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4. Hindrances To Faithful Ministry (Jonah 4)

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This displeased Jonah terribly and he became very angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Oh, Lord, this is just what I thought would happen when I was in my own country. This is what I tried to prevent by attempting to escape to Tarshish!—because I knew that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and one who relents concerning threatened judgment. So now, Lord, kill me instead, because I would rather die than live!” The Lord said, “Are you really so very angry?” Jonah left the city and sat down east of it. He made a shelter for himself there and sat down under it in the shade to see what would happen to the city. The Lord God appointed a little plant and caused it to grow up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to rescue him from his misery. Now Jonah was very delighted about the little plant. So God sent a worm at dawn the next day, and it attacked the little plant so that it dried up. When the sun began to shine, God sent a hot east wind. So the sun beat down on Jonah’s head, and he grew faint. So he despaired of life, and said, “I would rather die than live!” God said to Jonah, “Are you really so very angry about the little plant?” And he said, “I am as angry as I could possibly be!” The Lord said, “You were upset about this little plant, something for which you did not work, nor did you do anything to make it grow. It grew up overnight and died the next day. Should I not be even more concerned about Nineveh, this enormous city? There are more than 120,000 people in it who do not know right from wrong, as well as many animals.”

Jonah 4 (NET)

What are hindrances to faithful ministry—serving God and others with our whole hearts? In this story, God commissioned Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, who were an ungodly nation about to experience God’s judgment. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah initially rebelled against God and went in the opposite direction towards Tarshish (in Spain). It seems that the primary reason Jonah disobeyed God was because the Ninevites were a ruthless, terrorist state and the Jews’ enemies. The national interests of Israel, possibly racism, and a perverted view of justice without mercy ruled in Jonah’s heart more than simple obedience to God’s Word. While he was running from God, he entered a ship headed toward Tarshish, and God allowed a storm that threatened to destroy the ship and the lives on it. To save their lives, the sailors threw Jonah off the ship into the sea and the storm subsided. While Jonah was sinking to his death, God saved his life by allowing him to be swallowed by a large fish. While in the fish for three days, Jonah repented and then was vomited onto dry land. Soon after, God commissioned Jonah again to preach judgment to the Ninevites—declaring that in forty days God would judge the nation. Jonah preached to them, but not with the right heart. When the Ninevites repented and God relented from sending disaster, he became very upset with God because of his graciousness.

This is where we find Jonah in Chapter 4. After accusing God of being too gracious, he left the city and built a fort to watch from afar to see if God would change his mind and destroy them. Though Jonah had completed the letter of God’s command to preach judgment to the Ninevites, he had not completed the spirit of God’s command. Jonah declared judgment with no desire to help the Ninevites repent and come to a saving knowledge of Yahweh. Instead of being angry at their repentance, he should have been discipling the Ninevites and helping them mature in following the Lord. Instead, he rebuked the Lord for his mercy and asked God to take his life. Jonah was an immature prophet—double-minded in all his ways.

Jonah’s attitude and actions in this narrative were meant to warn Israel against the same (and us with them). At the beginning of Israel’s history, God promised to bless Abraham and that he and his descendants would be a blessing to the world. Israel’s job was to proclaim Yahweh to the nations. It was not to simply be an isolated worshiping community in the world. Therefore, when the Jews read the book of Jonah, and Jonah 4 specifically, it was meant to rebuke them. Not only had Jonah become self-centered and self-focused to the neglect of his commission, but so had the Israelites. Likewise, this commonly happens with the church who Christ has commissioned to be a blessing to the world (Matt 28:18-20). Instead of loving and witnessing to the world, often the church simply isolates itself, sits in judgment of the world, and/or is apathetic towards it. We lack the mercy—the compassion in action—that God has towards unbelievers. Consequently, as we consider Jonah, we can discern common hindrances to faithful ministry to the Lord and others.

Big Question: As found in Jonah 4, what are common hindrances to faithful ministry both to God and others?

A Hindrance To Faithful Ministry Is Uncontrolled Negative Emotions, Including Anger, Self-Pity, And A Hopeless Spirit

This displeased Jonah terribly and he became very angry... So now, Lord, kill me instead, because I would rather die than live!” … When the sun began to shine, God sent a hot east wind. So the sun beat down on Jonah’s head, and he grew faint. So he despaired of life, and said, “I would rather die than live!”

