By David Dawson
KNOXVILLE — There’s far more to the story of Jonah than just the giant fish that is so often pictured in children’s books.
Jonah’s saga is actually a story of rebellion, redemption and restoration that ultimately points to God’s mercy and patience, said Florida pastor H.B. Charles in his sermon at the annual meeting of Tennessee Baptists.
“We have all played (the role of) Jonah in our lives,” said Charles, pastor of Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, Fla. “You are Jonah; I am in Jonah. But as much as we can relate to Jonah’s rebellion, we all qualify for another chance.”
Charles was the featured speaker for the Tuesday afternoon session at the 2019 Summit, held at First Baptist Church, Concord.
“There is nothing we can do to overcome the consequences of sin,” said Charles. “We cannot fix our sin problem. But God is ready, willing and able to give you a second chance. God wants to give a fresh start.”
Charles said God’s desire is to always see His children live up to their potential, and He is willing to forgive their failures. Charles said that is true even if a person’s testimony isn’t quite as eventful as Jonah’s journey to Nineveh.
“Jonah’s experiences were unique, but the lesson is universal: God wants to give you another chance,” said Charles.
Charles noted that after Jonah failed, God could have simply selected someone else. Instead, He, in His wisdom, stuck it out with Jonah, allowing him to atone for his mistakes.
“God didn’t need Jonah, but He choose to recommission Jonah,” said Charles. “God was in control of the details in Jonah’s life — just as he is in control of the details of your life.”
Charles noted that many modern-day Christians tend to run away from their own personal Ninevehs. But God is patient with us, just as He was with Jonah.
Granted, the circumstances aren’t always ideal when we choose to disobey or ignore God’s plan for our lives, Charles said. Still, He is faithful.
“God almost had to kill Jonah before He restored him,” said Charles. “But Jonah (eventually) obeyed the command of God when he was given a second chance. And that’s what we should do.”
Charles said God not only wants us to change our ways, but also change our world.
“There is no limit to what God can do through one person,” said Charles. “If you obey God where you are, there is no limit to what God can do through you.”
Charles said Jonah arrived in Nineveh with no fanfare and no friends. But God used that seemingly bleak situation to do an amazing work.
“Jonah walked into Nineveh with nothing — nothing but a divine message,” said Charles. “He brought a message of doom. But through it, God brought one of biggest revivals in history. … From the king to the commoners, God changed the hearts of those in Nineveh.”
The same thing is happening today, Charles said. Or at least it should be — if Christians are willing to be used by God.
“The power of God’s word has not changed,” Charles said. “It still saves the lost and sanctifies the church.”
Like any loving parent, God’s desire is to see His children flourish, even if that means enduring some disappointments along the way, Charles said.
“The holy heart of God is bent toward mercy,” he said. “There is grace in judgment and judgment in grace. Even a message of doom is a message of hope.”
Charles said today’s world can, like the people of Nineveh, come to the realization that it is never too late to change.
“The Ninevites got in a hurry to get a right with God,” he said. “And that is the message that we have to give today’s sinful world — God wants to give you a chance to change your ways.” B&R