What Can One Person Do?

Jonah 3:1-10

History is replete with stories of what one solitary person can do to change his or her world. Ask Moses what one person can do; after hearing God speak from a burning bush, he went back to Egypt and became the emancipator of his people. Ask Nehemiah what one man can do; after having heard the report of the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, he left his civil service job and went back to lead the rebuilding of the broken walls. What can one man do? Ask William Wilberforce of Great Britain; virtually singlehandedly he brought an end to slavery in that nation a century ago.

What can one person do? Look at Jonah. Remember, he had previously failed, and no doubt some people were saying that God could never use him again. But one of the greatest revivals in history came to the city of Nineveh, and it all began with Jonah, with one man who repented and got right with God.

The truth is, you are important. You could be the key to revival in your home, your church, your city, your nation, your world. Some people may look around the office in which they work, seeing all the others who live such ungodly lives, and wonder what could they ever do in such an environment.  What can one man or woman do in such a setting? Young people at school, overwhelmed when everyone else is going the way of the world, ask themselves that same question, “What can one person do?”

Let’s look at Jonah and continue using him as our example as we see what one man can do. We begin by noting that we cannot change our world until we correct our ways.

1. Correct our ways

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city — a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” (Jonah 3:1-4).

Some of us have forgotten that we have the ability to correct our ways. How?

A. Seize Our Opportunities

First, we can seize our opportunities. Jonah seized the opportunity of a second chance. It is one thing to be delivered and washed up on shore. However, merely being ejected from the fish will not solve all our problems. It is another thing to have a second chance and do something about it. God doesn’t just deliver us; He gives us a second chance. How regrettable it is that some never correct their ways because they do not seize the opportunity of the second chance.

I am sure that between chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Jonah, the main character lived in a state of wondering if God would ever use him again. Certainly God was under no obligation to do so. Trying to put myself in Jonah’s place, I suppose nothing would be more painful that the feeling of uselessness, the fear, that God had put me on the shelf, that haunting gnawing that because of a previous mistake God would never use me again. What a feeling of frustration and failure I would have. But listen to the word of God: “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” What a comfort it is to realize the best of God’s servants have made foolish mistakes, but were used again. God is not through with me yet, and He is not through with you yet.

The Bible is the continuous record of God coming the second time with another opportunity, and of men and women seizing the opportunity. In the garden of Eden, God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). As we all know, Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree. They fell. And what did God do? He came a second time in the cool of the day to mend the broken relationship.

God always comes a second time. What is the first time you heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His love for you was also the last time? The chances are that few of us would have come to know Him in the free pardoning of sin. Many of us are in the family of God today because the Word of the Lord came to us a second time, or a third, or a fourth, or a tenth time. Perhaps some reader today has gone her or his own way in life. Like Jonah you have disobeyed God and gotten out of His will. Let me assure you that our God is the God of the second chance, but it is not enough that He provides the second chance. We must seize the opportunity when it is presented.

Some say sadly, “I’ve missed God’s best for me.” Before we take off on a guilt trip like that, we ought to remember that we all have missed God’s best for us. God’s best was in the Garden. Ever since the fall of man, God has been the God of the second chance. We all have sinned, gone our own way, and are in need of a second chance.

We read of many in the Bible who took advantage of the second opportunity. What about Lot? Lot was a city boy. He grabbed the best land with the brightest lights. But he seized the opportunity for a second chance and repented before Sodom was destroyed.

And do not forget David, the king who had it all going for him and thought he could cover his sin when his lust had gotten the best of him. He seized his opportunity for a second chance, repented, and went on to the most effective years of his life.

And there was Samson, rugged and handsome, who had so much going for him until he fell into sin. But in his last days God gave him a second chance and he corrected his ways and seized the opportunity.

Many of us can identify with Simon Peter. Peter denied our Lord the night He needed him the most. Later Jesus met him on the shore and Peter corrected his ways by seizing the opportunity of a second chance.

And on and on we can go throughout the Bible. If God could use men like that again, He certainly can use us again. He can use us if we correct our ways by seizing the opportunity of the second chance.

Some sense the opportunity of the second chance but never seize it. We have no right to assume that God will go on giving us opportunity after opportunity to get right with Him. God is giving that second chance today. Nothing we have done is unforgivable, with the exception of our continued refusal to receive His grace.

What can one person do? We can begin by correcting our ways. How? By seizing the opportunity of a second chance.

