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The Moment of Crisis

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
January 3, 2024 9:00 am

The Moment of Crisis

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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January 3, 2024 9:00 am

In the middle of life’s storms, it’s easy to think God’s mad at us. Have we done something wrong? In our new series title Castaway, Pastor J.D. explains how God turns our tribulations into restoration.

Summit Life
J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. God had not put Jonah in a chamber of death. He had put him in a hospital to awaken his soul and there is a huge difference. God doesn't put you there to pay you back. He puts you there to bring you back. God is relentless in his pursuit of those that he loves. Welcome back to Summit Life with J.D. Greer, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh, Durham, North Carolina.

I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. Okay, I don't know if you've experienced this, but in the middle of life's storms, it's easy to think that God is mad at us. Have we done something wrong? Have we made a misstep or did we take an intentional detour?

Sometimes we know what we did and sometimes we don't. Why is this storm here at my door? Well, today pastor J.D. explains that God ultimately uses our troubles for restoration, not retribution. We are starting the new year off in a new teaching series called Castaway.

And if you missed the first message this week, you can catch up online at But for now, let's turn to the book of Jonah and see what God has to say to us today. Jonah chapter two. Jonah chapter two.

Actually, I lied. It's Jonah at the end of Jonah one. But if I were in charge of putting chapter divisions in the Bible, I would have put a chapter division right above verse 17, but I'm not in charge of that. So Jonah 1 17 is where chapter two starts in my book. Jonah 1 17. And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Just to review real quick, Jonah was running from God in disobedience.

God told him to go to Nineveh. Jonah didn't want to go. So God sent a storm. He hurled, he appointed a storm to just about kill everybody on that boat. So they take Jonah and they throw him overboard. Jonah hits the water.

The water goes calm. Jonah thinks everything's cool when all of a sudden out of nowhere this huge fish comes, swallows up Jonah, and is about to take him to the bottom of the ocean for three days and three nights. Now, you may look at that at first and say, well, why is it that God is doing that? It seems like Jonah had already learned his lesson, right? I mean, when you get thrown overboard and all of a sudden the storm dissipates, you think Jonah had gotten the point. But you're about to see here in a moment, Jonah had not gotten the point. God had not fully gotten his attention yet.

What you're seeing here is not meanness, it's mercy. Because, listen, God is relentless in pursuit of those that he loves. And yes, God will do some things in your life, and for some of you he's been doing them, but he doesn't have your attention yet.

And he's going to keep doing it because he is relentless in pursuit of those that he loves. It is not that God is taking Jonah and is paying him back for his sin. God's not paying Jonah back. He's bringing Jonah back because he's going to pay Jesus back for his sin, who's the ultimate fulfillment of this story. So what God is doing in the storm is not meanness and punishment, it's mercy.

What God is doing in your life is mercy because he's just trying to wake you up. And Jonah hasn't been woken up yet. So chapter two, verse one, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

Now, to say the least, this would have been an awful experience, right? He doesn't have anything else to do in there, but he's got time to think. And so after he thinks for three days and three nights, look at the next word, it's a very important word, then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish. Then, so it's not when he first gets swallowed, it's after three days and three nights, then he finally is broken down, which gives you a picture of the depth of struggle that Jonah is in with obedience to God. Because what God had asked Jonah to do went down to the core of who he was. You see, God had told Jonah to go to the Ninevites. And like I explained to you, the Ninevites were the cruelest people on the planet.

They really were. And so God said, Jonah, go to them and preach. I explained to you that in their own histories, in their own accounts, they would boast about their cruelty. They boasted about the rape of little girls, one of their leaders. In fact, I pulled this up this week, a guy by the name of Asher Nazir Paul.

I wonder what his nickname was. Asher Nazir Paul recounted after he conquered a city, he boasted about taking a lot of the men and a lot of the leaders and skinning them alive and then taking their skins and putting them all around the city gates, putting them on flags that would be like flags of people's skins just to demonstrate his power over these people. Now, I told you, who was one of Nineveh's main targets?

