Steven Furtick — What About The Worm?
See, this is what Jonah did. He's in the belly of the fish, and the Bible says that in Jonah 2, for several verses, he's complaining. He's blaming, he's talking about seaweed around his weed. He's talking about the billows that raged over him. He's describing in detail his distress, but watch Jonah 2:9. I love it, because the Bible says that when Jonah made this shift... Everybody say, "Shift."
He said, "But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you what I have vowed. I will make good, I will say salvation comes from the Lord." And I don't think it's any coincidence that in the very next verse, after Jonah got grateful. Even in a hard situation, when Jonah got grateful... Even in the belly of a fish, when Jonah got grateful, he got out.
I came to make an announcement. When you get grateful, when you open your mouth, clap your hands, shift your mindset, lift your eyes, and give God praise. Come on, touch somebody, say, "I'm coming out with a shout." "I'm coming out with a shout." You didn't touch your neighbor. Maybe you don't like to shout, maybe it's like, "But that's not my personality type." No, no it's not your personality type until you get excited about something.
I found out that gratitude is the gateway into the provision of God. Let's just study this for a moment. Isn't it interesting that the Bible says in Jonah 1:17 that the Lord provided a fish? Do you think Jonah saw it that way when he was being swallowed? Probably not. "Thank you Lord for this provision." Didn't feel like provision at the time. At the time, being in the belly of the fish is a problem.
So sometimes, it takes time before you can see the problem as the provision. And this is where I want to spend a moment with you today, because it unlocks something for me upon reflection, when I saw that in the book of Jonah, which is four chapters long, there's a Hebrew word that is used four times to describe four different events in Jonah's life, and the word is manah. Hebrew word is manah. Translated into English, it means to appoint, to prepare, or more accurately as the NIV renders it, to provide.
If there is one thing that I have learned about God in walking with him and pastoring a church, it is that He can be trusted to meet my needs. I wonder, have you learned that in your life yet? If you have, I want you to just say out loud right now, where the Devil and everybody in your seating section can hear you.
Come on, Gaston. Say it out loud, "The Lord is my provider." You said that like you believe it. You said that like you've had some moments in your life where the money was low. You said that like you've had some moments in your life where you saw no way to stay afloat. And so, God sent something in your life to swallow you up. The Bible says that God provided a fish to swallow Jonah. Manna, manna.
You might have heard about manna before. That's the stuff in the Old Testament that when the children of God were wandering in the wilderness, because rather than go straight into the promised land, they wanted to go 2,500 miles around and around and around and around in circles. But God said, "I'm going to feed you, even though you're frustrating me," and He rained down this stuff from heaven and they called it manna. That's what they called it.
They were calling it that because of this Hebrew word manah. It's spelled a little differently, but that's where they got it from. It was God's provision. So do you know what they did when God sent the provision? They complained, because they didn't want manna, they wanted meat. God's provision does not always come wrapped in your preferences. I'm going to preach this today, no matter who says, "Amen." I feel like I'm on something.
God's provision in your life doesn't always come biggy size. Doesn't always come hold the onions, hold the mayo. And they complained about the manna, and Jonah complained about the fish. At the time, it was only after the story was over.
Most scholars believe that the book of Jonah was not written by Jonah himself, but it was written based on the report that he gave after he got back from doing what he didn't want to do. So it could've been months later, could've been years later that Jonah is talking about his experience. And he calls it manah. At the time, it seemed like misery but later, I saw it as manah.
Only through the perspective of reflection can I see that today's misery might be tomorrow's manah. So that I look back over my life... Come on, is this good? Is this alright? And he says, "The Lord provided a fish, a whale." And then, check this out. Jonah goes into Nineveh, he preaches 40 more days and Nineveh will be destroyed. God gives the Assyrians a second chance, and Jonah doesn't like that he gave the Assyrians a second chance. He liked it when God gave him a second chance.
Sometimes, we want God to give us provision and give other people punishment, but how many know, if God gave you a second chance, you're not too good to extend grace to others either? Jonah doesn't like it, though. He doesn't like the package that God's provision comes in. So he preaches, and he preaches with effectiveness to a people he doesn't even like, and God does something he didn't expect him to do. And the Bible says that this did not seem right to Jonah.
Do you know that that's where a lot of our misery comes from, is that we have our own ideal and imagination of how things were supposed to go? And when anything contradicts our imagination and ideal, we feel like we have a right to be angry because it didn't meet my rules. Don't you see, God?
