ďRUNNING AWAY FROM GODĒ†††††††††††††††††††††††† By Pastor YAU

Jonah 1:1-3††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† March 4, 2007.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   A runaway prophet: The book of Jonah is about a prophet who rejected Godís call to deliver His message to the wicked people of Nineveh. We read that Jonah, deliberately running away from God, headed the opposite direction to Tarshish. (1:3, 10) Jonah knew exactly where he was going and why. After his repentance and was given a second chance, (3:1-2) he delivered Godís message but did that angrily and was very upset when God spared the repentant city. (3:10-4:2) Eventually Jonah had to face God and the reality. He could run but he couldnít hide.

2)   Some runaway people: Why do many people run away from God? Is it because they are angry, disappointed, despaired, disobedient or a combination of the above? The story of Jonah should cause each of us to be honest about our feelings toward God. Do we harbor anger against God because of His leniency toward people we feel deserve punishment? Are we upset because God didnít do things the way we want Him to? Or we run away from Him because we want to live our life our way and donít want God either to see or to interfere? You can run but you cannot hide from God. One day you have to face God as Jonah did and answer all His questions.

 

REASONS TO RUN AWAY:

1)   They donít need God: By far this is the most cited reason, spoken or not, why people run away from God. People want to do things their way and they have enough confidence that they will make it without help from anyone especially God. Independence is the key to life for many people. These people do not have an ill feeling against God but just feel they can handle things themselves and there is no need to ask God for help. People of this kind treat God as the Genie in the story of Aladdin and His Lamp. ďAs long as I am capable of handling things, there is no need of God.Ē These people do not really run away from God but keep God at a distance, make sure that God doesnít get too close to interfere their business.

2)   They do things their way: Most people who run away from God want to do things of their life their way. They recognize that God is bigger, higher and wiser and if they allow God to get involved in their life, they may lose their ĎgripĒ or ďcontrolĒ. They will trade the wisdom and benefits of having God with their independence. ďIt is my life and I want to do it my way.Ē Even it sounds attractive but it truly is eloquent and boastful. These people ignore the fact that God has the ultimate control of their life and everything about them they like it or not. They also ignore that God has His purpose in their life and they are responsible to fulfill Godís purpose instead of their purpose. ďIn those days Israel had no king (God); everyone did as he saw fit.Ē (Judges 17:6)

3)   They have enough of Him: These are people who had tried God and got fed up with Him either God didnít do things they want or the way they think God should. God did not meet their expectation. Jonah is one of these people. Many disillusioned Christians and preachers or once dedicated believers got so discouraged in seeing things in this world, in their church or in people whom they once trusted so much but betrayed their faith and the list goes on and on. They feel they have enough of God in the past and from now on it is their turn to run their life. They were either upset or angry or just give up on God, His justice and power. Moses and Elijah were in this group. They will tell God: ďPlease leave me alone.Ē

4)   They have itchy ears: ďFor the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itchy ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.Ē (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Since the days of Paul, Christians who had itchy ears had turned away from the truth to many false teachers who will say things they loved to hear. In the 2,000 years of Christian history, countless Christians who had itchy ears had turned away from God and His truth to follow their itchy ears. Many have fallen into the traps of false religions like Islam and New Age movement or cultic practices like Falungon.

 

LESSONS FROM JONAH:

1)   Yes, you know what your do: Many runaway Christians would deny that they are running away from God when they do. They will make all kinds of excuses that they are not really running away from God. The truth is that they are. Letís see when God called Jonah, Judea, as the center of the story. God called him to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria to the east, way east. But Jonah boarded a ship that sailed to Tarshish, a city in Spain, west of Judea, way west. Almost all the time, when a Christian is running away from God, for whatever reason, he/she knows exactly what he/she is doing and where he/she is going. When we disobey God, we do it willfully, not an accident or just a mistake. Donít try to find an excuse for sin. It is plain and simple.

