Warts and All
When Oliver Cromwell sat for the official portrait that would portray his appearance to future generations, he was said to have instructed the artist to paint him just as he saw him. He wanted no flattery to be involved in the portrait. In Cromwell’s words, he instructed the artist to paint him “warts and all.” Since that day the phrase “warts and all” has been used around the world, expressing the desire to give a true representation, to show all the defects as well as all the good points.
Jonah concludes the book that bears his name by showing us a picture of himself “warts and all.” I have written several books, and at the conclusion of one of the, I will soon begin the next. I have thought about Jonah as he wrote, and I am afraid, had I been he, I would have been tempted to stop at the conclusion of chapter 3 with the mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit in revival on Nineveh. Great revival came and glory fell. But Jonah doesn’t end the book there. He goes on and adds the fourth chapter to show us what he was really like. I believe he did so in order that we might see ourselves in this chapter.
Jonah’s “wart” was a spirit of resentment. He could not stand the fact that the Ninevites had received the blessing of God. Also, his own pride had been crushed, in that he had proclaimed “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned,” but God spared Nineveh. So Jonah went outside the city, sat down filled with bitterness, and wished he were dead. One would think that after had obeyed the word of God, had gone to Nineveh as God had commanded, and had seen the glory he saw, he would be rejoicing. But no, he sat alone, wallowing in anger. None of us is immune to this plague of resentment that ate at Jonah. It sometimes comes on us too, and often it comes right after some victory — a time when we are so prone to defeat. We are tempted to let yesterday’s victories suffice for today’s commitment. WE find ourselves sitting with our chins cupped in our hands, wallowing in self-pity.
Jonah had lost his sense of perspective. He resented that God forgave and blessed someone else. He began complaining about little things. He was occupied with self. Listen to Jonah 4:3: “Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Note the personal pronouns.
We lose our concern for ourselves when we fall prey to resentment. Jonah’s sin of resentment is revealed to us that we might see ourselves. Here we see not only the destructive results of resentment, but the divine response to it.
In the sovereign work of God which we call revival, we must remember that we cannot orchestrate it, nor can we duplicate it, nor can we manipulate it. It is a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. We cannot control him, but we can grieve him and quench him. One of the primary ways the Spirit of God is grieved and quenched in revival is by the sin of resentment. Let’s look at it and learn to deal with it.
1. The destructive results of resentment
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a plant[a] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left — and much livestock?” Jonah 4:1-11
Resentment affects us in damaging ways.
A. Destroys Our Peace
Resentment destroys our peace. One would think that Jonah would have offered up a sacrifice of praise for the mighty outpouring of revival in Nineveh. Instead, we read, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.” The word angry means “to burn.” Jonah was burning with anger. He was fuming. One of the first things which happens is that resentment destroys our peace and happiness. A grumpy Christian is no commendation for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came to give us life and to give it to us more abundantly. The evidence that one is really filled with the Spirit of God, and is abiding in revival, is “love, joy and peace.”
Jonah began to pray. It is quite an interesting prayer. It begins with the phrase, “I knew.” What a contrast that is to the Apostle Paul, who said, “I know.” “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). To the Romans Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). For Jonah it was simply a theory. He was living in the past. “I knew.” For Paul it was a present confidence, “I know.”
What are you saying today? Are you saying “I Knew?” Or can you say, “I know”? Some of us are so full of resentment that the only thing we know about the peace of God is in the past tense. What a tragedy?
Jonah knew what it was to obey God, but he had no joy in that obedience. There are Christians like he was, those who obey out of sheer necessity but with no joy or peace. In his anger Jonah was totally blaming God. But the problem was not with God; it was with Jonah. Have you ever known anyone filled with resentment? Think about their countenance. Resentment destroys our peace.
