“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.”
Jonah 1:1-3 ESV
Running can be a great thing. It can condition us and make us strong and healthy. It can bring us fame and success when we win races. Running has its good points. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to run the race to win the prize:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Temperate means mild in quality or character; self-controlled. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit. This means in order to win the prize, which is an imperishable crown, we must defeat the flesh and acquire self-control.
The imperishable crown is given to believers who faithfully run the race, who crucify every selfish desire in the flesh and point men to Jesus. It is one of five crowns the Bible speaks of. The other four are:
The Crown of Rejoicing – 1 Thess. 2:19 – it is given to those who faithfully are witnesses to the saving grace of God and leads souls to Jesus.
The Crown of Life – James 1:12 – For those believers who endure trials, tribulations, and severe suffering, even unto death (Rev 2:8-11)
The Crown of Righteousness – 2 Tim. 4:8 – To those who love the appearing of Christ, who anxiously wait and look forward to the day when He will return for His saints. This crown is given to those who have lived a good and righteous life for God while living down here on earth.
The Crown of Glory – 1 Pet. 5:1-4 – It addresses Pastors, those who fulfill their calling and finishing the work assigned to them.
Yet there is another type of running that isn’t good. It’s when we run away when things get tough due to fear or anger. It’s when we run in the opposite direction of what God wants us to do. It’s when we run due to our sins. Why do we run instead of facing things? Maybe because we see the problem bigger than God instead of God being bigger than the problem. Fear is a very strong emotion the enemy touches, knowing we will react. Sometimes we run in fear due to other people who threaten us or try to intimidate us. Elijah ran in fear from Jezebel’s threats to kill him though he had God on his side. We see in Jonah 1:1-3, that Jonah ran in disobedience from the presence of the Lord, as we heard in Pastor’s sermon a few weeks ago. Jonah did not want to see Nineveh, the Assyrian people, receive God’s mercy because of how cruel they were to Israel. He wanted to see Nineveh come under God’s wrath and be overthrown. But though the people of Nineveh were evil and cruel, God loved them and wanted to give them another chance by giving them a warning. So Jonah ran, but through the events that happened, God deals with Jonah and Jonah completes his mission, though not happily. The bottom line is we can’t run from God. We can’t avoid Him or ignore Him.
Though there are many lessons to be received from the book of Jonah, one that stands out is to be careful what we think of people and what we think they deserve. People can hurt us, betray us and do horrible things to us, but God still loves them and wants to see them saved. Sometimes we are quick to judge and place a judgement on others but God calls us to forgive. Sometimes we think they do not deserve our kindness and love because of their words or actions, but God thinks differently. True, everyone will be judged by God, but God wants no one to perish and is willing to even offer a warning to repent to save them and that warning could come through any one of us to give it to them.
There is another reason we run…because we are tired and just do not want to deal with yet another situation. We avoid praying, reading, even moving at times in the direction God wants us to go even when we know He is calling us. Does that mean we are weak Christians? To answer that, we’d have to look back at those who went before us in the Bible like Elijah, Jonah, David and others. Would you consider them weak men of God or simply human? God had mercy on all of them and loved them as He does us as well.
I want to leave you with one more person…Jeremiah. Though Jeremiah did not run away, he had some questions for God about His judgements not because he was doubting God but simply because he wanted to know why things were happening. We are fortunate to be able to reason with God. In Jeremiah 12:1-4 it states:
Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? 2 You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; They grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth But far from their mind. 3 But You, O Lord, know me; You have seen me, And You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, And prepare them for the day of slaughter. 4 How long will the land mourn, And the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, For the wickedness of those who dwell there, Because they said, “He will not see our final end.”
Now look at God’s answer in verse 5:
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?”
In other words, if the smaller problems bother you now, what will you do when the bigger ones come at you when God gives you more to handle? The problems could be people or situations. Sometimes we may want to run from those who hassle us or frustrate us because in reality we are taking their words and actions to heart. If we are unable to deal with people and problems on a small scale in a time of peace when all is going well, how can we expect to handle bigger people and bigger problems on a larger scale when the Lord entrusts us with more? This may mean facing people in higher positions with more power in difficult times causing us to receive even more harassment from them?
We all want to run at one time or another, but what does one do if they are thinking about it or are running. What does one do if they’ve been avoiding time with God simply because they just don’t want to deal with their problem which they know God will put before them to face it? This is where we get on our knees and repent and pray for God to help us face what He wants us to face. We ask Him to remove our fears and replace it with a double portion of faith and trust in Him and with strength and courage to complete the mission He has for us. Each difficulty we face and overcome, is another battle under our belts and another victory in the race. We also gain endurance which helps us last longer in the race.
When you are weary, remember Isaiah 40:31:
But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.