Jonah 3:1-5 (ESV)
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Jonah did not want to go and preach in Nineveh. That is abundantly obvious throughout the whole account. The adventure with the fish has convinced Jonah that He had better do what God wants him to do. But his heart has not changed a great deal. He still does not want to preach in Nineveh. We know this from chapter 4.
The command to Jonah by God in chapter three is “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” . And Jonah did exactly that. And through the message that Jonah preached (and, we know, through the work of the Holy Spirit through that preaching) the city of Nineveh repented of its sin and God relented from the destruction that He had threatened.
It would have been much better for Jonah if he had preached willingly, with a burden for the people of Nineveh and a desire to see God glorified through their repentance. But even though his heart was not right, his preaching was.
This is marvelous truth. It is the Gospel that is the power of God (Rom. 1:17). It is through the foolishness of the message preached that people are saved (I Cor. 2:1-4). It is the Word of God that is quick and powerful and piercing (Hebrews 4:12). It is much better for us if all our motives are pure and pleasing to God. It is better for us if we preach from a love for God and heart for the lost. But even if we do not have those things it is the Word delivered that God uses to bring conviction of sin.
How the church needs to hear this today! We get caught up in methods and motives and attitudes as the crucial element in the delivery of the Gospel – and they are not.
This is not to say that motives etc. are not important. The reason we have the Book of Jonah is to show what God does with Jonah in order to bring his attitudes and motives into a God pleasing state. God is working to conform us to the image of Christ.
The point here, however, is that God does not need us to be the perfect image of Christ in order to be used by Him for the salvation of the lost. God can win the lost without us, but He has chosen to use the preaching of the Word through people to do it.
This Paul’s point in Philippians 1:15-18.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
What we MUST have is the real Gospel and deliver it, and the power of the Holy Spirit winging it to the hearts of those who hear us. We should strive to be more and more the people that God calls us to be. But even in the areas where there is much work required, God still uses the truth to accomplish His purpose of saving people from their sins. This is great stuff and a great encouragement for us to deliver biblical truth with whomever God gives us audience. Go preach the biblical Gospel with great confidence.
We must never diminish the importance of holiness as a powerful tool in the delivery of the Gospel. But it is the Gospel itself that is the power of God to bring people to Himself.