The Israelites. So when God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, this is not a trifling issue. This is something that Jonah is, it's personal.

This is the Jew being asked to go to Berlin in 1942 to stand before the SS and Hitler and proclaim to them the mercy and the compassion and the loving kindness of God. What do you think that would have been like? We're talking deep issues for Jonah. I explain to you, Jonah's in a dilemma because one of two things is going to happen. One thing is Jonah goes to Nineveh and they reject his message. Based on what you know about the Ninevites, how do you think that's going to work out for Jonah? Poorly. When these people don't like you, they don't treat you kindly. So he's going to lose his life.

That's one option. The other option is they do listen to him and they do repent and then they receive the loving kindness of God and Jonah doesn't want that either. So Jonah is in a dilemma and I explain to you that what that is is a picture of religious people and how we sin because most of us will obey God up to a point that it touches the core of who we are. I explain to you that a sinner is simply somebody that says no to God and you're never farther from God than when you're close to him and you say no.

I'm talking to many people in here that are exactly like that. Every part of your life is under the authority of God except for the one that matters most to you. For example, there are some of you who will obey God in every area except for the area of romance. Every other area you'll obey God in, but that one is so important to you.

It is so essential for you in having a good life. You think that you will not take your hands off of it. For some of you, you won't do what God is telling you to do in your marriage because you're like, no, I can't let God have that because I've got to control that.

I've got to protect that. That's at the core of who I am. Some of you won't obey God in the area of money. You'll obey God in every other area, but you won't be generous. You won't give up certain luxuries to invest in the mission of God. You won't tithe because money is the thing at the core of who you are that determines your meaning and your significance and your security in life. Some of you will obey God in every area, but you will not release your kids to the will of God.

Some of you won't obey God about how much you work, even when you know it's harmful for your family because your career success is at the core of who you are and God can't speak into that area. Someone who is in rebellion against God is somebody who often is close to him and just says no. But like I explained to you, lordship is one of those things that has to be total if it is real at all. Jesus said if you're going to follow him, you come to him, take up your cross, and you follow him. The cross meant total domination, total death. It meant that there is nothing off limits to God. It is unconditional surrender. It is a blank piece of paper before God where you say, God, you tell me where to go and what to do because you are the core of who I am now.

You are the source of my identity, my source of my meaning, and the source of my security. So God is going after the core of who Jonah is, right? So Jonah finally turns in repentance, and you're going to see that in verse three.

I'm going to show you in the next several verses three things that Jonah's repentance was built upon, which every prayer of repentance is always built on these three things, okay? Verse three, for you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me. All your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, I'm driven away from your sight. The waters closed in over me to take my life. The deep surrounded me.

Weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever. Here's the first thing Jonah realizes and puts into an expression.

Write this down. Number one, the futility of life without God. He realizes, number one, the futility of life without God. Jonah was finally in a place of absolute hopelessness.

The weeds, he says, like chains are wrapping around his head. The bars, like a prison, closing around him forever. And that's what it takes for a lot of people to finally have their foolish pride shattered, to where God finally demonstrates to you that there is nothing in your life that you can boast of and call your own that could not be taken from you in a moment. I know of people who God never got their attention until their marriage finally was destroyed. There's a lot of people that God won't get your attention until the accident, a bad health report, an addiction that you just can't shake, a job that you lose, being humiliated by being caught in something.

Now, I've heard people say, well, you know, humiliated by being caught in something. Now, I've heard people criticize decisions for God made in a time like this, because they're like, well, you know, I mean, clearly you're in a jam. You feel like everything's falling apart. So, you know, you got to get right with God and use God like a crutch to get you out of the situation. But that decision is not real because, you know, when you get out of that situation, you're no longer going to need God.

