In his first in-person service at Bahamas Harvest Church’s (BHC) west campus in the phased reopening of the country, after the closure of all non-essential services in the wake of COVID-19, Pastor Mario Moxey reminded members of his congregation that God never gave up on Jonah, and that God would never give up on them, because God loves them way too much.
Moxey spoke to a physically-distanced audience comprised of church leaders only, which he said was a run to get it perfect for when they all came back together.
The sermon, entitled “Whales and Worms” part of their June “Next”, was also broadcast online, as is par for the course for BHC.
In the “Next” series, the message focuses on how God prepares His people for whatever is next in their lives. Moxey spoke to his audience about God using various examples of isolation, quarantines and situations – his Sunday sermon message was centered around Jonah’s isolation in the belly of a fish for three days as found in Jonah 1:1-4, New Living Translation.
Moxey spoke to how Jonah was given a mission by God, and how Jonah’s running away put many people in danger when he was on a ship in a storm en route to Nineveh, and telling the ship’s crew that for the sea to calm, they would have to throw him overboard. Being the good people that they were, they didn’t want to do that, and tried every other avenue, until they had no choice but to throw Jonah overboard. The moment they did, the seas calmed.
“Jonah’s disobedience almost prevented everyone on the ship from getting to their next,” said Moxey. “It makes me want to ask a question: is your disobedience hindering someone else from their next? Are you [inadvertently], unintentionally causing someone to not get to where they need to be because you’re acting out?”
After being thrown overboard, Jonah spent three days in the belly of a fish, praying to God. Because he repented, God caused the fish to spit Jonah out onto a beach. The Lord then spoke to Jonah a second time to go to the city of Nineveh, and deliver the message He had given him. Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command the second time.
The story goes, Jonah arrived at Nineveh and told the people that in 40 days the city would be destroyed. The moment he said that, the people started repenting. They stopped their evil and turned their hearts towards God.
Ordinarily, this is where the story of Jonah would stop, because the people repented, but Moxey picked up from there with his message, because he said what happens next was what his “Next” June series is all about.
For the Ninevites, they repented, so their “next” was that God had mercy on them, and did not destroy the city as He had told Jonah in His message. Jonah did not like the changed result. He disagreed with God and felt the Ninevites should have been judged instead of warned.
“Jonah’s sin wasn’t really disobedience, it was arrogance. He thought he knew better than God. He was angry with God for being so merciful and so compassionate. Jonah was stuck in this mindset that, ‘This is how it should be and this is how it is’.”
Moxey told his listeners that there are a lot of godly people who have really good intentions, but who are stuck, and justify their position, no matter what you show them from the Bible.
“They will justify their position by showing you other scriptures. They just get stuck.”
He encouraged his members to not get “stuck”.
“Don’t try to justify what it is that you think God should be doing by using scriptures, otherwise you get stuck, and that’s not a great place to be at. It’s important for us to know that God wants to take us to a place where we’re free from the bondage of being so legalistic in our mindset.”
Moxey said God is preparing His people for something and speaking to their hearts, but oftentimes, people are not ready to obey. He said that was the situation Jonah found himself in.
In a conversation with God, He inquired of Jonah as to why He should not have been merciful to the people of Nineveh, the last verse of the Book of Jonah.
No one knows what happens next, says Moxey. But he said you have to read the whole book to get a picture of who Jonah was, and that that’s how it is in life. He said the real lessons come after the curtain closes and that for people, there are still more lessons ahead of them.
“For many of us, we feel like we’re coming out of COVID-19 and so all the lessons are behind. What you have to realize is the real lessons are coming up, just as it was in the story of Jonah. The question is, will you obey God?” said Moxey.
He told them that their obedience is important because everyone needs spiritual recalibration and it’s important to recalibrate. Moxey said recalibration is important in every aspect of life, and especially needed when you’re drifting in your spiritual life.
“We have to learn how to be in alignment with God.”
The three key types of recalibration people need to make, he said, include recalibrating perspective in life, recalibrating plans and recalibrating passion.
Recalibrate perspective in life
“When bad things happen to good people, we ask why. We want to be satisfied with an answer. But when bad things happen to bad people, we begin to think, ‘Well, that’s justice, they deserved that.’ We make wrong judgements about people because we view them from our own broken perspective. That’s why it’s so dangerous. Only God knows everything. You don’t know everything – that’s why it’s so important to keep your mouth off of people – ‘cause you don’t know their [walk], you don’t know their journey. God sees it all. The real scary part about this is, how would we know if our perspective is off?”
He reminded them that God has to transform His people to think differently.
“The word of God helps to rewire our thinking. The more word of God we read, the more we are transformed into His image,” he said.
Moxey said while man’s purpose hasn’t changed in life, their plans do. And he said God’s purpose doesn’t change, but His plans change. And that man can get God to change His plans. But to get Him to do so, they need to get on their knees and repent.
“There is a payment required for your act of disobedience, but it’s the blood of Jesus Christ that trumps it. God’s ultimate purpose is repentance. You don’t lose sight of the purpose because of the plans.”
Moxey said the new coronavirus pandemic has wrecked many people’s plans for vacation, graduation, as well as their weddings, but he said their plans did not and do not have to change. He said they can still do it all.
“You can still go on vacation; you may not have the plans that you had, but the purpose of vacation still stands – you need to get off and rest; go to the Family Islands. We’re going to Eleuthera. Graduating – you don’t have the commencement ceremony you had planned. And the purpose of a marriage is not a wedding ceremony, the purpose of a marriage is an eternal covenant; you can have any kind of ceremony. I tell brides and grooms all the time – you only need five people – us three and two witnesses. Plans change, the purpose don’t; align your plans with your purpose.”
He said some people may have seen a rediscovering of passion in the time they’ve had to stay home due to COVID-19 and not caught up in the rat race anymore. But at the same time, he said the truth is, people need something a little stronger than just a long break and that they need the word of God.
“It’s the word of God that fuels our passion,” said Moxey. “I admonish you to consume the word of God during this time, because the more you consume it, the more your passion becomes alive.”
While he finds it intriguing that no one knows how Jonah’s story ends and what becomes of him, he told them that what they do know is that God is merciful and patient and that he has a “bleeding heart” toward His sons and daughters and is waiting for them to repent.
“He never gave up to the people of Nineveh. He never gave up on Jonah, and He will never give up on you. He loves you way too much,” said Moxey.
He told BHC members and guests that the period of isolation is their opportunity to recalibrate their life, and get back into alignment with what God has for them next.