Salvation Management

Jonah said salvation belongs to the LORD (Jonah 2:9). There is no doubt about his statement. Salvation is God’s and He can choose to do with it what He wants. Salvation does not belong to us. It is God’s.

Though Jonah messed up in several ways, he was not totally off his rocker when it came to how he thought about God and His salvation. Jonah was a prophet, so we can’t totally dismiss his life because he made a mistake and his mistake made it into the canon of Scripture.

Praise God for His grace. What if God or others dismissed you because you made a mistake? How awful. What if you dismissed others because they made a mistake? Even more awful. The mature Christian will pick out the good in a person’s life and learn from it. What can we learn from our brother, Jonah?

He tells us salvation belongs to Yahweh–the covenant keeping LORD God. Salvation is His and if we receive it, there is no question we have received a gift. In this case, we know it is an unearned (unmerited) gift.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. – Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)

Taking care of God’s business

Salvation belongs to the LORD, but it is a gift to us. Because God’s salvation is a gift, it becomes a stewardship responsibility for any follower of God. We are to manage God’s salvation. This is not unlike any other thing we have in our lives, since all things belong to God.

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. – Psalm 24:1-2 (ESV)

  • How do you think about your salvation?
  • Do you see it as a gift from the LORD?
  • How do you steward (manage) God’s gift to you?

This stewardship idea is something we have been trying to parent into our children. For example, we have told them for years “their room” is not their room. “Their toys” are not their toys. And, even more importantly, “their lives” do not belong to them. Everything belongs to God, even salvation.

Salvation was not given to you to use in a self-centered, self-serving way, with no appreciation for, acknowledgment of, or responsibility toward the One who gave you the gift. The worse case for this kind of mental theological breakdown is the person “who got saved so he would not have to go to hell.”

He just wanted to “get his ticket punched.” That is irresponsible salvation. Perhaps you have experienced something like this at Christmas, maybe with one of your children, nephews, or other relatives. They took your gift, but were irresponsible with how they used it.

While it may be okay to take certain liberties with what you do with some of the gifts you receive from others, it would be wise to be more gracious, thoughtful, and responsible with how you steward God’s gift of salvation.

Temporal gifts and eternal gifts are different. The stakes are eternally higher regarding God’s salvation. The comprehensiveness of His gift of salvation is staggering and our responsibility regarding His gift is sobering.

It is the most expensive gift you will ever steward because it belongs to the LORD. No earthly gift can compare to the gift of salvation. Jesus talked about how to prioritize earthly and heavenly gifts. He made a distinction between the rusty temporal and glorious eternal.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:19-20 (ESV)

There is grace for this

One of the interesting ironies about Jonah’s statement is the truth in which he spoke, but the failure in how he lived out what he knew to be true. Refer to chapter one regarding confessional and functional beliefs.

Jonah’s confession–what he knew to be true and his function–how he really lived out his life, were at odds. This is true for all of us. Our beliefs and our practices do not always line up. Though Jonah was spouting off about God’s salvation while inside the whale’s belly, it was not long before he was angry and defiant again (Jonah 4:4).

His ability to steward the LORD’s salvation became more complicated after he exited the whale. What he knew to be true and his desire to live out this knowledge did not connect–again. Praise God for His grace. God makes wide borders of grace for people like Jonah …and me too.

God gives His children room to wobble. It appeared Jonah was wobbling all over the place. Mercifully, what we see in Jonah is a testament to God’s kindness to all of us–a kindness that leads to repentance.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4 (ESV)

You don’t have to fret if you’re doing a poor job stewarding the LORD’s salvation. He will help you to become a better steward. However, it would be a good reminder to think about two of the ways He “helped” Jonah: (1) By hurling a storm at him (2) and appointing a fish to swallow him.

While this is not meant to scare you, it does elevate the seriousness of how God thinks about His salvation. It should also give you a different perspective on the trouble in your life.

Could it be there is a sovereign point to your troubles? Maybe the LORD, who owns your salvation, will go to unusual lengths to help you become a better steward of His salvation. There is no doubt, according to the book of Jonah, that is exactly what God was helping Jonah mature in salvation management.

Salvation is executed sovereignly

In order to understand how to better manage the LORD’s salvation, it is helpful to understand more about how salvation is executed sovereignly. This simply means God is in control of all things. There is nothing He does not exercise control over and there is nothing outside of His control.

If He was not in control then He would cease to be God. Nothing can thwart His plans for us–even our sin. You see God orchestrating His salvation throughout the book of Jonah. He is behind the scenes working, in order to bring Jonah to full repentance. No doubt God is in charge.

  • In 1:4 we learned God hurled a great wind to help rescue Jonah.
  • In 1:17 we learned God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah.
  • In 4:6 we learned God appointed a plant to come over Jonah.
  • In 4:8 we learned God appointed a wind to scorch Jonah.

While it is true the sailors threw Jonah in the sea, as we read in 1:15, Jonah gave us a sovereign perspective of God’s work in his life in 2:3. This is what theologians call the primary and secondary causes.

  • Secondary cause – So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. – Jonah 1:15 (ESV)
  • Primary cause – For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. – Jonah 2:3 (ESV)

This is good news. The LORD’s salvation is sovereignly executed by the LORD and He will use pagan men or even allow them to accomplish His purposes. You do not have a sloppy salvation. It is the LORD’s salvation.

