Thursday, August 18, 2016

Don't Tell God No

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 17, 2016, issue of The Mena Star

Recently the Relay For Life of Polk County held their fifth annual Celebrity Waiter fundraiser. As a member of the planning committee, I spent many hours on the phone asking people if they would like to participate. As I contacted person after person, I started feeling rejected because I wasn’t getting any positive responses.

As I was making calls, an old song from the fifties came to mind. Travis and Bob sang the song “Tell Him No.” The lyrics said, “Tell him no, oh-oh-oh. Tell him no, oh-oh-oh. When he asks for a date, tell him no, oh-oh-oh. Tell him no.” After each call, the song went through my mind. After dozens of calls with no success I started to feel like the story found in the Bible in Luke 14:16-20 (NLT), “Jesus replied with this story: ‘A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, “Come, the banquet is ready.” But they all began making excuses. One said, “I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.” Another said, “I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.” Another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”’

I understand that people lead busy lives; I know that I do. I also know that people have many charities and organizations asking for their time and money. As a business owner, I have to say “no” to many people myself. Even though I understand the reasons, it is a bit depressing to hear the word “no” so many times.

I wonder how God feels when we say “no” to Him. Jesus told a parable in Matt 21:28-31 (NLT). “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.”

There could easily have been a third son in this parable: The father says, "Go work in my vineyard." The son says, "No." There's a discussion between father and son and in the end, the son says, "Fine! I'll go and work in your stupid vineyard. Now quit pestering me."

He's the son who gives grudging obedience, half-hearted obedience. The Bible has several examples of this half-hearted obedience. We have all heard the story of Jonah.  He was swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it.

The Lord called Jonah to Nineveh, but instead, he runs away to Tarshish, a great and wealthy city on the coast of Spain. It is about as far to the west as most Israelites have ever ventured, while Nineveh is about as far to the east as most Israelites have ever gone. Nineveh is a great city and the fiercest enemy of Jonah’s people, so Jonah is afraid and wants to be completely away from this calling and from anyone who may be inclined to go on this ill-fated adventure.

Why did Jonah disobey God and take a voyage to Tarshish?  Jonah was a prophet and received messages directly from God.  You would think that when God said, “Get up, go to the great city of Nineveh,” that Jonah – the prophet – would obey.  So why didn't Jonah go?

Ninevah was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, Israel's direct enemy. If there was one nationality that Israel hated and wanted to wipe off the face of the Earth, it was the Assyrians. The Assyrians were powerful, destructive, and ruthless with any nation getting in their way.

Why did Jonah run? Why didn't he obey God? It was because he was guilty of passing judgment. Jonah set himself up as a judge against Assyria. He had a message of warning from God, but he determined that the Ninevites are not worthy of this message. Assyria was not worthy to be saved.

The command that God gave Jonah is the same message that we find in the great commission given by Jesus. In Matthew 28:19,20 (NKJV) Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus has told us to get up and go. Where are you going? Are you on the road to Nineveh or a voyage to Tarshish?  We have a message to spread around the world, but we have failed. We have passed judgment on many of those around us. We say "they don't deserve the love of God; they don't deserve my time because they are no good.”

Gentle Reader, when we decide that certain people groups aren't worthy of our time, aren't worthy of the good news of salvation, we are boarding a boat for Tarshish.  When we hate any people groups, we are saying that they aren't worthy of God’s love or his salvation. Jesus has told us to, “go make disciples of all nations.” Don’t tell Him “no.”

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