The second chance came Jonah’s way and he responded in obedience. Some of us wonder why we do not obey God and, the truth is, we do not obey Him because we do not trust Him. If we really trusted Him, we would obey Him. But a step farther back to the root shows us that we do not trust Him because we do not know Him in the intimacy of Father and child. If we really knew Him, we would trust Him. Jonah had gotten to know God again in the belly of the fish and he trusted Him. Obedience naturally followed. When the Word of the Lord came a second time, Jonah obeyed. I believe that when he moved in obedience he began to anticipate what was going to happen. I can almost see him now, marching confidently in the power of the Holy Spirit to Nineveh, forgiven and grateful for a second chance.

Jonah had heard from God. What moved him now was the word of God. What moves you? Some of us wonder why God never seems to use us. The answer should be obvious. The real lesson here is that God gives us orders and when God gives us orders, He sticks with them. When God said “go” to Jonah, He meant it. God came a second time with the same message: “Go to Nineveh.” Could it be that God has told us to go and we have said no?

Do you see it? Obedience arises from faith and trust. Jonah had learned a great lesson in the depths. He had learned that if there were no valleys, there would be no mountaintops. He had learned obedience.

Jonah also repented of his ways. Before, God had said, “Go to Nineveh,” and Jonah went in the opposite direction. Now he had changed his mind and was enroute to Nineveh. That is repentance.

Repentance is a change of mind that is always evidenced in three ways. First, there is change of attitude, a change intellectually. Repentance begins with a change of mind. Second, there is change of affections, a change emotionally, a change of the heart. Third, there is a change of action, a change in one’s volition, one’s will. If we genuinely change our minds, our hearts will change too and our actions will follow.

The most obvious biblical illustration of repentance is found in the fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel in the story of the prodigal son. First, the prodigal underwent a change of attitude. The Bible says he “came to himself.” He changed his mind. Then what happened? He had a change of affections. He said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough to spare and I am perishing with hunger?” His heart was changed. After having a change of attitude, and a change of affection, he had a change of action. His will was changed. He said, “I will arise and go to my father. In Luke 15:20 the Bible says, “He got up and went to his father.”

And so it was with the prodigal prophet Jonah. He was now in the will of God. Could it be that revival is just waiting for us to get in the will of God/ I do not know where Nineveh is for you, but I know that God will “make known to you the path of life.” There you will find fullness of joy. There is something a lot more fun than being on a Mediterranean cruise to Tarshish, and that is going to Nineveh in the will of God. The truly happy people of this world are not necessarily those who look like it on the outside, but those who are happy on the inside by being in the will of God.

B. Sense our obligation.

How do we correct our ways? First, we can seize our opportunities; second, we can sense our obligations. God again told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and “proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah went to Nineveh and preached God’s message: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

As God’s messengers, we are obliged to take His word and not our own to the world. When we take our own views, we may persuade people to believe us, but when we take God’s word the Holy Spirit persuades them to believe Him. It is interesting to note in Jonah 3:5 that the Ninevites “believed God.” A lot of God’s preachers today are out of His will by preaching their own messages instead of God’s. Some see the Bible from the viewpoint of the world, and others see the world from the viewpoint of the Bible. Jonah’s message was not some compromising, watered-down, namby-pamby, candy-coated sermonette. No, he now sensed his obligation to be faithful to the word. He spoke the truth of God’s word. Paul later put it like this: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Cor. 11:23). Paul also said, “When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

Jonah could have gone to Nineveh and sought out the right contacts and said all the right things. He could have influenced others through his personality so that just the right people would recommend him with flowing words. And who knows? Perhaps he would have landed a position as chaplain to the king. Built Nineveh would never have come to repentance. How said is it today that so many preachers are interested only in titles and positions. This is why there are a lot of dead churches who are pastored by men who pull all the strings denominationally and politically — and revival never comes.

Preaching that does not bring and women face to face with their sin and with God’s will for their lives never produces repentance. The preacher who refuses to renounce sin, who seeks to make others feel comfortable in their sin, is often covering his own. I know of a preacher who prides himself in not making his people feel guilty. He preaches about soothing things, good things, popular things. Jonah sensed his obligations and sounded forth the frightening message from God.

That message certainly was not a popular one. It certainly would not make people feel comfortable. Pastors who sense the obligation of being faithful to God’s word are those who love their people too much not to tell them the truth from God’s word. We must “preach the message that God has given us.” The greatest revival in the history of the world came to Nineveh because Jonah preached God’s message, and not what the people wanted to hear.

