|Vol. 1, No. 4||Page 2||April 1999|
In the Belly of a Big Fish
"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly" (Jonah 1:17-2:1).Down in the deep, dark chambers and hollows in the belly of a big fish, Jonah, wrapped in seaweed, desperately prayed to God. Like many of God's children past and present, Jonah in this instance did not pray to God until he had no other recourse. "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple" (Jonah 2:7).
Jonah was a prophet of God and a native of the northern kingdom of Israel. Apparently he had made a vow to God respecting his function as a prophet (Jonah 2:9). Jonah, as a prophet, was committed to preaching God's Word to his fellow Jews. However, he was unwilling to proclaim God's Word to Gentiles--especially to the Ninevites.
Only when Jonah could not escape from God and the mission on which he was sent, he reluctantly preached to the Ninevites. Further, Jonah became angry when: (1) the Ninevites repented, and (2) God consequently refrained from destroying them.
Doubtless a poorer example of evangelism could hardly be imagined. Yet, the despicable attitude of Jonah toward the Ninevites may be shared often by the Lord's church today.
Are we sometimes as though we are in the belly of a big fish? Do we flee from the mission on which God has sent the church? Are there those to whom we have no desire to preach the Gospel? Honestly, are there souls that we do not want to be saved--at least not enough to do anything about their lost condition?
Like Jonah, as Christians we have vowed to proclaim the Word of God. Like Jonah, our responsibility in this matter goes beyond preaching to fellow Christians (Mark 16:15-16). The songs that we sing and the Sacred Gospel which we recite amount to the reiteration of our basic vow as Christians to practice and help spread Christianity. May we be careful to do what we sing (e.g., "The Gospel Is For All") and practice what we preach.
There are several biblical examples of evangelism. Andrew brought Peter to Christ (John 1:40-42) and Philip brought Nathaniel to the Lord (John 1:43-49). Philip the evangelist went to Samaria and converted many souls with the Gospel (Acts 8:5-13). The Thessalonians carried the Gospel to distant places besides preaching it locally (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8). The greatest example of genuine concern for lost souls is Jesus Christ; he left the splendor of heaven and set aside the glory of being God to come to earth as a sacrifice for us (Philippians 2:5-8). All of these examples should encourage us to take the Gospel to all the world.
The Great Commission is not optional! By teaching the Gospel to others, especially to those who can teach still others, true Christianity can spread in our generation--and from generation to generation (2 Timothy 2:2).
No price is too high to spread the Gospel. Persecution and even death was often the catalyst that spread the Gospel in the first century (Acts 8:1-4; 7). The apostle Paul suffered greatly and willingly as he labored to save souls (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Though we seldom face persecution because of evangelism, our Lord expects us to practice our Christianity faithfully even if we were to forfeit our lives in his service (Revelation. 2:10).
The opportunities to evangelize the world today are many. Internationally, Russia, Africa, India and other places appear ripe for harvest. Even individual Christians and small congregations can have a part in international labors through church programs (e.g., Truth for the World television, radio, literature and campaign ministries). Personal opportunities to share the Gospel with other souls abound also. Enclosing tracts in outgoing mail and placing literature in public places (e.g., rest rooms, buses, lobbies) are two of the passive ways by which anyone can help take the Gospel to the world.
Dear Reader, do you find yourself (or the church of which you are a member) down in the deep, dark chambers and hollows of the belly of a big fish? The Lord's church has the financial resources to take the Gospel to the world. We have the necessary talent. Sufficient modern technology and methods are at our disposal. We just need to decide to evangelize the world--and do it!
Much has been done to evangelize the world in the past. Even with fewer missionaries today, much is being done to evangelize the world. However, we must be ever diligent to maintain these good works--and actively seek additional opportunities to evangelize the world.