The story of Jonah has a number of lessons to learn about how believers handle the call of God and faithful the Lord is to remain patient with our human flaws and weaknesses, and our tendency to run in the opposite direction of His plans. But, as Jonah sat churning in the stomach acid of the giant sea creature, did you realize that it was praise under pressure that set Jonah free?
There’s just nothing like those seasons when you feel like you’re living in tight quarters, with the pressures of life bearing down on you from all sides. It’s a bittersweet experience because pressure has a way of revealing your true self while also showing you the true nature of God if you can press through and trust Him instead of resorting to old ways of coping.
If you can minister to the Lord while you’re still in the “whale”, you’re going to ultimately win the war within.~Alicia Purdy
Many people use the story of Jonah as a cautionary tale because even knowing clearly what God’s will was, he was not interested in following it because it was so repugnant. But before judging Jonah too harshly, remember that one of the reasons specific Biblical accounts are in the Word of God is to teach us about ourselves!
Yet, even though Jonah rebelled and intentionally went in the opposite direction of God’s will and even though he had to experience the natural consequences of his actions, as we all do at times, the Lord never stopped being faithful, merciful and good to him.
How the Story of Jonah Shows Praise Under Pressure
One of the most powerful and eye-opening things you should always remember about Jonah’s story is this: He worshipped the Lord in the midst of his misery, from within the belly of the great fish that had swallowed him and that is what set him free.
In fact, in the story of Jonah (chapter 2), the Bible records that Jonah finally submitted his own will to the authority of the will of God in the form of a worship song saying this:
“I called to the Lord out of my distress, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice. You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me. All Your billows and Your waves passed over me…. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple… I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving...”
“…the voice of thanksgiving” and sacrifice are the foundations of all worship! Then, immediately following Jonah’s time of worship this happened: “Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon dry land.” (Jonah 2:10)
And just like that, the pain, the turmoil, the consequences, the desperation, the humiliation, the frustrations were over and done with. The Lord came down when worship went up!
“The darker the days, the higher the praise!”
The story of Jonah is no different than anyone else’s (although a bit more dramatic!) – a rebellious man who knew what God wanted for him, who turned and willfully ran away from God’s command, whom God pursued in His love and mercy, not only for Jonah, but for the lost Ninevites, who humbled himself before God and worshipped in the worst possible conditions learned this powerful lesson:
Worship does win wars, but the victory will come from within you before you see it outside of you.
Thought for today: The Story of Jonah Shows that Praise is Proof of Trust in the Lord
So many times we miss the victory in our battles because we expect to see it unfold in a certain way around us, don’t we? Just like the story of Jonah, when we don’t see what thought we’d see, we get sour and argue with God. Jonah knew that worshipping the Lord was the only place to go when he was in his darkest moments and it’s the same for you today. In fact, most of the battles we face are waged within our own hearts.
When life goes horribly wrong, we battle against the flesh and against our “natural” responses instead of responding in a spiritual manner. While the story of Jonah shows what a mess he made of things, he still worshipped the Lord and offered up a sacrifice of praise. Why? Because worship is about GOD alone, not the human experience.
Praise and worship are not about how you feel or what you’re going through or about where you are in life. Praise and worship start with gratitude, are fueled by sacrifice and are exclusively God-centered and God-focused. So what did Jonah “sacrifice” if he had nothing to bring under Old Testament law? He sacrificed himself – which is the essence of true worship.
Forget your mess. Even if you’re in a “whale” season, you can learn this powerful principle from the story of Jonah: GET INTO WORSHIP. Only the presence of God can do anything to help or set you free and shine light into your darkness where you are trapped. People who have a heart devoted to the Lord know this powerful secret: God is no less worthy of praise on a bad day as He is on a good day!
In a “Belly of the Fish” Season? Here’s a Word of the Lord to Encourage Your Spirit to Praise God! “Power + Praise: How to Enter into the Secret Place of God”