Part 3: Can God Use THAT?!?
When Jonah fled from God’s presence, he went down to Joppa and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. Obviously, no one can hide from God, and Jonah’s sin not only put him in jeopardy, but also everyone else on board the boat when the storm God sent threatened to sink it. At first the sailors had no clue as to why they encountered this storm, but they were so terrified by its ferocity that each one began to pray to his own god. When this didn’t work, they cast lots to see who was responsible for the calamity, and the lot fell on Jonah. After Jonah admitted that he was the source of their problem and told them that the only way to resolve it was to throw him overboard, they still tried to row through the storm because they didn’t want to kill him. When they finally admitted that there was no other way to escape death themselves, they relented and agreed to throw Jonah over. Jonah 1:14-16 then says, “Then they cried to the LORD, "O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased." Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.”
Did you notice the change that took place? The sailors forsook praying to their old gods and began to pray to the Lord, and when they saw the sea grow calm, they apparently turned their hearts fully toward Him! God used Jonah’s disobedience (and the way He dealt with it) to reveal Himself to others!
So, Ron, are you saying that God can use a believer’s sin (be it disobedience, rebellion, or whatever it may be) to bring about something good? Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying! Consider Samson as another example. His lust after foreign women (and especially Delilah) was totally against the law of God, yet God used it to bring defeat to the Philistines! Or what about that rebellious, self-serving prophet Balaam who wanted to be paid to prophesy bad things against Israel, yet God forced him to prophesy blessing instead?
Or what about me? While I was attending college in the late ‘60’s, I gradually slid farther and farther away from a close relationship with the Lord and engaged in activities that I much regretted later. On one occasion, I was attending a going-away party for some friends who had just graduated. As was the custom at such events, alcohol was abundant, and everyone (me included) was freely imbibing. At one point in the evening, some of the guys began making toasts, and one of my friends raised his glass and offered a toast to me, thanking me for introducing him to the girl he was soon to marry. Before I even had time to think about what I was saying, I responded with, “Yeah, well, you think that was good, some day I’ll introduce you to Jesus!” I guess everyone was too drunk to even notice what I had said, but my friend kind of smiled at me funny, and everyone went on with the party. As for me, I couldn’t figure out why I had said that, especially at a time like that, and in the condition that I was in. As far as I knew then, he was not yet a believer, but I didn’t even take time to follow up and actually witness to him … too ashamed of the hypocrisy I had been living, I guess. Well, after everyone went their separate ways, we fell out of contact with each other, and it was probably ten years later before I stumbled upon him again; and guess what … he was a pastor of a church somewhere in Texas! When I called and talked with him, he told me that what I said to him that night continued to work in him until he finally gave his heart to the Lord and eventually wound up in full-time ministry! In spite of my backslidden state, God had still used me to plant something in someone else that eventually helped get him into God’s plan for his life!
Now, does that in any way imply that what I was doing was O.K., or that Jonah’s disobedience was not all that bad, or that Samson’s sin was overlooked by God, or that Balaam was not still a rebellious prophet? No! What it does say is that God can redeem something out of any situation, no matter how bad it may be! So, when we find ourselves asking, “Can God use THAT?!?” The answer is, “Yes!” And when He does, it does not justify our sin, but it showcases His mercy!
Next, Part 4: About, Face; Forward, March!