What is the most powerful being, thing, or force in your life? For some, it is money, and the belief that enough money can achieve whatever its bearer wants. For others, it is human potential, following the idea that, if we put our minds to it, we can do anything. Some parents might identify their newborn as the one who runs their lives, and can get them to do anything with just a wail. Personally, I’m a big fan of the strong force that keeps the atoms in my body from violently flying apart!
At least in the western hemisphere, we don’t talk about “gods” very often these days (probably because that term implies a lack of individual sufficiency), but anything that we believe is more powerful than us and has control over our actions would probably qualify as a god in a strict definition of the word.
In that context, let’s take a look at a passage from the story of Jonah:
But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
Jonah 1:4-6 NLT
In this historical era, there seems to have been no concerns about the sailors calling out to their gods (and identifying them as such). Today, those in peril upon the oceans might call out to technology or rely upon their own might, but when our own resources are gone, most of us are inclined to seek external help (when its available) before giving up.
The sailors weren’t taking any chances, though. They were seaworthy enough to know to lighten the ship, but they weren’t content to just call out to the gods that they worshiped. They expected everyone – including Jonah – to do so. (If a boat was lost at sea today, without the means of getting through a storm, I’m pretty sure that everyone who could help would be conscripted into service.) Since it didn’t seem that their gods were rescuing them, they weren’t too proud to compel Jonah to ask his god (who was Jehovah, in this case) for help. That is, being saved was more important than being right about who they were calling out to for help.
Here is a key difference between the sailors and Jonah: the gods of the sailors weren’t able to save them. Jonah identified the reason behind the storm and – whether God told him or he surmised it himself – Jonah realized the solution. When Jonah was thrown overboard, the storm stopped (Jonah 1:15-17). Just like the prophets of Baal demonstrated (as recorded in 1 Kings 18:1-40), earnestness, sincerity, or fervor in service to a false god doesn’t actually achieve anything of value. Only a relationship with the God who can act (and does act) is going to make a difference.
So, here’s the question: Can your god save you? Hint: money rusts, belongings decay, and things get stolen (see Matthew 6:19-21). Other people will let you down. Even science (as much as I like it) is always going to be incomplete.
If not (that is, if your god can’t save you), do you need to “wake up” someone who can introduce you to a God who can save you? The God of Jonah (as well as Moses, Abraham, Peter, Paul, and many others) can calm the storms in your heart. He wants you to return to Him, and He loves you so much that He came to earth to pay for all of your bad decisions (with His own life). Find a friend who follows Jesus Christ, and ask what that choice means to them. Ask them to tell you how you can experience those same blessings.
If you do serve the God who calmed the sea (and demonstrated His control countless times over the world that He created), wake up! There are those who are drowning (in sin, in suffering, and in selfishness), who need you to tell them what God has said. It’s unlikely that you’ll be taking an underwater ride like Jonah, but people need to be saved, and no god but God can save them.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.