Jonah 4:1, 3, 8

When the text says that Jonah became “very angry” (v. 1), it literally has the sense of burning like a fire. Jonah was enraged that the Ninevites repented and that God forgave them. He even asked for the Lord to kill him because of it (v. 3). With Moses, he prayed to die because of the difficulty in ministering to unrepentant Israelites (Num 11:15). Elijah prayed to die for the same reason (1 Kgs 19:4). The Israelites were killing prophets and tried to kill him. However, in contrast, Jonah prayed to die because the Ninevites repented, which doesn’t make sense. Later in the narrative when God removed a plant that was providing him with shade from the sun, he declared that he wanted to die again (v. 8).

Here we see one of Jonah’s major hindrances to ministry and ours as well, uncontrolled negative emotions. He was angry at God because he didn’t agree with what God was doing. He was so angry he wanted to die—quit ministry and life. But Jonah also had a lot of self-pity. When the weather was extremely hot, he despaired of his life (v. 8). He was hopeless. Jonah’s emotions were unbalanced and out of control. They hindered his ability to faithfully serve God and others.

God’s Emotions

This is a common hindrance to any good work. God has given us emotions, as he is an emotional being. God is loving and at times angry. He gets grieved and even jealous. However, God’s emotions are always perfect—they are righteous and appropriate. We were made in his image, and therefore have emotions like him. However, our emotions are infected by sin and therefore are commonly self-focused, instead of God-focused and others-focused. That’s why the greatest commandments are to love God and others (Matt 22:36-40). God commands these because they are not natural to our sinful nature. We naturally love ourselves more than God and others (2 Tim 3:1-2). This is why we get mad at God if we don’t get our way or things don’t work out the way we would prefer. In addition, we get mad at others when they get in the way of our happiness or what we think is wise or best.

When things don’t happen the way we think they should, like Jonah, we often struggle with negative emotions, sometimes out-of-control emotions towards God, others, or ourselves. These negative emotions hinder ministry, as they are often self-focused. This is, in part, why Scripture commonly commands us to control our emotions. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” Mark 6:31 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger.” We are called to control our emotions, as it’s a mark of spiritual maturity, even as uncontrolled emotions are a mark of immaturity. Anxiety and anger will lead us into sin if unchecked. Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city that is broken down and without a wall, so is a person who cannot control his temper.” Uncontrolled emotions don’t only lead to an ineffective and unfaithful ministry but also to destruction, personally and corporately.

With Jonah, his uncontrolled emotions were fueled by his wrong views about God and people. Therefore, God aimed to help him control his emotions and thoughts by asking him pointed questions like, “Are you really so very angry?” (v. 4), “Are you really so very angry about the little plant?” (v. 9), and “Should I not be even more concerned about Nineveh, this enormous city?” (v. 11). Sometimes, the best thing we can do when a person is struggling with uncontrolled emotions is to calmly ask them questions and allow them to think about their out of balance responses. God also helped Jonah control his emotions by allowing him to go through a purposefully, manufactured trial to teach him about God’s love for creation, including children and animals, and show Jonah how unreasonable he was being.

Are we controlling our emotions? Or are anxiety, worry, anger, unforgiveness, and other negative emotions controlling us? Unchecked negative emotions will make us unstable and unsuitable for ministry (cf. 1 Tim 3:3, Tit 1:8). We see this throughout Jonah’s narrative. One moment Jonah was asking to be killed by being thrown into the ocean (Jonah 1); the next he was praying for God to save him from drowning (Jonah 2). Then he praised God for salvation and recommitted to him while in the fish (Jonah 2). One moment he was preaching to the Ninevites (Jonah 3); the next he was pouting and asking to die because God saved them (Jonah 4). One moment he was happy about a new plant that provided him with shade (Jonah 4); the next he was sad because it shriveled up and wanted to die again (Jonah 4). Jonah was a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (Jam 1:8). Many Christians are like this and, therefore, ineffective and unfaithful in serving God and others. Their emotions, and therefore their faith, are out of control and unpredictable.

Breastplate Of Righteousness

We may get a sense of the importance of guarding our hearts in Paul’s command to the Ephesians to put on the breastplate of righteousness. Many believe that it is, at least in part, a command to protect our thoughts and emotions (Eph 6:14). The breastplate protected the heart, lungs, loins, and other vital organs. Symbolically, these were commonly used to refer to one’s thoughts and emotions. The heart often referred to the mind, will, and emotions. The stomach is where a person gets butterflies when they are really excited. It’s a place affected by our emotions and therefore was commonly used symbolically to refer to them (cf. Phil 1:8 KJV). If Satan can get our emotions all over the place, he can distract us from God and his will and sometimes even destroy us and others. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life.” Our family, work, church relationships, and everything else are affected by our mind, will, and emotions.

