TONY ELDER: Pay attention when God sends a wake-up call

In the account recorded in the New Testament, it's Jesus who is found napping while His disciples are terrified that they are about to drown. In the Old Testament story, it's Jonah who is snoozing away in the bottom of the ship.

Regardless of all the common factors on the surface of these accounts, there was a stark difference between the two situations. Jesus was God's own Son who was busy faithfully fulfilling His Father's will for Him. Jonah was God's prophet who was refusing to obey God's call and was attempting to run away from God's presence.

Jesus was a picture of someone experiencing peace in the midst of the storm. We can possess such peace through the storms of life if we know that everything is well with our soul. We can be assured that God is with us and will see us through those turbulent times.

But it's another story if we're like Jonah, knowing that we've disobeyed God and are trying to avoid doing His will. If we're sleeping through a storm that God has sent to get our attention, that's not peace -- that's a false sense of security.

When someone is running away from God or refusing to do His will, God sometimes allows storms or hard times to come in order to get that person's attention.

But too often people are blind to God's efforts, sleeping with a false sense of security. They may deny that the storm has anything to do with them or God. They declare it to be simply Mother Nature or the natural course of life as they curl back up in the bottom of their boat.

Nations can do the same thing. Some of the other Old Testament prophets pointed out how God brought various kinds of storms to Israel -- droughts, hunger, enemy attacks -- but they still refused to recognize God's hand and weren't willing to turn back to Him.

I wonder sometimes if our nation is in that same boat -- Jonah's boat. Many of us know that out country is not where it should be in relation to God. We see our society blatantly accepting and promoting practices that God calls sin. We witness people turning further away from what God says and instead following the dictates of their own hearts.

Those who do stand for God's will are being labeled as bigots and people full of hatred.

I'm not one to declare every bad thing that happens as being a judgment from God. But sometimes you wonder if God is trying to wake us up through sending the earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, tornadoes, and other destructive forces we've seemed to increasingly experience in recent times. Maybe we could also include the economic hard times in that list.

Whether those events are God's judgment or not, they ought to cause us to wake up, call on God, and turn back to Him. Unfortunately, I haven't seen that happening so far in our nation. Jonah is still sleeping in the bottom of the boat.

Individually, let's pay attention when God tries to send us a wake-up call. And let's pray for our nation, that we as a people would arouse from our spiritual slumber, humble ourselves before God, call on Him, and turn from our wicked ways so that He can heal our land.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.