The Sign of Jonah
Will we be satisfied if we are only given the sign of Jonah today? The people of Jesus’ time were asking for miracles and signs to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. But Jesus was not willing to do so. He was not afraid that He would lose His popularity if He didn’t. He was even prepared that some of His disciples would leave Him. Why is this so?
Jesus was looking for disciples who would build their faith on Him and Him alone! This faith must be hinged on the death and the resurrection of Jesus. This is the only sign of Jonah that Jesus revealed. We may be going in and out of the church every week, but what is our faith hinged on?
Some build their faith on miracles and signs. While God still performs miracles today, it is not the basis of our faith. Will we still be zealous for God if we do not see signs and wonders? God need not choose to work through miracles and signs every time. He can be silently working in other inconspicuous ways.
Some build their faith on biblical numerology and symbology. There are people who get so excited when the preacher talks about numerology and symbology in the Bible. Sometimes I doubt if there are elements of superstition in this. While numbers and symbols play an important part in the Bible, their interpretations must never be over-emphasized. There is always a chance of subjectivity in them. These interpretations can encourage us about the reliability of the Bible and the character of God, but they should not become the tenets of our faith.
Some build their faith on answered prayers. Do we always expect God to say yes to our prayers? What if God answers our prayers in another way? Will we be disappointed? There’s a saying that prayers change things. But I tend to think that prayers change us even more. Through prayers, God is aligning our thoughts to His, before He grants us the desires of our hearts. Just imagine what would happen if God answers all our prayers according to our wilful wishes. Therefore, never build our faith on answered prayers according to our wishes, God is faithful no matter how He answers our prayers.
Some build their faith on prophecies. People get very excited when the so-called prophets prophesied about the revival of their lands. Churches organise lots of revival meetings to hype-up their churches. People get so busy and so excited but yet the irony is that many end up not spending personal quiet time with God. They can end up building a shallow spiritual life based on excitement and activities generated by prophecies. The strange thing about some of these prophecies is that they were not even coupled with repentance. In God’s message of revival, there is always a message of repentance before revival comes. But we often only hear the good news without the bad news in these prophecies. This is worrying, especially when a huge number of people flock to respond and proclaim Jesus as their Saviour. While I am glad to see people coming to know Jesus, I wonder if we are building some kind of pseudo-Christianity. Acceptance of Jesus must always come with repentance. It is not just about receiving Jesus as Saviour but also as Lord.
Some build their faith on prosperity. Some people receive Jesus because of the good things they can receive from God, particularly wealth. This group of people believe that if we believe in God, God would also bless us with the riches of the world. They believe that they are poor because they have too little faith. But the truth is that both poor and rich can become Christians and not every Christian would become rich. I do not think we can say that Jesus or His disciples were rich. In fact, they were poor. Their riches were not of this world but of the world to come! They are blessed because they would inherit the kingdom of God. If we are poor, it is all right. It does not mean that we are more sinful or lacking in faith, it is the boundary the Lord portions for us.
Some build their faith on their leaders. Leaders can become the objects of our faith if we are not careful, especially prominent or charismatic leaders. While many of these may be great leaders, they can become the idols of the church. Some leaders are very charismatic and have the tendency to draw people through their inspirational talks. Believers can end up following blindly what the leaders say and do. They end up taking the leaders’ words as gospel truths, usually without checking and examining them with the teachings of God. Perhaps the leaders are just so good convincing the people using the words of God. No one can detect how they have misused the words of God. May God grant us the discernment. While leaders are appointed by God, they are not God!
Some build their faith on friends. Most of us come to know Jesus through our friends. We also tend to stay in our church because of our friends. But what if our friends are all gone? Will we still believe in God and worship Him every Sunday? While friends are very important to help us build a sense of belonging, our faith cannot be built on them. Each of us has to build our own faith on God while living in a community as a family of God. There can be no substitute.
Jesus is the Rock. All believers are called to build our faith on Him. While we may be worshipping God, we need to examine ourselves if we are just going after the emotional hype. We may become self-centred and self-serving individuals as a result. Idols within us are often more scary than those without because they are unseen enemies hidden in us. They might be left undiscovered if we do not spend time to examine ourselves. We might end up deceiving ourselves thinking that we are holy and growing in the Lord. Never just look at the external, look deep within and build that inner being God has called us to be. Be satisfied if we have no other signs but just the sign of Jonah alone. That is enough to save us.