Application Question: How should we control our negative emotions?

1. To control our negative emotions, we must bring them honestly before the Lord in prayer.

As seen with Jonah, God can handle our wrong emotions and help us work through them. We should never condemn God or become angry at him (cf. Job 1:22), but we should be honest with him about our struggles. This commonly happens in the Psalms, as the Psalmist pours out his fears, worries, negative circumstances, and wrong thoughts before the Lord and yet hopes in God’s saving grace.

2. To control our negative emotions, we must evaluate them biblically, often with the help of others.

We do this by considering them against Scripture’s teachings. We are all called to not be anxious, prideful, jealous, selfishly angry, or vengeful. We also evaluate our emotions by having honest conversations with people. Again, when God asked Jonah questions, it was meant to help him evaluate his thoughts and emotions (cf. Gen 3:9, 11, 4:6). Were they justified, righteous, and like God’s thoughts and emotions? Sometimes, it helps to have conversations with godly, wise believers and allow them to challenge and encourage us biblically.

3. To control our negative emotions, we should act in line with Scripture regardless of how we feel.

We should love an enemy by acting in a loving way towards them, even though we struggle with despising them in our hearts (Rom 12:18-21). We should pray and give thanks when we’re anxious, asking for peace and God’s sovereignty over a situation (Phil 4:6-7). Often when acting in accordance with righteousness instead of our negative emotions, our emotions soon follow. For example, when reading God’s Word, praying, or going to church, though we don’t feel like it, we soon find that doing so was good for us and we feel better. Likewise, by acting in a loving manner towards someone we previously despised or cared nothing about, we may soon find ourselves truly loving that person.

4. To control our negative emotions, we must live in the Spirit by practicing spiritual disciplines.

According to Galatians 5:22-23, “self-control” (including that of our thoughts and emotions) is a fruit of the Spirit grown through living “in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” The works of the flesh are anger, jealousy, fits of rage, etc. (cf. Gal 5:19-20). However, when we live in the Spirit through prayer, worship, Bible study, obedience, and service, God will birth self-control in us. The problem is most of us visit the Spirit instead of making him our home. We are tourists or temporary residents at best, instead of citizens who live there. As we grow in spiritual disciplines, the Spirit of God empowers us to control our negative emotions and thoughts that hinder our ministry to God and others, as it did with Jonah. Paul said this to Timothy who apparently was timid and considering leaving the ministry, “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7). Certainly, this is true for us as well. God has given us a Spirit to empower us to do ministry and control our thoughts and emotions that might be hindering us. In fact, “self-control” in 2 Timothy 1:7 can also be translated as “sound mind” (KJV) or “sound judgment” (HCSB). Through God’s Spirit, we can have a sound mind to serve him and not live in fear, anger, depression, or anxiety.

By practicing all these things, we are not denying our emotions, but we are not letting them rule over us and hinder our worship and obedience to God. As mentioned, when we act in obedience to God, our emotions will often follow.

In this narrative, Jonah’s emotions were ruling him instead of God. He was double-minded and unstable in all his ways. His example of unfaithfulness was documented as a warning for Israel and us.

Application Question: How can negative emotions hinder our ministry to God and others? Why is it so important to always evaluate our emotions and thoughts biblically and submit them to God’s will? What negative emotions do you commonly struggle with, and how do you seek to control them biblically (2 Cor 10:4-5)?

A Hindrance To Faithful Ministry Is A Selective And Twisted View Of Scripture

He prayed to the Lord and said, “Oh, Lord, this is just what I thought would happen when I was in my own country. This is what I tried to prevent by attempting to escape to Tarshish!—because I knew that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and one who relents concerning threatened judgment.

