After Jonah had been in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, he is very literally propelled outward on God’s mission: “And Yahweh spoke to the fish. And it vomited Jonah onto the dry land” (Jonah 2:10).
In essence, God was giving Jonah a second chance, a fresh start. For all of Jonah’s disobedience, his apathy toward other nations, and his reluctance to participate on God’s mission, God did not consign Jonah to being obsolete. He didn’t bench permanently bench Jonah and say, “Well, you messed up big time, you’re now not useful for me anymore.”
This seemingly irrelevant verse can be so instructive for us, because God’s grace should move us outward on mission as well. Unfortunately, two big obstacles can keep us from being on God’s mission
First Obstacle of Mission: Guilt
I’m sure Jonah probably figured, “I’ve totally blown it. I’m sitting here in the belly of this stinky fish, and I will never be a prophet of God again!” Jonah definitely feels pangs of remorse and feelings of guilt over his sin because he laments: “I have been cast out from before Your sight/How will I return to look upon Your holy temple?” (2:4). Jonah feels totally disqualified and has no hope for ever being useful for God.
Maybe that’s you. You think, “I’ve totally blown it. How could God ever use someone like me? My friends talk about God’s grace, but you don’t know what I’ve done. I claim to be a Christian, but I’m totally disgusted with myself.”
Take hope that God’s grace can dismantle your guilt. In one sense, it is a good thing that you are sensitive to your sin. We must never become comfortable with our sin. What you need is to be confronted with the overwhelming love that God has for you. Because God’s love for you is not based upon what you’ve done or haven’t done; rather, it’s based upon what Christ has done for you! Satan would love nothing more than to take you out with crippling guilt. Satan would love nothing more than to have you sitting on the sidelines, because you feel that you’re unworthy. But those thoughts and feelings come from the enemy, not God.
God’s word says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). If you are a believer in Christ, that’s you! God is not standing there, waiting for you to fail so that He can strike you down. God is our gracious Heavenly Father, who is saying, “Come to Me! I will wash away your sins. I will show you My grace and move you out on My mission.”
Also, claim God’s promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If we confess our sins to God, He promises us to forgive us and it’s over. It’s done. Too often, a refusal to let go of guilt is really pride. Because you think that you have to make atonement for your sins. Or you think that you can make atonement for your sins. But that’s not even possible. So claim God’s promise of forgiveness and then move on. Jesus has already been sacrificed for your sins, you don’t need to sacrifice yourself.
Second Obstacle to Mission: Inadequacy
Besides guilt, I also think that feelings of inadequacy are a big obstacle to being on God’s mission. We think, “I want to be on God’s mission, but I can’t be! I don’t know enough about the Bible, if people ask me questions I’ll get stumped. I don’t know enough; I’m not smart enough; I’m spiritual enough. Look at my life, it’s a mess. How can I be on God’s mission?”
And again, in one sense, you’re in a good place. Because does God really want you to be like, “God, don’t worry, I got this!”? No. God shows up big in our weakness. When Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh, he says this, “I begged the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9a). So we see God’s power at work most often when we are at our weakest.
Paul goes on to say this, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for the sake of Christ; because when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10).
So take heart! The good news is that you’re weak. The good news is that you can’t do it, you are inadequate. But. God is strong. God can do it. God is the adequate one. And God has promised to make His power perfect in your weakness. So all the stumbles, all the mumbles, and all the fumbles in sharing the gospel allow God to manifest His power as He saves sinners and advances His mission.