The Jonah Syndrome

The inhabitants of the ancient city of Ninevah were living in wickedness and in need of the message that Jehovah charged His prophet Jonah to preach (Jonah 1:2). But where was Jonah? He was "fast asleep" on board the ship that he desperately wanted to carry him "from the presense of the Lord" (Jonah 1:3-5).

He was asleep on the job! God had commanded him to go preach in Ninevah, but Jonah had other plans. Today, the world is lost in sin and headed to eternal condemnation with the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Jesus has commanded us to teach the soul-saving gospel to every person in the world (Mark 16:15). Could it be that some, as Jonah was, are "fast asleep" on the job and giving no real attention to what they can do to more effectively get the gospel to those who are lost? If so, then like Jonah of old, we need to heed the message, "Awake thou that sleepest..."Ephesians 5:14; cf. Jonah 1:6).

Finally, after being swallowed by the great fish, Jonah did go to Ninevah and preached God's message. The people repented, and as a result God did not destroy the city (Jonah 3:5-10). Yet, amazingly, Jonah was "exceedingly" displeased and angry (Jonah 4:1). Can you imagine? A prophet of the living God being upset because people had turned from their wickedness to their Creator and thus escaped His wrath!

What about you and me? Do we really join with the angels of heaven and rejoice when men and women, regardless of their racial or cultural background, turn away from sin and turn to the living God (Luke 15:10?) We must! If our greatest joy in life is something other than hearing of or seeing people come to Christ via the gospel for salvation, then we need to adjust our thinking. We must possess the spirit of the apostle Paul, who declared that his "heart's desire and prayer to God" was for Israel to be saved (Romans 10:1). A love for lost souls must first burn in our hearts before we will ever go forth to teach God's word to them.

The one thing that made Jonah "exceeding glad" was the gourd that God prepared to cover his head from the hot sun (Jonah 4:6). To Jonah's disgust and bitter anger, the next day a God-prepared worm ate the gourd. Jonah's "air conditioner" was gone, and he was one upset fellow! Sounds silly, does it not? A man of God more concerned about keeping himself cool than he was for the souls of those who he had taught? Yet, if we are not careful, we just might find ourselves giving more attention to the building's air conditioner than to preaching to the lost! What would upset us more - our air conditioner "going out", or a friend or neighbor "going out" of this world in a lost condition?

A number of years ago the leadership of a well-known congregation informed a preacher that they would be unable to assist him in his efforts to preach the gospel to the lost of Southeast Asia. Their reason? Several of the members had complained that they were getting wet when they walked from the main part of the building to the "fellowship hall" when it rained. Thus, the church was going to "have to" spend $5000 to build a covered walkway to keep the members dry (and happy) during bad weather when they made their way to their feasts. Being more disturbed over a little rain on one's head than for lost souls sounds like Jonah, don't you think?

May God help us to set our desires on things above (Colossians 3:2), keeping our priorities straight, and manifesting a genuine compassion for those that are lost. There are 6 billion souls just outside the door.

By Roger Campbell

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