Christmas Stories: A Mission Story
Taking the gospel to the world reflects Christ coming to earth.
(Read Jonah 3:1-4:1)
It was a dark, stormy night with lightning flashing, thunder crashing, waves ripping across the deck, a howling gale and a sideways rain that felt like needles. The sailors on the boat had a white-knuckle grip on anything that seemed stable, but nothing seemed stable. Even things nailed down were coming loose and boards were creaking and snapping under the stress. They all knew it. Every one of them knew it. Sailors have a sixth sense about those things: It wouldn't be long until the ship broke into pieces and slipped under the sea.
There are no atheists on sinking ships. Sailors were crying out with the only prayers they knew, to any god who might listen and have mercy. The only answer: another wave, another lightning bolt, another crash of thunder. "Throw the cargo overboard!" came a shout muffled by wind and rain. The sailors did what they could, but what they did didn't help.
"Where's the passenger we picked up in Joppa?" the captain asked.
"I think he's down below," replied the first mate.
Bracing against the wind and the tossing ship, the captain moved two labored steps forward and one step backward toward the hatch to the belly of the ship. He made it, steadied himself, and climbed down. He found the passenger sleeping, the passenger's snores as loud as the storm. The captain roused him. "How can you sleep at a time like this? Wake up. Call on your God. None of our gods are listening. Maybe your God will listen. Maybe your God will save us."
Jonah tried to run from God and avoid Nineveh
The captain knew that Jonah was a religious man and a prophet of some sort. When Jonah booked passage, the captain had asked, "Why would a Jew like you want to go to a faraway place like Tarshish?"
"I am going ...
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John McCallum is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he has served for 22 years.