S68P6 – Through the belly of the fish: the grace of unexpected repentance

Jon. 3:7-9

Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”

He was usually vocal about his faith, but that did not mean that he was willing to evangelize to just anyone.  One person in particular who never heard the gospel from him was his brother.  You see, he had known his brother for more than twenty years, and he knew what kind of person his brother was.  There was nothing that could convince him that someone so far gone and self-serving would even want to hear about Jesus.  When a friend of his was that the apartment at the time of a surprise visit from his brother, he would see the impossible become reality.  Knowing nothing of the past, that friend would share the gospel message with his brother, and he would see that hard, selfish man respond.

You might know someone in your life who you think never would entertain your evangelistic attempts because that person is so far removed from God.  Maybe this is a colleague or a close friend or even a relative.  I was that person right before friends who had no idea how evil my life had become took the step of sharing the gospel message with me.  It would take only one Sunday service for me to get saved, and no one could have predicted that.  It was a miracle that God would extend his grace and cause his Spirit to draw me near to him and break me down.  Like the king and his nobles in Nineveh, it was not my good heart which caused me to turn.  It was the grace of God which allowed my cold, dark eyes to open and finally see.

One thing we surely gain from the story of Jonah is that we cannot predict who will respond to the gospel message.  The power of God’s Holy Spirit to convict and draw sinners near is not something we can measure.  I always think that my salvation is proof that anyone can repent.  Between me and the Ninevites, I should have no reason to keep from evangelizing to any person simply because he or she seems too evil or hardened to receive the gospel message.  It is for the miraculous grace of the Spirit to perform that good work.  Let us trust that this grace can conquer any evil or deception.  Father, open our mouths that we would speak of the saving power of your Son to even the most hardened people we encounter, trusting in the power of your miraculous grace.