We see here the need for a delicate balance in the preaching of God’s word. Yes, there is a second chance. Yes, we have a redemptive message in the gospel. Yes, God can forgive and cleanse the past. But the teaching of these truths must be done in such a way that anyone who is contemplating a life of sin would not say, “I’ll go out and sin and God will forgive me.” If anyone says that or believes that, he or she knows nothing of the grace of God and of repentance.

This message cannot be preached unless we ourselves are correcting our ways. The only message with power is the message that is preached with a pure heart by persons of clean hands ― all else is sounding brass and clanging cymbals.

There do not seem to be enough preachers today who sense their obligation to the word of God. Some mean are soothingly, softly whispering, “Believe, believe, believe.” That kind of preaching is popular today. Do you know why? It calls for no change of lifestyle. It is foreign to the preaching that brings revival. It has forgotten the word repentance.

Woe to the preacher who does not warn his people that judgment is coming. We are not going to get away with sin. Each of us is going to stand before God, and if any of us says, “I’ll live however I want because I am under the blood,” we should examine our own salvation. Many have been living a lie for years; and all the while, judgment is coming. God has a limit to his patience with us.

We do not choose what we preach as ministers of the gospel. We do not have a choice of what we preach week by week. There are times in my study when I am absolutely overcome when I sense that God has spoken to me through His word for our people. Pulpits are not private platforms to espouse personal philosophies or political views. The only preaching God honors is “the message that I give you.” In my pulpit I preach the Bible for two reasons. First, I am not smart enough to preach anything else. If I were to preach on social issues, there are sociologists in my congregation who would know far more about them than I. If I were to preach on political issues, there are politicians who would know more than I do in that field. Second, I am too smart to preaching anything else because I know that God blesses His word and it will never return void.

What is this message God has called us to proclaim? Paul said it best: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). This is the word of God that is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

There is no limit to what can happen in a fellowship when we preach the message God gives us. God says, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Is. 55:11). “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:8).

Note Jonah’s message: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” God could have leveled Nineveh without any warning. But in his love and mercy He warned them first. He gave them time to repent. He gave them a final opportunity.

Nineveh would be overturned. The judgment of God was coming. The wrath of God was enroute. Here was a message from God, a message of wrath and judgment wrapped in a message of love and mercy. We find the same ideas in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Where is the message of love? “For God so loved the world.” Where is the message of judgment? “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish.”

This sermon that brought such a mighty revival contained only one sentence: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (Jonah 3:4). It shows us that God is serious about His word and we must not be ashamed to preach it. Jonah went to Nineveh more concerned about being faithful to God and the message he was to preach than he was in getting the key to the city from the mayor. A lot of us today are more interested in being accepted as “one of the boys” than we are in delivering an uncompromising message of judgment that calls for repentance. The reason some ministers do not preach God’s message of judgment and wrath today is they are ashamed in this modern world to admit they believe in hell and judgment. But there is a greater tragedy than that. The reason some others do not preach God’s message of judgment and wrath today is that they are ashamed to admit they do not believe in hell and judgment.

One of the devil’s foremost lies today is that the message of judgment scares people away from church. In our plastic society, men and women are wanting to know the truth. Growing churches are churches that proclaim the “message God gives them.” The folly of this present church age is that many think they can attract people by boasting that they are too progressive to believe in such things as judgment and wrath. Sadly, their churches are empty and dead. When we read the history of revivals we find that they were all born out of preaching about the wrath of God.

However, I’m not just pointing a finger at those of us who are preachers. Mostly, it is lay men and women who have not seized their opportunities and sensed their obligations. We have not changed our world because we have not corrected our ways. What can one person do? We have seen what one person can do in a negative sense? A Madelyn Murray O’ Hair can get prayer out of the public schools almost singlehandedly because she set her mind to it. Pray to God that all Christians were as committed to Christ as she was to atheism.

We are putting a lot of blame on churches for the decline of influence of Christianity in American life today, but may I ask, “Where have the Christian lawyers been?” Where have they been while liberal forces have made the First Amendment to be what it was never intended to be? Where have the Christian lawyers been while liberal organizations have stripped nearly every moral fiber that this nation was built on and turned the tables on the intent of our founding fathers? Where have the Christian attorneys been?

Many Christians have fallen into the trap of universalism. Some time ago, I received a fundraising letter from a leader of a major church-state separation organization. This Baptist minister was accusing conservative Christians of trying to “Christianize America.” He was attempting to raise funds to head off their influence. I was shocked and appalled. I am unapologetically trying to Christianize America. Why? Because the Bible still says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In fact, we should not simply be trying to Christianize America; we should be trying to Christianize the world. This is the commission our Lord has given us.

Where have the Christian educators been? We are watching our education system crumbling at the hands of humanists. Christian teachers in public schools are no more allowed to espouse Christian morals and virtues in the classroom that were teachers in Russia. They are just as banned by law from doing so as schools in the old Soviet Union. On the day of the horrible explosion of the shuttle Challenger, Billy Graham made a classic statement to the media. He said, “America is stunned. It has caused us to pray. Students are praying in classrooms all over America today where it has been voted illegal to pray.”

Where have all the Christian doctors been? Abortion has taken millions of innocent lives while judges and politicians argue over when life begins. God made it plain in His word. He said, “Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you and called you by name.”

Where have the Christian businessmen and women been? Our cities have sunk to a level of debauchery and degeneration that would make Sodom and Gomorrah blush.

The question returns to us, “What can one person do?” We can correct our ways and then we can change our world.

2. Change our world

The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened (Jonah 3:5-10).

It is amazing what happened when one man got right with God. When one man, Jonah, corrected his ways, he changed his world. The whole city of Nineveh came to God.

A. Faith

In Nineveh, there came faith. “The Ninevites believed God.” The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Jonah went to Nineveh and delivered God’s word. They heard, and the result was that the believed God. It does not say they “believed Jonah.” No, “They believed God.” This should be the aim and end of all preaching, that men and women believe God. These people of Nineveh believed that God was speaking to them through His prophet. It never occurred to them that this was Jonah’s philosophy. He was nothing more than God’s delivery boy with God’s message, and consequently they “believed God.”

I wonder if it could be that men and women in our offices, neighborhoods and schools are wanting to believe, but God’s problem is with us. Imagine, God wants to use us to bring faith to others.

When men and women get right with God, the lost are attracted. Let a Jonah get right with God and the entire city of Nineveh gets saved. Let a woman at a well drink of “living water” and she brings out the town of Sychar to the Lord Jesus. Let the disciples tarry in an upper room and three thousand people will be saved at Pentecost.  One of the ways to know if revival has come is that it always results in a multitude of people being swept into the kingdom. Revival leads a man, as it did Jonah, to go to the lost, and God moves in with great power. One person can be the spark that leads multitudes to the Lord Jesus. Jonah brought faith to Nineveh.

B. Fasting

The Ninevites combined prayer with fasting. Spiritual matters consumed their interest. Here is a test of genuine revival. It involves a change of heart. Our Lord Himself said that some things happen only as a result of prayer and fasting. I seriously doubt that there is any great moving of God’s Spirit in revival that has not been born out of prayer and fasting.

The first thing they did after they believed God was to proclaim a fast. Fasting seems to be one of the lost words in our Christian vocabulary today. Fasting can be defined as the voluntary denial of food in order that the face of God might be sought in earnest, definite, persistent, and believing prayer. Fasting and prayer are inseparable.

Why should we fast? Look at the Ninevites. All through the Bible people have fasted when they met God. Do you remember Moses in the wilderness?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant — the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28).

Later the Israelites were involved in a civil war between the sons of Israel and the sons of Benjamin. The Bible records, “Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord” (Judges 20:26). Later when Saul died, it is said of David that he and “all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan” (2 Samuel 1:11-12). When David’s boy was sick, the Bible said he “pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the night lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them” (2 Samuel 12:16-17). When Nehemiah heard of the reproach of the broken-down walls of Jerusalem he said, “I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). The Jewish Queen Esther said, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:16).

Jesus fasted. He was “led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry” (Matthew 4:1-2). The early church fasted. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3). In the early church “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord in whom they had put their trust” (Acts 14:23).

Why is it that so many today who seek after God totally neglect this truth of Scripture? Many churches today make their major decisions by their bank accounts and economic forecasts. Whatever became of prayer and fasting? Why should we fast? We should fast because it is practiced all through the word of God and it is God’s plan for brining things to pass in the life of individuals and churches.

