International (MNN) — Too often, the Old Testament is treated as though it has little to say to Christians today. But Chris Lang of Frontiers USA says these stories can actually teach us a lot about ourselves.
Lang is the Director of Mobilization for Frontiers. His job is to bring people together who have a heart for reaching Muslims with the Gospel.
Muslims are more open to the Gospel now than they ever have been. Lang shares the rate at which people have been coming to Christ in the last few decades is unlike anything we’ve seen in history. Some of it is due to the harsh realities of the last few years. Refugees are coming from closed countries to escape violence and are hearing about Jesus for the first time.
Obviously, not everyone feels specifically called to be a part of what Frontiers is doing. Yet, all of Christ’s followers have been called to share the Gospel with the lost. If we are reluctant to reach out to certain people who cross our paths, we need to ask ourselves, why?
This is where Jonah’s story comes in. Lang says his story might help us see why Christians, particularly in the United States, are reluctant to reach out to their Muslim neighbors.
Lang says, “I think many of the idols Jonah was wrestling with in his own day are the same idols we’re wrestling with in America today.”
God calls Jonah to preach a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was a great city of the Assyrians — Israel’s enemy. As we know, he’s against the idea.
“Most people assume it’s because he’s afraid — he’s afraid of losing his life. He was afraid, but it wasn’t for his own safety. He was afraid he would succeed — he was afraid that God would be gracious toward his enemies and he didn’t want to see that happen.”
Through a series of events, Jonah finally arrives at the city and tells them to repent.
“Jonah is concerned with his national identity and his national security. So, Jonah doesn’t want to speak to the Ninevites for fear that Israel would be overtaken by them. He wants to protect Israel and he feels that if he does not speak this message, that God will have to judge them.”
The point is Jonah valued these things over the salvation of lost people. At the end of this story, God’s will is done, and Jonah is very bitter. He’s not the greatest role model when it comes to missions.
Lang points out some similarities between Jonah and Jesus. Both are from Galilee. Both are Prophets. And yet while Jonah goes outside the city gates and waits for three days to see if God will destroy Nineveh, Jesus goes out of the city gates to suffer for our sins.
The startling conclusion?
“The Gospel does not call us to look to our own safety or security. The Gospel consistently calls us to model our lives on Jesus, and Jesus’ life was not a life of security and safety, but just the opposite. It’s a life of sacrifice and suffering.”
Lang reminds us that the things we care about — safety and security — can be entrusted to God even when His plans are scary. It’s part of prioritizing God’s values above our own.
This isn’t a call to hardship, but a call to bleed compassion and gratitude. That is why Lang does what he does:
“God sacrificed everything to have a relationship with me. And He asks me to follow Him and to give my heart to Him. And that’s what I want to do, I want to follow Him and I want to be obedient to what He’s calling me to do. And He’s calling me to serve the nations and to see the Gospel move forward specifically in Muslim nations.”
According to Frontiers USA, there are about one billion Muslims who are considered unreached with the Gospel. There are over 1,000 Muslim people groups that have no Christian witness in their midst.
Pray for Zero is an initiative with Frontiers to have zero unreached and unengaged people groups by 2025. It’s an easy way for you to get involved with what Frontiers is doing. Click here!
There are many other ways you can get involved, just take a look at their website. But Lang says the most important thing is to be a good neighbor.
“The thing I would like to encourage people to do is simply walk across the street and meet a Muslim neighbor. So just reach out on a personal level and get to know the people.”
Enjoy this music video from Frontier’s Perry LaHaie as he shares his heart about trusting in God’s plan and being involved in ministry: