Salvation is a gift that we must steward. Managing it is not a matter of losing it, but a matter of sharing it with others. And God will go to great and mighty lengths for your good, so you can be His ambassador for Christ.
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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.
Though Jonah messed up in several ways, he was not entirely off his rocker when it came to how he thought about God and His salvation. Jonah was a prophet, so we cannot 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 rejected others because they made a mistake? Even more terrible. The mature Christian will find the good in a person’s life and learn from it, which is why we can 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; it is an unearned (unmerited) gift (Ephesians 2:8).
Taking Care of God’s Business
Because God’s salvation is a gift, it becomes a stewardship responsibility for any follower of God. We are to manage (steward) God’s salvation. This concept is similar to everything else we have in our lives since all things belong to God (Psalm 24:1-2). So may I ask,
- How do you think about your salvation?
- Do you see it as a gift from the Lord?
- How do you steward (manage) this gift to you?
This stewardship idea is something we have been trying to parent in 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.
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. A bad case of this kind of 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 stewardship. Now, of course, it’s stunning he is not going to hell, but salvation is much more than that.
Perhaps you have experienced something like this at Christmas with one of your children or other relatives. They took your gift but were irresponsible with how they used it.
Perhaps it may be okay to take liberties with what you do with some of the gifts you receive but 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 the gift of salvation is staggering, and our responsibility regarding that gift is sobering.
It is the most expensive gift you will ever steward because it belongs to the Lord. No earthly reward can compare to the unearned blessing of salvation. Jesus talked about how to prioritize earthly and heavenly gifts when He made a distinction between the rusty temporal and the 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
There Is Grace for This
One of the instructive 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.
Jonah’s confession (what he knew to be right) and his function (how he lived out his life) were at odds. This tension is real for all of us. Our beliefs and our practices do not always line up. Though Jonah was spouting off about God’s salvation–inside the whale’s belly, it was not long before he was angry and defiant again after God resolved his problem with the giant fish (Jonah 4:4).
What he knew to be true, and his desire to live out this knowledge did not connect after he exited the whale. Praise God for His grace; God makes wide borders of mercy for people like Jonah. He gives His children room to wobble.
If you are doing a poor job stewarding the Lord’s salvation, you do not have to fret. He will help you to become a better steward. Warning: it would be a good idea to think about two of the ways He “helped” Jonah: (1) by hurling a storm at him and (2) by 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 there be 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 what God was doing; He was helping Jonah mature in his management of God’s salvation.
God Executes Salvation Sovereignly
Understanding how to manage the Lord’s salvation means you must understand more about how God executes salvation sovereignly, which begins by understanding how God is in control of all things. There is nothing over which He does not exercise power, and there is nothing outside of His control.
If He were not in control, He would cease to be God. Nothing can thwart His plans for us–not even our sin. You see God orchestrating His salvation throughout the book of Jonah. He is behind the scenes working to bring Jonah to full repentance. Learn how there is no doubt that God is in charge.
- In 1:4 God hurled a mighty wind to help rescue Jonah.
- In 1:17 God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah.
- In 4:6 God appointed a plant to come over Jonah.
- In 4:8 God appointed a wind to scorch Jonah.
While it is true the sailors threw Jonah into the sea, as we read in 1:15, Jonah gave us a sovereign perspective of God’s work in his life in 2:3. These are 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
- 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
This theological insight is good news. The Lord sovereignly executes salvation, and He will use pagan men 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.
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You Experience Salvation Temporally
God’s salvation consists of past, present, and future components. 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.
There is also a temporal element to our salvation, in the life we live on earth. The significant theological term for this is the “Doctrine of Progressive Sanctification,” which is the process of transformation 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.
Though salvation has a definite regeneration effect–you are born again-it also means God will be “saving” you throughout your life. He does this so you can further mature in Christ because you are not entirely mature at regeneration (1 Peter 2:2).
This truth places a responsibility on us to respond to God so we can grow in our relationship with Him. This “requirement of relationship with God” will help us to change. Sometimes the requirements of relationship mean God has to bring things into our lives to motivate us to improve, as he did with Jonah.
Your daily changing is how you can experience the Lord’s salvation today, in the temporal. Understanding and applying this idea to your life will motivate you to think differently about the trials in your life. Your tests are not because God is against you. He is entirely 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.
God Extends Salvation Intentionally
I typically let the folks that I counsel know that counseling’s end goal is not for them to become better, but for them to go and make disciples. A key component to anybody’s salvation experience is to extend it to others intentionally.
There is an exportability factor to the Lord’s salvation. He did not save us to live like a Dead Sea–a body of water with no outlet. Christ, our example models this correctly. He left His place to come to us to change our lives. He wants us to do likewise (Matthew 28:19-20).
Jonah did not do this. He did not extend God’s salvation intentionally to others, which was the whole point of 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 children?
- Do your friends experience the Lord’s salvation through you?
You cannot have an identity with God without living out the calling of God. Jonah had a lousy attitude toward the people who needed to experience the Lord’s salvation. He was a poor steward of redemption. If you have a terrible attitude toward someone, you will not be a good steward of the Lord’s salvation because you will not export it well to them.
If you try to separate your identity (who you are in Christ) from your calling (your responsibility to live out your identity), you will truncate your experience with God, and you will hinder those who need to experience the Lord’s salvation.
To be a Christian is to act like a Christian. To do otherwise is “theological insanity” that is living counter to who you are or, to use the Bible’s term, hypocrisy. Salvation is from the Lord, and He intends us to give it to others.
What would hinder you from extending salvation to others?
- To your spouse?
- To your children?
- To your friends?
- To your world?
Part of your sanctification means if God rescues you, then you are united to be with Him and to be on mission with Him. If the gospel is about going, 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, whose name 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? Will you take some time this week to discuss this with a friend?
Also published on Medium.