Another question should be: “When should we fast?” Look at the Ninevites. We should fast when our walk with God needs to be deepened and our faith restored. We should fast when victories need to be won. WE should fast when decisions need to be made. In Antioch they fasted when they sent out the missionaries. We should fast when power needs to be secured. We should fast when revival needs to be experienced.

Where should we fast? Should we fast privately or publicly? There are needs for public fasts. We see it here in the book of Jonah, when the king ordered the fast. However, I believe that our basic need today is for private fasting. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen and your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18).

C. Forsaking

There was also forsaking. “Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” When the people heard the message God had delivered through Jonah, conviction of the Holy Spirit set in. Although they were living wicked, immoral, licentious, sinful lives, then there came faith and fasting, followed by a forsaking.

It is interesting to note that “all of them, from the greatest to the least” fasted and forsook their evil ways. Sometimes people try to convince us that the message of God’s wrath and judgment is only for the unlearned and uneducated. Some sit comfortable in their padded pews with their five-hundred dollar suits looking down their liturgical noses at those who are so religiously naïve that they accept the message of God’s judgment. In Nineveh, all the people believed.

All human beings are the same in that all have sinned, and all have a part of them that will live forever. Repentance is a universal need. In fact, the one who took the lead was the greatest of all, the king of Nineveh. It was personal sin from which each of them turned. It is one thing to talk and pray about the sins of others, but it is another thing to come before God and say “Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?”

Herein lies real revival. It is repentance. The Ninevites changed their minds and “believed God.” Consequently, this changed their hearts and they called a fast. And this changed their volition; they gave up their evil ways. They proved it by their works. This was genuine repentance, a forsaking.

Some people are not sure what repentance is today. Some think it is remorse, being sorry for one’s sin. Remorse may lead to repentance, but remorse is not repentance. The rich young ruler “went away sorrowful” but did not repent.

Others think repentance is regret, wishing our deeds had not happened. Many persons who regret their sin have never repented. Pontius Pilate is the most obvious biblical example. Many today substitute regret for repentance and fool themselves in the process.

Others think repentance is resolve; that is, they decide to do better in their own efforts and strength. But resolve is not repentance.

Still others think repentance is reform, turning over a new leaf. That is what Judas tried to do. After betraying our Lord for thirty pieces of silver, eh went back to the temple and tried to give the money back. HE went to the wrong people. There are many who have tried to substitute reform for repentance.[1]

Repentance is a change of mind which results in a change of heart which results in a change of action. We see it plainly here in the life of the Ninevites.

What can one person do? Look at Jonah. Does anyone want to influence a nation? Revival in Nineveh started with one man. It spread to the people, and they in turn influenced the leadership. There is a sense in which most leaders are really followers. When enough people are moved, we can reach to the top echelons. This is why it is so important for the church to correct its way and begin to change its world. IT is vital today for the church to take the message God has given us and become salt and light in the world instead of simply in the church. We can change our world as Jonah changed Nineveh. We could become a place of faith and fasting and forsaking. Revival can affect the whole world.

D. Forgiveness

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:10). This was the result of it all.

Does God repent? Does God change His mind? “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). “I the Lord do not change. So you, O Descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Malachi 3:6). God is not a man, that he should lie, nor the Son of Man that He should change is mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19).

Other verses in the Bible say such things as: “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:6). “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster he had threatened” (Exodus 32:14). Perhaps the most familiar is found in 2 Kings 20:1-6:

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,  “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

So back to the question: Does God change His mind? The answer is no and the answer is yes.[2] In His character, the answer is no, for He is holy and just and unchangeable. In His mercy, the answer is yes for He turns His face to any seeking sinner, saying “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” God repented of the punishment He said He would bring to Nineveh when they had repented of the evil they had done.

While preaching some time ago at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I saw this illustrated while walking from my hotel to the school to preach. Those who have visited the Windy City know that it is not called that for nothing. Anyone who has walked the streets of downtown Chicago knows that the wind as it come off Lake Michigan blows like few other places in the world. I started my walk from the hotel against a strong wind. The wind was so strong that it seemed to hold me back as I tried to walk. I literally had to lean into it. I had not gotten very far when I realized I had left my notebook in the hotel room and needed to go back for it. When I turned and went in the opposite direction, the same wind helped me along the journey. IN fact, it almost blew me over. Now, the wind didn’t change, but I changed in relation to it. F.B. Meyer said that is how some of us find ourselves in relation to the will of God. When we are out of His will, the wind of the Holy Spirit blows against us. We repent, turn around, change directions and then the wind of the Holy Spirit helps us along. God never changes. What happens is that we change in our relationship to Him.

