Staring Selfishness in the Face

It’s easy to be selfish. 

It’s human nature to only think about what we want when we want it, and how to get what we want… Or how we feel about what we want, or what we think we deserve. 

We are born into this world believing that the world revolves around me, myself, and I. 

Our automatic drive mode is to pursue what makes ME happy, right now at this moment… no matter the consequences to anyone else. Sure, we might say it’s about me unless someone else gets hurt… But it’s almost easier to back-stab, maneuver, and deceive others in pursuit of our dreams or happiness. 

Now, many of you might be thinking to yourself, “well I’m not that bad.”

But have you been ruthless at work? 

Have you placed yourself first in marriage? 

Have you spent money on vain and meaningless items rather than giving to those in need? 

Have you been just “good enough”? But not trying to live every moment for Christ? And I think this one is the easiest to fall into. We live in a society that is flooded with Christians who attend church on Sunday, say nice things, then go back home or to work and behave like a completely different person or do not let the gospel and its message flood into every crevice of life. 

People are dying every day. And many of them are dying without the hope of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission commands those who know and have experienced the truth to tell the entire world the good news! That Jesus died for sin, was buried, and rose again defeating death forevermore. And we have the hope of everlasting life, to be resurrected from the grave like he was. 

Yes, being a Christ-follower is a tall order. But it’s worth it. Like the man who found treasure in a field, buried the treasure, and sold everything he had to obtain the field. It might look radical or crazy now, but it won’t in eternity future. 

Jonah, a prophet in the Old Testament, also received a commission from God but because of his prejudices and selfishness, he attempted to flee from this calling. 

He is a perfect example of someone who was a “good” guy, but when God asked him to do something that wasn’t what he wanted to do, he ran in the opposite direction. 

If you don’t know this story, Jonah was probably minding his business one day when God spoke to him saying, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2)

Instead of saying, “Yes, Lord, send me,” Isaiah-style… Jonah hopped aboard a ship headed to a city probably in modern Spain, which was miles away from Nineveh, the capital of Assyria which is now Northern Iraq. 

Jonah was attempting to flee the Lord (Jonah 1:3). 

Why would Jonah do this? Honestly, for several reasons: 

– One could have been simply that the Assyrians were a war-like nation who was well-known for being violent and practicing idolatry. Jonah may have not wanted to end up being tortured or killed for the message God wanted this people group to hear. Jonah was also probably prejudiced against the Assyrians and hated them. He knew God is a God of compassion and mercy and he wanted to selfishly keep it away from them (Jonah 4:2).  

– Also, Assyria was an enemy of Israel. It was prophesied by other prophets before Jonah walked onto the scene that Assyria would destroy the Northern Kingdom of Israel due to them falling away from God and pursuing evil. Perhaps Jonah feared that he would help the Assyrians rise to power and take over his country. Which, as history tells us, Assyria did decimate Israel in 722 B.C., just 40 years after Jonah’s expedition. 

Well, as you can imagine, trying to run away from the mission God had for Jonah did not work out so well for him: 

“Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.”

In great fear, the other sailors threw out the cargo to lighten the ship in hopes of survival as they plead to the gods that they prayed to. 

“But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.” The captain went down, woke him up, and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then, all the sailors decided to cast lots, or perhaps roll or take dice, to find out who was responsible for the storm. 

In divine providence, Jonah was selected, and the sailors asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from?”

Jonah replied, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

This was terrifying for the sailors to hear, and after Jonah had told them he was running away from God, they asked, “What have you done?” 

The storm raged on around them, and the sailors probably believed they were about to die. They asked Jonah what they should do to appease the God of Israel, and Jonah made a some-what brave sacrifice:

 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Ignoring Jonah’s advice, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 

Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this, the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:12-17). 

The message of this first chapter may sound simple – don’t run away from God. However, when we look deeper, we see that it’s more about placing God’s will above our own will. 

And as we see in Jonah’s first chapter, that God is pretty good at making his will known considering he gave the prophet a command, sent a storm, calmed it, and sent a whale all within 17 verses. 

God is present and moving in your life, and when we choose to run away from his mission (Matthew 28:16-20), life may prove to be turbulent and utterly miserable. 

Do you feel as if you have been tossed into the ocean? Stuck in a belly of a stinking whale? 

What are you running away from? Or who?

Once we choose to surrender and allow God’s will to shape our lives then we can experience great joy. 

How do we do this? How do we seek things of God and not what we want?

We need to count our blessings and live a life of gratitude. 

We need to realize and be aware of the lost and pray for them and seek them out as Jesus did. 

We need to live a life in complete surrender to God, placing him first in our lives. 

Stop running today. Like the father waiting for his prodigal child to return, God is also waiting with open arms. 

In love and truth, 

Melody 

Staring Selfishness in the Face

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