And to be honest with you, I kind of agree with their critique a lot, because I've seen a lot of people who use God to get out of a situation, out of a jam, and then the moment the situation changes, then they have no more need for God. However, there are a lot of times when life falls apart around you and what it allows you to simply see is the hopelessness of life apart from God. You see that nothing you can boast in, you can really hold on to. You can see that what you built your whole life on can't sustain you. And then in that moment, it's like you wake up from a dream.

Do you remember when you came to Christ when God finally got your attention? That in some ways it was like waking up out of this, you're like, what was I thinking? It was just, it was so unreal. When you dream, how many of you when you dream, it's like completely vivid and real and you have a hard time when you wake up like figuring out was that real or not? Raise your hand if that's the way you dream. Okay, put your hands, I hardly ever dream, but when I do, it is a doozy and it is, I mean, I wake up for like 10 minutes, I'm like, well, what's real?

What's false? It's so real in the moment that I'm in the dream, but then when I wake up, it's like, it's just crazy. All of a sudden, God does something that wakes you out of this dream because you realize that one bad health report and everything that you built your life on is destroyed.

A marriage crumbles and you realize that everything that you found security in could be taken away from you at any moment. And it's like waking up out of a dream because God has finally shattered the pride. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. Find information about this ministry by visiting us at We'll return to our teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to quickly tell you about our latest featured resource before it's too late. So it's the first week of January and have you given any thought to what you want this year to look like for yourself? The new year is a great time to take stock of your life and set some goals for ways that you want to grow in the coming months. Maybe you want to start reading your Bible every day, or maybe you want to get better at making time for ministry. Whatever it might be, the 2024 Summit Life Planner could be a great tool to help you meet those goals. We're also including a one-year Bible reading plan. It includes one New Testament and one Old Testament chapter per day and focuses on some of the teaching passages that you'll hear taught on Summit Life in 2024.

Learn more by giving us a call at 866-335-5220 or check it out right away at It doesn't always happen in something dramatic like the fish. For some of you, it may not be like that at all. It might just be little signs in your life that are kind of like the pit of a fish.

I mean, if you'll let me speak metaphorically, there's no joy in your life. Maybe more and more your life is given to what I would call numbing activities. You watch too much TV.

Not because you're addicted to the content, but because you're addicted to the escape that TV gives to you. Maybe you spend endless hours on the internet because it's just a way of escaping boredom, pornography. Maybe you find waste too much pleasure in food or alcohol. Maybe you become very susceptible to all kinds of temptations since you can't say no to certain temptations anymore. What's happened is, you see, when your soul is starving, it's like when your body's starving. When your body's starving, it'll eat anything. When your soul is starving, it'll go after anything and you become susceptible to temptations because of the state of your soul. Maybe it's your finding. Maybe you're eating up with envy. You look around at others and they seem to have been given all the things that you wanted and you're like, God, did you get the wrong address?

You're supposed to send all these things to my house. Envy, dissatisfaction, worry, all these things. Maybe you're older and you find yourself with this kind of growing sense of panic about what you're losing. I talked to a guy this week who said, he said, you know, I know that you have a lot of younger people at your church. He said, and I always hear you talking about warning them not to give their lives to idolatry because it ended up being unsatisfied.

He said, you also, you know that you've got a whole nother group of people at your church who were on the other side of life and many of them are not really, you know, in a place where this question is, do I give myself to idols or not? It's what do I do now that I seem to be losing everything? So that the whole, I built my whole life on my career and now I'm in a place in my career where I'm starting to be marginalized. I'm watching my parents age and it scares me about what I'm going to be like when I age. I heard a guy say that I'm not scared of dying.

I'm just scared of getting older because what happens when the health of my body disappears, you see friends die. You see, everything that you built your identity on, everything that you built your life on begin to unravel. You see, whatever it is, listen, repentance always begins in a note of despair and it is God's mercy that shows it to you before you die. Because see, there is a time coming when you will stand before God and in that moment, if you stand before God and you are not right with him, you are not in fellowship with him, then everything you've accomplished, everything, all your career, no matter how good your marriage was, no matter how well your kids turned out, no matter how many praises you received or what accomplishments you achieved, it's all meaningless.

