Are You On The Run
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah arose 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 down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3)
Running is a great sport. It works our body and it conditions our cardiovascular system. Running for long periods of time gives us endurance. Yet, with all the benefits of running, there are times when running can become a hindrance for us and do more harm than good. This is when we run from our problems or away from what God has called us to do.
In the case of Jonah, God called him to do an important job…to give Nineveh a warning regarding their wickedness. He was to tell them that in 40 days, Nineveh would be destroyed. God was giving Nineveh a warning in hopes they would turn from their evil ways and repent and turn back to God. Jonah, however, knew that if the people of Nineveh heard this message and they turned back to God, He would be merciful and compassionate with them and would not destroy them and Jonah even admitted to God it was why he ran away to Tarshish (Jonah 4:1-2). One would think that Jonah would want to warn the people that God’s wrath was coming so they would have one last chance to make the choice to turn to God and be saved. But Jonah did not feel this way. It could be that Jonah felt they deserved their punishment. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria and the Assyrians were ruthless people and a people of war who were enemies of Israel. Their destruction would have been a victory for Israel. One commentary I read suggested that God’s withholding of judgment from Nineveh could have made Jonah’s words appear illegitimate, since he had predicted the city’s destruction. Whatever the reason, Jonah was angry and did not want to warn Nineveh of the coming destruction.
How many times have you felt someone deserved a punishment and you did not want to warn them of the consequences or help them in some way, especially if they have been warned before? Have you ever run from what God has called you to do either out of anger or fear? Anger can cause us to be stubborn and rebellious and to lock horns with God and others because we feel we are justified in our view of someone or a situation. Fear of failure or of what other people may think or say can send us running in another direction instead of doing what we were called to do. It can hinder us from moving up the ladder in a job, stepping out of the boat to try something new or just cause us to remain in our comfort zone, never moving and improving our lives. Running from our problems can prevent us from healing and moving forward. Again, we may fear that we will fail or that the problem can’t be resolved, especially if it is a continuous problem or one that comes up periodically.
When we run from our problems or from what God has called us to do, we will feel the turmoil and the storms within us. We may even face storms in our day to day lives because we refuse to face what needs to be faced. Jonah felt it in a physical sense through the stormy seas. Yet there was another problem he didn’t think about when he ran. He didn’t consider how it would affect those around him. The men on the boat he was on were caught up in the storm, Jonah’s storm, because Jonah was on their boat running from the responsibility of what God had called him to do. His rebelliousness affected those around him, causing them fear. The crew didn’t know at the time what Jonah had done. We see in Jonah 1:4 that fearing their ship would come apart, they called out to their gods for help and began throwing their cargo overboard to lighten the load. Where was Jonah at this time? He was in the lowest part of the ship, sound asleep. With the storm on the outside tossing the boat back and forth and the crew on deck frantically trying to get through the storm, Jonah slept. While others suffered through the storm he caused, Jonah slept. When we do not want to deal with our problems and run from them and/or God, it’s easy for us to go to sleep. It’s easy to just close our eyes to what is happening and to have no concern for the problems we are causing to those around us. Though the captain did wake Jonah up and told him to pray to his God, the crew cast lots to see who offended their gods and caused the terrible storm. Jonah was identified. They questioned Jonah on who he was and why the storm was happening. In verse 9, Jonah answers them:
“I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”(Jonah 1:9).
This terrified the crew and they asked him what they should do. Jonah replied in verse 12: “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” In other words, Jonah told the men in order for the storm to stop affecting their lives, they had to cut him loose. Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. They knew what they had to do in order to survive the storm, but they now knew Jonah’s God was real and feared the consequences of throwing His Prophet, even a disobedient prophet, overboard. But when they saw the storm was only getting worse, they prayed to Jonah’s God, no doubt as a precaution, asking Him not to let them die for Jonah’s sin and not to hold them responsible for his death (verse 14). Once they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea, the storm ceased. This situation, though bad, brought glory to God because the crew was awestruck by the power of the Lord and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him (verse 16).
We must realize that when we run from our problems or from what God has called us to do, we will feel the storms of life. God can allow us to feel the discomfort (putting it mildly) of our situation until we’ve realized the error of our ways and do what is right. In the meantime, He will use the situation to glorify Himself in the eyes of others.
Though there are many lessons we can get from Jonah’s situation (and I never even covered Jonah being in the belly of the whale!), there are several I will point out:
– Do not run from your problems or what God has called you to do.
– When we run, we may go through some terrible storms until we face our problems. Those storms can affect those around us.
– There are times we must cut people loose from our lives in order for us to have peace. There are times others must cut us loose from their lives so our storms will cease in their lives and they will have peace. Just as other people’s problems can cause us to lose peace, our problems can cause others to lose peace.
– Sometimes the disobedient ones are those who serve the Lord as they are no different than anyone else. We may have to distance ourselves from them for a time until they repent and resolve their problems, especially if their problem is affecting our lives in a negative way. We must also look at ourselves as we may be the disobedient one.
– We must not refuse to warn or help others because we feel they deserve punishment for their sinful ways and the harm they cause to others. God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
– We must strive to be as loving and forgiving as the Lord. Forgiveness is a part of healing.
– No matter what bad situation we are in, God will use it for the good and will glorify Himself in the process.
Are you on the run? Maybe it’s time to stop running and face whatever you are running from. You don’t have to face it alone. Jesus will walk through it with you if you give Him a chance.