Jonah 4:2

In verse 2, Jonah rebuked God for his kindness, as though he never brought justice. He paraphrased a familiar theological statement about God seen throughout the Old Testament. The first time it is mentioned is in Exodus 34:6-7, when God revealed his glory to Moses. It says,

The Lord passed by before him and proclaimed: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

As one can see, Jonah only mentioned the section about God’s compassion and grace in verse 6, while leaving off the last part about God’s justice in verse 7. It says, “But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished.” Essentially, Jonah was saying, “I ran from your command because you’re so gracious and forgiving that you never hold anybody accountable!” What’s so ridiculous about Jonah’s accusation is that God had both judged him and forgiven him not too long ago. For running from God’s command, God sent a storm that almost killed Jonah and a group of innocent sailors. It was while Jonah was sinking into the sea that he prayed, and God saved him through a large fish. And it wasn’t until Jonah repented while in the fish that God had him spewed onto dry land (Jonah 2:9-10). The fish was both in a sense his lifeboat and his jail until he repented. It’s not that Jonah disliked God’s graciousness on sinners; it’s that he selfishly didn’t feel others should experience it, especially the enemies of the Jews and maybe Gentiles in general.

As we consider God being both just and merciful at the same time, we must recognize that this has always been perplexing for believers. Old Testament saints would often cry out, “Why do the wicked prosper, while the righteous suffer?” (Jer 12:1-2, Job 21:7, Ps 72:3, 13). This is perplexing when looking at the world. However, the confusion is somewhat taken away when we understand God’s patience—him being slow to anger. Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God waits to bring justice, sometimes for an entire lifetime or several generations, because he is patient and desires that none will perish. Consequently, when looking at the world now, it will often be confusing. Why do the wicked prosper? Why do they get their own TV shows, have nice houses, and get away with so many crimes while the righteous often struggle? It’s because God is patient. He is patient with us and patient with others. In fact, we see God’s patience not only with the Ninevites in this narrative but also with Jonah. Initially, when Jonah ran, God’s justice and mercy came after him, seeking to change him more into God’s image. Then, in this narrative, Jonah selfishly complains, but God graciously and patiently teaches him. Because of God’s patience, there will at times be great and prolonged injustice in the world; and yet, because of his patience (and mercy), there will also be great salvation and revivals.

With that said, the major hindrance to worship and service that we see in this text is Jonah’s twisting of Scripture. His sinful misunderstanding of God caused him to falsely accuse God and perpetuated Jonah’s own anger. As mentioned, he selectively left off God’s justice from the same passage to focus only on God’s compassion and grace. We saw Satan do something similar when tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4). He misused Scripture to tempt Christ to disobey God. Likewise, a selective, twisted view of Scripture is a common hindrance to ministry. For some, God is a God that prospers and blesses but who does not judge. He is a God who heals but does not bring or allow sickness, as he did with Pharaoh and the Egyptians during the Exodus or with the Corinthians when they mistook the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 (as some were sick, weak, and some even died). If we have a selective view of Scripture instead of a balanced view, we will worship a caricature of God (an unhealthy exaggeration of him)—a God of blessing but not a God of wrath, or a God of wrath and not a God of blessing. He is both. Those who only see a God of blessing are often undisciplined Christians with no fear of God’s discipline. They often get mad at God, like Jonah did, because he doesn’t do what they want. On the other hand, those who only see a God of wrath or justice, often have an unhealthy fear of God and tend to struggle with depression every time they fall into sin. They feel like God doesn’t love them and won’t forgive them. Satan can easily harm them with condemnation when they fall, which pushes them away from God and his people. In contrast, the Holy Spirit only brings conviction, which turns us away from sin and back to God and his people.

If we are going to be faithful ministers to God and others, we must have a balanced view of Scripture instead of a selective, twisted view. A wrong view will hurt us and others, as we share it with them. Satan is the one who twists Scripture to lead us away from God and his people to sin. We must be especially careful of becoming one of his mouthpieces, even if only into our own ears.

Application Question: How should we respond to the danger of a selective, twisted view of Scripture?

1. Because of the dangers of a selective, twisted view of Scripture, we must diligently study God’s Word because God will hold us accountable for our lack of knowledge and our acting upon it.

Second Timothy 2:15 (ESV) says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Also, in Matthew 5:19, Christ said:

So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

2. Because of the dangers of a selective, twisted view of Scripture, ministers must teach the whole counsel of God and not just choose their favorite passages or doctrines.

In Acts 20:26-27, Paul said: “Therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of you all. For I did not hold back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God.” Those who sit under half-truths of God’s Word are prone to deception and idolatry, as they can’t discern error mixed with truth. They will make caricatures of God that do not fit Scripture’s full counsel. By teaching the full counsel of Scripture, ministers raise up mature Christians who will be less vulnerable to deception and more able to minister to others (cf. Eph 4:11-15).

Jonah had a selective, twisted view of Scripture which hindered his ministry to the Ninevites and God. It will do the same for us.

