Week of Monday, November 9 ­– Saturday, November 14
Do the Hard Thing – Man as Chaplain

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” – Jonah 1:1-2 ESV
What are the hard things God is calling you to do? More specifically, who are the hard people God has put near you? How are you responding to the hard call of God? Let’s be honest. Your faithfulness to God is not defined only by singing worship songs and listening to sermons in church on Sunday morning. That’s the easy part of the call of God. That doesn’t really define your level of commitment. No. It is when God prompts you to show grace to that annoying neighbor. You know, the guy who trash talks your friends or brags about his exploits. Or how about the guy who votes for what you consider to be bad candidates and he generally irritates you in every way. Dealing with that guy graciously is the hard call of God, who commands: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” It is part of our charge as Chaplains, and not only to our family members.
The call of God to Jonah was hard too. God told him to go preach to the pagan people in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. They were not only pagan, but they were also a rising power. Within a lifetime, Assyria would wipe out the northern kingdom of Israel, and with it, Jonah’s homeland. Jonah not only ignored God’s call, he traveled to Joppa on the Mediterranean coast, then took a ship to the edge of the civilized world... in the opposite direction of God’s assignment.

But we read that God hurled a massive storm at Jonah’s ship, and it was about to be swamped. When the crew decided to throw Jonah overboard as the culprit, God prepared a giant fish to swallow him, and for three days Jonah rode on a “foam blubber mattress.” Seriously, old Jonah humbled himself in the belly of that fish, cried out to the Lord, then God had the fish spit him out on land. You can imagine the way poor Jonah looked… and smelled! Then God renewed the hard call to preach to the pagans in Nineveh, and this time Jonah obeyed. He went through the Assyrian city, declaring: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4)

Then Jonah set up a bivouac outside Nineveh, waiting for God’s fire to fall on the city. I can almost imagine him popping some popcorn and pouring a cool drink, ready to watch the fireworks of God’s wrath… but it didn’t happen. Lo and behold, the people in Nineveh took Jonah’s warning from God seriously. From the King on down, they repented. But instead of being elated with their response, Jonah was angry at God because the warning he issued did not come true. Instead of destroying them, God was compassionate and merciful to these Assyrian pagans. And Jonah didn’t like it. In fact, he was so depressed he wanted to die. But God gave him perspective to close out the book: “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (4:11)

God’s rejoinder to Jonah about the value He placed on these repentant people reminds me of Jesus’ rebuke to his disciples, who wanted to call down fire from heaven: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56 NKJV). It is so easy to pronounce judgement, write them off, and walk away. It is really hard to demonstrate God’s love and communicate his hope. Guys, don’t run from the call of God to be a Chaplain in your neighborhood. Do the hard thing.

  • God will call you to do hard things. And it’s in those moments when you can measure the degree of your surrender to God’s rule. Not in the easy moments, sitting in church.
  • What about that annoying neighbor God placed near you? How are you doing with that assignment? Granted, it is tough to speak to people you have nothing in common with a message that they don’t necessarily want to hear. But that is the mission. How are you doing with that hard call from God?
  • Ask God to help you resist the urge to run in the opposite direction like Jonah did and instead give you the courage to share God’s message of hope in Jesus Christ with that neighbor. Who knows, God might use you to win him.