Fish Story Sermon - Pastor Steve Winter

  This is the text that I used to preach tonight's sermon 12/21/2002.

The sermon is available at

Many are aware of how someone that does not answer the call of God can end up with a whale of a problem on their hands. But I believe that the Lord has given me another insight regarding the matter.

Jonah 1:1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

4 ¶ But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.

6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?

9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.

10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

11 ¶ Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.

12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.

14 Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.

15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

1 ¶ Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,

Many are familiar of the events regarding Jonah and the whale and his hardship because of his refusal to obey God. But do we consider that the whale was Jonah's salvation. Without that whale he would have been history, well I mean he is history now but without that fish he would have been history a lot sooner.

What is the point here? I believe the point is that we should be always thankful even during times that are unpleasant to us.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

That is the verse right after verse 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

It is God's will for us to be thankful regardless of circumstance or situation.

Let us consider Jonah. When he was trapped inside of that whale he did not know that he was going to not only survive but get to be this real famous guy and even get his name in the Bible and everything. At the time it probably appeared to him that things were not going well and there was no happy ending in site. Was he thinking wow this is great I'll probably be a famous preacher and save thousands from destruction by preaching them into repentance.

I doubt it, and there is a good possibility that he was depressed and sad.

This was probably unpleasant for him and as we all know fish are seldom harvested for their aroma. The air in there must have been like an un burped fish burp.

Of course we know that Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the fish. He didn't just sit there (assuming he could sit, eh?) in his misery, he prayed to God. Note that nothing got resolved until Jonah prayed, eh?

Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,

But as we say the rest is history, Jonah hit some bumps in the road but he recovered and prayed to God, obeyed God and ended up even getting his name in the Bible, yea even a whole book of the Bible named after him and him as a successful preacher who saved many a soul from destruction.

What of Joseph? Do you think it seemed to him when he was cast into a pit by his unfaithful brethren that he was taking the first steps to ruling Egypt? But he stayed faithful to God through all (and we know he was not happy about being in prison and stuff) and he ended up being a famous ruler and getting his name in the Bible too as one of the "good guys."

Remember, though, when these guys were going through some very hard times the parts of the Bible they are in had not been written yet so they did not know where they were headed and I don't find where God told them what was going to happen.

Did God tell Jonah in advance that he would be successful and Nineveh would repent?

Did God tell Joseph that he would rule Egypt? Now I know that Joseph did have dreams to encourage him but none of these had promises equal to that which we have been promised. The New Testament Church had not yet begun. Think about it, we have greater promises and much greater blessings than they did.

While these guys were famous and got their names in the Bible an stuff are we not better off than they? We are in the Rapture generation and have the Gift of the Holy Ghost speaking in tongues available. We have Jesus Name Baptism available so that every past sin can be simply washed away. Would they not trade places with us if they could? There was no Acts 2:38 new birth available to them.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

We are a blessed people. Even when we have major challenges we usually have a roof over our heads and something to eat while we endure them.

It is important to be faithful and thankful regardless of circumstance. God may just have a greater blessing for us right around the corner.

Pastor Winter