Christianity's unparalleled opportunity for evangelism is accompanied by an unparalleled need for accurate and effective Bible teaching. Although it has never been easier to make a convert to Christ, it has never been more difficult to make a disciple of Christ. The same chaotic atmosphere of change that encourages an acceptance of the gospel can also discourage a steadfast, disciplined walk in the faith.
Apparently the Ninevites also found it difficult to maintain a strong commitment, for a later chapter of history tells us that the generation of peace was followed by a generation of war. Jonah refused to stay in Ninevah and nurture the new converts with the Word of God. No wonder their children turned from God and became vicious enemies of His chosen people. Strange as it seems, this next generation of Ninevites attacked and destroyed Jonah's own village as they sacked and pillaged Israel.
Reflecting on the attitude of Jonah sobers the modern believer. Faced with the opportunity to preach the Word of God and evangelize a city, he refused the challenge until God sent a huge fish to convince him. Later, confronted with a bustling revival, he spurned the opportunity to teach God's Word. Even when God sent a tiny worm to destroy his makeshift house and capture his attention, there is no indication that he changed his mind and stayed to teach the new converts.
The story of Jonah has two lessons for the modern church. First, the message of the BIG FISH is that we cannot ignore the open doors to preach the gospel. We must preach God's Word boldly to a world that has never been more open to receive it. Second, the message of the SMALL WORM is that when God sends a revival He expects us to support the new converts with the Word of God--accurately interpreted and clearly taught.
Paul gives similar advice to those in charge of the new church in Ephesus. The growth of the new church was so outstanding that even Paul's enemies admitted that nearly the entire province of Asia had been affected (Acts 19:26). In the wake of this great move of God, Paul warned that Satan would try to destroy the church by subtly attacking the message of the church:
27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:27-30)
Actually, Paul warned that Satan's attacks would come from two directions: one from worldly philosophies that would attempt to compete with the message of the gospel, and the other (equally as dangerous) from distortions of the Word that would come from within the flock. The antidote for both is the accurate teaching of the Word of God.