Sometimes I think we are a little too hard on Jonah. Now don’t get me wrong—disobeying God’s direct order and winding up as a whale’s lunch is never a good life plan. Yet, if we humanize Jonah instead of just looking at him as a character in the Bible, it’s easy to see where he’s coming from.
Think about it: Jonah is living his life as God’s prophet. He’s God’s man living his life serving the Lord. Then one day, God speaks to him and tells him to go to Nineveh.
Jonah’s first response: “You’ve got to be crazy!!!”
(Okay, not exactly those words, but that’s my paraphrased version.)
But the truth is that Jonah couldn’t believe what God was asking. To Jonah, it seemed unthinkable. Why would God want the evil people of Nineveh—-a town who was known for their wickedness—-the historical enemies of Israel—to repent and be saved?
This made no sense to Jonah. Nineveh didn’t deserve to be spared. It deserved judgment. Jonah didn’t want to see the city saved; he wanted to see it destroyed.
How could God ask him to do this?
Jonah just didn’t understand.
So he did what we are all tempted to do when God asks us to do something that doesn’t make sense, that seems too hard, or that goes against our human nature. He ran in the exact opposite direction.
I think if we would all get off our spiritual high horses and be honest, we’d all have to admit there are times when we are tempted to follow Jonah’s example.
When the Holy Spirit speaks to us and says, “I want you to forgive this person,” and every ounce of our flesh screams, “They don’t deserve it.”
When we hear a sermon teaching about tithing and giving and think, “It’s a pandemic—money is tight—does the church need it more than me?”
When God asks us to walk a road we don’t want to walk, to follow Him down a difficult path, to sacrifice more than we think we can give, it’s tempting to follow Jonah’s example and start scrolling the internet for cheap flights away from Nineveh.
The key is avoiding the temptation to do it.
You see, it’s easy to understand why Jonah did what he did.
However, what he did was still 100% wrong.
The key to doing whatever it takes to follow Jesus is choosing that even in the face of great temptation to disobey God, we choose to resist temptation and submit our will to God’s will.
That’s what Jonah wouldn’t do. It is, however, what Ananias did.
Let take a look at his story.
I’m Acts 9, God gave Ananias command very similar to the one He gave Jonah:
“Ananias, you know that guy who is persecuting the church—hunting down you and all your friends and trying to kill you? I want you to go and pray for him.” (Acts 9:11-12)
And Ananias had a rejection very similar to Jonah’s: “What? You’ve got to be kidding me!”
(Okay, it was more dignified but same feelings.). He actually said:
“Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.” (Acts 9:13-14)
What is the difference between Ananias and Jonah?
Even though it seemed crazy, unthinkable, and just scary, Ananias obeyed.
We can all learn something from both of these men.
We all go through times when God’s path for our lives doesn’t make sense. We all have moments when we ask God, “Are You sure this is the way You want to do things?”
Ananias and Jonah have this in common.
Like them, each of us has a choice of how we will respond to God in these situations. When we move past the initial shock and realize that God is serious—He wants us to do what he’s telling us to do—we are left with the choice to obey or disobey.
To walk in God’s will or run.
To follow or rebel.
To be a Jonah or an Ananias.
How do you respond when God’s call leads you somewhere you don’t want to go?
Do you sing, “I would do anything for God—but I won’t do that”?
Or “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.”?
I know from personal experience that there will be times when we feel like following Jonah’s example (yeah, I’ve been there many times in life.). Yet it’s in those times that we need to choose to pray, “Please Lord, give me the strength to follow You. Help me have the courage to set aside my fear, set aside my feelings, and all of my misunderstanding of Your ways. Help me resist my flesh and follow You whatever it takes.”
Then start searching the internet for tickets to Nineveh. The sooner you start taking steps to obey God, the sooner your flesh will be quiet, and your spirit will start gaining momentum to walk in God’s will.
That’s the example we see in Ananias in Acts 9:17, “And he went and found Saul.”
He pushed his feelings aside, got up, and did what God told him to do.
The rest is history—for Jonah and Ananias.
The choice is ours: what ending do you want to have?
Because as far as we know, Jonah’s story ended with him sitting under a dead plant having a good pout because God didn’t do things his way.
Ananias’ legacy continues today in the writings of the Apostle Paul.
It’s our choice.
While it’s easy to empathize with Jonah, do we really want to emulate him?
I do not.
I want to follow Ananias’ example and say, “I may not understand, but I will obey.”
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.