Friday, January 17, 2014

No right to complain

Jonah was hardly a courageous man of God. I don't mean to bash Jonah.  Obviously, I'm no better.
God told him to go and preach against wickedness. Jonah ran the opposite direction. So God sent a storm, and as the story goes, Jonah ends up being thrown overboard, ending up in the belly of a whale. But God wasn't finished with Him. Jonah cried out to God and God heard him. He saw to it that the whale spit Jonah back up so that Jonah could have another shot at obedience. God is certainly a God of second chances.
This time Jonah went to Nineveh, as commanded, to preach the word of God to a lost and corrupt people who were on the verge of destruction. The people in that town repented, fasted and called on God.
You would think that the story would then end with happiness and joy. Jonah finally obeyed and the people were saved from their sins. But the story doesn't end there. Jonah went away from the town and sat under a shelter he fashioned for himself. God lovingly provided a vine to cover Jonah and provide him comfort and shade. Jonah was undoubtedly pleased with the presence of the vine.
But it didn't last. God then sent a worm to eat away at the vine. Jonah didn't take kindly to the loss of his beloved vine. He called out to God with words of grief, "It would be better for me to die than to live." (Jonah 4:8).
God gives a pointed, humbling response. "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" (Jonah 4:9).
Those words are like a sucker punch to the stomach of every person who has ever complained, gripped, or railed against the things they wish they had but don't. Those words hit me between the eyes today, bringing my soul to its knees.
How foolish Jonah and I have been. We have been abundantly blessed by God. He has seen our needs and filled them. When Jonah needed comfort for His head, God provided. When Jonah needed saved from the belly of a whale, God provided.
God is moving and working in my life much the same way. I have yet to be swallowed by a whale but I have been saved from a pit of my own making. God has redeemed my soul and given me new life. He has sustained my physical body in sickness and restored it to health. God has seen to it that my financial, emotional and physical well being is always cared for, sometimes in miraculous ways that defy explanation.
And yet I fall into the same trap that Jonah was in at the end of chapter four. Even after all of the immense blessings of God, even after Jonah had seen God shower mercy and love on the lost Ninevite people, Jonah was dissatisfied. He wanted more. He was angry because the vine withered. He was even angry that a sinful people had indeed found repentance. He had every reason for joy and yet he choose to complain and wish death upon himself.
In my own life I have done the very same thing. I have disregarded the blessings and work of God, tuning out His voice and providence with the loud cries of my own complaining, wicked, disobedient heart. I have not received life circumstances the way I wanted them, in the time frame I wanted them, and therefore I've issued a laundry list of complaints to God. Instead of embracing the unique and special blessings He has given me and thanking Him for the presence or absence of a particular vine, I think it my right to be angry when I don't get my way
Those words God speaks to Jonah in verse nine of chapter four are the same words I need to hear. "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" Do I have a right to be angry when I don't get the lot in life I think I should? When circumstances change or life gets a little tough, do I have a right to be angry with God?
Of course not.
Every breath is a blessing. Every moment spent as a child of God is a blessing. Whether or not I receive a plentiful vine or I have to sit under the scorching sun, I am abundantly blessed. By my own power I deserve nothing but eternal separation from God. By His grace I have been saved from that awful fate. Do I have a right to ever complain about my circumstances? Never. Not for a moment. Because each and every moment of each and every day I am living in the reality of the greatest blessing man kind has ever known: the eternal salvation provided by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Therefore, I have no right to ever be angry with God.

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