If you die and go to hell and it is God's mercy that allows you to see that before you die and God will arrange the circumstances to put you there just to say, would you wake up out of your stupid pride and God puts you in a place where you finally wake up. Yet, Jonah says, you brought up my life from the pit, oh Lord my God. You see, Jonah felt like there was no hope, but there was. Here's a question, did Jonah feel abandoned by God? Yes. Was he abandoned by God?

No. God had not put Jonah in a chamber of death, he had put him in a hospital to awaken his soul and there is a huge difference. God doesn't put you there to pay you back, he puts you there to bring you back. God is relentless in his pursuit of those that he loves.

Some of you feel like you are in a place of no hope, but you're not. God is beginning his greatest work in your life. Verse seven, when my life was fading away, I remember the Lord and my prayer came to you, it came into your holy temple. You know what's interesting to me is that Jonah is celebrating, watch this, his deliverance before he gets out of the belly of the fish. You want to know why?

You want to know why? There is a greater deliverance than deliverance from bad circumstances. It is the deliverance from sin. Jonah is realizing it is better to be united with God even in the belly of a well than it is to be on dry land without him. The real pit that he's been delivered from is the pit of being apart from God.

That's the pit he's talking about, so he's talking about you deliver me from the pit before the fish ever vomits him out on the land. That's when you're really delivered, when you realize I'd rather be anywhere with God than anywhere without him. I'd rather be in the belly of a well with God than I would be in a palace without him. When you realize that God is more valuable than life, God is more precious than anything you set your hope to attain. It's like a friend of mine says, Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

Everything minus Jesus equals nothing. When you come to a point where you realize that, that's when repentance is very, very close. Verse eight, those who pay regard to vain idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. By the way, that verse is from the NIV, everything else is from the ESV, but I memorized that verse in the NIV and I think that's the best translation of that verse. It says those who pay regard to vain idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. This is the key verse in Jonah. There are 24 verses in Jonah before this one and there are 23 after it.

This is right smack dab in the middle. It's a remarkable verse, scholars tell us, because a couple of things are happening. The first thing, can I take you deep for a minute?

Are you ready? The first thing is you got to ask who's that verse talking about, right? Because idols, who is it that worships idols? Well, Israelites and prophets always talked about other nations as ones who worshiped idols because Israel didn't have any idols they bow down to, right? So you normally think, you think in context, you think it's the pagan sailors because, you know, in chapter one, they're the ones that are bowing down to idols and calling out for deliverance and he says that's worthless, all right?

But that word grace or steadfast love, in the Hebrew, that is the word hesed and hesed means covenant love. And Israelite prophets never talked about that in context with pagans. So here's the question, you got hesed, which applies to Israel, but then you got idolatry, which applies to everybody else, so who's he talking about?

Scholars tell you something remarkable just happened in that verse. Number one, God applied idolatry to the sins of Jonah. Jonah acknowledges that his sin was birthed in idolatry. Jonah had clung to an idol, not a little gold statue, but simply the idea that his way of life was better than God's way and God calls that a path of idolatry. So God applies idolatry to all sin. The second thing that happened is God expressed that he desires hesed. He desires covenant love with all peoples everywhere, all idolaters.

That's a huge turning point in the Bible because Israel is finally being taught this is not just for Israel, it's for everybody. All sin begins in idolatry. That is what somebody who repents understands.

This is number two. They realize the emptiness of idols. They realize the emptiness of idols. Now, again, I feel like we've learned this before here at the Summit Church, but let me just take a couple moments and flesh this out for you. All sin, all of it, all of it, ultimately begins in idolatry.