“God saw what they did,” and He sent a mighty revival. The Ninevites gave up their evil ways. A lot of people today want to see revival but too few want to pay the price. What can one person do? It is clear that one reason God sent revival to Nineveh was that Jonah experienced revival in his heart. He was the key. You could be the key. Perhaps there is a Jonah reading these words, some person whom God is convicting to correct his or her ways and thus to become an agent of revival. How thankful we should be that our God is a God of the second chance.

What can one person do? Ask Jeremiah Lamphier. He lived in the 1850s when America was in a sad and sickened state. There was a great luxury on the part of a few and great poverty on the part of many. The crime rate soared. Violence was common. City streets were unsafe. Free love was espoused by some and home and family seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Economic instability haunted the nation and unemployment raged out of control. Corruption and injustice shamelessly walked hand in hand in high places. The slavery question and racial divisions separated family and friends. Many wondered if the “land of the free and the home of the brave” was not writing the last chapter of its history.

In 1857 Jeremiah Lamphier bore a tremendous burden for revival. He called on a handful of faithful Christians to meet with him in a location on Fulton Street in New York for a prayer meeting in behalf of revival. He arrived at the appointed place on September 23, 1857, and was later joined by five others.

That inauspicious meeting was the beginning of a mighty prayer meeting from which dozens like it were launched across the country. It wasn’t long before businessmen were closing their businesses and joining in prayer meetings to beseech God on behalf of their beloved country. Many were converted at those prayer meetings.

Throughout the land a divine fire broke out and white-haired penitents knelt with little children to receive Christ. Whole families of Jews were converted to their true Messiah. Hardened infidels were melted, some being led to Christ by the testimonies of children. Some of the most amazing aspects of this revival were recorded in only a few little-known accounts. Its blessing was not confined to land; the Spirit literally moved on the face of the waters. Vessel after vessel arriving in New York harbor would come under the same tale of a mysterious conviction breaking out among the crewmen. Entire crews would find Christ at sea as they entered the atmosphere of the harbor.

Day after day the prayer meetings continued. It is estimated during the months of the revival’s greatest intensity, no less than 50,000 people a week were swept into the kingdom of God. Conservative estimates claim that more than a million people met Jesus Christ as savior in less than a year as revival spread. [3] What can one person do? It all began when Jeremiah Lamphier corrected his ways and set out to change the world.

My cry today is: “Lord do it again! As you did in the days of Lamphier, do it again!”

Is it now time? When the Bible has been laid aside as an error-filled and worn-out book of antiquity, while humanistic philosophies are being taught instead, is not our only hope genuine revival? When the heart of the church in many quarters has turned to stone, when the pulpit has become a dispensary of worldly philosophies, when our educational systems seem like citadels of unprincipled corruption and forthright atheism, is it not time to pray, “Lord, do it again as you did in the days of old?” Is It not time for the people of God to barrage heaven with cries for revival?

When old-fashioned evangelistic methods, once openly espoused, are condemned as crude and manipulative, and the altar call after hellfire-and-judgment preaching is denounced as a fear tactic, is it not time to cry out to God for a return to Him?

When we see our nation sinking rapidly into the quicksands of immorality and insensitivity, with a seeming inability to call ourselves to arms, we should cry, “Lord, visit us again with Your sovereign power!” When from television, newspapers, and other public media, we hear the raucous cries of a thousand voices calling our children to lifestyles of godlessness, we should be moved to pray, “Lord do it again, ‘Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6).

When we see churches settling down to tolerate comfortably a declining civilization and adjusting their demands to accommodate indifference, we should know it is time for real revival. Nothing else will do.

When we see Christians pitifully struggling with a half-hearted zeal to regain their first love, seeking to nurse a quiet desperation within the hearts, we know that revival is the only answer.

But most of all, when we imagine we can hear our savior, who wept over Jerusalem, weeping over this sin-cursed earth, we should be moved to pray with Isaiah, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1).

What can one person do? Look at what Jonah did.



[1] Hawkins, O.S. 1984. Where Angels Fear to Tread. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, pp. 84-86

[2] Kendall, R.T. 1978. Jonah. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p. 203

[3] Hawkins, O.S. 1980. When Revival Comes. Nashville TN: Broadman Press, p. 32.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

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