The Things which God has prepared
Transcribed by Charlotte L Pound
Jason Staten-Great Mills, MD
“The Things Which God Has Prepared.”
I’m honored to be here tonight. Please turn in your Bibles to the book of Jonah, chapter one, starting with verse two; “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah… saying; Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city; and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” We know that some history had taken place between the time Jonah was told to go to Nineveh and when we arrive in chapter three, verse 10, “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
The fact that God had changed His mind about pouring out His wrath displeased Jonah. It made him very angry. Then God spoke to Jonah in verse 11, “…should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
For the title of this message, I would like to use a phrase from I Corinthians 2:11 where it talks about the things that God has prepared for those that love Him…. How many believe that God has prepared some things for the church of 2018? Pastors, preachers, we can’t draw off culture and what we see in our world, but we’ve got to believe that God has prepared some things for His church.
For the sake of time I will not go into all the intricate details of the Sunday school story of Jonah and the Whale, but in following Jonah on his trek from Joppa to Tarshish and finally to the wicked city of Nineveh there is a portion of one phrase that stands out to me and that is, “God prepared.”
Miriam Webster defines the word ‘prepare’ as a ‘special process or special treatment.’ There are 15 different Hebrew words that translate into the English word, “prepare”. But everywhere we find the process that God was putting Jonah through it is the same Hebrew word. The word is “manah”, it means to divide into parts, to be measured out, kind of like a recipe for making a cake. All the ingredients are measured carefully and added, mixed in and stirred because there is something coming in the future that you’re looking forward to. The Lord subjected Jonah to a special process to prepare him. He said, “Because of the calling on your life there is a process that you’ve got to go through. Because of the plans I have for your life, there is a way that you must go that everybody else is not going. I am preparing something for your future.”
In studying the Word and trying to grasp the specific meaning of prepare, my mind went to my wife and all she goes through in preparing meals for a family of six. After 21 years, I have finally grasped the principles that effect the peace of my home. I’ve learned that after my wife has made the effort to go to the grocery store and spent the afternoon preparing those groceries into a delicious meal, it is not a wise or smart thing to say, ‘Oh by the way, I grabbed a cheeseburger on the way home, I’m not really hungry.’ It is not time to wax spiritual and say, “I’ve decided to go on a fast.”
I’ve learned that even if you had a cheeseburger on the way home, after all the time and effort your wife has spent creating a great meal, you’d better belly up to the table and eat enough to make up for a couple of days. Equally important, it is not a good idea to announce at four o’clock that you have invited some guests for dinner set for six o’clock. Why? Because with every teaspoon of salt, or cup of milk she measured and added to a dish, she was doing it with a certain number of people in mind.
So, in the four short chapters of Jonah we see that God has measured out and prepared circumstances for the life of Jonah because of something coming in the future. It was a process that God designed, made of four portions that God prepared for Jonah. There was a fish, a gourd, a worm, and a wind. Those four things would help prepare Jonah for the future. I feel that I have been brought here; if for no other reason than to tell someone here tonight that what you’re going through is no accident, that what you have faced has not escaped the mind of God. He has measured out exactly what you need, He has brought things into your life because He is preparing you for something you don’t even know about yet. Every measured-out ingredient would not make sense if we didn’t know that there was an end result.
So it was, that every measure that was meted out in the life of Jonah was done in relation to the Word that was spoken on his life. Before there was a great fish there was a Word—a great calling. There are people sitting here tonight that God has spoken a word, a calling over your lives. When you lose sight of your calling, what is prepared for you will not make sense. The fact is, if there is a Word spoken over your life then there is a God that is preparing you.
Everything that God measured out in Jonah’s life was to prepare him to fulfill the Word that was spoken in his life. The first ingredient that God prepared for Jonah was a fish. When Jonah saw that great fish, coming toward him in the churning waves of the sea, mouth open wide, I’m sure he was thinking, “can my day get any worse?” In chapter two, Jonah describes his environment as the ‘belly of Hell.’ It is safe to say that Jonah was not happy with what God had measured out.
God had prepared a great fish just for Jonah. It was not an ordinary fish, not just one of the species, but it had been specially prepared for a drowning prophet who was going to need it to rescue him. And this I know; when you are in the hand of God, He’s going to make a way where there is no way.
When you feel like you’re drowning God has prepared a fish. He has prepared exactly what is needed. The purpose for the fish in Jonah’s life was to get him back on the right track, to get him moving in the right direction, and in alignment with the Word.
Even though people mean well, there’s one on this side saying, ‘this is how to be effective in ministry’ and one on the other side saying, ‘this is how to be successful,’ but at the end of the day, I realize that I’ve got to get alone with God to find my own direction.
I can’t speak for everyone, but between the time that God called me into the ministry and where I am today, there have been some things that God rationed out for my life but in the moment they seemed irrational. In the moment when circumstances began to unfold; I thought God either doesn’t know what’s happening or He’s playing a cruel trick on me, or He has lost His mind. Pardon me for the irreverence of that third one, but that’s how I felt in the middle of my struggle, when the fish was coming to swallow me.
