Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

More than you can handle

Posted on 10 Nov 2013 in Church, Teaching | Comments Off on More than you can handle

We continued our look at Jonah 2 today, and wanted to offer a few quick thoughts:

  • Jonah expresses his situation in terms of death, lostness, and being constricted. His vivid descriptions are expressed in the exact opposite terms that we find for salvation, ideas like openness, vast expanses, and abundance. His (poor) choices have faced him with something much more serious than being trapped in a whale: a life devoid of God’s presence. His choices have led him to walk away not only from God’s desire, but to shut the door on his own experience of grace. What we can learn is that our choices can limit our own experience of grace and God’s presence. God doesn’t remove it, we refuse to experience it. 

    The goal for the month is to hear the word of the Lord and respond: we want to fill this fish with food items to support our local food bank.

    The goal for the month is to hear the word of the Lord and respond: we want to fill this fish with food items to support our local food bank.

  • Jonah confronts the lie that God will never give us more than we can handle. If we can handle it, then we never need to rely on God’s strength, deliverance, power, wisdom, or Spirit. Jonah, a desert boy, found himself not only in deep and troubling waters (something often spoken of as fearful and uncontrollable in Jewish thought) but stuck in the belly of a giant fish. How on earth can Jonah escape from this situation? Even if he gets out of the whale, he couldn’t swim and would drown. Both literally and figuratively Jonah experienced his greatest fears and nightmares. What we can learn is that sometimes life is overwhelming, but it is a chance for God to prove once again, that he is the only real savior. God gives us circumstances to trust him and know his love more.
  • Jonah never asks for deliverance, only for God to remain faithful. Never once in his prayer does Jonah ask God to take his circumstance away, he only acknowledges that God in death is better than a godless life. He realizes that whatever circumstance he finds himself in, God has, in a thousand small ways, already proved himself faithful and is therefore faithful with the bigger, and more overwhelming things in life. What we can learn is that God is faithful in all things, large or small. Rather than an easy and problem-less life, we should pray for God to remain faithful in our circumstances so that we can praise and understand him better.
  • Jonah calls out false gods that bring nothing but death and destruction. Jonah’s closing prayer voids the myriad of ways in which we convince ourselves that we are strong enough, smart enough, fast enough, intelligent enough, gifted enough, or rich enough to solve all of our problems. Jonah uses the same terminology as the writer of Ecclesiastes who refers to everything as meaningless. Our lives, when done solely by our own talent, end in serving false gods that ultimately lead to our own destruction. Interestingly, when false gods are mentioned in the Bible, two things always end up happening: 1) the person serving the God takes on their bad characteristics (an angry Baal god that must be appeased, ends up with angry followers) and 2) that person always does things that bring their own destruction (Baal worshippers sacrificing themselves or their children). What we can learn is that when we are faced with tough circumstances, if we don’t experience God’s life and liberation [this is different than deliverance] it may be because we are doing things in our own power, and therefore serving false gods.


I’d love to hear your thoughts, please chime in below.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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