Time Out: Self-centered obedience (Jonah)

Topic / Time Out

Time Out (by Jerry Schmoyer)

The life of Jonah makes a great story for children, but the man himself isn’t much of an example for us to follow. He ran away from God, then reluctantly carried out the duty God had for him. He went through the motions and did what was required by warning the Ninevites that God’s judgment was on the way, but his heart wasn’t in his message. He didn’t love the Ninevites like God did. He didn’t even like them. They were the scourge of the ancient world and the enemies of his people, the Jews. Jonah left no doubt that he thought that the only good Ninevite was a dead Ninevite. Fortunately God was much more gracious.

After fulfilling his duty and delivering God’s message of coming judgment Jonah went on a hill to see what would happen. Thinking more about himself than about the thousands of people in the city, he still hoped God would destroy them. Then, when God showed mercy, he got very upset. Still, God used him to bring about the largest revival ever. God had to teach him a lesson about his self-centeredness, though, by giving him some shelter from the sun then taking it away. It’s encouraging to think that Jonah learned his lesson, for he if he hadn’t he probably wouldn’t have written the book of Jonah about himself. He knew his reluctant, hesitant and half-hearted obedience can be a lesson for all of us.

When Tim and our other children were young we told them, “delayed obedience is disobedience.” That’s true of God’s children, as well. Jonah delayed his obedience until forced to it. Then his “going through the motions” with a bad attitude was just as bad. Just going through the outer actions doesn’t impress God. In fact, He calls that hypocrisy. We won’t always like or want to do what God requires of us, but we must learn from Jonah and obey promptly and thoroughly. That’s how Jesus obeyed, that’s how we want our children to obey. And that’s how God wants His children to obey as well.

God always has a good reason for what He wants us to do. We may not understand or agree, but we are responsible to obey quickly and completely. And that means more than just going through the motions.

Colossians 3:22-24, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Psalm 119:34, “Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”

Josh 22:5, “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.”


  • Are you just going through the motions in any of your responsibilities, ministries, or spiritual disciplines?
  • Is there anything God wants you to do (or not do) and you are dragging you feet about it? Confess that at once and commit yourself to taking care of it today.
  • Do you obey and serve God out of love for Him and those you minister to? If not ask God to put a love in your heart for those you help. If not it’s be empty obedience only.
  • What can you do today to show prompt and complete obedience to God?

Jerry SchmoyerJerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 14 years, ever since I became one myself. He authors the weekly Time Out series here at Life in Student Ministry in hopes to spiritually refresh your soul as you continually pour so much of yourself into students. God bless!

Posted on July 12, 2009

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