How do we view God? Does it match what Scripture says, or is it a perversion that will hinder our worship of God and ministry to others? Is God overly harsh, overly merciful, or even apathetic? The God of Scripture is perfect, and we must know him correctly to properly worship and serve him.

Application Question: Why is a selective, twisted view of Scripture such a hindrance to worship and service? How do you view God? Do you tend more towards his grace or justice, and what are the consequences of your view of him? Have you seen church members with selective, twisted views of Scripture and how should it be remedied?

A Hindrance To Faithful Ministry Is An Idolatrous Focus On Comfort (And Wealth)

The Lord God appointed a little plant and caused it to grow up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to rescue him from his misery. Now Jonah was very delighted about the little plant. So God sent a worm at dawn the next day, and it attacked the little plant so that it dried up. When the sun began to shine, God sent a hot east wind. So the sun beat down on Jonah’s head, and he grew faint. So he despaired of life, and said, “I would rather die than live!” God said to Jonah, “Are you really so very angry about the little plant?” And he said, “I am as angry as I could possibly be!” The Lord said, “You were upset about this little plant, something for which you did not work, nor did you do anything to make it grow. It grew up overnight and died the next day. Should I not be even more concerned about Nineveh, this enormous city? There are more than 120,000 people in it who do not know right from wrong, as well as many animals.”

Jonah 4:6-11

While Jonah was outside the city waiting for God to judge it, God began to work on Jonah’s attitude and misplaced priorities. God called for a plant to quickly spring up and provide shade for Jonah’s head. This delighted Jonah since it was a hot and sunny day. Then, surprisingly, God sent a worm to destroy the plant and a hot east wind to blow. The sun and hot wind beat down on Jonah’s head, and he despaired of life, saying that he would rather die than live (v. 8). God used the gift of the plant and its removal to teach Jonah a lesson. God often does the same with us. He gives us a friend who is a tremendous comfort and encouragement, and then out of nowhere, he moves, or the relationship ends. He provides a job that meets all of our needs but then takes it away. With these blessings and the removal of them, God encourages us for a season but also reveals sinful attitudes in our hearts or idols that God would like to remove. This is how God uses all trials in our lives. They challenge us and test our faith, and if we submit to God in them, he reveals our weaknesses, helps us get rid of them, and equips us for more ministry (Jam 1:2-4).

After the plant dies and Jonah is in despair because of it, God asked him, “Are you really so very angry about the little plant?” (v. 9). Jonah confirms his desperation. It’s not so much that Jonah cared about the plant. It was more the loss of comfort the plant provided. Then, God demonstrated the folly of Jonah’s anger. He said if Jonah was angry over the loss of comfort from a random plant that died, should not God be more concerned about 120,000 people who don’t know right and wrong and the many animals in Nineveh as well? When God referred to the 120,000 people who didn’t know right from wrong, some believe he was referring to children. If so, Nineveh probably had around 600,000 people altogether in the city (and possibly its metro area). If this is correct, the logic behind the question was though the parents deserved judgment, how about their innocent children? Shouldn’t God have mercy on them? Others believe God is simply referring to people who lack spiritual discernment. In their culture, what was wrong was right, and what was right was wrong. Everything was backwards, as it is in many cultures today (cf. Rom 1:32). When God referred to the animals, he was probably demonstrating how even they had more value than the plants, as they were beings. The implication was, “Shouldn’t Jonah be more concerned about the potential destruction of innocent children and animals than the loss of comfort from a shriveled plant?”

This is a hindrance for many believers: God has given us all the Great Commission to go and preach the gospel to all nations (Matt 28:18-20). However, for many, their greatest hindrance is their comfort. It’s uncomfortable being around people who speak a different language and have different cultural expectations. It’s hard to buy food and clothes, eat, and navigate society. Consequently, they feel no compulsion to go to these places, and if they are already there, they want to leave quickly. But the souls of those people are more important than our comforts. Many can’t do ministry to the needy because they can’t leave the comforts of home, family, and country. Though Jonah seems tone-deaf and hardened in this narrative, he represents much of the evangelical church. Comfort and materialism are more important to us than souls and God’s mission.

