Our April newsletter will contain a message from our founder about the life of Jonah. We believe is so important for Christians today that we have decided to send this E-bulletin to share it with you as soon as possible. If it encourages you, please feel free to share it widely.
"But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish" (Jonah 1:3).
It's unfortunate that many Christians know so little of the Book of Jonah, except that a 'great fish' swallowed him and later spat him out. Most people's knowledge of Jonah seems to stop there, and they have missed the main point of the book.
When God commanded Jonah to preach in Nineveh, not only did he run away, but he went as far as possible in the opposite direction. Nineveh was 550 miles northeast of Israel, but he headed to Tarshish, located on the coast of Spain some 2,500 miles to the west! The Prophet Jonah was a man of God, so what motivated him to disobey the Lord in such an extreme way?
After he returned home from his remarkable ordeal, God again instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh. This time he went, albeit reluctantly. He preached God's coming judgment, and incredibly the whole city repented of their sins, from the king down. Jonah's worst fears were confirmed. Those evil-doers had met God's conditions and he knew the merciful Lord would relent of His punishment.
Jonah was "very angry" when the city repented. He threw a major hissy-fit and prayed, "Isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.' But the Lord replied, 'Is it right for you to be angry?'" (Jonah 4:1-4).
To understand why Jonah was so upset we need to know what Nineveh was like at the time. The city had emerged as the center of the Assyrian empire, known for its cruel and ghastly acts. For generations they had bullied and destroyed surrounding nations. The Ninevites were similar to Islamic extremists today, performing barbaric acts of terror.
If we understand that similarity, we may begin to grasp why Jonah was so keen to disobey God. If we're honest, if the Lord told us to travel to the Middle East and preach to ISIS, we might head in the opposite direction too. Interestingly, Nineveh was located just outside the present-day city of Mosul in Iraq, which is still in the news today as a terrorist stronghold, thousands of years after Jonah's visit.
Before we rush to judge Jonah, we see many similarities between his attitude and that of many Christians today. In the past few years a number of people have rebuked us for our desire to reach Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some church-going professing Christians have brazenly told us we are false believers because we don't appear to "hate God's enemies with perfect hatred." Just like Jonah, they don't want a certain group of people to experience God's grace. Some have even said they would rather see all Muslims annihilated and wiped off the face of the earth.
Friends, if you love the Lord Jesus, please guard your heart closely and ensure it doesn't grow bitter against Muslims or anyone else. While it's right to hate the demonic, filthy acts of terrorist groups like ISIS, if we allow a root of bitterness to gain hold we will be defiled and it will affect everyone around us. Satan would love for that to happen. One way to tell if bitterness has crept into our hearts is to gauge our response when we see pictures of Muslims.
When you look at the above picture, do you feel anger or disgust rising up in your heart? If so, please cry out to God for deliverance. The three young women in the photograph have just obtained their first ever copies of the New Testament. They are thrilled, and can't wait to get home and study the teachings of Jesus. Millions of Muslims have been searching for Bibles for years because they are tired of centuries of dead legalism and bondage and they long to know the Truth.
A few people have asked us if we are "for or against" Muslims. We are for Jesus Christ, and if the Holy Spirit is drawing people to God out of the Muslim world, we want to be part of it. There is no greater joy than to see a Muslim transformed by the blood of Jesus.
We currently support more than 150 evangelists throughout Asia who were once Muslims, but who now love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts. They daily risk their lives to make Him known in the midst of their communities. We regularly receive amazing reports from these co-workers, telling how many Muslims are surrendering their lives to Jesus after discovering that He is the living Savior of the world.
Finally, we encourage you not to harden your heart against Muslims for one more reason you may not be aware of: God is working powerfully in the Muslim world and every day thousands are becoming born-again Christians! The respected mission publication, Operation World, recently released a list of countries with the fastest growing churches in the world. It may shock you to learn that the top three countries are all Muslim—Iran, Afghanistan and Gambia! Rounding out the top ten are four more Muslim nations: Algeria (6th), Somalia (7th), Kuwait (9th) and Tajikistan (10th).
May God search our hearts and motives, lest, like Jonah, we find ourselves out of touch with His eternal plans for our generation. We will miss what God is doing today if we don't want Him to show mercy to a group of people we consider undeserving of His grace.
We serve a wonderful God who desires to know all people. We're glad that's the case, otherwise we would be lost and heading to hell. The day is coming when the Lord Jesus will judge the whole earth and purge all evil and evil-doers. Indeed, Nineveh's repentance was not permanent. The Prophet Nahum foretold the destruction of the city 150 years after Jonah's visit.
While the door of opportunity to bring lost people to salvation remains open, we plan to do all we can to help bring in the harvest, realizing that it's not our role to tell the Lord whom He should or shouldn't accept into His family, for "God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden... I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one" (Romans 9:18, 25).
One day, just as He did in the time of Noah, the hand of God will close the door on this sick and vile world. When He does, many will be surprised to discover that millions of former Muslims have been saved by His grace and washed clean by His precious Blood.
Until All Have Heard of Jesus,
The team at Asia Harvest