No matter what your situational difficulties are, God is in control, always working for your good. You can manage your salvation with confidence, courage, and gratitude.

This was the idea John Newton was seeking to convey to the nearly always depressed and despondent William Cowper. Newton wanted to encourage Cowper by reminding him it is the LORD’s salvation. Here is how Newton said it:

I can only advise you to resist to the utmost every dark and discouraging [situation].

Though sin has abounded in us, grace has super-abounded in Him; though our enemies are many and mighty, Jesus is above them all; though He may hide Himself from us at times, He has given us a warrant to trust Him, even while we walk in darkness. He has promised to return, and gather us with everlasting mercies.

So, to renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to trust the Lord when we cannot trace Him, and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily or quickly learned; but, upon repeated trial, we find that saying and doing are two different things.

We please ourselves with agreeable prospects and proposals; but determination is with the Lord. We may rejoice that it is, He sees all things in their dependencies and connections, which we see not, and therefore He often thwarts our wishes for our good.

Let us strive and pray for an habitual resignation to His will; for He does all things well. It is never ill with us but when our hearts doubt or forget this plainest of truths.

Salvation is experienced temporarily

God’s salvation has past, present, and future components to it. In Ephesians 1:3-11 we know God was thinking about the execution of His salvation in eternity past. In Revelation 21:1 we get a sneak peek into what our future salvation will be like.

There is also a temporal element to our salvation and that is the life we live here on earth. The big theological term for this is the Doctrine of Progressive Sanctification. This is the process of us our being transformed into Christ-likeness.

The LORD’s salvation allows us to know and experience that (1) we have been saved, (2) we are being saved, and (3) we will be saved. Jonah was experiencing God’s salvation in the temporal, as we see God rescuing (saving) him from repeated errors in judgment.

Salvation has a definite regeneration effect–you are born again, but it also means God will be “saving” you throughout your life. He does this so you can further mature in Christ. You’re not fully mature at regeneration.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation. – 1 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

This places a responsibility on us to respond to God so we can grow in our relationship with Him. This requirement of relationship will help us to change. Sometimes the requirements of relationship means God has to bring things into our lives to motivate us to change, as he did with Jonah.

Your daily changing is how you can experience the LORD’s salvation today–in the temporal. Hopefully understanding this will motivate you to think differently about the trials in your life. Your trials are not because God is against you. He is fully on your side, but He wants to change you so you can more fully enjoy Him.

At times the things He brings into your life will challenge you to the core of your being. We see this throughout the Word of God–the Father allowing or bringing hardships into a person’s life to further His rescue (redemption) of them.

He needed to do some hard things for Jonah, e.g. a storm and a whale. What is He allowing in your life? Are you maturing in Christlikeness or sinfully reacting to your storm or your whale? How you steward your trouble will have a direct effect on how you steward your salvation.

Salvation is extended intentionally

I typically let the folks I counsel know that counseling’s end goal is not for them to get better, but for them to go and make disciples. A key component to anybody’s salvation experience is to intentionally extend it to others.

There is an exportability factor to the LORD’s salvation. He did not save us to become a Dead Sea–a body of water with no outlet. Christ, our example, models this perfectly. He left His place to come to our place so we could be changed. He wants us to do likewise (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jonah did not do this. He did not extend God’s salvation intentionally, which was the whole point in God speaking to him in the first place (Jonah 1:1-2). He did not want to share the LORD’s salvation with the Ninevites.

  • As a child of the covenant, are you calling others into a covenant life?
  • Are you exporting the LORD’s salvation to your spouse?
  • Are you an agent of redemptive care to your spouse and children?
  • Do your friends experience the LORD’s salvation through you?

You can’t have identity with God without living out the calling of God. Jonah had a bad attitude toward the people who needed to experience the LORD’s salvation. He was a poor steward of redemptive care. If you have a bad attitude toward someone, you won’t be a good steward of the LORD’s salvation because you won’t export it to them.

If you try to separate your identity–who you are in Christ, from your calling–your responsibility to live out your identity, then your experience with God will be truncated and those who need to experience the LORD’s salvation will be hindered.

To be a Christian is to act like a Christian. To do otherwise is theological insanity–living counter to who you are or, to use the Bible’s term, it is hypocrisy. Salvation is from the LORD and it’s intended to be given to others.

  • What would hinder you from extending salvation to others?
  • …to your wife?
  • …to your children?
  • …to your friends?
  • …to your world?

Part of your sanctification means if God rescues you, then you’re united to be with Him and to be on mission with Him. If the Gospel is about going, then you must be going and telling others about how salvation is from the LORD.

You see this most prominently acted out in the Gospel. Jesus, which means Yahweh saves, is the ultimate example of a person who had a relationship with the Father and was an extension of the Father’s desire to restore others through rescue.

Jonah did not want to be an extension of the LORD’s salvation. He mismanaged the gift the Father gave him. Rather than extending the good news to Nineveh, he ran toward Tarshish. God loved Jonah too much to let him mismanage His salvation. How about you? Which way are you running? Discuss this with a friend.

This is part of a nine part series on Jonah–a series of sermons preached at my church in the fall of 2012. You can listen to all of the sermons here. This article series has been published in book form.

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About Rick Thomas

Rick has been training in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own training organization in order to encourage and equip people for more effective living. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology. Later he earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with ACBC. Today his organization reaches people in every country through consulting, training, blogging, and coaching.
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