B. Diverts Our Purpose
Resentment also diverts our purpose. Jonah was saying, “If I can’t get my way, I don’t want to live.” He was down in the dumps. His pride was hurt because he felt that his ministry had been discredited. Now his resentment was diverting his purpose. He wanted to die. He was so self-centered that twice in this chapter he said, “I wish I were dead.” Once he said it when he realized that what he had preached was not going to come about, and then he said it because of the “catastrophe” of losing his shade tree. The city of Nineveh had been saved and he was focusing on a vine. His purpose had been diverted through resentment. How many Christians have had that experience?
Had Jonah wanted to go outside the city and watch Nineveh burn? Perhaps he hoped a few of the people would come by and say, “You were right.” Once, he had a purpose and he fulfilled it victoriously but no more. Now, his resentment had diverted his purpose and he was wishing he were dead.
The prophet Elijah had a similar experience and said the same thing a few decades earlier. Interestingly, Elijah’s depression also came right after a great victory. Immediately after defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, the Bible records:
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:3-4).
Like Jonah, Elijah went out and sat down. Elijah sat not under a vine but under a juniper tree and, like Jonah, he requested to die. Remember, Elijah and Jonah were men who had been greatly used by God. But in allowing resentment to harbor in their hearts, they both not only had their peace destroyed but now their purposes were diverted. If it could happen to those mighty men of God in the Bible, surely it can happen to us if we are not on guard.
We see who Jonah was really interested in. He said, “It is better for me…” His resentment was causing him to make decisions on a what’s-best-for-me basis. I wonder how many of God’s people have had their purposes diverted because they did not get things their way and allowed resentment to well up within.
C. Diminishes our Productiveness
Resentment also diminishes our productiveness. Twice in Jonah 4:5, the Bible tells us that Jonah “sat down.” Once he had taken God’s message through the streets of Nineveh, obeying the word of God and preaching God’s message. He was so productive that a whole city came to God through his preaching. Now we see him merely sitting, half hoping Nineveh will fall so he can say, “I told you so.”
How depressing these first few words are: “He went out of the city.” If ever there was a time Jonah needed to be in Nineveh, it was during the days following the revival. Thousands had repented and were in need of guidance and teaching. Instead, they were left like sheep without a shepherd.
Some of us have “gone out of the city” in the past when we should have “gone in. Some of us went out to escape the burdens and heartaches of others when we should have gone in to put an arm around them. Btu in our resentment and self-centeredness, our productiveness was diminished. Have you ever thought how much of our spiritual lives are taken up with sitting? Christians go to church and sit during the worship service; they sit in Sunday school class; they sit in Bible studies,; they sit in choir practice; they sit in mission meetings; they sit in committee meetings; they sit in organization meetings. When we really think about it, much of what is done in most churches is little more than sitting!
Why did Jonah sit there? He wanted to see if God was going to destroy Nineveh. The city was rejoicing in the blessing of salvation and revival, but one person would not join in the rejoicing. Those who are filled with resentment are like that. They become touchy and quick to take offense. They find themselves a spot somewhere outside the city; and instead of rejoicing with the men and women who have been set free, they focus on themselves. Those filled with resentment are the ones who are always talking about their rights, and seldom, if ever, do they talk about their responsibilities. Why? Their productiveness and purpose are gone. Gone is their sense of mission. Gone is their sense of usefulness.
D. Distorts our Perspective
Observing the destructive results of resentment, we see that it also distorts our perspective. Jonah was complaining about a vine and couldn’t have cared less about the thousands of souls who had just repented of sin. For Jonah to sulk about a vine at a time like that was sheer folly.
We can shut the light of the sun out with a penny, if we hold it close enough to our eyes. A resentful person loses his or her sense of proportion and begins to pick at little things. We sometimes see it in families or businesses, and, regrettably, even in churches. Some churches with multimillion-dollar budgets have deacons and leaders who pick at items that make no difference whatsoever in kingdom advancement.