When we were in a church of about 200 and in the middle of a building campaign, fifty people walked out the door. Let me tell you when those fifty people walked out in the middle of a building campaign it felt like I was in the belly of Hell. We had shaken hands with a building owner and had come to an agreement. We had announced to the church that we’d soon be in our new building. A week later that building owner called and said he’d changed his mind. It felt like God had abandoned me. But five years later, I can tell you that God was leading me in the right path, the right direction. Can anybody worship God tonight because He knows exactly what we need?
I can hear God saying, “Jonah, you would have died out there if I hadn’t sent that fish. I know you thought the fish was a curse, but really it was a blessing, and the fish is only part of the process.” Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of the fish and was vomited out onto dry land. Now the Lord had prepared another ingredient for Jonah’s life. “And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” Jonah 4:6
The Bible says that God had specifically prepared the gourd. It was there for a purpose. I know there have been times when I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. And God prepared a gourd for me and delivered me from my grief. Do we still believe in the wonder working power of the Holy Ghost? It is more than just an unknown tongue. It is the power of God that brings comfort and it will deliver me from my grief. The Holy Ghost came when no one else knew what I was going through.
As a pastor you face things that you just don’t have answers for, situations are too complicated, problems too depressing, that’s when we need to run to the Rock, our shelter and know that our God is bigger than the questions. It is exactly what you need in those moments. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I, His love has been a shelter for me.
Going on to verse 7, it says that God prepared a worm and it smote the gourd and it withered. God gives us for comfort for a time, but we can get too relaxed sitting under the shelter of the gourd. We can be immobilized by the comfort we’re sitting in. Some mega church pastors who live in their mansions and fly around in their private jets will tell you that ministry is all about comfort, but I’ve come tonight to remind you that ministry is all about sacrifice, all about the cross. it is about blood, about death and dying. Sometimes God has got to send the worm to destroy the gourd, because if you stay under the comfort of the gourd you’re not going to fulfill your calling or your purpose. The fact is, we will never reach our world living under a gourd. And if there was truly a word spoken in your life, God is going to send a worm to wiggle its way into your comfortable life and cause you some discomfort. Ministry was never meant to be ‘comfortable’ it was always meant to ‘cost’.
I tell you the greatest worm in my life is when I start to feel too comfortable, like I’ve accomplished something, then God slaps a mirror down in front of me, and starts showing me all of my short comings and weaknesses. He reminds me that I cannot afford to get comfortable, because I have a long way to go to do everything He has called me to do. How can I boast of running a church of 400, 500, even 5000 when I’m in a city of 80,000 people God called me to evangelize? If I’m too comfortable, I need God to release a worm into my life.
In verse 8 we find, “And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.”
The final thing that God measured out for Jonah was a vehement east wind. It was a withering blast, a devouring wind, in contrast to other winds that bring rains and blessing. It is the only wind in the Bible that Hosea declared to be the wind of the Lord.
If we’re ever going to become what God wants us to be, we’re going to have to have that east wind released into our lives. The east wind brings us to the end of our selves. In this generation, there is a wind that’s going to show us that it’s not about our talent or ability, it’s not about how many followers we have on Instagram or Facebook. The only thing that matters is that we need more of Jesus. We’ve got to come to the end of our selfishness. If we’re ever going to reach our world with the gospel, it is only going to be with the anointing and a move of the Spirit. You will never fulfill the calling that God has placed on your life unless an east wind blows. We can prepare sermons, build buildings, we can have the latest sound systems, great lighting, but there is only one thing that is going to change a life, there is only one thing that is going to turn Nineveh from destruction and that is a move of God.
I’ll conclude with this, in the ‘process’ everything had been measured for Jonah; the fish, the gourd, the worm and finally the wind. Every ingredient measured; three days in the belly of the fish, one day under the gourd, the destructive working of the worm, and one blast of the wind brings it all to the end result. Jonah is the only book of the Bible that ends with a question, and it is the question that all ministry boils down to. It’s the reason that God is going to send a fish into your life, it is the reason that you’re going to wake up on a Monday morning and find that a worm has shriveled away all the Sunday night testimonies of revival. It’s the reason we’ve all got to understand, that as with Jonah while God was preparing a man, He was also preparing a people.
An angry, bitter Jonah finally arrived at his designated place of ministry. He bluntly declared that all the people of Nineveh were going to die because God was displeased with them. There was no altar call, without a word about God’s mercy, Jonah declared that they were all going to fry.
At that word, the entire city dropped to its knees in repentance. God had been preparing the people of Nineveh for revival. While the preacher was crying over a gourd and crying over a worm, the people were hungering for a move of God. God then asks Jonah the question; “should I destroy these 120,000 people who don’t know their left hand from their right hand?”
So apostolic preachers, what is more important to you? Does it mean more to have a comfortable service on Sunday or is there some sinner out there that doesn’t know his right hand from his left about the things of God? Do you care more about your popularity and ability than some hungry soul struggling out there?
Wherever you may be tonight in your walk with God; with the fish, the gourd, the worm, or the wind, God is measuring up things in your life for a positive end-result. With the call of God on you, the Lord will order things into your life to be exactly what you need, exactly when you need them so that you can fulfill the great Call He has placed on your life.