HEARTLAND | Nate Adams
I was sitting relaxed in our local movie theater, enjoying a bag of popcorn. Our kids were settled in next to their mom and me, excited to see “Jonah,” the first feature-length, animated movie by VeggieTales.
Of course Jonah (played by Archibald Asparagus in this case) is the story of the reluctant prophet who did not want to deliver the message of God’s impending judgment and the need for repentance to the people of Nineveh. To set up the telling of the Old Testament story, a conversation takes place between “Junior” (Asparagus) and some amusing characters known as “the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything,” about the importance of compassion.
“Compassion is when you see that someone needs help, and you want to help them,” the pirate captain tells Junior. He then goes on to tell about the time they took Jonah on a voyage.
In the middle of this delightful cartoon movie, however, there was a serious “aha” moment for me. The pirates begin by talking with Junior about the compassion that Jonah lacked, and then they move on to talking about mercy, which God wanted to give to the people of Nineveh. “Mercy is when you give someone a second chance, even when they don’t deserve it,” the pirate explains.
A little confused, Junior asks whether the story is about compassion or about mercy. The pirate’s profound answer still penetrates my heart: “You can’t have mercy without compassion.”
I realized in that animated moment that the reason I don’t show mercy more often is that I don’t really have compassion. The reason I don’t share Christ more often is that I don’t really care about the lost people I see. And the reason I don’t really experience revival in my own heart is that I don’t really want to admit my own sin.
In other words, there is a deep place in me where truly transformational things take place. Not only do I rarely allow the Holy Spirit to go there, I rarely go there myself, or even admit that it exists. It’s the place where my self still rules my life. It’s the place where, deep down, regardless of my words or reputation, I know what I want. Maybe I do the right thing out of duty sometimes, even most of the time. But I do it without the right motive, without it being from the heart of Jesus in me.
That’s the place I need to go for revival. It’s the place where I can expose the deepest part of me to the deepest reach of God’s transforming power. It’s where, perhaps reluctantly, even fearfully, I can admit my own motives and desires, and with trembling hands give them up to God for His Lordship and control, whatever the cost.
I have often heard it said that, for each of us, revival must begin in “me,” that I should draw a circle around myself and ask God to bring revival there before I can expect Him to bring it anywhere else. I guess that silly, profound movie just helped me see where the bull’s eye of that circle must be.
In just a few days, hundreds of us from churches all over the state will gather in Springfield for the 2014 IBSA Annual Meeting. Whether you are able to attend or not, would you join me, both in your prayers for revival among our churches, and also in drawing that circle around “me” that asks God to begin revival there?
Near the close of the VeggieTales movie, Junior notes that Jonah still seems to lack compassion, and asks the pirates what Jonah really learned. The pirate replies, “The question is not what did Jonah learn, but what did you learn?” May we each learn to expose to God that deep place in our hearts where revival can truly begin.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.