And you might have trouble seeing it that way because you're like, well, I sin, but I don't have any little statues in my house that you're not bowed down to. That's because you don't understand really what idolatry is. Listen, an idol is anything you love more than God, trust more than God, or you crave more than God. An idol is anything you love more than God, anything you trust more than God, anything you crave more than God. The English word for worship comes from worth-ship.

It's whatever you put worth on. What is it that has ultimate worth in your life? What is the thing that you pursue the hardest? Because what you prize the most, you pursue the hardest.

Whatever you make worthy is what you give your life to. Paul, Romans 1, says that the original sin was idolatry. You're like, well, I don't see in the Garden of Eden, I don't see them like bowing down to the little gold statue going, oh, statue, we worship you, or the tree of life, we worship you tree. What they did in that moment in the Garden of Eden, if you recall the story, is they determined that whatever the tree of the knowledge of good and evil could give them was more valuable than God. And they put a worthiness on that tree that they took away from God, and that's false worship.

Does it make sense? Here's another word in Hebrew for worship, chabod. Chabod means weight. When you give something glory, you literally give it weight. What has the most weight in your life? What is so significant to you that you couldn't imagine life without it?

What is the one thing when you look into the future, you're like, that's got to be there in order for me to be happy. That's what your idol is. Let me give you something from Martin Luther, the great German reformer. Here's what he says in his larger catechism. He says this, to whatever we look for any good thing and for refuge in every need, that is what is meant by God.

To whatever you give your heart and entrust your being, that, I say, is really your God. What is it that you look to in your life as the primary source for good things? What is the one thing that if it's gone, you think most good things are going to depart from your life? What is it that you couldn't live without? Is it marriage?

Is it a good marriage? Is it money? Is it success? Is it a certain stature in people's eyes? Is it your kids turning out okay and living close to you and having a really happy family? Now, are any of those bad things?

Of course not. Idolatry is when a good thing becomes an ultimate thing. Or the way we say it is when a good thing becomes a God thing and so becomes a bad thing. It's when you take something and give it so much weight, so much worthiness, that it matters more to you than the presence of God. Is there something that you want more than God or something you weigh more than God's counsel in your life? It's time to right that ship. You were listening to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Pastor J.D., it's now the new year and I've got a question that I'm sure others will have as well. How can people partner with us as we look for God to do even more in 2024? You know, when you ask that question, the first thing that pops in my head is when we're in heaven and we will have met somebody that we never knew, never knew their name, never saw their face, but they were impacted through the gospel that they heard here on Summit Life.

By 10,000 years with a new heart, perfect heart, we're going to love them probably more than we even love our own families right now. They're going to be brothers and sisters in Christ and I think about how grateful I will be in that moment to have given in ways that will allow me to have an eternal brother or sister. When you give to Summit Life, that's what you're participating in is the eternal benefits that come from the proclamation of the gospel. When you take our resources and you start a Bible study in your home that use that resource, a devotional, or you listen to the messages and you discuss it, you're part of that process. Or when you make a one-time donation that allows us to stay on the air and to expand into new places. I just can't help but think that God is moving on some of your hearts right now to be a part of this. I want you to go to so that you can find out how to be better equipped to share the gospel or how you can give or just to reach out and let us know what God's doing in your life because we're excited about it and we pray for you.

Go to and let's get connected. We'd love to get you a copy of that 2024 planner. It'll be a great reminder to tune into this program each day. This week is your last chance to get your copy so call us right away. Summit Life is funded by listeners like you and we are so grateful to consider you our partners in ministry. You can request the planner when you make a single gift of $35 or more or when you commit to monthly giving as a gospel partner.

It's easy to sign up. Just call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or you can give and request the planner online at I'm Molly Vidovich. Be sure to listen tomorrow when Pastor JD challenges us that just because we do what God tells us to do it doesn't mean that we're acting from a heart of obedience. Listen Thursday to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-03 12:37:20 / 2024-01-03 12:48:26 / 11

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