Introduction: Christians going through difficult times often say that
God is refining their character. If we make bad choices, we generally
learn a lesson the hard way. None of us wants bad things to happen.
The idea that God allows bad things to happen to make us better
creates a general fear of God. Is that good? Is it possible that God
could bless you after you make a bad choice, to deepen both your love
for Him and your desire not to make that bad choice again? I
recently read about the idea of a corrective blessing, and I had
never considered it before – except I think that happened in my life.
Let’s dig into our study of the Bible and learn about behavior
modification and what Jesus desires for us!
- Nineveh and Jonah
- Read Jonah 3:1-4. Why did God warn the people of Nineveh,
instead of just destroying them?
- Read Jonah 3:5-8. What does this suggest about the reason
why God warned the people of Nineveh? (They turned from
- Read Jonah 3:9-10. This text tells us that God had
compassion on the people of Nineveh. He gave them a second
chance rather than just destroying them. What does this
story tell us about God allowing trouble to improve our
character? Does this story prove the point that if we do
not behave, God will allow trouble so that we will turn to
Him? (It doesn’t suggest that at all. God planned to
destroy Nineveh. This was not a program for character
improvement. God’s plan for character improvement was to
give them a second chance.)
- Read Jonah 4:1-3. What does Jonah say about the character
of God and dealing with evil? (God is “gracious and
compassionate” and “slow to anger and abounding in love.”)
- Why is Jonah angry? Is his anger justified?
- If you are not familiar with the story, review the first
two chapters of Jonah and read Jonah 1:12-17. What happens
to Jonah when he disobeys God? Isn’t this a story about
God’s discipline to help Jonah obey?
- What kind of life do you think Jonah would have lived
if God had just let him run away?
- Whenever I have a general fear that something bad is on
the horizon because of my need for character improvement,
I think about my relationship to my children. If you were
Jonah’s parent, and you could control everything, would
you just let him run away?
- If not, what would you have done?
- If we believe that God will only do to us what a
loving parent would do (or that we would do), does
that take away your fear?
- God and Love
- Read Jonah 4:4. What is the correct answer to God’s
question? Keep in mind how God treated Jonah. (Jonah was
given a second chance. Perhaps he thinks he had a more
difficult time because he went through the storm and
through the fish experience. However, the sequence of
events saved Jonah’s life.)
- Read Jonah 4:5. Why is Jonah making himself comfortable to
“see what would happen to the city?” Does Jonah think he
has changed God’s mind about destroying the city?
- Read Jonah 4:6-8. Why is Jonah still sitting out there?
(He is still hoping God will destroy Nineveh!)
- Read Jonah 4:9. Do you agree with Jonah’s answer? (Jonah
is hoping for thousands of people to die. Instead, a plant
dies – one that is giving Jonah shade – and he is angry
about that. Jonah has a very odd attitude.)
- Read Jonah 4:10-11. What does God say is an important
consideration regarding how He treats Nineveh? (God
created the people of Nineveh. God has a personal interest
in you because He is your Creator.)
- How does belief in evolution undermine our
understanding of the love of God?
- Look again at Jonah 4:11. What does God mean when He says,
“cannot tell their right hand from their left?” Does He
mean they are directionally challenged? (God is most
likely describing children. But, I think the greater point
is that the people do not clearly understand the issues.)
- What does this teach us about God? (God wants
everyone to have a fair chance to understand Him and
make a decision about Him.)
- Why does God refer to “and many cattle as well?” (God
cares about the animals. They are a factor in His
consideration of the destruction of Nineveh.)
- Think again about how God treated Jonah – even when he was
cheering for thousands to die – and how God treated
Nineveh. What does this teach you about God’s attitude
- Read Matthew 5:43-48. Do these verses seem to contain a
conflict? God says to “love your enemies,” but His example
of this is to treat enemies just like everyone else – He
sends the sun and the rain on everyone. Is that how love
to enemies is defined?
- Let’s assume that because of your actions you are an
enemy of God. How would you want Him to treat you?
- Read Deuteronomy 28:1-6. Is this promise open to you
- Read Deuteronomy 28:15-20. Is this promise open to you
- How do you square these verses in Deuteronomy 28 with
the statement in Matthew 5 that God shows love toward
bad people by treating them the same as everyone
else? (On the surface, there is a huge conflict.
Let’s see if we can resolve this apparent conflict.)
- When God promises to send sunshine and rain on bad
people, what is He promising? (They have the equal
benefit of the natural blessings God gives.)
- When God promises good things if we obey His commands
and bad things if we disobey, is this also the
natural order of things? (I think it is. God gave us
His commandments to make our lives better and help us
to avoid problems. It is God’s love that inspires His
commandments, and it is His love that gives us
direction for living. When we suffer because we
disobey, we suffer from the natural order of things –
just like the sunshine and the rain are the natural
order of things.)
- If you just said, “That sounds exactly right, what a great
explanation!” How do you fit into this explanation Jonah
and the fish? How do you explain the destruction coming
- Consider again being a parent. Are your children
subject to good and bad based on the rules of nature
– say, for example gravity? (Of course! They fall
out of trees and go too fast on their bicycles
because of gravity.)
- Do you also intervene to reward good behavior and
punish bad behavior in your children? (Of course! Do
you think that God is less sophisticated in His
actions than you?)
- Do you intervene to save your children from the
natural consequences of their behavior? (Of course!
But, not always.)
- Have you seen bad things happen to your children that
has nothing to do with your behavior, or their
behavior, but rather the behavior of others? (Of
course! Satan and his allies are out to harm us.)
- When you consider all of these things, what conclusion do
you reach about God? (He loves us by giving us directions
for better living. He loves us by intervening to save us
and to correct us. Everything is more complicated because
we allowed Satan and his confederates to come in and
create evil. Finally, God loves us by His promise to
destroy sin and the enemies of good.)
- Humans and Love
- Read 1 Corinthians 13:8. What does “love never fails”
- Read 1 Corinthians 13:9-12. What does this say about our
understanding of God’s love and the way He runs our
universe? (I’ve shared my understanding of the Bible, but
this text tells us that we are like children, we know in
part, we see an imperfect reflection of God’s character.
In the future, it will all become clear. What we can be
sure of now is that love “never fails!”)
- Friend, will you trust God? Will you trust God’s love so
that you will always know that He wants the best for you?
- Next week: Jesus Showed Sympathy.