Jonah, the Important Things in Life,and Being Part of Something Larger, with a Mark Driscoll Detour Thrown into the Mix

At church last Sunday, the pastor preached about Jonah.  Two of his insights, in particular, stayed with me during the week.

The first insight was that, just because an opportunity opens up that appears beneficial to us, that doesn’t mean it’s from God.  Jonah was disobeying God, and, lo and behold, there was a ship that could take him away, and a place where he could sleep!  An opportunity opened up for Jonah that offered him comfort, but Jonah still was outside of the will of God.  Similarly, suppose that we get a promotion that requires more hours of work and takes away our time with God?  Is that really from God?

Confession time.  On the way home from church, for whatever reason, I had a desire to listen to a Mark Driscoll sermon.  Remember Mark Driscoll?  He left the Mars Hill Church due to controversies.  To my surprise, he now has a church in Arizona, where he pastors and preaches.  And why not?  He has a gift and should be allowed to use it, even if he has made mistakes in the past and many people can’t stand him.  Just because there are people who can’t stand him, that doesn’t mean he’s obligated to crawl under a rock for the rest of his life!  (And, by the way, I say the same about Trump!)

Anyway, I visited Mark Driscoll’s web site after coming home from church, and what do you think Mark Driscoll has been preaching about the last two weeks?  Jonah!  And Mark Driscoll made a similar point to what the pastor at my church said: that, just because an opportunity opens up, that doesn’t mean it’s from God.  We want money and there is an opportunity for us to steal?  That is not from God!  We want a romantic relationship, and an opportunity for a romantic relationship with a non-believer opens up?  Not from God!

I doubt that the pastor at my church got that idea about ungodly opportunities from Mark Driscoll.  The pastor has made that point in sermons before, so it’s his own idea.  But I suspect that the pastor at my church got the connection of that idea with the Book of Jonah from Mark Driscoll’s sermon.  I can’t prove it!  And, to be clear, I’m not accusing the pastor of plagiarizing: there are clear differences between his sermon and that of Mark Driscoll!  The pastor probably did what a lot of pastors do: explore commentaries and sermons to get insights for his own sermon.

Anyway, that point in the pastor’s sermon has been swimming in my mind as part of a larger discussion in my head concerning what I truly value.  One of the books that I am reading right now is Daniel Henderson’s The Prayer God Loves to Answer.  Henderson says that we should value God and people more than money.  When we are dying, don’t we want people around us who care about us?  And people on the verge of death never regret that they failed to spend more time at the office!

I really had to think about this!  In a sense, I do value money more than people.  I don’t particularly care for people, especially their snark, sarcasm, and cliquishness.  Money, at least, can grant me security and the ability to enjoy the hobbies and interests that I want to enjoy, even if I don’t like people and people don’t like me.  So which do I value more?

And do I value money more than spirituality?  Well, I’m not that good at spirituality, to be honest, so, in a sense, the answer is “yes.”  I may be far from perfect in terms of my Christian life and my character (i.e., I struggle with resentment and forming relationships), but, if I have the security that money can bring, then I can be content!

And yet, would I be truly happy?  I mean, if I am working all the time at menial tasks, would I be able to do as many of the things that I enjoy, the things that feed my soul?  Reading.  Watching shows.  Going to church.  I will work diligently when given a chance, but I do think that an enjoyable life is a balance between work and pursuing the things that feed the soul.

The second insight in the pastor’s sermon concerned the fruit of Jonah’s ministry.  Jonah preached, and Nineveh repented!  Jonah got to be part of something larger than himself.  Similarly, when we obey God, we are blessed!

(By the way, I think that’s how my mind got onto Mark Driscoll on my walk home from church.  The pastor was saying that he himself is not important, and that, if he goes, God will raise someone else to preach the word.  What is important is the word, not personalities!  That made me think about how some churches fold after a charismatic preacher leaves.  An example that came to my mind of that sort of phenomenon was Mark Driscoll!)

Of course, Jonah in the Book of Jonah did not particularly feel blessed after Nineveh repented, which is why God had to instruct Noah about the value of the people and animals in Nineveh, so that Jonah might see the situation as God did.  Still, I am attracted to the idea of being part of something useful, something bigger than myself.

Over the years, I have pulled back from “witnessing” to others, since that has long seemed rather artificial to me, at least when I try to do it.  That can be said for many of my attempts to be a good evangelical!  Appealing to God’s commands does not change that, so the “obey, obey, obey” mantra in many sermons on Jonah does not impact me that much!  I figure that I tried, I failed, so let’s move on!  Berating me as disobedient won’t change anything!

The pastor was saying, though, that if God calls us to a task, that must mean that God knows that there is something within us that makes us a fit for that task, something that can enable us for it.  He also said that God may see things in us that we do not acknowledge in ourselves.  Maybe.  That is worth considering.

I would like to leave the comments open.  But I will close them because I don’t want to get into a debate about Mark Driscoll and Trump!

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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