Devotionals by Dr. James MacDonald

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Deep Sea Surrender

The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights(Jonah 1:17, esv).

The part that doesn’t often get noticed in Jonah’s well-known, underwater adventure is the connection between the moment when “the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10) and the moment of Jonah’s repentance. Jonah repented and wasimmediately delivered. Yet we know he was down there for three solid days leading up to his slimy rescue.

So what was he doing for those three days?

Obviously he wasn’t repenting—even in a place like that—or we can assume he’d have gotten out a lot sooner than he did.

Listen: God will do anything to get our attention. He’ll usually start gently before taking the more aggressive route. But He’s relentless. He’ll do anything—because He’d rather we lived anywhere than in disobedience to Him.

Like Jonah, however, we can be slow to get the message. We can sometimes be put through the equivalent of a fish’s belly, with all its suffocating, sauna-like conditions . . . with its nauseating air and painful gastric juices . . . and still not respond to God’s attention-getting measures with repentance.

God’s call for our attention will often cause life to start breaking down around us. But until we are lying down—in repentance—we are not yet in the right posture for things to change.

Our hearts can be amazingly resolute in our rebellion. We can go three days, three weeks, three months, three years, or longer, refusing to submit to His authority. Meanwhile He continues to pursue us—not about something new or that just recently came up, but about the same stupid thing we’ve been unwilling to release and relinquish for all that time.

In the military, calling for a person’s attention is supposed to result in a soldier standing erect, head up, shoulders back, ramrod straight. But in the spiritual world, God’s call to attention is a signal to drop down—on our knees; on our faces. Only when we are broken, kneeling, or prostrate before God, submitted to Him completely, does He have our full attention.

As Jonah was being tossed overboard, he probably thought he’d be drowned in a few minutes. As far as he was concerned, he’d rather have died than have done God’s will. When the fish swallowed him instead—a fish that was “appointed” by God, remember—he probably spent the first hours inside it trying to end his life some other way, a futile process that stretched on into days. Still on his feet, still fighting back.

Perhaps, as you look around today, you find yourself in a fish of some kind. God is going about getting your full, undivided attention—and He’ll do anything for it. But with Him, the way up is down. The only way to walk out of this situation is to bow down from inside it. If you’ve never laid yourself out before God, saying, “Yes, Lord, whatever You want,” maybe He never really had your complete attention in the first place.

Fall into His arms today. Let Him have what He’s been working so hard to get from you. Invite Him to do again in you the things He wants to do—the things He’s been pursuing you for. 


  • What do you sense God has been trying to get your attention about lately?
  • What kind of avoidable trouble could end right now if you laid down your rebellion today?

Lord God, You are so faithful, even to bring me to a point of crisis when I won’t seem to follow You any other way. Thank You for proving again just how relentless Your love is, even though I haven’t always seen it as love. Today I humble myself before You, yielding this heart of mine that’s been slow to respond and quick to defend my reasons for it. Bring about the result Your Spirit desires in me, and receive again my surrendered, repentant heart. I give it to You along with my full, undivided attention, in Jesus’ precious name, amen.

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Anchor Your Heart in Hope

With so much unrest in our world today, it can be easy to feel anxious, stressed out, and fearful of the future. But God has so much more for you than a life filled with worry. He wants you to look beyond the uncertainties of life and experience His hope that supersedes every situation!

All of us have felt a sense of discouragement or hopelessness from time to time . . . but God wants to fill your heart with hope today. And if you or someone you know needs a fresh reminder of why we can hope in the face of adversity, please request these resources today. You can have faith because of His arrival. You can have hope because of His return. Merry Christmas!  
—James MacDonald

Request yours for a gift of any amount to the ministry of Walk in the Word.

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About Walk in the Word

Walk in the Word...Igniting passion in the people of God through the proclamation of truth.

About Dr. James MacDonald

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is married to his high school sweetheart, Kathy, and both are from Ontario, Canada. He is the father of three grown children, two daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, and grandfather to five amazing grandsons. James has committed his life and ministry to the unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word. In 1988, along with a small group of ministry partners, James and Kathy planted Harvest Bible Chapel ( which now has more than 13,000 people meeting at seven locations across Chicagoland each weekend.

Walk in the Word, a Bible-teaching television and radio broadcast ministry (, was established in 1997. The radio program reaches more than three million people daily, and the television audience extends around the world. In 2002, through James’ leadership and by God’s grace, the church-planting ministry Harvest Bible Fellowship ( was founded and has established more than 100 churches across North America and around the world. James’ vision is for God to use Harvest Bible Fellowship to plant 1,000 churches by 2020.

James’ extensive ministry also includes a training center for pastors, a year-round camp, a center for biblical counseling, a disaster-recovery organization, and a Christian school—all used to reach more people with the life-changing message of the gospel.

James is the author of several books including Vertical Church, Authentic, Lord Change My Attitude, When Life is Hard, Always True, Come Home, and most recently, Act Like Men.

Find out more about James and his ministries at:
@pastorjamesmacdonald on Instagram
@jamesmacdonald on Twitter
James MacDonald - Walk in the Word on Facebook

Contact Walk in the Word with Dr. James MacDonald

Mailing Address
Walk in the Word
P.O. Box 5368
Elgin, IL 60121