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Devotionals Mar 8 – Apr 7, 2024: Abandoning Your Calling?

This month the devotional contains the books of Jonah and Philemon. Although these two books might not seem to be similar—one about an Old Testament prophet, the other about a New Testament slave—they actually share a common theme. Both Jonah and Onesimus (Philemon’s servant) abandoned their callings. Jonah was called by God to preach to Nineveh, but instead, he fled from God and tried to escape his calling. Onesimus was called to be Philemon’s servant, but Paul encounters him far from his home. Jonah and Philemon both have something to teach us about our callings in this world, so they will be our focus for this month. 

Starting with Jonah, we see from the beginning that God commands him to preach to Nineveh, but Jonah doesn’t comply. Rather, he flees from God and takes a boat in the opposite direction. God then sends a storm, frightening the men on the boat and causing them to fear for their lives. The men cast lots that fall on Jonah, so they reluctantly decide to throw him overboard. However, God sends a great fish to save Jonah, and for three days, he is preserved inside the fish. The fish then spits him out onto the land, and this time, Jonah follows God’s calling. Nineveh is receptive to his message, causing both the people and the king to repent. Jonah, however, becomes angry at God for his mercy, so God teaches him a lesson through the withering of a gourd. 

Continuing on, the book of Philemon is an epistle written by Paul, to Philemon, and about Onesimus. In this letter Paul asks Philemon to receive Onesimus as a beloved brother, rather than treating him harshly for running away. Onesimus was once Philemon’s servant, but like Jonah, he forsook his calling. At some point after fleeing, Onesimus met Paul, and Paul likely told him that he needed to return to Philemon since that was his calling. Paul sent the epistle along with Onesimus, so that he and Philemon could be reunited in peace. 

Now, despite their obvious differences, the books of Jonah and Philemon have a similar message. Both call believers to be diligent in their callings and to obey God. And while every Christian is called by God to various activities, as we can see in the stories of Jonah and Onesimus, many often desert their callings. In Romans 12:2, Paul commands, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” While this message was originally addressed to the church in Rome, it is important that we also conform ourselves to God’s will. 

God’s will is at the center of both Jonah and Philemon. Even in the last chapter of Jonah, after he had followed God’s will for him to preach to Nineveh, Jonah still could not accept the will of God in Nineveh’s repentance. As readers, we are left to wonder whether Jonah ever conformed himself to God’s will. With Onesimus, we can be much more confident that he accepted God’s will for his life. If he had not given the letter to Philemon, his master, we likely would not be reading it in the Bible today.  

The question then comes to us, “Am I following God’s will for my life?” In one sense, we cannot do anything but follow God’s will, since he is sovereign. But when it comes to his revealed will, what God desires that we do and commands in Scripture, we have to ponder, “Am I conformed to God’s will or the world?” This comes not as an accusation, but rather as an encouragement. Those who follow God’s will are at peace, while the “Jonahs” of this world frequently encounter storms. He truly is “blessed…that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Ps. 1:1–2). 

Jake is his second year at Grand Valley State University and is a member of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church. 

Date  Read  Study  Psalter 
Mar 7   Jonah 1:1–3  Have you ever felt called to do something but tried to escape it?  68 
Mar 8   Jonah 1:4–5  Do you think that Jonah could have avoided the storm if he would have obeyed God? What might this have looked like?  1 
Mar 9   Jonah 1:6–7 

 

In the Old Testament, God’s providence can be clearly seen in verses like these. What are some ways that God’s providence can be seen in our lives?  332 
Mar 10   Jonah 1:8–10; 

Rom. 1:19–20 

 

Why can even unbelievers often recognize the power of God?  146 
Mar 11  Jonah 1:11–13  Think about what Jonah must have felt during these verses. Is he taking responsibility for his actions here?  149 
Mar 12   Jonah 1:14–16  Why do you think that the storm stopped right after Jonah was thrown out of the boat?  144 
Mar 13   Jonah 1:17  God provides for Jonah in a seemingly impossible situation. How has God turned a difficult circumstance into an endurable one in your life?  128 
Mar 14   Matt. 12:38–41  How is Jonah a type of Christ?  29 
Mar 15   Jonah 2:1–2  Try to recall a time that you prayed to the Lord and he heard your voice. How was your situation similar to Jonah’s?  235 
Mar 16   Jonah 2:3–5  Have you ever felt separated from God? How was this feeling resolved? 

 

163 
Mar 17   Jonah 2:6–7  How does God bring us closer to himself through prayer? Do you think this was the means that he used to help Jonah?  115 
Mar 18   Jonah 2:8–10  The Lord delivered Jonah after he confessed that “salvation is of the Lord.” Do you think there is any significance to that?  71 
Mar 19   Jonah 3:1–3  As weak and sinful believers, we often disobey God and suffer his chastisement. What are some of the ways that God’s chastisement can be beneficial?  329 (vv. 1, 2, 4) 
Mar 20   Jonah 3:4–5  Do you think that the people of Nineveh were more ready to repent because they knew the agony of their sin? Do you think one reason that we sin is that we forget the agony of it?  140 
Mar 21   Luke 11:29–32  Why do you think the Jews of Jesus’ day were less willing to believe compared with the people of Nineveh?  20 
Mar 22   Jonah 3:6–8  Why do you think the king was so receptive to Jonah’s message?  141 
Mar 23   Jonah 3:9–10  

 

God sees our works, like he saw the Ninevites’ works. What are some ways that we can walk in the way of love and repentance?  333 
Mar 24   Jonah 4:1–2; Matt. 20:1–16  What parallels can be seen between Jonah’s anger and the parable of the worker in the vineyard?  233 (vv. 2, 3) 
Mar 25   Jonah 4:3–5  Why do you think Jonah became so angry?  96 
Mar 26   Jonah 4:6–8  Do you think that Jonah’s enjoyment of the gourd stems from selfishness, like his anger at the people of Nineveh?  65 
Mar 27   Jonah 4:9–11  How does God use the gourd as a picture of damnation and compare it to Nineveh?  21 (v. 4) 
Mar 28   Philemon 1–3  Paul labels himself “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” and in other epistles as a slave to Jesus Christ. How does this help to show the dignity of Onesimus’ earthly calling?  360 
Mar 29   Philemon 4–5  Paul has heard of Philemon’s love and faith, likely from Onesimus. What are some ways that we can witness of the love and faith that we have in God?  51 
Mar 30   Philemon 6–7  What are some ways that we can show love like Philemon, so that others have joy and consolation?  24 (vv. 1, 3) 
Mar 31  Philemon 8–9  Paul could be bold in his letter to Philemon, but he chooses rather to ask in love. What are some ways that we can model this Christlike behavior?  366 
Apr 1   Philemon 10–12  What made Onesimus become profitable? How could this symbolize our regeneration?  334 
Apr 2   Philemon 13–14  Why does Paul say that he is sending Onesimus back?  1 (v. 5) 
Apr 3   Philemon 15–16  As Christians, we are not just God’s servants. Like Onesimus, we become a “brother beloved” in the house of the Lord. How is this comforting to you?  62 (v. 2) 
Apr 4   Philemon 17–18  How does Paul show himself to be a type of Christ in these words?  139 (v. 5) 
Apr 5   Philemon 19–20  What are some ways that we can have “joy…in the Lord” with each other? Are there certain church activities that help with this?  370 
Apr 6  Philemon 21–25  How can Paul be confident of Philemon’s obedience to his request?  27 (v. 2)