People gathered in the living room, quietly chatting together as the light from the fading sun spread streaks of evening beauty through-out the midsummer sky. Songbooks were passed around the circle, and someone chose a favorite. As Anthony played his guitar nearby, I sat on my aunt’s old wooden piano bench and watched the faces around me.
The children wiggled in eager anticipation for the weekend ahead, while the mothers rested from their daily labor. A young man brought his young non-Adventist girlfriend to open the Sabbath with us, and a middle-aged couple who had faced their share of hardship and loss in their lifetime sat nearby.
After we knelt for prayer and asked God for a blessing from His Word, Pastor Nathan began to tell a story of a missionary sleeping on a ship who was being vehemently shaken awake by a desperate sailor. He was asked to pray to His God, lest they all be victims to the violent elements of a tempest.
This man knew that God was displeased with him. He had disobeyed and not been content to rest in the center of his Lord’s will, and in an act that could have been suicide, anger, despair, or all three, he ordered the sailors to throw him overboard.
In a short while, we realized that Pastor Nathan was re-telling a story that we all knew well - the tale of the prophet Jonah who ran away from God. But in reality, many of us had but skimmed the surface of a much deeper meaning hidden beyond mere words in this small book. We realized that the story of Jonah’s experiences closely resembled our lives, in some way or another.
Why do you think that the book of Jonah ends with God asking a question? our friend asked us. His gaze swept the room, and then he continued. “Because this story is your story…
“Ask yourself where you are in the tale of Jonah. Maybe you are hearing God calling, and are wondering whether you should choose His plan for your life, or run in the opposite direction. Maybe you have taken the boat to Tarsus and a sailor is shaking your shoulder, waking you up to reality. Maybe you have just been spit upon the seashore in a daze, and now your eyes are turned towards Nineveh and the mission that God has called you to accomplish. Whatever the case, the story of Jonah is your story.
“Jonah chapter five remains yet to be written. How are you going to write it? Are you going to continually choose Jesus in your daily walk, or will you follow after selfishness? What will the rest of the story be….” A hush rested in the room.
“When I get to heaven, I will ask you how it was written. And I look forward to hearing how you wrote chapter 5.”
Growing up, I had little concept of how infinitely precious time was. It was hard for me to comprehend that one day I would be a teenager or learn how to keep a home. I knew what I wanted to be someday, and envisioned myself living an adventurous life full of victory for God, but those future years seemed so distant, so far away.
But as I sat in my aunt’s living room in late July of 2011, surrounded by my friends, family, and church members, I realized that the years had flown by, and I was soon to reach a turning point in my life. It was only a matter of time when everything I had learned in my home would be put to practice - and to the test. No longer did I have years ahead of me to cultivate being faithful, diligent, meek and gentle at heart in this my present situation. If I did not know how to thoroughly put my trust and faith in God now, I would be thrown into life without the stable, abiding hope that would last despite hard times which were sure to come. In God’s Word, I needed to be completely educated. With His Spirit, I needed to be entirely transformed.
Upon the ledger of heaven, someday I would surely see the story of my life written out as only an angel can. What if I read it, and found that I could have done more to share the gospel than I did? Would I shed tears of regret for moments that I spent in idleness which I could have used for the Master’s sake?
The reality of the life that lay ahead me, still fresh and new in youthfulness, touched my heart that summer night. Stubbornness to my own ideas of life would only hinder my way, and pride would destroy it’s blessing on others. The time God would grant me in the future would attest one day to my faithfulness to follow His dreams - not my own.
Oh Christian, tread carefully as you walk this narrow path. We cannot go back and erase the past, so let us move forward with Christ’s strength lest we ruin the future and end up with a chapter five that is not worth writing. We have only one, single life to live. As each moment ticks past, we cannot unravel time, and we cannot change it. Whether your story will be one of entire victory and surrender completely to our Lord, or if it’s not as beautiful as you know it could have been had you proved entirely faithful, will be determined by your decision.