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Open Doors – Wk 5: Resistance is Futile | October 15, 2017 | Speaker – Lee Coate
This week we are continuing our study series called Open Doors. The curriculum is based upon a book entitled, All the Places to Go, by John Ortberg, who helps us to think about our lives and recognize that we are not products of our circumstances, but of the doors that were opened and closed to us. Our weekend services introduce the various aspects of the study while small group studies will take us a step deeper as we recognize the open and closed doors in our lives. Those doors will take us in directions that become divine opportunities because we will have laid the foundation for recognizing them.
- Jonah 1:4-6 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”
- Jonah 1:9-10 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
- Jonah 1:15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
- Jonah 1:17 But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
- Jonah 2:1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
- Psalm 46:1-7 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall. God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us.
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
- Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this – that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
This week we are talking about resisting God’s call to step through open doors. Jonah is our prime example of one who resisted God by running away. Jonah was a prophet and as such he was sent into difficult circumstances. What was worse was that he wasn’t even to prophesy in Israel – God sent him to a hedonistic people to warn them to repent before it was too late. In 750 B. C. God called him to Nineveh, Assyria, but he went in the opposite direction toward a place called Tarshish in modern day Spain and along the way was thrown overboard and swallowed by a big fish. He learned that it is futile to resist the will of God. God wanted him to relay this amazing message of grace and hope, but Jonah preferred that they not hear it. Eventually, of course, God prevailed and the Ninevites were saved through Jonah’s preaching.
- Question: Tell us about a time when you resisted God’s call on your life? How did that turn out?
When we run from God, we are confusing LIFE with God. When life does not go so well, we relate to God as not doing so well for us. We blame Him and decide we are not going to do God’s will – we’re not going to walk through doors He may be putting right in front of us. We think that Life = God so God is not so good either.
- Question: Why would you want to move in God’s direction if you look at how life has already treated you? What are the benefits?
But God goes to great lengths to get us moving TOWARD his plan and not AWAY from it. You see, God has this global picture, but to us it is a bunch of seemingly unconnected dots that He is trying to connect through us. When we run away we are late to see the connection between what is happening and how God wants to be moving forward toward His conclusion. God had not abandoned Jonah and He won’t abandon us – even when we are resistant to walking through the moments He has set before us. In times like our current tragedy, when we are tempted to run from God, the Psalmist reminds us to run toward Him. How can we run from the purpose He has for us in the midst of these terrible events? We are called to be comforters.
- Question: When have you felt abandoned by God? How did it feel? When did that feeling change?
- Question: What have you been tempted to not do this past week? How did you finally respond to God’s urgings?
St. Paul was a runner, too. He persecuted the new Christians until Jesus called him on the road to Damascus. From that encounter, Paul became the Apostle to the gentiles and took the Gospel to the rest of the world. He became the runner who persevered to the end in glory. In 2 Corinthians, he talks about “empowering empathy” which is comfort that brings courage and change. The comfort we receive from God, both in the past and in the present, allows us to comfort others in the midst of their trouble. You see, God comforts us so we can comfort others.
- Question: Whom have you comforted this week?
Often the tragedies we have survived give us credibility when we tell others in the same situation that God is there for them. Our capacity to comfort others is determined by the degree to which we’ve suffered and that is when we realize that there was a purpose in our suffering after all.
- Question: What tragedy have you suffered that can be turned into victory as you minister to others? What was the purpose of your suffering?
- Question: How can you leverage your sorrows for the sake of other people?
- Question: In what ways this week have you been stepping through doors toward others, our community and God?
Heavenly Father, we see so many people who are grieving and suffering and we want to know how to help them. The writings of St. Paul encourage us to emulate him as he sacrificed himself for others in service to You. Help us to recognize divine opportunities to comfort others and at the same time find purpose in our own sufferings. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
 All scripture is NIV unless otherwise indicated/