Jonah 1:1-2 (ESV)
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
(This is part 2 of our multipart study on Success in the Bible)
The first figure we will look at in regard to success is Jonah. We all have heard the story of ‘Jonah and the Big Fish’ I am sure. But here is a person who was successful beyond what he could have dreamed – despite not wanting to be!
First – he tried to run away from what he was called to do…. and failed. The reason we all know of Jonah is that God had a plan, and God was going to use Jonah – no matter what Jonah himself thought about it! Being swallowed by a Big Fish and spat back out three days later is a pretty extreme reminder to Jonah of Who is in control.
God called Jonah to preach to the city of Nineveh, to tell them about God and what He thought of their city. But Jonah didn’t want to go – he was a prophet in Israel, and wanted nothing to do with the ‘gentiles’. He wanted to continue in his role with Israel, and leave the others to destruction.
After Jonah preached in Nineveh, he didn’t just get a small home group. He didn’t just get 10 or 15 people to hear his message and believe.
Jonah 3:5-9 (ESV)
And 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.
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
Much of the city believed and repented, all the way up to the King.
In his preaching, Jonah was wildly successful. This was no tent meeting, this was no false revival. This was a turning and repentance of a whole city. To this day preachers dream of a response like this! So as a prophet of the Most High God, what did Jonah think of this?
Jonah 4:1-3 (ESV)
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah hated it. Hated it so much that he said he would rather die than be a part of this success! Given the choice, Jonah would have preached for 40 days and then called fire from Heaven to destroy the city. Instead, a city of over 120,000 people heard the Word of God and repented!
From our standpoint now, we would call Jonah successful. From the standpoint of any preacher, Jonah was wildly successful.
According to God, Jonah was successful – he was called to preach repentance and that is what happened.
So in the end, God called, Jonah obeyed, and was successful despite himself.
What can we learn from this?
Success comes in many forms and measures. What one person calls success, another may call failure or not measure at all. So in order to talk more about success, we first need to look at what we are measuring.
In our next post, we will look more into this measure with another figure from Biblical history.