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!

  1. Nineveh and Jonah

    1. Read Jonah 3:1-4. Why did God warn the people of Nineveh,
      instead of just destroying them?

    2. Read Jonah 3:5-8. What does this suggest about the reason
      why God warned the people of Nineveh? (They turned from

    3. 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.)

    4. 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.”)

      1. Why is Jonah angry? Is his anger justified?

    5. 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?

      1. What kind of life do you think Jonah would have lived
        if God had just let him run away?

    6. 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?

      1. If not, what would you have done?

      2. 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?

  2. God and Love

    1. 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.)

    2. 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?

    3. Read Jonah 4:6-8. Why is Jonah still sitting out there?
      (He is still hoping God will destroy Nineveh!)

    4. 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.)

    5. 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.)

      1. How does belief in evolution undermine our
        understanding of the love of God?

    6. 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.)

      1. What does this teach us about God? (God wants
        everyone to have a fair chance to understand Him and
        make a decision about Him.)

      2. 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.)

    7. 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
      towards you?

    8. 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?

      1. Let’s assume that because of your actions you are an
        enemy of God. How would you want Him to treat you?

    9. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-6. Is this promise open to you

    10. Read Deuteronomy 28:15-20. Is this promise open to you

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

      3. 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.)

    11. 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
      to Nineveh?

      1. 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.)

      2. 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?)

      3. Do you intervene to save your children from the
        natural consequences of their behavior? (Of course!
        But, not always.)

      4. 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.)

    12. 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.)

  3. Humans and Love

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 13:8. What does “love never fails”

    2. 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!”)

    3. Friend, will you trust God? Will you trust God’s love so
      that you will always know that He wants the best for you?

  4. Next week: Jesus Showed Sympathy.