Powerful Lessons We Can Learn From The Story Of Jonah
What are the lesson we can learn from the life of Jonah?
As a child, you probably have heard about the story of Jonah and the big fish. However, there is more to Jonah than being swallowed by a gigantic sea creature. In fact, if you take a deeper look at Jonah’s life, you will learn a lot of life lessons from the book of Jonah. Not only that, but if you apply these lessons in your life, you will dramatically become not just a better person, but also a better Christian – a person whose life is directed by the will of God.
For this reason, I would like to share with you 13 of the best lessons we learn from Jonah character study. Make sure you read until the end of this blog and discover how God works in the lives of His people.
Lesson 1: We are to do a work
Jonah was called to do a work. He is sent by God to the City of Nineveh to preach a message of repentance. We read in Jonah 1:1-2: Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
In the same manner, we are also being called by God to do a work today. Yahshua (Jesus Christ) gave us the mandate to go therefore and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). Preaching the Gospel is the most important work on the face of the planet. It is the great commission God has given each and every one of us.
Lesson 2: God won’t give up on you
Once God made it known to Jonah that he should go to Nineveh, Jonah did the unthinkable – he ran away. He went in the opposite direction. He went to Tarshish instead! We read in Jonah 1:3: But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
So, Jonah refused to go to Nineveh. God can easily say, “Alright. That’s what you want. I’ll go ahead and find another prophet to do the job.” But that didn’t happen. God didn’t give up on Jonah. Though Jonah ran away from God, God wasn’t finished with him yet. So, Yahweh “sent out a great wind on the sea.” As a result, Jonah was thrown to the sea and God saved him.
In the same manner, God won’t give up on us. This is a great Jonah and the whale lesson. Though we run away from Him, He patiently waits for us. He uses various situations to get our attention and be reminded of Him.
(Please note that the Bible didn’t specifically mention what type of fish that swallowed Jonah. However, a whale, when mentioned in the bible, can refer to any huge sea creature.). So, whatever you are going through, remember that our Heavenly Father hasn’t given up on you. No matter what situation you are in, there’s still hope. You can always go back to the Almighty and He will receive you with open arms!
Lesson 3: God can use bad situations to call people
Do you know that there are good things that can come out of the bad? One good example is what happened to Jonah and the men with him on the ship. Now that God has sent a storm to rock their ship, the men were afraid and “every man cried out to his god” (Jonah 1:5). Later, they found Jonah sleeping in “the lowest parts of the ship. The captain told Jonah, Arise, call on YOUR God.”
You see, up to this point, these people have other gods whom they worship. They call Jonah’s God as YOUR God and every one of them has their own gods. However, because of the storm, they began to call upon their gods, but to no avail. It seems that their gods aren’t responding – something that we expect from false gods. So, they asked Jonah who he is. In Jonah’s response, he introduced to them the Living and Eternal God. He said: “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
Jonah then asked them to throw him to the sea and the sea will be calm again. However, the men were hesitant and so, they started praying to the True God – YAHWEH! We read that their prayer is now addressed to Yahweh:
We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You (Jonah 1:14).
Once they have thrown Jonah to the sea, the result was astonishing. The “sea ceased from its raging.” And how did this change the men of the ship? Verse 16 tells us: “Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.”
Though they were in a bad situation, God has used it to show them who the real God is. They were all people who believe in false gods, but in this instance, they experienced the true power of God and now, they sacrifice to the Eternal. Not only that, but they took vows. In our lives, we may face a lot of troubles, pains, and calamities. However, sometimes, those are the things necessary for us to look to the true Source of security, life, and comfort.
Indeed, James (or properly known as Jacob) was right when he wrote: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2-3).
Lesson 4: Prayer is an essential part of our Christian life
Martin Luther once said: “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
Once Jonah was thrown into the sea, God prepared a great fish to swallow him alive. It is when he was in the belly of the fish that he prayed. You can read his solemn prayer in Jonah 2:1-9. As you can see, one purpose of the book of Jonah is to show us the importance of prayer. Prayer is something that we shouldn’t simply do when we are in trouble. Prayer should be as normal as breathing is for us. It should be part of our lives – no matter what situation we are in.
Lesson 5: God can perform a miracle for you
I don’t know about you but I consider Jonah’s deliverance to be a great miracle. For one, it is God who controlled the fish big enough to swallow a full-grown man. We read in the book of Jonah that God prepared the fish. Next, Jonah could have drowned, suffocated, or digested by the digestive juice of the fish. Yet, he was still alive and was able to pray to God. Not only that, but he was successfully brought onto dry land.
There are a few explanations to this story though. One is that Jonah actually died and was only resurrected after three days and three nights. Some people believe this since Christ alluded to Jonah’s story when He described what will happen to Him after his death. Perhaps, this is possible, but personally, I think Jonah was alive the whole time because he was conscious and was able to pray while he is in the belly. Unlike Christ who was dead for complete 72 hours.
Of course, my main point here as a book of Jonah message is that if God was able to perform miracles in the past, I’m sure He can also perform miracles today. So, don’t stop believing and praying. Just do your part. God is still in complete control. He knows the best for you and if it is according to His will and purpose, He will perform a miracle for you!
Lesson 6: God does not play favoritism
Romans 2:11 tells us that God does not show favoritism. Isn’t it wonderful brethren, to know that God is not like us who might love someone based on their color, appearance, position, influence, gender, and age? In John 3:16, a popular verse, it tells us that “God so loved the WORLD.” It didn’t say that God only loves the Jews, the Hebrews, or Americans. It says the whole WORLD. In the story of Jonah, we could see that even an enemy city of Israel, Nineveh, God has given a chance to repent. Unlike what others think, God is merciful and he extends this mercy not just to Israel, but also to the Assyrians.
