Choices That Determine Destiny - Lesson 12

By Dudley Chancey

Choosing Eventually

Text: Jonah 1-4

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will learn that running away from God has consequences
  2. The student will learn that God can still use you when you come back

Preparation: (Some items are for extra work if time allows)

  1. Bible for every student (NIV is used for quotes and handouts in this series)
  2. Copies of student handout
  3. Bible concordances or Bible computer program
  4. Chalk or markers for board work


Another story from Sunday school. Jonah and the whale. Or is it Jonah and the great fish? Whatever. It is the one of the great "comeback" stories in all the Bible, next to the prodigal son of course. It provides great encouragement for Christians today, because it might be possible that all of us have tried to run from God and his kingdom work. Jonah comes back strong and so can we!

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (5 minutes)

  1. Prayer time (ask for requests, ask for answered prayers)
  2. Check calendar of events coming up
  3. Connect any students visiting, to individual students and the youth group

Review from Lesson #11: (5 minutes)

  1. Go over the answers to the handouts. Take these up if you are using them for some type of reward (mission trip credit).
  2. Give a one-minute summary of Zacchaeus' choices in last week's lesson.

Learning Experiences: (20 minutes)

  1. Remember the two general points that provide a background for our story (see Lesson #1 for a more detailed description).
    1. First, we will be studying a method of making godly choices in our everyday living.
      1. The 4 C's. Consider the choice. Compare our attitudes and actions to God. Commit to God's ways. Count on God's protections and provision.
      2. We are studying principles rather than rules.
    2. Second, we will see how much the people we hangout with influence our lives.
  2. The Bible study today comes from the book of Jonah (seeMore Background on Jonah). God's providence is very powerful in the life of this minor prophet of Israel. It is also a powerful witness to God's grace for all mankind-not just his chosen people.
    1. Jonah chooses to run away. God comes to Jonah and tells him to go to the city of Nineveh. (Realize that Jonah is a prophet. "Telling people God is going to get them if they don't do right," is his job.) Jonah decides to run away from the assignment. He finds a ship and pays to travel to Tarshish (see More Background on Tarshish). No one knows why he picked Tarshish, but if he wanted to get away, that was about as far as you could go at that time. However, his trip is cut short by the providence of God (see More Background on the providence of God in Jonah's life).
    2. Jonah chooses to be honest. Jonah realizes that the storm might not be just a coincidence. It is from God. Casting lots, points toJonah. He had already told the sailors that he was running from God. It appears that God is going to get him out of the boat one way or the other. They can all go down, or Jonah can choose to be honest and take responsibility for the moment. He chooses to be honest with himself and with the sailors. To the credit of the sailors (who get a bad rap) they try to save themselves and Jonah, but eventually throw him overboard. As a side note to all of this, the sailors turn to the Lord.
    3. Jonah chooses to go to Nineveh. In chapter three, Jonah obeys God the second timeGod asks him to go to Nineveh. The only recorded message of Jonah is, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed." Compared to the other prophets,this wasn't much to proclaim. This is all that is recorded in the Bible. God is surely with Jonah,because the whole city turns to God. Everyone puts on sackcloth and calls on God. God has compassion on the people of the city, and does not destroy them.
    4. Jonah chooses to complain. One would think that Jonah the prophet-preacher would have been ecstatic. There aren't many prophets or preachers or anyone that can claim that they persuaded a whole city to come to the Lord. Instead,Jonah chooses to complain. He is angry that God has extended his grace to this once evil city. Perhaps he was hoping for a display of God's power similar toSodom and Gomorrah. Perhaps he is mad that God would save people outside of his chosen people theIsraelites. Maybe he was mad that it all seemed too easy. Maybe he was mad because these people heard the message and responded so quickly and so honestly-when the Israelites where so stubborn and hard-hearted many times for the prophets. Whatever the case, God attempts to teach Jonah a lesson with the vine and the worm.While the story of Jonah can be interpreted in many ways, it does give us some insight into making good choices. There are consequences to pay when we make bad choices. We do get to see the Good News even in the story of Jonah. God's grace abounds to anyone that will choose to choose him.

Applications:(10 minutes)

The point here is that you not only want them to know about the Bible text, but you want them to take action on it. When God calls you do you go?

  1. Look at Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16. This is God telling Christians to go into all the world and teach and preach the Good News about God. It isn't a suggestion, or just for preachers. When was the last time that you shared the Good News with someone that needed to know aboutGod? Have you ever "run away" from sharing the GoodNews? How many times has God put a person that wasn't aChristian in your life-to give you the opportunity to tell him/her about Jesus? Were there any consequences to your not telling someone? (You could show the movie WithoutReservation here (see Further Resources for ordering info). (There is a great line by one of the students to another student about not telling him about Jesus while they were living-such are the consequences of not telling.)
  2. Using the concordances, look up several Bible verses on some of today's discussion. For example, students could lookup the following: Tarshish, Jonah, ships, sailors, sailing,vines, prophets, grace, salvation, Nineveh, etc. Ask students to discuss the definitions and descriptions of these different words and names and give some of the Bible contexts in which they are used.
  3. Read Luke 15:11-22. It is the story of the prodigal son. Ask for volunteers to talk about times when they chose to leaveGod, but eventually came back. Why did you leave, and why did you come back. What did you miss most while away fromGod? What can your group do as a group to ensure that no one "runs away" from God? Does the church have a responsibility to individual members? Should we be accountable to someone in our youth group or church? How did people treat you when you came back to the Lord? Were they loving, or were they like the older brother in the story from Luke 15? Why would people frown on you for coming back to God?

Assignment: (2 minutes)

  1. Pass out the handouts to take home. Encourage the students to fill in the answers to the questions about Jonah sometime during the next week and bring these back to class with them. The "fill in the blanks" section is straight out of the text for today's lesson. This assignment will give students time to "be in the Word." The following may help you next week as you go over the thought questions:
    1. You can't run or hide from God. He made you.He made you for a purpose. He will sustain you to fulfill that purpose. If you are running, give up and come home-to God.
    2. 4C's. This is not a perfect process, but it is better than nothing, and that is what most students are using to make choices. Take advantage of this and share with students how they can walk through this process for every important decision in their lives.
    3. Prophets probably didn't have too many friends. It is amazing that God uses him to turn everyone that he comes in contact with to the Lord. What about you? Do people see God in you and turn to Him?
    4. Read Judges 6-8. The story of Gideon for next week.

Evaluation: (5 minutes)

  1. Ask students to explain the providence of God in Jonah's life.
  2. Ask students to name one principle from the lesson today.
  3. (After class) Have an intern or another adult evaluate your teaching. Occasionally, ask some students to blind review the class. Ask questions like, "What was the main goal of the class tonight?" "What really made an impression on you tonight about the lesson?"

Further Resources:

(You do not have to have these to make these lessons work)

Without Reservation can be ordered from Mars Hill Productions at 800-580-6479 or from their website at (At the end of this movie there are discussions of how to become a Christian that you may want to edit or cut out. This movie is excellent for discussing the urgency of choosing to live for Christ.) More Background:

Jonah — Personal name meaning, "dove" and name of book of Bible preserving story of a part of prophet's ministry. Jonah served as a prophet to Israel and Assyria from 793-753 B.C.

Tarshish — an Aryan word, meaning "the sea coast." It was to this port Jonah’s ship was about to sail from Joppa.

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