The following is a post by Pastor Rob Golding of First Artesia Christian Reformed Church. He also writes for the Westminster Theological Seminary Magazine.
A fish swallowed the recalcitrant prophet Jonah, but what happens when the obstinate Christian similarly buries his feet in the sand? Is the Christian’s fish only for cars, or does God appoint fish to swallow us and move us along the road of providence, like Jonah?
Without question, as a Christian’s days grow, so does his desire to obey. However, the ever-growing line of life is paralleled by the serpent of apathy. As the days go by, the opportunity to slide into the ignorant bliss of cultural acquiescence grows not more likely, but more threatening. It is one thing for a child of only a few years to sink into the lazy river of unrighteousness, but another for a spiritual leader carrying the burden of souls. The first loses almost nothing, and the opportunity to repent is life-long. But the second risks everything—his life and the souls of those in his care. With such infinite gold in the balance, the gold of eternal glory, which would we prefer: a god who allows us to bury our heads in the sands of time or a King who demands obedience and will compel it if necessary?
In our age, spiritual leaders are only desired if they are servants of selfish desire. We prop up our communal puppets and place plastic crowns on their heads so long as they work with every fiber in their being to satisfy every fiber of our fallen desires. The instant these leaders intimate that we must sacrifice a tittle of titillation, we rage with the fire of a thousand suns. Hell hath no fury as an ochlocracy scorned. Perhaps the ancient Greeks were on to something. Ours is a counterfeit kingdom. While our King washed our feet, He demanded obedience and will see that He gets it. His vice-regents, however, wash feet and, when spat upon, cry, “Please, sir, may I have some more?”
Where are our prophets? Whence the weight of God’s word that crushes lofty opinions and takes captive contrary thoughts to the glory of Christ? As we peer into the bleak horizon of listless leadership, devoid of authority and action, perhaps we should pray for fish. Maybe we need to be swallowed by God’s providence and spat out on the shores of spiritual battle. Even the best soldiers need a kick in the pants every now and then. Why, then, are our warriors so comfortably seated? Where are the sergeants of salvation, and why are they not kicking? It is hard to kick against the goads, and if we do not start swinging, they will come. We can kick against the painful goads of God’s providence, or we can swing at the spirit of the Antichrist. Bob Dylan said you gotta serve somebody. You gotta fight someone too. God will have His way, and it seems it must now come at the end of a point. He does woo like a lover, but He also leads like a warrior.
What is He doing now? Are the days for the gentle woo spent and those of providential prodding rising? Perhaps we need thorns in our sides. Perhaps the soft woo has led not to salvation but sleep. Perhaps the death knell must now be sounded. Perhaps it is time not for religious bantering but for spiritual battle. Perhaps the infinite cries of slaughtered infants, the abused consciences of children indoctrinated with treacherous abominations of body and soul, the vaulting of every non-Christian ideology over against everything good, true, and beautiful, the condemnation of Christ and the vindication of atheism, and the black-cancer of a faithless generation growing around every edge of the Church are the walls of our fish. Maybe the overnight cultural overhaul we have all experienced over the past ten years is the experience of being spit out on the shore. What will we do with this new birth? Do we do well to be angry with God’s providence merely? Or should we, instead, proclaim, “Repent or perish!”?
What if our meager cries in the wilderness were not just prodded by the providence of God but attended by it? Is not a revival possible if God works in His people and those yet to be His people? Is not cultural ostracization a meager buy-in when the payoff might be cultural renewal? Would you not risk it all if all could be renewed? Even the animals seemed to repent in Nineveh. Can that happen today? No, not unless we wake up like Jonah in the belly of the ship and walk the shore of D-Day. We will get there one way or another—either walking off the ship with armamentarium in tow or being hurled overboard, swallowed, and spat out on the shore. I bet Jonah wished he had listened to God the first time.
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