Jonah was not at all happy when thousands were saved, but he was “very happy about the vine.” It is astounding how little it takes to make some people happy. What makes you happy? Some Christians rejoice only superficially when others are saved and are very happy when their personal needs are met. Jonah was “exceedingly happy” about the vine. Earlier he was “Exceedingly angry” about revival. We can tell a lot about people by observing what makes them happy and what makes them sad, what makes them laugh and what makes them weep. When we get out of the will of God, our perspectives are distorted.
Jonah’s happiness was determined by the changing conditions and circumstances of his life instead of by the unchanging God who controlled those conditions and circumstances. This is an easy trap in which we might fall if we are not careful. We will get more concerned over our vine than over people’s souls. At the moment I penned these words I was looking out my study window to the building across the parking lot that houses our clothing ministry. One particular man caught my eye. He was pacing back and forth. He is unshaven and his hair is matted. He is like so many others who came by our church every day in downtown Fort Lauderdale. He is, in the words of long-time pastor, author, and former president of LifeWay Christian Resources, Jimmy Draper, “the shadow of a man he might have been.” He is alone, with no one really to care if he arises tomorrow morning to beg through another day. Jonah did not care about the people of Nineveh. He was obsessed with his own comfort. But let’s examine ourselves before we are too quick to condemn him.
Each of us should ask the question, “What is my vine?” in what do I trust and find joy? What blessings am I tempted to place above the divine blessor? If I am God’s child and I start finding my greatest joy in the blessing. He might just send a worm to my vine to conform me to the image of Christ. IN Jonah’s case God prepared a worm and the vine was gone overnight. Some of us wonder why we used to be happy in the Lord Jesus and now we are angry. Some of us feel He has left us. Could it be that we started delighting more in the vine than in the Lord Jesus? Could it be that He sent a worm to show us it is not the temporal but the eternal that is really important?
Perhaps some of us find ourselves sitting beside Jonah on the hill overlooking our own Nineveh. Our vine is gone. That thing on which we centered our entire lives is gone. We can learn a lesson from Jonah: All is not lost. God is alive and He responds to our resentment with his love just as He did in Jonah’s case. But Jonah was not nearly so bad off as some of us. At least he recognized his plight and recorded it for posterity. Some of us will not be vulnerable enough to open up as Jonah did.
2. The Divine Response to Resentment
God responds to our resentment with patience. After Jonah acted as he did, telling God that he wished he were dead, God patiently responded with a question, “Have you any right to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). We often hear the phrase “the patience of Job,” but here we see the patience of God. I am surprised that God did not slay Jonah on the spot when he requested it. But instead of taking Jonah’s life, God began to work on him to bring him to himself. Our heavenly Father responds to our resentment with patience.
One moment Jonah was very happy about the vine, and the next moment he wanted to die. He took issue with God. He accused God of failing to keep his word. Jonah thought he knew everything. What audacity.
God could have said, “You are right to be angry.” Some people today suggest that this would have been the right reply; Jonah would go on his way and get over his resentment by being justified in his anger. A lot of counselors give that kind of advice. God could also have said, “You are wrong to be angry.” A world of people today thrive on being told how wrong they are, and love to feel guilty. But God did not condone and did not condemn.
Some of us need to see that if God did not give up on Jonah, He has not given up on us. I am thankful that God has been patient with me. It is wonderful to know that God still uses men and women who are frail and have failed. Some of us tend to have the idea that those who have seen the glory of God are somehow more free of problems than we are. I remember as a young Christian reading Jack Taylor’s book, the Keys to Triumphant Living. It made an indelible impression on my life, as it has with scores of thousands over the years. I had never met Jack Taylor and thought to myself how he must live above difficulties and trials. Later, God caused our paths to cross and we have become lifelong friends. We have had wonderful times through the years vacationing and playing together as well as praying together. I found that he has as many struggles and shortcomings as I do.
There is a little of Jonah in all of us. We too have said things and done things as believers that could have caused God to finish us off, but He responded to us with patience. Is there anyone who needs a touch from Him today?
Standing somewhere in the shadows
You’ll find Jesus;
He’s the one who cares and understands.
