Recently I wondered aloud, “Why did God choose Jonah to go to Nineveh when Jonah lacked eagerness for the task?” When commanded to go and proclaim God’s message to Nineveh, Jonah’s first response was to turn away and do the opposite by traveling to Tarshish (Jonah 1:1-3). Why did God choose Jonah, of all people? Although we are not told the reason explicitly, we can infer at least one possible answer: Jonah needed to grow.
James 1:2-4 communicates a goal for Christians. When faced with temptations, we need to rejoice as we reject the desire to rebel, replacing it with obedience to God. As we obey, we prove our faith is genuine. As we repeat this process, we grow into God’s design for us: holiness in all things. Those who prioritize godliness over all else will be given the crown of life after they die, according to verse 12.
Through the Scriptures, God directs us into every right choice. He does this to give us opportunities to grow. Without His direction into righteousness, we would not know what is right. However, when we see what is right, various temptations arise from within us to do wrong (Romans 7:7-8). Through James, God directs us to rejoice even as we face those temptations because we can do right and grow in holiness.
One reason God used Jonah is the same reason He uses all of us: we need opportunities to grow. Jonah was far from perfect. We are far from perfect. Like Jonah, we need opportunities to grow, and God has prepared them for us (Ephesians 2:10). Will you take advantage of the opportunities for growth God has prepared for you, or will you turn and run like Jonah?