Matters of Faith: Stop Enabling!

By Rev. J. Loren Russell

“The storm kept getting worse, until finally the sailors asked him, “What should we do with you to make the sea calm down?”

Jonah 1:11-15 CEV

Jonah told them, “Throw me into the sea, and it will calm down. I’m the cause of this terrible storm.”The sailors tried their best to row to the shore. But they could not do it, and the storm kept getting worse every minute. So they prayed to the Lord, “Please don’t let us drown for taking this man’s life. Don’t hold us guilty for killing an innocent man. All of this happened because you wanted it to. Then they threw Jonah overboard, and the sea calmed down.”

Jonah 1:11-15 CEV

This very interesting passage of scripture tells the story of a prophet named Jonah who was summoned by God to go into the country of Nineveh and preach repentance to the people. Instead of doing as instructed, he boarded a boat to try to get away from the presence of God. That boat was set to sail to Tarsus (Spain). 

The usual way that this text is usually interpreted is to look at the rebelliousness of Jonah and the consequences of his actions. But I want to look at the sailors on the boat whose blessings were tied to accepting the challenge Jonah presented when he told them to throw him overboard because the raging storm was a direct result of his disobedience to God. He told them that the storm would cease, if they threw him overboard.

These men were highly experienced seaman, not murderers. Never in their sailing lives has a storm been caused by or caused to cease because of one person’s disobedience to God. But then again, they had never experienced a storm with this ferocity. So, they tried desperately rowing to shore, but the storm only grew worse. 

Finally, in desperation, they considered what Jonah told them, but they still had apprehensions. So, they prayed and asked to the Lord, the same God that Jonah told them he served, to have mercy on what they were about to do. Although they weren’t 100 percent convinced that Jonah was the cause, the intensity of the storm left them little choice but to ask Jonah’s God — the Lord God of heaven (v.9) to hold them guiltless for what they were about to do. They thought they might be killing an innocent man. 

Just as Jonah said, the moment he sank into the water, the storm became calm. The text says that “The sailors were so terrified that they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made all kinds of promises” (v. 16). Trying to help Jonah turned out to be an act of enabling on their part. Jonah would not have fulfilled his God-given mission of ministering to the Ninevites had the sailors not thrown him overboard into a raging sea. Had the sailors not done the unthinkable, they would have died in the storm and never come to know the true God. 

Many times, as evidenced in this story, the best thing you can do for someone and for yourself is to let them go. Baby eagles learn to fly when their mother takes flight and drops them off her back in mid-air. She will swoop down and catch them no more than three times if they don’t fly on their own. The vast majority will fly. In like manner, if we stop enabling people, they will also learn to fly. Like the sailors, that may be our main purpose. When we stop enabling and help to empower people, we help them to soar, and receive our blessing as well. 

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial & Strategic Consulting; an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx; and creator & host of “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” Mondays 8:00 – 10:00 PM. Listen on Matters of Faith on Facebook LIVE.

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