THINK: If you heard the story of Jonah when you were a kid, you probably got caught up with the big fish, as this tends to be the most engaging part. Yet the greatest miracle was an entire city turning to God almost immediately in response to Jonah's preaching. Even the fact that God used Jonah was amazing, because Jonah's heart wasn't really in it. Throughout the story, Jonah showed a self-centered attitude and lack of consideration for the people to whom he ministered. Perhaps you've never considered it from that perspective. Yet, if we aren't careful, we can become self-centered in our commitment to Christ and reluctant to obey Him, trusting Him for our own needs and situations, while lacking in love for others. Jonah is a prime example of why faith in God must be accompanied by compassion toward others-particularly those who don't know Him.
RESPOND: What was Nineveh's reputation, and what was God's message for it? (See 1:2 note.) Why do you think Jonah ran from God's mission? (See 1:3 first note.) In what way do Christians today sometimes forget their true mission? (See 1:3 first note, subpoint 2.) In what ways can our disobedience to God affect others? (See 1:4 note.) Why do you think God includes extraordinary and miraculous accounts in His Word? How is chapter 3 an encouragement to you? Do you think the Ninevites' response surprised Jonah (3:6-9)? Why or why not? Do you think that God's response to the Ninevites surprised Jonah? (See 3:10 note.) Why was Jonah angry about what had happened? (See 4:1 note.) What does chapter 4 reveal about God's character? (See 4:2 note.) Do you think you would have struggled with the same feelings as Jonah had? Why or why not? In what ways do we sometimes demonstrate prejudice or make judgments regarding how people might respond to the message of Jesus? Do you think it's possible to demonstrate faith while lacking grace - to trust God while lacking compassion? Why or why not? What does the account of Jonah remind us about God's love and purpose for us? (See 4:11 note.)
PRAY: Ask God to give you a heart of compassion, like His, to reach out and spread His message to those who don't know Him, regardless of whether you think they'll be receptive or not. Pray that if you disobey God, He will do what it takes to get your attention and get you back on track.
ACT: Think of one or two people who seem far from God or resistant to the message of Christ. Have you shown prejudice and not reached out to these individuals because you don't expect them to be receptive to you or to Christ. Start showing God's love to these individuals and trust Him for an effective strategy to reach them for Christ.