As an author and speaker, I come in contact with thousands of people every year both in the fishing arena and in the Christian church. Invariably, I am asked why my websites, professional business and ministry all have "Great Fish" in their titles. The answer to this question often provokes some interesting conversations, especially among those who wish they had never asked. But it also opens many doors and plants some great seeds in the heads and hearts of those who are pre-Christians.
To answer this question, I always refer to the Book of Jonah 1:17. "But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah". You see, like Jonah, I was running as far away from God as I thought possible, even though our reasons differed. For Jonah, he did not want to see the hated Assyrians, who lived in Nineveh, spared from God's wrath. For me, it was a simple matter of running from the purpose God had for my life.
You see, as God placed Jonah in a great fish not only to spare his life, but to give him time to reflect on his disobedience, so He also placed me in a great fish for the same reasons. True, I wasn't literally in the belly of a fish like Jonah, but where I was living was just as dark and stinky. For Jonah, it took three days before he overcame his stubbornness, repenting of his sin and asking God for deliverance. For me, it was almost 30 years.
But that is far from being the end of the story. Although Jonah was a significant prophet and called of God, and although it took him three days in the belly of a great fish to get an attitude adjustment, his new attitude didn't last long. Jonah obeyed God and proclaimed His impending judgment on Nineveh, only to see the people repent and be forgiven by God. Jonah's response to God's grace to the Ninevites was one of great anger (Jonah 4:1).
So Jonah went out of the city and sulked under a little shelter he had made. God provided a fast-growing vine to give him shade for a day, but then took it away, making Jonah even madder, telling the Lord that "I am angry enough to die". It is obvious that Jonah cared more about his own comfort than the lost souls of Nineveh. Have you ever been in Jonah's shoes? I know I have. Sometimes it's more comfortable not to tell people about God. Worse yet, sometimes we can become so disgusted with some people or people groups, that we have no desire or will to see them saved!
But I love God's response in Jonah 4:10. "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"
Like Jonah, I understood God's salvation and deliverance from the belly of the great fish. But also like Jonah, I had a lot to learn about God's grace. How many of us have had or still have some "Ninevites" in our lives? They may be people who look different, think different, act different, believe different and ARE different. But God sent Christ to die for the sins of ALL mankind, not just people who make us comfortable.
Until we understand that it is the "will of the Father that none should perish but that all should come to repentance," and that it is our job, as believers, to reconcile the lost to Christ (2 Co. 5:18), we will be in disobedience to God and following through on the call He has for our lives.