Before we became youth pastors, my husband Dave and I were leaders in the youth group at our previous church (we’ll call it NLCC). Dave and I had been youth leaders at NLCC for several years. We worked with other talented leaders and watched many students experience God’s spirit moving powerfully. It was amazing.
That’s the reason it took us nearly seven months to agree to interview to be youth pastors at another church; we didn’t want to leave the amazing students and leaders that we already worked with. In those seven months, we realized something: Maybe God wanted to do something even cooler with our current youth group, but He couldn’t because our presence there was hindering His blessing somehow.
Don’t misunderstand me. The youth pastor at NLCC was sad to see us go, and we loved the students and leaders there, but we can see now that there was at least one thing that was being hindered by our presence and the presence of a second leadership couple – the opportunity for new leadership.
We’d spent years loving, teaching and training these students in the ways of the Lord and, for those who desired it, in the ways of leadership, but as long as we were around, they would always be “student leaders.” It was time for God to show them the blessing of being full youth leaders, a position that we’d enjoyed for our time there. It was time for new students to be led, taught and loved by them as they were by us.
It’s possible for us to get in the way of God’s blessings sometimes. Dave and I almost did it unintentionally, and in the Old Testament, Jonah did it both intentionally and unintentionally.
The book of Jonah is only four chapters long. If you’ve never read it, even if you think you know the story, I encourage you to read it for yourself.
God tells Jonah to go to a big city called Nineveh to tell the people (Gentiles) there that God is angry with them and is going to bring His judgment upon their city. Well, Jonah knows that the people of Nineveh are not Israelites, not God’s chosen people, so instead he gets on a ship going in the opposite direction. Jonah intentionally tried to withhold the word of the Lord from the people of Nineveh.
Now you might think that Jonah just didn’t want to bring bad news to the city, but think carefully. Jonah is a prophet of God. He knows why God calls prophets to proclaim judgment on a city or people; it’s to give the people a chance to repent and turn to God. So when Jonah fled, he knew that he was taking the chance for repentance and redemption from the people of Nineveh.
What Jonah didn’t count on was that his presence would also remove the blessing of a peaceful journey from the other people on the ship. God became angry with Jonah and whipped up a huge storm that tossed the ship Jonah was on until, to save everyone else, Jonah finally tells the crew to toss him overboard. God then used this for His glory, and the pagan crew of the ship turned their hearts to Yahweh while Jonah camped out in a big fish.
Finally, Jonah gets to Nineveh. He does what God told him to do in the first place, and the people of Nineveh repent and turn to the Lord. God doesn’t destroy them, and Jonah gets mad. I think the New Living Translation covers Jonah’s frustration best.
‘Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted [the destruction of Nineveh] will not happen’ (Jonah 4:3).
Jonah intentionally tried to take God’s blessing away from people God wanted to save. You see, it’s possible for us to stand in the way of God’s blessings for others and sometimes for ourselves. We don’t always do it on purpose like Jonah, but sometimes if we can’t move on from a situation, that can cause people to lose out on blessings as well. It’s up to us to trust that God always knows what’s best.
Can you think of a time when you accidentally stood in the way of God’s blessing?
The Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about this?’ (Jonah 4:4)
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