Likewise, there was a man in Luke 9:57 who approached Christ and said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” The parallel passage in Matthew 8:19 tells us he was a scribe (or teacher of the law). He was a devoted follower of Yahweh who meticulously copied Scripture and taught at the synagogues. In many ways, he was the ideal potential disciple; however, he had a major flaw. In response to the man, Christ, who knew his heart, simply said, “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (v. 58). Christ knew comfort and luxury were this man’s idols, which would hinder his desire to do the ministry. Essentially, Christ said to him, “Foxes have better homes than I do, and birds are more comfortable than me. Are you sure you want to be my disciple?” Likewise, we must recognize that the desire for comfort and luxuries can be a major hindrance to our ministry as well. It can keep us from doing God’s will, loving others, and serving them. When Abraham was called, he had no guarantee things would be more comfortable in Canaan after leaving his home in Mesopotamia. In fact, it wasn’t. There was a famine right when he got to the land (Gen 12). This caused him to leave the promised land and head to Egypt where he almost lost his wife to Pharaoh. His life in Mesopotamia and Egypt was more comfortable, but that wasn’t where God wanted Abraham to be. Canaan was. Likewise, we must be careful of our desires for comfort and luxuries. They are often hindrances to the work of ministry. In Luke 14:26-27, Christ said if we were going to be his disciples, we must hate our father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister, and even our own lives. We must be willing to take up our crosses—bearing all types of pain and discomfort—to be his disciples and do the ministries God calls us to.

Even though as disciples, we have all committed to take up our cross and offer our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Rom 12:1), including at times being inconvenienced and uncomfortable, we often jump off the cross and the altar. We are often shocked when following him leads us into a famine or removes our comfort. Like Abraham, we at times flee to Egypt, get mad at God, or doggedly cling to our comforts, rather than submit to God’s will. Often, God needs to rebuke us like Jonah and say, “Does your comfort matter more than the souls of all these people?”

We are not told how Jonah responded. The author leaves us with a cliff-hanger, which is probably meant to not only make us wonder about Jonah’s response but also look at our hearts. Do our comforts matter more to us than lost souls? Will we leave home, family, job, and comfort to reach people if God calls us to?

The good thing about this cliff-hanger is that if Jonah’s the author, which most believe, that implies he repented of his nationalistic pride which caused him to despise the Ninevites. He repented of his love of comfort more than the restoration of God’s creation. He repented, and so can we. God’s kingdom must be more important than our comfort and luxuries.

Application Question: Why are comfort and luxuries such hindrances to faithful ministry? How do you struggle with this temptation? How should we overcome it in order to fulfill God’s call on our lives?


The story of Jonah was meant to challenge the nation of Israel. They were called to be lights to the Gentiles, including those who hated and mistreated them as the Assyrians did. They were not called to simply have a holy huddle where they cared for themselves and looked down on others. They were called to reach out to the nations, so they could know Yahweh as well.

The church has the same mission, as it was given by Christ before he ascended into heaven. As mentioned, in Matthew 28:18-20, Christ said:

…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Will we complete our mission? What are our hindrances to faithfully completing it? Jonah ministered to the Ninevites, but he was not faithful. He might be called effective because of the great revival, but he was not faithful. He preached but didn’t even desire for them to repent. When they started changing, he didn’t stay to disciple them. He became mad at God for forgiving them and hoped that God would change his mind and judge them. His ministry was effective, but it was not faithful. It was not pleasing to God, and certainly, God couldn’t use Jonah as much as he would have liked until he got rid of the hindrances in his heart like pride, selfishness, anger, love of comfort, and nationalism.

What are hindrances to faithful ministry that we must be careful of?

  1. A Hindrance to Faithful Ministry Is Uncontrolled Negative Emotions, Including Anger, Self-pity, and a Hopeless Spirit
  2. A Hindrance to Faithful Ministry Is a Selective and Twisted View of Scripture
  3. A Hindrance to Faithful Ministry Is an Idolatrous Focus on Comfort (and Wealth)

Application Question: What hindrance to faithful ministry stood out most and why? What are other hindrances to ministry? What hindrance (or hindrances) do you struggle with most and how is God calling you to work on them?

Prayer Prompts

  • Pray for God to give us a sound mind through his Spirit and deliver us from uncontrolled thoughts and emotions—anger, self-pity, hopelessness, depression, lust, etc.—which hinder our ministry to God and others.
  • Pray for God to teach us his Word and deliver us from unbiblical views about him, others, and ourselves.
  • Pray for God to increase our love for him and others so we can do the work of evangelism and discipleship, and also pray that God will forgive us for not loving him and others as we should.
  • Pray for God to teach us contentment and deliver us from the idols of wealth and comfort so we can serve him and others better.

Copyright © 2023 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

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Related Topics: Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Pastors

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