The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah 1:11-12 (NIV).
How could Jonah know that the sea would calm down if his shipmates threw him overboard? The simple answer is that, unless God had revealed it to him (and that’s possible), he couldn’t. Yet Jonah was conscious of his guilt for trying to run away from God. He understood that He had wronged God and disobeyed His direct order. He knew he was guilty, so perhaps he simply believed that God would have mercy on the men onboard that ship if he took responsibility.
The referenced Old Testament verses for today talk about when King David strayed from God’s purpose and ordered a census of his forces. While the angel of the Lord was punishing Israel for David’s misbehavior, David owned up to responsibility for the calamity and asked that God deliver His punishment only on him (David) and not on God’s people.
That’s what leaders do. They own up to mistakes and take responsibility when bad things happen because of their decisions or actions. It’s what David did; it’s what Jonah did. It’s what me and you need to do, too, whenever we fall short. Mistake at work? Own it. Mistake in your relationships? Own it. Mistake that only you and God know about? Own that one, too…especially that one. Then, be willing to endure the consequences because you’re never alone. Trust that relying on God’s mercy is a much better alternative to relying on the decisions of men.
Yet sometimes God tells us to stay with the ship. Acts 27 tells the story of Paul and another storm. Paul was being shipped to Rome as a prisoner, and he advised the ship’s crew to stay onboard until it ran aground. That storm, too, was brought by God’s divine purpose, in this case to get Paul to Malta so that others might hear about Jesus. The Gospel spread as a result of Paul’s shipwreck on his roundabout trip to Rome. Sometimes, God wants us to stay onboard until the last possible moment so that His purposes may bring glory.
Especially to others. As we’ll see, the men soon listened to Jonah and obliged his request. Remember that the next time you find yourself in a tough situation of your own making. Hopefully, you’ll at least be on dry ground.
For further reading: 2 Samuel 24:17, 1 Chronicles 21:17, Acts 27, Jonah 1:13
Lord Jesus, save me when I’m foundering. Forgive my wrongs and help me to take responsibility when I should. Help me to lead as You would lead.
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