t want that to be an excuse, I’m sorry.”
I said, “You know what, Danny? You’re just like a little kid. You talk that way because you want other kids to look up to you. You know, that says to me that you’re just like a little kid crying out for help. Again, I shouldn’t have talked to you that way.”
I’m driving and ten minutes later he looks over at me and he says, “Mr. Hamby, would you help me? Please help me. I don’t want to be this way anymore.”
I said, “Danny, you know how to be helped. You just need to cry out to God. Call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved. It’s as simple as that. You know. You’ve been raised in a Christian home, went to a Christian school. You know the answer, Danny. You know this stuff by heart but you have to want Christ more than breath itself. It has to be that real when you call on the name of the Lord.”
He closed his eyes just like that. He’s praying for I don’t know how long. I’m driving and all of a sudden he opens his eyes and he looks over at me and says, “I just got saved! Really, I’m really saved. This is the first time. It’s the real deal. I can’t believe this!”
All of a sudden he just stops, gets out of his seat, turns around in the back, and gets one of the boys, Brian, and holds him against the seat in the back. He says, “You phony. You’re on your way to hell. You know what? If Mr. Hamby gets in a car accident right now you’re going to be in hell and I’m going to be in heaven. You need to call on the name of the Lord right now.”
Brian, right there in the back seat called on the name of the Lord. Brian gets saved in the back seat. It was unbelievable.
The kid on the other side is crying. These are ninth grade boys. I’ve never seen them cry in their lives. This is Chris Wolcott and he’s crying. “I had a gun to my head Sunday and my dad left my mom and I don’t know what to do. I almost pulled the trigger and I’d be in hell right now.”
Both Brian and Danny go over, got a hold of Chris’ arms and said, “Call out in the name of the Lord right now, Chris. Receive Christ.” Right there Chris Wolcott receives Christ as his Savior. Today he is a youth pastor.
The kid in the middle, Ryan Paddock, he’s crying like a hyena. “I’ve already been baptized twice, and walked the aisle three times. What are they going to do if I do this again?” [Laughter] He’s crying his eyes out. All three boys gang up on him and lead him to Christ right there in the back seat.
The boy in the front, the boy I told you about who is in jail? He is a real Christian. He didn’t need to be saved because he wore the mask really well. He hides his pride well, and today, like I said, he is in jail, but he was the boy that did really well. These other boys that were losers, they really received Christ.
All of a sudden these boys spontaneously started quoting Bible verses. This is what I heard, Mrs. Holbert’s two-year-olds. Mrs. Smith’s class, three-year-olds. Mrs. Bennett’s class, four-year-olds. These boys started quoting verses they had memorized back in their childhood. I’m telling you, 200 hundred verses came out of their mouths just like that.
They said, “Whoa, where did this come from?” It was weird. I’d never heard anything like it. Danny says, “Stop the car!” I pulled the car off the road. I thought, “What is the world? Does he have to go to the bathroom or something?”
The vans behind us had all of the other ninth graders and he said, “Let’s go get ‘em!” They get out and now I have the teachers in the other vans getting out and asking, “What’s wrong? Did you get in an accident? What’s wrong?”
They escorted the girls out of the other cars and vans like gentlemen. They had never done that in their lives. The girls are wondering, “What’s wrong with you?”
One of the other teachers, Mr. Cathcart, comes up to me and says, “Did you give them drugs?” [Laughter]
Danny says, “Up there.” There was a mountain and all five of these boys started running up the mountain. We get to the top and the sun is setting and there was a lake on the other side of the mountain. God set the whole thing up. It was beautiful. The sun was red and not a cloud in the sky.
Danny got up on this big rock and he has his arms up and he says, “Oh, God. I can’t believe I’ve been such a phony all these years. Thank you for saving me.” He looks like Charleton Heston up there on the rock.
All of the girls and the teachers are looking at them, “What happened?” This was literally unbelievable.
Danny finishes his prayer and he said to me, “Mr. Hamby, would you close in prayer?” What I’m about to share I’ve shared maybe ten times in my entire life. I don’t like sharing it because I’m really conservative in my theology. In fact, I’m so conservative I’m almost dead. That’s my theology. [Laughter]
What happened that night happened. I experienced it. It happened.
Out of nowhere this black cloud came along with it this incredible wind and we all had to get on our faces and hold onto the grass or we would have been blown off it was that powerful. It was like a tornado.
I’m screaming my prayer as loud as I can scream it. As soon as I said, “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” the wind stopped just like that. Danny said, “Whoa, when you pray, you pray!”
We marched down that hill but the teachers and the girls still didn’t know what was going on. We rode in the car quoting Bible verses. They had found some tracts in my glove compartment and Danny says, “Stop the car!” There was a McDonalds off the expressway. They start running toward the McDonalds and I could hear, “I got the front door.” “I have the parking lot.” “I have the seats.” “I have the counter.” They went in there and they witnessed to every person in McDonalds.
A state police officer walks in and Danny has the door. He said, “Sir, you need to read this if you want to go to heaven. You could die tonight.”
The officer said, “Sorry, son. I can’t be proselytized while I’m on duty.”
