Jonah was quite a head case. If you don’t believe that God uses all kinds to serve in His kingdom, think about Jonah. God calls Jonah to an immense task, but one that is repugnant to him: he was to preach to the most evil nation on the earth and tell them to repent. Jonah wasn’t so much scared as he was appalled by the idea that they might repent – so he got on a ship and headed the opposite way. When the storm overwhelmed the ship, Jonah suggested they kill him to protect the boat. After trying to avoid that, they throw him overboard. God provided for a giant fish to swallow him. Then, the fish vomited him out, presumably on the shore area as close to Ninevah as possible. And he went and preached his message of repentance, but he pretty much went through the motions. In spite of Jonah’s insipid preaching, an amazing revival broke out. When people responded to Jonah’s message, he was upset.
I think it’s safe to say that when Jonah preached, he didn’t have his heart in it. He would rather have died than share this message from God, perhaps because he thought they would treat him with cruelty. Instead, even though he just mailed it in, so to speak, people responded. If Paul were to describe Jonah on the “faith scale” he would probably list him as one who believed in works to get right with God. Faith involves the heart. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:10)
True Christianity is an enthusiastic relationship with God. It begins when God captures a person’s heart. Obviously, we aren’t talking about the biological organism called the heart, we are talking about the essential being of a person – everything that person is. When Paul talks about the heart here, he is talking about every part of you. It isn’t just an intellectual transaction that we try out to see if it works. If following Christ were about following a set of rules and regulations, you could “try Christianity out” and give it a test spin. God wants you, though, not what you do. There is no “going through the motions” Christianity, there is only whole-hearted faith and commitment. Once God has captured your heart, to continue that metaphor, you will naturally tell others about your faith. Professing with your mouth doesn’t mean just walking an aisle and saying the right words quietly to the pastor, it’s the verbal extension of who you are as a person whose heart has been captured.
How much of you does God own? Radical question, isn’t it. That’s the point of believing with your heart: if you truly believe, the God should own 100 percent of you. It should be harder to shut you up in talking about your love for God and your faith in Him than it would be to get you to talk about Jesus. Your faith should infuse everything you do, every word you speak, and every interaction you have with others. Your words may not always proclaim the gospel, but your life should show it. That’s the way it should be. Not knowing anyone who lives up to that ideal, though, including myself, I recognize that all of us need to grow in our faith. For me, that means rooting out those parts of my life that I try to keep hidden from God. How often do I sin, looking around and hoping that God doesn’t see my willful sin? How often do you do that? How crazy is it that we think we can sin without God, who knows everything about us and still loves us, knowing it? Yet we act as if God doesn’t see our willful disobedience. We are saved, or, to put it in less churchy language, we become friends with God because He loved us so much that He paid the penalty for our sins in Jesus. All of them. Yes, even THAT one. So let’s give Him our whole heart.
Lord, so often I get distant from You and just go through the motions of faith. I do the things that others expect, rather than serve You with my whole heart. Let my life be so filled with You that I can’t keep it in.