We’ve just finished up our message series in Jonah, and I am always devastated by what I learn in the fourth chapter. Here are my preaching notes on the subject of how we learn to take on God’s heart for the city.

  • Sometimes I struggle with ministry.
  • Not because I don’t love God—because I do.
  • Not because I wish to be disobedient—because I don’t.
  • I struggle because dealing with people is messy. Especially on a spiritual level. And, honestly, sometimes people are mean, cynical, and stubborn in their unbelief. And then, sometimes, I’m the same way: messy, mean, and stubborn.
  • Jonah teaches us that we too often love the stuff we have from God more than the people God puts around us.
  • He had chose a self-imposed exile rather than go on mission. God chose to restore him.
  • Now, in seeing Nineveh repent, Jonah is still waiting for fire to fall from the sky to destroy them. He has missed the heart of God.
  • We must adopt the compassion of God to participate in the mission of God.
  • Our community is open to the spiritual, cynical about church, and bases opinion of God on their finite thinking. It is so very like Nineveh.
  • The test we must face is where our heart lies in respect to the city that surrounds us.

1. Jonah’s Heart — Jonah 4:1

  • Jonah reluctantly preached a one-sentence sermon to people that he did not like.
  • He was angry, with a deep desire for religious validation of the Israelites against their enemies the Assyrians.
  • He was selfish. Jonah wanted personal vindication that when he said the city would be overthrown that it would be judged with God’s fury.
  • “Jonah had a child-sized plan whereas God had a hugely dimensioned destiny.” – Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plan
  • Jonah would fulfill a religious duty in a city but completely miss out on God’s heart for the people.
  • We need to move from—Scorn to Sacrifice
  • Be willing to do whatever it takes to reach them.
  • Look into the heart of God for our guidance.

2. God’s heart — Jonah 4:2

  • God chose to reach the Ninevites despite their sinfulness and Jonah’s reluctance.
  • He sits outside of the city and pitches a temper tantrum in the face of God.
  • Jonah knows this and complains about God’s redeeming nature toward Jonah’s enemies in his own prayer.
  • Heart of God in three facets:
  • 1. Caring = gracious and compassionate
  • 2. Forgiving = slow to anger and abounding in love
  • 3. Redeeming = relents from sending calamity
  • We need to move from — Pity to Compassion
  • Pity reveals an arrogance that simply says it is sad that your life is a mess, but I can’t be seen with you. Compassion is desire for redemption in such measure that we are compelled to go and care for those in need of light.
  • Looking at the heart of God leads me to ask: Who would we be if God simply left us to ourselves and stopped running after us?
  • For those in the faith, we would turn into selfish, inwardly-focused, judgmental, religious hacks.
  • For those outside the faith, they would be left without hope to eternally perish in their sin.
  • God states His own desires clearly in 4:10–11
  • Jonah worried about his temporary comfort under the shade of a plant. God was concerned for the 120,000 souls.
  • Take on the heart of God for the people around us.

Developing a compassion that reflects the heart of God

1. Develop a kingdom mindset — Romans 15:20

  • We need the same ambition of God’s kingdom
  • Evangelize where the gospel is not known.

2. Look with an eternal perspective – Romans 9:3

  • Passionate to give yourself totally to the work.
  • Have an ETERNAL view of people. Temporary ones always lead to frustration over everyday issues.

3. Remember who you are — Romans 5:10

  • We say, “But they are the enemies of God!”
  • Guess what? We are all the enemies of God!

4. Imitate the compassion of Christ — Luke 19:41–42

  • Look at the city as Jesus looked at His.
  • Weep for the people of the city as He did
  • “May God tear out our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh that beat in love for the miserable and guilty.” Bonhoeffer
  • We must adopt the compassion of God to participate in the mission of God.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.