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God gets our attention with the ‘gourds’ in our lives

I recently shared this message with the church and have always enjoyed hearing the story of “Jonah.” Just to familiarize you with this story, God spoke to Jonah and told him to go preach to Nineveh, a city that was full of wicked living and lifestyles. Instead of listening to the Lord, Jonah decides to sail to another place. While on the ship, a storm blew in and caused the ship to begin a scary journey. Jonah confessed it was his fault and the crew threw him overboard.

The Bible states in Jonah 1:17 “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.” God showed mercy to Jonah and gave him another chance! After three days in its belly, the fish vomited Jonah on dry ground close to Nineveh. Upon reaching Nineveh, Jonah preached to this wicked city to repent. Nineveh listened to Jonah and repented so God decided not to destroy them! Instead of celebrating that this city turned to God, Jonah was very angry…Jonah found a spot to sit away from the city to see if God would change his mind and destroy this place. To Jonah’s surprise, God truly forgave Nineveh of their sin. Jonah sat in the hot sun throwing a “pity party.”

The Bible states in Jonah 4:6 “And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” God once again delivered Jonah even when he was in the wrong. That’s a merciful God! Not only was this gourd giving him shade, he watched it grow right before his eyes! God had a lesson for Jonah, and I believe it still stands for me and you today.

Jonah 4:7-10 says: “But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.” “And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.” “And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?” “And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.” “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night.”

Jonah cared more for a gourd that he neither planted nor watered than a city facing God’s judgment. God recognized Nineveh’s worth just like he recognizes your worth! The Bible states in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Even though we all deserve to be punished for our sins, God made a way of escape through Jesus! The church as a whole has its priorities out of line just like Jonah. We care for things in this life that only last for a season more than what can last eternity. God plainly states he prepared this worm to devour this plant. God had to remove this gourd from Jonah to allow him to see what was really important.
If we will admit, many of us are more focused on our daily lives rather than our purpose in this world. It isn’t a bad thing to pursue goals in life with family, jobs, or education, but when we care more about ourselves than others, what good are we really doing? Often our priorities will go off course and if we aren’t careful, we will be chasing things that will never last.

As I examined myself, I recognized a few gourds in my life that had all my attention. God deserves to be number one! When we pursue him more than anything else, all the rest will fall into place. I hope today, you will examine your priorities and see where you stand. If you have a gourd taking priority in your life, I hope you will allow God to remove it.

(The Solution Column is presented weekly by Pastor Kagan Young, Pastor of Crab Orchard Free Will Baptist Church, Avery County, N.C.)