Standing somewhere in the shadows
You’ll find Jesus
And you’ll know Him by the nail prints
In His hands.
God also responds to our resentment with protection. God provided a vine to give shelter to Jonah and protection from the sun. God’s intention with the vine was to comfort his prophet. He chose to use the protection of the vine to teach Jonah and us a valuable lesson: Soon the vine dies but God does not.
In Jonah’s moment of need, he looked to the vine instead of God. How much better would it have been had he fixed his eyes on the Lord. How many of us, in a moment of need, have looked at our blessings instead of at the heavenly blessor, only to find them gone and all hope vanished? How much better had we too fixed our eyes on God.
Earlier the Lord had asked, “Do you have right to be angry?” Now He probed deeper with the question, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” (Jonah 4:9). Jeannette Clift George blessed us in a women’s conference at our church. Many will remember that she played Corrie ten Boom in the motion picture The Hiding Place. She told us about wonderful times of fellowship she had with Corrie before her death. Corrie ten Boom along with her father and sister Betsy hid Jews from the Nazis in their clock shop in Holland. They were discovered and sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Horrible suffering followed, which resulted in Corrie’s heart hardening toward God and a spirit of bitterness and resentment filling her life. Through it all, Betsy kept an open heart for God and spread the love of the Lord Jesus throughout the camp by her countenance and conversation. Betsy died in that Nazi prison and Corrie heard God ask, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” Upon her release, she picked up where Betsy had left off. Corrie ten Boom is in heaven today, but she left us The Hiding Place and many other books telling of God’s patience, protection and pardon. “DO you have a right to be angry about the vine?” In our complaining God has a right to ask that question, doesn’t He?
There is a sense in which even the worm was there for Jonah’s protection. That word came when he needed it the most.
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).
Jonah needed the worm so that he might start looking to God and not to the vine. Thank God for the vine. But thank God for the worm too. Through we may not realize it, He continues to protect us from ourselves by often removing our vines when He sees they are occupying the center of our attention. The very thing you may have considered your adversity, your worm, may be there from God’s protecting hand.
God also responds to our resentment with pardon. Here is amazing condescension! To think that God would come down and reason with Jonah as He did, God is saying, “Jonah, have you forgotten how I dealt with you? I could have cut you off when you sailed for Tarshish, but I didn’t. I didn’t have to prepare a fish to protect you when you were thrown into o the sea, but I did. I responded to you with patience and protection and now with pardon. Should I Respond any differently to those in Nineveh?”
God was revealing to Jonah that since He was good to him when he did not deserve it, why should He not be good to others who do not deserve it? He was trying to teach Jonah the lesson Paul sought to teach the Ephesians.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:30-32).
AS you read these words, are you suffering from resentment? If so, then you know that it destroys one’s peace, diverts one’s purpose, diminishes one’s productiveness and distorts one’s perspective. Resentment is a sin and is to be dealt with as any other sin. It is to be confessed and forsaken.
The story ends without our ever knowing what happened. Did Jonah go on in his resentment to the bitter end? After all, when a book ends, the way in which it ends is what is most intriguing .Who of us did not weep when we read the last page of Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Perhaps it ends as it does because each of us is Jonah today. Perhaps the Lord has shown you to yourself, warts and all, and you can complete the story.
I’ve wandered far away from God,
Now I’m coming home.
The paths of sin too long I’ve trod
Lord, I’m coming home.
I’ve wasted many precious years,
Now I’m coming home.
I now repent with bitter tears,
Lord, I’m coming home.
I’m tired of sin and staying, Lord.
Now I’m coming home.
I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy word,
Lord, I’m coming home.
My soul is sick, my heart is sore
Now I’m coming home
My strength renew, my hope restore,
Lord, I’m coming home.
Did Jonah learn his lesson? I’m convinced he did. He didn’t stop at the end of chapter 3 with the great revival, but he went on to show us himself, “warts and all,” and he let God have the last word.