A Pattern for Changeby Cynthia Jennings on December 7, 2022
When my son was school age, he developed food allergies. When the allergies first occurred, he broke out in severe hives. From that moment forward, his food choices became limited, and any sign of itching or hives sent me into action. I immediately assessed what he ate, while grabbing the calamine lotion and medicine.
Like me with my son, we are usually quick to respond to warnings about out natural health. When our child has a fever, we call the doctor. When we have a headache, we take medicine. Once a year we go for annual check-ups and if needed we seek out specialty care.
When it come to our natural health, we eagerly take the necessary steps toward change. Yet we often are not as eager to make changes when it comes to our spiritual health.
Just like we assess our natural health to make a change, we too must assess or spiritual health to make a change.
Making changes to our spiritual health begins with a heart change. This is done by allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds (Romans 12:2), by simply asking the Lord, in an attitude of repentance, to change our hearts (Psalm 51), “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
Jonah is a notable example of someone who’s spiritual health was changed when he had a heart change.
I know when you think about the book of Jonah(Jonah 1-4), the focus is usually on him being swallowed by a great fish. But if you read a bit deeper you will not only see a change in Jonah’s behavior but the reason for his changed behavior.
Jonah was given an assignment to go into the wicked city of Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian Kingdom (Jonah 1:1-2). A city he did not like due to Assyria being an idolatrous, proud, and ruthless nation, to warn the citizens that God will destroy their city in 40 days (Jonah 3:4).
Jonah did not want to accept the assignment (Jonah 4:1). His disobedience caused him to be swallowed by a great fish (Jonah 1:17) resulting in a pattern of change in Jonah (Jonah 2) that rippled into a pattern of change for the people of Nineveh.
Jonah fleeing to Tarshish instead of going to Nineveh thought it would prevent God from being who God is. Johan knew that God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity (Jonah 4:2). In other words, Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. He felt they deserved God’s judgment. Jonah did not want to see God’s mercy extended to his enemies.
THE CHANGE…. Jonah knew in his heart that God’s intention was to show mercy. Jonah discovered that God’s salvation is available to all who repent, not just to the people of Jonah’s choosing.
When Jonah finally delivered the message to Nineveh, they believed. The response of the wicked city of Nineveh to God’s warning, “The people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5 ).
We do not know every detail of why Nineveh responded this way, but an encounter with the all-powerful God moved them to get serious about the state of their spiritual health. It moved them to change.
Nineveh’s response carved a path of change, and the pattern of their response is a practice we can apply today:
- Change started with individuals: The first mention of change in Nineveh is among the people, not the leaders (Jonah 3:5). The people did not wait on direction from anyone, they made personal decisions to change their own lives.
- Change continued with complete dependence on God: The people acted on their belief, the King got word of what was going on, and he too, believed God. He urged the people to “call out to mighty to God” (Jonah 3:8).
- Change required change: The people of Nineveh could not just acknowledge they needed God, they had to fully surrender to His will. The change that occurred in Nineveh included giving up on their wicked ways to turn to God’s way (Jonah 3:6-10).
Personal repentance must be part of the path to change. When we cry out to God, He hears us and the waves of His waiting grace and mercy rush over us, saving us and changing us.
The abundant grace and mercy God extended to Nineveh was preceded by God extending grace and mercy to His prophet, Jonah:
After Jonah resisted God’s call and ran away from Him (Jonah 1:3).
After Jonah suffered extreme consequences and literal depths of the sea (Jonah 2:3).
After Jonah lay on dry ground in the middle of a mess (Jonah 2:10).
Then — the word of the Lord came to Jonah (Jonah 3:1).
God could have enlisted another prophet to take His word to Nineveh. He could have left Jonah in the belly of the great fish. But He did not, He heard Jonah’s prayers (Jonah 2:2) And God’s word came to Jonah a “second time” (Jonah 3:1).
Thank You Lord for second times! No matter where we are or how far we have wandered, we can always believe God, call out mightily to Him for the restoration of our spiritual health. Then God will continue His work within us.
Prayer: Father God, start with me. Have I skipped a step-in repentance? Explore my heart and point out anything in me that offends You. Break my heart for the things in my life that break Your heart. Create in me a clean heart so that I may be able to respond without fear, anger, or disdain. In Jesus Name, Amen.
PEARLStoPONDER: Repentance has no boundaries!