Saturday, October 9, 2021

Running Against God

“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” – Jonah 4:2 

“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo is one of the best loved novels of all time. You’ve probably seen one of the many adaptations in a movie or musical. It tells the bittersweet story of Jean Valjean, a poor wood-chopper’s son who grew up as an orphan. When he was just 17, after his brother-in-law died, the responsibility fell on Valjean to provide for his sister’s seven young children. But he didn’t earn enough money to even feed them. So, one winter night, he went out, broke a baker’s window and stole a loaf of bread. The next morning he was arrested for stealing. His bleeding hand convicted him.

Valjean was sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison. But because of numerous escape attempts that added to his sentence, Valjean ended up serving 19 years in prison—for stealing a loaf of bread for his family. By the time he was released, he was bitter, mean and mad at the world. As he traveled from town to town, nobody wanted anything to do with him. Finally, Valjean went to the house of a Catholic bishop, who took him in, fed him and gave him a bed for the night. But after the bishop fell asleep, Valjean stole all of his silver knives and forks and fled. Early the next morning, five soldiers brought Valjean back to the bishop’s house, explaining that they were arresting him for stealing the silver. But the bishop turned to Valjean and said, “I gave you the candlesticks, too. Why didn’t you take them?” And then he turned to the soldiers and said, “It was a mistake to arrest him. Let him go. The silver is his. I gave it to him.”

As the soldiers left, Valjean whispered to the bishop, “Is it true that I am free? I may go?” And the bishop responded with some of the most wonderful words ever penned in a novel: “Yes. But before you go, take your candlesticks. Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of hate, and I give it to God!” From that moment on, Jean Valjean was a changed man. His heart belonged to God, and he spent the rest of his life loving and serving others. Years later, as Valjean lay on his deathbed, there was something familiar in the room just a few feet from his head:  those two silver candlesticks that for years had reminded him of God’s great mercy and grace.

If only the prophet Jonah had had as much compassion for the people of Nineveh as the good bishop had for Jean Valjean! But in chapter 4 of the Book of Jonah, we see that isn’t the case. After running from God’s will, then doing an about-face after being spat up by a whale, Jonah walked into the city of Ninevah and preached ONE sermon—and over 100,000 people repented from their wickedness. Jonah should have been thrilled. Instead, we read that “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (v. 1). And he prayed this angry prayer: “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (vs. 2-3).  

You see, Jonah—like most Israelites of his time—hated the Ninevites, because it was prophesied that Assyria was going to wipe out Northern Israel, and Nineveh was one of the biggest cities in Assyria. The Jews considered Assyrians their mortal enemies. So Jonah would have preferred that the Assyrians NOT repent … for them to die a horrible death rather than be spared by God … to burn in hell for all eternity rather than go to heaven. At least at that moment, Jonah despised the compassion of God.

Jonah didn’t want to see this basic truth: If Jonah was saved, his salvation was for others. As Bible commentator Michael Griffiths puts it:  “If Jonah receives the call, if he is truly saved, it is for others. We must be permeated by the conviction that if grace is being conferred on us, it is primarily for others. The Christian is not just the man who is saved by Christ, he is the man whom God uses for the salvation of others by Christ.” The same holds true for you and me. Jesus Christ has given salvation and grace TO us so that He can give salvation and grace THROUGH us. We must never hoard them.

Honestly, we’re more like Jonah than we like to admit. We’re more than happy to receive Christ’s salvation. But we want to keep it to ourselves, especially when we’re around people we can’t stand. We’ve somehow missed or ignored the reality that every blessing from God in our lives was given to us to be shared. Your salvation is supposed to be shared. Your spiritual gifts, talents and abilities are supposed to be shared. Your house, your car and your food, your time and your money, are all supposed to be shared.

Every good and perfect gift that has ever come across your path is from God, and it was given to you to share. So, let’s be more like the good bishop (selfless, generous and compassionate) and not like Jonah (selfish, stingy and judgmental). As Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:8: “Freely you have received. So, freely give.”

