Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
Can you imagine falling asleep during a really bad storm on board a ship? Jonah must have been incredibly tired and a really heavy sleeper. Then, to be woken up with a rebuke – a good solid rebuke is never any fun! But, sometimes we need to be rebuked so we do wake up and start doing what we are supposed to be doing.
Jonah was a man of God, a prophet, and instead of praying he was sleeping. The pagan sailors were the ones praying to their gods, their gods that had no control over the wind or the sea. The one person who could talk to the God who did have control was asleep. I think there are times in life where we are like both of the people in this boat – we are praying to the wrong gods or totally avoiding the One True God who can do something about the storm we are in. Which one are you? Are you hoping a lesser god will answer or are you just avoiding the One who can?
Now, I know no one really likes to be rebuked or called on the carpet when we are doing something wrong. We treat the word accountability like an evil four letter word that we want nothing to do with. But, accountability is a good thing, a healthy thing. Being held responsible for our actions, rebuked when we are wrong, is what keeps us out of the storms and leads us to safety when we find ourselves in one. A rebuke is what Jonah needed. He was no longer interested in listening to God’s Word or to God’s action (the storm) so God forced him to listen to the pagans.
We might not want to hear the rebuke, but we need to hear it. In all of God’s grace and mercy He will make sure we do. Those rebukes can come from other people, can come from storms, and many times will come from the places we least expect it. What we need to learn to do is listen to that rebuke. As hard as it might be, it might just be the only thing that will get us back on track and back into the life God has for us. Jonah jumped off the ship, the storm stopped, and God went to work setting him back on track. Listen to the rebuke, be held accountable – it could be the most loving thing anyone ever does for you.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.