This is how I was supposed to be married at age 23, and I'm 23 and a half. Well, Tina got married and she dresses like a... and she's not even that holy. Come on. So he goes out and he sits down, and the Bible says that he made himself a shelter 'cause it was a hot day. Not Charlotte, North Carolina hot, certainly not Toronto, Canada hot. It was middle eastern hot, I'm talking about 110 degrees, and he needed a shade so he made a booth for himself. A lil' shelter, he went outside the city.
Now that's significant. He went outside the city God sent him to before God released them. No matter what shelter you make for yourself outside of God's assignment for you, it will never sustain. And he sits down and he's mad and he's got a bad attitude, but if we've learned anything about God from the story of Jonah, when God sent the whale to swallow up a man who was in the water because of his own disobedience, it's that God doesn't wait for your attitude to get right before he gives you his attention and takes care of you.
And so, now Jonah is sitting under the shelter that he made and God does something interesting. It is the second time that the word manah appears in the book of Jonah. It says in Jonah 4:6: "The Lord provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah's head," give his bald head some shade.
I like to picture Jonah bald, just dramatizes the story a little bit more. Think about being bald and how hot his head would be, and then the Lord covers his head with this plant, this caster oil over his head and he's sitting there and he likes that plant, boy. He doesn't care very much about people, but he likes plants. And here's where I see, that for everything that Jonah has seen God do, he still doesn't get it yet because he got outside of the fish.
That was a miracle, but he never got outside of himself. The most miserable place in the world to be trapped is not in the belly of a whale, it's inside of yourself. Inside of your selfishness. A lot of believers get delivered from their sin, but they never get delivered from themselves. And so, all of life is spent in the shade of you trying to find your own comfort and, "Oh Lord, thank you for the plant. Isn't this a pretty plant?" Yeah, but how about all those people?
"Oh, people are unpredictable. I like plants." And the Lord said, "I knew you liked plants, that's why I provided the plant. But now that I see that you're more focused on the plant than the people, I got to take the plant away."
So look at the third thing that God provides. He provides the whale to deliver Jonah, the plant to comfort Jonah, and here comes the worm. Now if we were writing the story, we would not use the word manah to describe this worm 'cause watch what the worm does. The Bible says at dawn the next day, God provided a worm? God provided a worm? I heard about Jonah in the whale, but what about the worm? Can we see the worm?
This is that thing in your life that comes along just when you've gotten yourself comfortable, just when you've figured out how life is supposed to be, just when you got your retirement account. "It's supposed to be" that's your little comfortable situation. And Jonah's settling in as a spectator in a situation where God has called him to be a participant, and he's sitting outside the place of his assignment and he's got a shade over his head.
And here comes the worm, and the worm made Jonah furious. Jonah got so mad at God about the worm, because not only did God send a worm, but after God sent a worm to destroy the plant that was shielding Jonah from the sun, then God provided the fourth thing. He provided the whale, he provided the plant, he provided the worm, and then the Bible says that in Jonah 4:8: "He provided the wind."
It's a saracco, it's a kind of wind that beats on you so hard that you have to run for shelter. Now God is making sure that Jonah can't stay outside of the city and find shelter. And at the time, Jonah is furious. "Why did you take my plant away? Why did you take my boyfriend away? Why did you take that thing out of my life? What did you make me go through?
But don't tell your story too soon Jonah, because what you're going to see, if you see it through the lens of a God who loves you, you're going to see that the whale and the worm were working together to serve a purpose in your life. At some point after Jonah has gone back home, he sits down to tell the story of what happened when God sent him to Nineveh, and by the time he tells the story, he says, "You know, at the time I thought it was misery. But it was actually manah."
It was all God's provision, and see, I don't know how Jonah finally got this perspective, you know? Because the book of Jonah doesn't tell us. When the book of Jonah ends, he's still sitting there with the sun beating down on his head. He's still sitting there, trying to figure out what to do. But at the some point, he sees it, that the whale that delivered me and even the worm that destroyed the thing that was comforting me, it all came through the hand of God who knows what's best for me.
I don't know how we got this perspective. I know he didn't talk to James, 'cause James didn't write his epistle until hundreds of years later. If he would've talked to James, James could've told him about joy. "Count it all joy, my brothers." When you face trials of many kinds, when you see worms crawling up and creeping over your head, trying to destroy the comfort of your life, God's not trying to kill you. He's trying to keep you alive and nothing can grow in your comfort zone. So from time to time, God is going to have to let something come in your life that destroys your comfort so you can fulfill your calling.