The glory of God & the advance of the Gospel

Tonight we finished our series on the book of Jonah. We looked together at chapter 4 which concludes the chapter and sadly shares the story of Jonah's eventual rejection of God's call to be on mission. Jonah is a story of a self-sufficient, self-righteous man committed to the pursuit of his own pleasure above all things. Of particular interest to me was verse 5-11. Consider those verses below.

5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

A whole host of issues jump out at me from this portion of the passage, but for our sake let's just consider one. Notice that Jonah is challenged by God because he is more concerned about the life of his plant than he is the lives of the Ninevites whom God has just saved. In fact God asks an interesting question when he asks Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" In other words, is your anger well placed over your concern for the plant? Should your passion really be given to the life of a plant as opposed to the lives of the Ninevites? Now for most of us, a plant is not really what will trip us up. Instead, however, we have our own conveniences which "add" to our life and capture both our attention, and even more dangerously, our passion. We give ourselves to these conveniences and will even give our lives to them, fooling ourselves into thinking that our lives are fulfilled by them.

So I wonder what occupies the place of Jonah's plant in our lives? As I think about it, I'm increasingly convinced that the only thing valuable enough that I dedicate my life to it is the glory of God and the advance of Jesus' Gospel. These two pillars of faith are driven from Jesus' own words when He tells us in Matthew 22, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Sadly too many of us, though we would probably never say it, live as though the passion of our lives is something other than these things. We give ourselves, because we are passionate people, but we give ourselves to things that in the end, really just don't matter.

So, join with me in resolving to live as if we are giving ourselves to the glory of God and the advance of Jesus' Gospel. I think it is beyond time to quit satisfying ourselves with the passionate pursuit of our plants.