When Good Things Happen to Bad People
Good or Bad?
Isn't it usually we ask why bad things happen to good people? Yet, there are times when you might ponder why a stroke of good luck didn't happen to you, rather than the guy down the street. Ah, yes...life isn't fair. That's a given while we're all on this planet Earth. The rain falls on the good and bad, with no discrimination.
The Story of Jonah
The Bible is full of stories about miracles happening, to people being converted to faith, and with people who chose to disobey and lead lives apart from God. In the book of Jonah, you read about a man who believed in God - enough to hear God's will for his life and be given a command from him to travel to Nineveh to preach to the people there. But what did Jonah do? He felt that the wicked city of Nineveh wasn't worth saving, that its inhabitants deserved to die; it would be a waste of time to travel there. He also became of the mind that because God was all-powerful, his help wasn't needed. Therefore he took matters into his own hands and fled from God by boat, refusing to go to Nineveh.
But of course, we know that God followed Jonah while he was at sea, causing such inclement weather that shipwreck was imminent. Although he was certainly afraid, yet he trusted in the Lord to suggest that he be thrown overboard so that the danger would subside. He was willing to face his fate, because he realized he deserved punishment. In this part of the story, there is a lot to be gleaned! Jonah learned a lesson, and God performed a miracle that enabled the ship's crew to not only avoid death, they also recognized God as the One true God and worshipped him. One could argue that Jonah and the crew were not deserving of God's favor, yet they were blessed. Even in chastisement, God looks out for our best interests.
Just when Jonah was probably prepared to die, he was suddenly swallowed up by a whale - something that sounds more like a fairy tale than a piece of biblical history! And not only did he still find reason to pray to God during his three days in the belly of the creature, but he praised God! You would think that with that kind of faith, he wouldn't have been so conflicted with what God's mission was for his life...
It seems Jonah didn't have a choice, but was carried along to Nineveh - this time, God's way. And when he got there, he spoke to the people. To his surprise and dismay, every last person there repented and became believers in God. It was a missionary's dream! Yet, not Jonah's. He actually became angry at God, questioning why he had even been needed since God was so powerful.
Indeed, it often looks that way to us all. God can do anything, so why should we have to help? What Jonah missed - and what people in our world today can easily overlook - is that no matter how seemingly insignificant we might be, our efforts are still needed in order to contribute to the human race. All of us have been called for a job, however small. In those moments where those jobs seem silly, boring, or repetitive, that is when God is testing us to be faithful and dutiful. For, if we are not able to complete such menial tasks even when we know full well that God can do it himself, then why would God trust us to handle anything of greater importance? The same can be said of a task that seems overwhelmingly impossible to complete. Yet with faith, all things are possible. Do you believe that?
In the closing verses of Jonah's story, we learn that he sulked outside Nineveh's walls, mulling over the recent events. Without even pausing to consider the "bigger picture" with what God had in mind, he sought shelter under a plant that he took for granted. In his self-absorption, he failed to see the miracle of the plant's presence for what it was, and felt it was owed to him. That much is clear when God shriveled it up, much to Jonah's chagrin. That experience sums up what a blessing we receive and continue to receive by accepting God for ourselves and following his commission for our lives - we're not deserving, but still useful. Ultimately, God's love is over all - all healing, all powerful. So stop focusing on the things that go right for people who you think are "bad", because who's to say what's in store for you? You wouldn't want to be judged, so why judge another person? Instead, live humbly and obediently under God and you shall be blessed, even in those times when you still can't quite get things right. And even then, God's grace is enough! Amen and amen.
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