Watch the most recent sermon on 9.15.2021 Go Now!
September 12, 2021 | Doug Sauder
Watch our most recent mid-week message here.
Has anyone ever hurt you . . . and I mean really hurt you . . . to the point where you felt, or have even said, “I hope that person dies and rots in hell!”? You may be thinking, No, that’s a bit too harsh. But I certainly wished they would experience some serious hardship and never have anything good happen to them ever again while here on this earth.
I think if we’re honest, at one point or another in our lives, we’ve all felt this way toward someone. I know I can think of a few instances in my life where people had hurt me so deeply that I’d look forward to the day they would “reap what they sowed.”
Like the Psalmist, I can remember crying out to the Lord saying things like, “When will you uphold me with Your right hand of justice?”, “When will you vindicate me?”, “When will you set a table for me before my enemies?”, and on and on. I wanted justice, not mercy! I wanted God to make these people pay a consequence for what they had done to me.
There is one person in particular who has severely hurt me and my family for the last seventeen years. Believe me, even as a Christ-follower, my heart toward this person was all wrong. God had to use the trials caused by this person to teach me more about Himself, His character, and how I am to respond to people I would consider to be my enemies.
When I think of all the affliction this person has caused me, and so many others, I can’t help but relate to Jonah—a prophet who ministered to Israel in the days of King Jeroboam II. You see, Jonah hated the people of Nineveh because they were a great enemy of his people. Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, is located only 500 miles from Israel. And because of Israel’s continued rebellion, the prophets Hosea and Amos declared that God would use Assyria as an instrument to punish His people (Hosea 11:5; Amos 5:27).
Therefore, not only were the Ninevites a great threat to Israel, but they were also known for carrying out the bloodiest and most vicious acts of cruelty. They were brutal, godless, and sinful—and Jonah hated them.
One day, the Lord commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the people they would be destroyed because of their wickedness (Jonah 1:2). Now, I don’t know about you, but as soon as I heard that I thought Jonah would jump up and down and praise God for allowing him to relay a message of destruction to the people he despised. But he didn’t.
Why? Didn’t Jonah want justice? Didn’t he want the Ninevites to pay a consequence for all the evil they had done? Of course, he did! But here is why Jonah didn’t jump up and down with excitement: He knew God. In Jonah 4:2 (NKJV), Jonah says, “For I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.”
Wow! . . . What Jonah is basically saying here is that he knows God is gracious and merciful, so he was afraid if he told the people of Nineveh that God would destroy them, if they repented (which was a very big if), God would be merciful and not destroy them. Jonah wanted them destroyed so badly that he didn’t want to give them even the slightest chance to repent.
Perhaps this is why Jonah kept his message to the point when he finally did obey God. All he said was, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4 NKJV). This is one of the shortest sermons ever preached! Jonah likely did this on purpose because I believe he didn’t want to tell them to repent . . . he wanted to tell them they’d be destroyed!
I think if we’re all honest, we’d have to admit at some point in our lives we’ve been guilty of feeling the same way about our enemies as Jonah did—not wanting God to be merciful with them. But as I said before, God taught me a few lessons through the persecution of my enemies, particularly through the one that has afflicted me and my family for so long. Lessons I think Jonah went through as well.
God has shown me how much He loves every single person on the face of the earth—including my enemies. He allows me to feel His heart of compassion for people, teaching me to reject the sin, not the sinner, and to pray for my enemies. In Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT), the Lord says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Friends, the truth is, God loves you, me, and all of His creation—whether good or evil. He is gracious and merciful. He doesn’t want to see one person live without Him. He sent His Son Jesus to die for all of our sins, so we may have an abundant, joy-filled life on earth (John 10:10), as well as eternal life with Him in heaven (John 3:16). And we are all sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23). I have seen God’s mercy in my life. How could I not want the same grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness to be extended to anyone else?
Today, I can honestly say I intentionally pray for my enemies—especially the one, who to this day, continues to hurt me, my family, and so many others. My heart has been completely changed by God (Romans 5:5). I no longer feel hate toward these people, or pray for God’s justice on them, or hope they reap what they sow; instead, I feel sorry for them and pray for God’s mercy over them.
Hear God’s heart when He tells Jonah, “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:11 NKJV). We have to remember that there are so many people on the earth who are lost and in desperate need of hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.
God called Jonah to preach to his enemies, to people who were evil doers, in the hopes they would repent and be saved. We are all called to do the same. Friends, the Lord is calling us to “Arise, . . . go!” (Jonah 1:2 NKJV).
I pray that we never find ourselves hoping that someone rots in hell! Instead, let’s pray that everyone hears the good news of the gospel, believes it for themselves, and extends the same love and mercy that has been extended to us. Let’s pray that all of God’s people will accept the gift of eternal salvation—especially our enemies.
Arise and go! Share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with others around the globe. Go on one of our upcoming short-term mission trips or pray for or financially support our missionaries.