2)   Yes, youíll pay the price: Most of the times when Christians run away from God they always think that it pays to run from God than to follow Godís way. But Jonah did pay a heavy price. He paid three-times. He paid the fare to board the ship, he paid with all he had for his rebellion and he also caused others to pay for his sin as well. If we learn this lesson sincerely, we would think twice before we try to run away from God next time: we have to pay a dear price for not obeying God. Remember the song, ďGodís Way is the Best WayĒ? There is no short cut or a better way than to obey Godís way.

3)   Yes, youíll be back: Godís plan to save the souls in Nineveh may be delayed for a few days, but His will can never be interrupted or cancelled. God put Jonah back to square one after Jonah suffered all the trouble and repented from his heart. No one may ever deter Godís plan in anything. Our willful disobedience can only bring us discipline and suffering and God will always bring us back to Him to finish what He first wanted us to do. This is because our God is a merciful God. He never gives up on anyone of us because of our failure or disobedience. Once we repent, He will take us back.

4)   Yes, youíll still be effective: Some might think that when Jonah went back to Nineveh after his failure and rebellion, he would be less effective to accomplish Godís work, they are all wrong. Just look at how the people of that city repented, from the king to the people, you see nothing less than the true spirit of repentance. The reason? We need to know that the effectiveness of our ministry or service is in God and is never in us. It is the power of Godís message, not the messenger that causes people to repent. No one may claim any credit for the success of Godís work.

 

REASONS TO STAY:

1)    God has a purpose. There may be a few who do not believe the importance of a purpose of life, most people do and are diligent in search of a better purpose for their life. As in the Book of Jonah, God has a purpose for the prophet and He also has a purpose for each one of us who believes in Him. Stay with God means stay within the purpose He has set for our life. A life with Godís purpose is a life much bigger than for self and higher than for personal gain. As Jonah was instrumental to save the souls of a city and a nation, we may be instrumental for a much greater goal when we stay with Godís purpose in our life.

2)    God gives second chances: Even as willful as Jonah who ran away from God and His purpose, God never runs out of His mercy on Jonah. Using miraculous ways to bring Jonah back, God restored him and his mission as he was called before. Men may change their trust on us once we failed, but God never will. King David made statements on the faithfulness of God toward us many time in the Book of Psalms. All we have to do is sincere repentance of our failure and sin, God will always forgive and restore mercy on us. God is generous in giving us another chance.

3)    God brings in results: Some Bible scholars, using the figure on 4:11, set the population of Nineveh as high as a million or more. A population of a million people was astronomical in the ancient time. As bad as Jonah knew these people and the cruelty they had inflicted on Jonahís countrymen, God had unlimited mercy on this million and had a plan to save them. Even though Jonah did not go through all parts of the vast city, in fact he only covered 1/3 of the ground in 3:4, God caused them to repent and He gave them mercy without any holding back. No one would have expected such a result when the gospel message was presented. We never know what God can do in bringing tremendous results for His glory. All we need to do is follow His lead, do our part and He will bring in the harvest.

4)    God is gentle and kind: With great anger and disappointment on God, Jonah argued with God again and again. He hoped and prayed that God will just destroy all his enemies without any mercy. When God didnít do what he wanted, he asked God to let him die. To this disgruntle, disobedient and displeased servant, God demonstrated His kindness and gentleness in explaining the reasons behind His action or inaction. Instead of rebuke or stern lecturing, God was so patient with Jonah. He tried to make him understand why He did what He did. You canít find any master more patient and gentle than God. So, donít run but stay with Him.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)         Make a good choice: Under any circumstance, run away from God is always a bad choice. You may not understand all there is in His plan, or may not agree on His reasons, stay with Him and you wonít be sorry.

2)         Make no excuses: If you have run away from God already, donít try to find excuses to stay away from Him any longer. Repent and ask for his forgiveness. God is always merciful and kind. He will always offer you a second chance.

3)         Make a best decision: Donít run your life all by yourself. You are not all powerful or all knowing. You need God, if not now then must be in eternity. Make that decision to accept Him as your Lord and Savior now. Ask Him to forgive your sins and give you a new life.