He said, “Then you need to read it when you have the time to go to Dunkin’ Donuts because if you die in an accident tonight you’re going to die and you’re going to go to hell.”
The officer said, “Son, if it means that much to you I’ll read it.”
We got back to the school. The next day is Friday and they have the day off of school; they don’t have to be there. The ninth graders have the day off because we had been driving all day and all night the night before.
I come to Bible class in an auditorium about this size and I have all my seventh through twelfth graders there for class. The ninth graders are all there and they’re all sitting in the front two pews. They have never sat up here. They always sat in the back always causing problems.
As I’m teaching Danny says, “Mr. Hamby, can I share?”
I said, “Go ahead.” Danny gets up and starts sharing what happened to him in his life, about how he received Christ for real for the first time, and how he didn’t want to be a phony.
Then Chris got up and shared how he had a gun to his head and how it is now real in his life and how he’s going to let God change his family’s life. I look out at my high school kids and I saw 83 kids crying their eyes out.
I thought, “Okay, something is going on here. Let’s stop.” I called a whole school assembly, kindergarten through twelfth grade. They’re having Stanford Achievement Tests at this time and the teachers are livid.
“You can’t stop these tests. You can’t do this.”
I said, “I’m doing it. You have to be up here. Come on up.” All the teachers come reluctantly. They’re all in the auditorium and it is filled with 183 kids. The boys get up and start sharing again. Without any invitation whatsoever, do you want to know what I saw at the end? I saw seven of my teachers, both elementary and high school teachers, come forward and get on their knees.
Do you want to know what I heard? I heard seven of them cry out to God. Guess who followed them? Eighty-four students: elementary and high school. I heard 80-some students cry out to God. It was unbelievable.
The pastor of the church was standing in the back watching all of this. He had never given up his pulpit in his life. By the way, we spent eight hours counseling those kids that day. We had to separate the ones that wanted to receive Christ and the ones that wanted to rededicate their lives.
The four boys took all the kids that wanted to receive Christ, and I took the kids that wanted to rededicate their lives and had the pastor’s help as well.
On that day the pastor said the boys could have the service on Sunday night. He had never done anything like that in his life. He knew something unusual was happening.
On my way home that Friday night at one of the boys’ father’s house – not one of the four boys but another kid in our school – Mr. Brock Vosberg, we had invited him for years to come to our church. He was a Marine, a truck driver, a big, husky guy, a self-made man. He always blew me off.
I knocked on the door and he answered the door just a little bit. I said, “Brock, I’d like to invite you to church Sunday night. Would you be willing to come? The boys will be speaking. Something unusual has happened.
He said, “I’ll be there,” and he slammed the door.
I thought, “He just blew me off again.” Sunday night the boys were up there starting to share and I look in the back and guess who is standing there in military fatigues? Big Brock Vosberg. He’s not sitting down he’s standing in the middle of the aisle in the back. Just standing there military style.
Danny gets up and starts sharing. At the very end of Danny’s sharing Brock starts to walk forward. He stands right in front of Danny, face-to-face just staring him down. Danny stops speaking and he’s looking at him wondering, “Did I say something wrong?”
Brock turns around and faces the congregation and said, “Friday night I had a gun to my head. My wife left me that morning. I was about to pull the trigger and someone knocked on my door and invited me to church. I decided I would give it one shot. I came here to hear what these boys had to say, and if what they had to say wasn’t real and it wasn’t going to help me, I was going to go home and finish the job.
“I’ve decided what I’ve heard tonight is real and I’ve come here to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” Right there, on the spot, he got on his knees and he received Christ as his Savior, and today he is a missionary in Romania.
All it takes, and it’s that simple, is to cry out to God. That’s where we need to start today.
As we close this session I think it would be foolish not to at least spend a little bit of time talking to God. Those of you that might want to cry out to him feel free to do that. I’m going to spend the next five minutes, no pressure on anybody, moms and dads if we humble ourselves God will lift us up.
We’ll spend five minutes in prayer and then we’ll take a break and come back together again. I will lead out, and then those who want to pray, and at the end of a long silence I’ll close in prayer.
“Father, oh, God, I’m probably the one here that needs you the most. I mess up so easily so often. Lord God I want to be the husband that you want me to be. I can’t stand messing up. I want to be the father that you want me to be. I want to be gentle and kind. I need your help to do that though because I don’t do it well.
“Lord God I want to cling to your word and the promises in your hope. I want to be able to enjoy you to your fullest. I want to experience those miraculous opportunities of seeing people’s lives change forever. Lord, I look forward to spending time in your kingdom with everybody. It’s going to be awesome, Lord.
“Help us to just endure. You said that those who will live godly will suffer persecution. I know you test us and you cause affliction and you cause grief but not willingly so help us to experience you today.
“Be with others as we talk with you now. Father as we go through this day together I pray that you will encourage us. Lord it’s exciting to be able to spend time with you this morning. Your presence is very evident.
“I pray that we will hear your voice, not mine, that you will speak to each of us so that we can just have that miracle of a changed life into the image of Jesus Christ so that when we meet you soon you’ll be able to say ‘Well done.’
“Help us to endure. Help us to be faithful, and help us to be forgiving. In Jesus name, Amen.”