We tend to see life’s limits—limited time, limited finances, limited abilities. But we serve a limitless God. God’s grace and love are limitless. His ability to refine us is limitless. His ability to use us for His purposes is limitless. God is in the business of moving us beyond our limits, particularly in the way He produces abundant fruit in our lives to impact others. When we look at abundantly fruitful people, we can see a clear value system at work in their lives.

We pick up this week in the last chapter of Jonah. Up to this point, we have seen Jonah’s process of obedience to God in finally going to Nineveh to preach a message of repentance to the people. The Ninevites, surprisingly, listened and repented, and God, in turn, showed them mercy by not sending the calamity He had originally intended. Jonah is not very happy about this.

Jonah goes through some substantial mood swings in this chapter. First, he is angry in verse 1 because of God’s mercy and says he wants to die. In verse 6, he becomes very happy because his discomfort has been alleviated by the shade-giving plant. But when the plant dies in verse 8, he gets mad all over again and wants to die yet again. Why is Jonah going through such significant mood swings?

In the first case, Jonah gets mad because he is uncomfortable. He’s uncomfortable that God chose to show mercy to this violent people group whom he looks down upon. Jonah changes his attitude when his physical needs are being served. He creates a shelter from the sun as a relief from the heat, and then God aids him in this pursuit with the quick-growing shady plant. Jonah is happy because he is comfortable. When the plant dies, Jonah grows physically uncomfortable again and returns to his anger. Jonah is mad when he’s uncomfortable and happy when he is comfortable. Jonah’s ultimate value is personal comfort. God responds to Jonah’s value system at the end of the chapter.

Question: Can you relate to Jonah’s cycle of emotions as it relates to his personal comfort? What areas of your personal comfort are particularly susceptible to strong emotional reaction? How do you usually try to steady yourself in those times? How do you think God works to steady you in those times?

God points out that Jonah has indeed been focused on his own comfort, while God is concerned about rescuing an entire city from their brokenness. For us, the message is the same. Difference-makers value people’s lives over personal comfort.

Paul articulates his own life value in the same way. This scriptural teaching is easy to agree with but much more difficult to actually execute. There are two areas in particular in which God calls us to value people’s lives over personal comfort.

  1. Difference-makers value people’s lives over lifestyle comfort.

In 1 Timothy 6.17–19, Paul tells Timothy: “Command those who are rich to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” Remember when reading about these “rich” that 50% of the world lives on less than $2/day. That puts all of us into the “rich” category. So what does it mean to be generous? In Luke 14, Jesus gives us the principle. He says we should spend at least as much money meeting physical/spiritual needs in this world as we do on our own leisure (Luke 14.12–14). This doesn’t mean lifestyle dreams are bad, but if we want to be people of impact, our spending should show that we value people’s lives more than our own personal comfort.

Question: Does your spending reflect this value? In what ways? What areas of spending are you willing (or unwilling) to sacrifice for the sake of others? Does this topic make you uncomfortable? Why or why not?

A practical way to exercise this value is to look at the last few months’ worth of expenses. If we don’t know what they are, start tracking them. Add up the cost of comfort items: vacations, hobbies, meals out, etc, and then add up what has been invested in others, namely in giving to church (which is God’s Plan A for carrying out His purposes on the earth). Compare the numbers, and ask God what He thinks about this. Then listen to what He says. If we want to be people of great impact, then our spending should reflect a value of people’s lives over personal comfort.

      2.   Difference-makers value people’s lives over cultural comfort.

The reality is that our cultural comfort matters to us a lot. The apostle Paul had worked this issue out in his own life. Paul was willing to adapt to whatever culture he was in for the sake of helping others connect with God. Today, we can walk this out on a personal level and on a church level. Personally, we can intentionally seek others out that we wouldn’t normally. At work, church, or in other areas of our lives, we can invite people who are different from us to hang out or eat lunch.

Corporately as a church, we intentionally try to mix it up. For example, our worship music brings in rock, gospel, dance, folk and more so as to connect with as many people as possible. In response, we can each choose to engage in each genre of worship, even when it’s not our style, so that the people around us know their culture is valued. If we value people’s lives over our own cultural comfort, we are willing to be stretched in this area, even when it’s difficult. Our motivation to do this comes from Christ.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2.5–8)

The best motivator for valuing people’s lives over our own personal comfort is knowing that Jesus did it for us. Jesus chose to empty Himself of glory and shed His privileges to become a servant because He valued our lives over His own comfort. We live in a culture that worships its comfort zone. The reason why kingdom revolutionaries can put people ahead of comfort is because we know it is exactly what Jesus did for us.

Question: What kind of difference does it make in your heart to know that Jesus laid down His own life—to the point of death—for your sake? How can you likewise practically lay down your own comfort for the sake of others?