Lesson 7: We need to go the extra mile
After being swallowed by a great fish, praying inside its belly, and being vomited onto dry land, we might think that should have fixed Jonah’s problem.
But, it didn’t. Now, Jonah is in Nineveh and he is dragging his foot to do God’s work. He followed God, but not from the heart. Notice, out of the four chapters of Jonah, the words of his preaching was only one sentence. We read in Jonah 3:4: “Yet, forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” That’s it. That’s all that was recorded in the preaching of Jonah. There might be more, but that’s just what is said here. Jonah was doing the bare minimum. He is just doing it just for the sake of preaching. He could be preaching, but his heart wasn’t into it.
There’s no zeal. There’s no passion. Could the same thing be said about us, brethren? We could be in the church, but our heart is not in the church. We could be preaching, but our hearts may not be in preaching. We could be studying the word of God, but our hearts are not into studying. We might be giving our tithes and offering, we could be serving the brethren, we could be helping one another, but if our hearts are not into those things, they are just for a show.
They are just nothing but mere pretension. This is a great old and youth lesson on Jonah. We must not be like the unprofitable servant who only did what was asked of him. We must go the extra mile and have the initiative to go above and beyond what is expected of us. That’s the only time when God can consider us as profitable servants.
Lesson 8: God is merciful
God’s mercy is unfathomable. No matter what we have done in the past, as long as we repent of it and have the right attitude of changing our ways, God will indeed forgive us. Nineveh is considered to be a wicked city. Their ways are against God and their hearts were evil. Yet, they were given a chance to repent.
After hearing the message of Jonah, “the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). As a result, God “saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).
Jonah very well understood how merciful and loving God is. He proclaimed in Jonah 4:2: “For I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.” No matter what sin you have committed in the past, pray to God and ask for forgiveness. Demonstrate the right attitude of repentance and do your best to change. God, who sees your heart, will forgive your iniquity.
Lesson 9: We must be merciful
Because God is merciful, we must also be merciful. We do this not just for the sake of those whom we want to forgive, but also for our sakes as well. If we are merciful, we will also obtain mercy as Matthew 5:7 tells us: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. If we are not merciful, we will not obtain mercy. That’s how easy things work.
If we are to follow God and emulate the examples of Christ, then we must be merciful as well. When people hurt and offend us, we must forgive. When you see people needing your help, be merciful and lend a hand. When you see people are having a hard day, be merciful and don’t add to their burden. When people are hungry or thirsty, be merciful and give them food and a drink. These are just some of the ways we can be merciful as our Father in heaven.
Lesson 10: Fasting is part of our Christian lives
Fasting is among the most ignored and neglected spiritual tools among Christians. In fact, if you ask any Christian today when was the last time they fasted, I’m sure you will get an answer, “long time ago” or worse, they never fasted before.
Fasting involves not eating and drinking in a given period of time, usually 24 hours. In the Book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh recognized that prayer isn’t enough. To plea and truly show their sorrow upon their wickedness, they also fasted. Fasting is a powerful spiritual tool that helps us realize who frail and fragile we are. It helps us see how dependent we are in God.
Fasting isn’t a way for us to bend God to our will, but fasting is a way for us to know God’s will in our lives. It gives us an extra spiritual boost to help you grow closer to God.
Lesson 11: We must be glad when people repent
When the Ninevites prayed, fasted, and repented, God forgave them. Did this make Jonah happy? The surprising answer is, no!
This might be the least of all the responses we expect from a prophet of God. We read in Jonah 4:1:But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. As you can see, Jonah is upset about a lot of things. First, he was upset that his prophecy didn’t come to pass. Second, the Ninevites repented. Third, God actually forgave them!
We need to realize who the Ninevites were. They are the archenemy of the nation of Israel. If you look into history, Nineveh became the capital of the Assyrian Empire and eventually conquered Israel and drove them into slavery.
Now, here’s Jonah, a man who perfectly knows who the Ninevites were. He could have detested and hated these people. They are the same people who have killed a lot of Israelites. Jonah could have known friends, family members, and relatives who have been killed by the Ninevites.
In his mind, they deserve nothing but death.
Jonah’s wish would be for these people to simply be destroyed and because he knows that God is merciful, bringing them a message of repentance would surely lead to forgiveness. Now they are forgiven, Jonah felt anger. For us, we must rejoice when a brother or sister returned to God. Even if that person has hurt or offended us, we must accept them as God did.
Lesson 12: God is in control
God is always in control. Don’t ever forget that. That’s one of the great devotions on Jonah we can learn. In the story of Jonah, we see how God controlled the weather, wind, the fish, the plant that shaded Jonah’s head, the worm that damaged that plant, and a whole lot more. In fact, God is sovereign over all things and that allows Him to control everything. Whatever you are experiencing right now, you can always turn to God. Surrender to Him your problem and let Him direct your path.
Lesson 13: God is more interested in developing your character
God sent Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh – to help them repent of their wickedness. God chose Jonah not because he is the perfect person for the job, but because God wants to correct the character flaw of Jonah. God could have easily chosen other prophets, but He insisted to use Jonah. God knows that Jonah has a lot of growing to do. Though Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh, God used various situations to bring Jonah into a realization of his attitude problem – a problem that he probably didn’t know existed.
In the same way, brethren, God is using trials and problems in our lives to further develop our character. God isn’t allowing these things to happen because He wants us to suffer, but He wants us to grow instead. He is preparing us for the future role of being kings and priests in His Kingdom! In conclusion, these are just some of the best lessons we can learn from the life of Jonah. They are indeed important in our Christian lives.