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Running With God

The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” – Jonah 3:5 

Back in 1954, Governor Christian Herter of Massachusetts was working hard on the campaign trail as he ran for a second term. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes, he arrived at a mid-afternoon church barbecue. He hadn’t eaten a thing since breakfast, so he was really hungry. As Governor Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving the chicken. She put one piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. Using his best manners, Governor Herter asked, "Excuse me. Do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?" She responded, "Sorry. I'm supposed to give only one piece of chicken to each person." 

Normally the governor wasn’t one to throw his weight around, but he was starving. So, he looked the woman in the eye and said, “Do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state.” Without missing a beat, she responded, “Do you know who I am? I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”

Wouldn’t it have been nice if the prophet Jonah had been as good at following orders as the lady serving the chicken? The job of an Old Testament prophet was NOT complicated. Simply say WHAT God wants you to say, WHEN God wants you to say it, to WHOMEVER God tells you to say it to. For the Old Testament prophet, Job #1 was OBEDIENCE. The job wasn’t complicated, but it WAS really hard. Quite often God told His prophets to say things they didn’t want to say at times they didn’t want to say them to people they didn’t want to say them to.

That’s the way it was with Jonah. When he got God’s marching orders to preach God’s message to the people of Ninevah, he ran the other way. And you remember what happened next. Jonah boarded a ship. Fierce storm. Jonah confessed that the storm was his fault. The sailors tossed Jonah overboard. As Jonah was about to drown, he cried out to God in prayer. God saved his life by providing a great big fish to swallow him and give Jonah a free ride back to shore. And as soon as Jonah turned to the LORD and confessed his willingness to do what God called him to do, “The LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10).

At last Jonah began running WITH God and doing the work he’d been called to do. He was ready and willing to obey the LORD, but it’s pretty clear that he wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. When he got to Ninevah, he started preaching on Day One: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned’” (Jonah 3:4). Now, this is probably just a small sample of his message, but it seems safe to say that Jonah didn’t preach a lengthy sermon. He didn’t tell them to repent. He didn’t teach them how to repent. He didn’t seem to give them any hope that they could do anything to stop God’s judgment from coming if they DID repent.

Yet, amazingly, “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (v. 5). It’s hard to imagine how Jonah’s short-and-not-too-sweet message got through to them. But whatever the reason may be, GOD … WAS … BEHIND IT. God was at work. Just as God provided a fish for Jonah in chapter 2, God provided all that was needed for the people of Nineveh to repent and turn to Him. It certainly wasn’t Jonah’s preaching that won them over. It was ALL God.

And “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (v. 10). On the heels of showering Jonah with undeserved compassion, God showered the wicked people of Nineveh with undeserved compassion as well. You see, neither Jonah nor the people of Nineveh were too far gone to be reached by God’s mercy and grace. And neither are you.

I’d like to share two insights from Jonah’s latest adventures:

Insight #1: It’s not enough to just run TO God. You need to start running WITH God. Some of us are running from God, like Jonah in chapter 1, and we’re going nowhere fast. We need to come to our senses, make a spiritual U-turn and run TO God. But running TO God is only the starting point. Once we get to God, we need to start running WITH God. A surfer is not a surfer if he just paddles out TO the waves. He has to mount his board and start riding the waves. It’s the same way when you’re a Christian. Once you run TO God, you’ve got to start running WITH Him. Join Him in His work. Find out where He is moving, and move with Him. Find out where He is working, and work with Him.

Insight #2: In the Kingdom of God, the shortest distance between two points is obedience. It would have spared Jonah and the sailors on that ship a whole lot of pain and suffering if he had obeyed God’s word way back in chapter 1. If God is bound and determined to have you do something for Him, you’ll do it for Him eventually … one way or another. But it will save you and those around you a whole lot of pain and suffering if you obey quickly. The shortest distance between where you are right now and where God is calling you to go is obedience. So, don’t wait until the final chapter or two of your life to obey. Obey God’s word today. If you can’t beat Him, join Him!

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit