Running From God

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Jonah 3:1-5

In the later years of his life Robert Louis Stevenson was a man of deep and profound faith. It was not always like that, however. Like many young people he rebelled against his upbringing. He was reared in Scotland in a very strict Presbyterian home. As a college student he quickly shed his rigid upbringing, which he called “the deadliest gag and wet blanket that can be laid on a man,” and adopted a thoroughly sinful lifestyle. He called himself a “youthful atheist.” As he became older, however, he began to have “doubts about his doubts.” He came to see that for all its claim to wisdom, the world had no satisfying answers to the deepest questions of life. Later Robert Louis Stevenson would write, “There is a God who is manifest for those who care to look for him.” Still later he would describe his own religious outlook as a “cast iron faith.”

A man was sitting at home one evening, when the doorbell rang. When he answered the door, a 6 foot tall cockroach was standing there. The cockroach immediately punched him between the eyes and scampered off. The next evening, the man was sitting at home when the doorbell rang again. When he answered the door, the cockroach was there again. This time, it punched him, kicked him and karate chopped him before running away. The third evening, the man was sitting at home when the doorbell rang. When he answered the door, the cockroach was there yet again. It leapt at him and stabbed him several times before running off. The gravely injured man managed to crawl to the telephone and summoned an ambulance. He was rushed to intensive care, where they saved his life. The next morning, the doctor was doing his rounds. He asked the man what happened, so the man explained about the 6 foot cockroach’s attacks, culminating in the near fatal stabbing. The doctor thought for a moment and said, “Yes, there’s a nasty bug going around.”

I was in a store a few days ago shopping. There was a little boy about 8 or 9 who wanted a game boy. His mother had said, “No.” He didn’t want to accept her answer and protested. It was an ugly scene as the child lay on the floor kicking his hands and feet into the air. And yelled his protest at the top of his voice. The mother was obviously upset by the matter and was trying to get the young man out of the store. She never gave in and you could hear the child yelling all the way out into the parking lot.

May we have enough happiness to make us sweet, enough trials to make us strong, enough sorrow to keep us human, enough hope to make us happy. Rebellion (running from God) is a part of who we are as independent human beings. Jonah was commissioned by Jehovah to go and prophesy to the Ninevites, but being a partisan Israelite he did not want to see Israel’s great enemy spared. He was reluctant to obey and attempted to flee to Tarshish. He went to Joppa and there embarked upon a ship. A violent storm arose, and the captain of the vessel called upon Jonah to pray to his God to save them. As the storm did not abate, the sailors proceeded to cast lots, believing that some person on board the ship had caused the anger of God, as manifested in the tempest. Jonah was singled out as the culprit, and at his suggestion they unwillingly cast him into the sea. By the appointment of God he was swallowed by a great fish, which upon the third day cast him out upon dry land. Jonah was again commanded to go to Nineveh and immediately obeyed. The people repented, a fast was appointed, and the city was not destroyed. Provoked at the sparing of Nineveh, Jonah in his displeasure prayed to Jehovah to take his life because his proclamation had not been fulfilled. God taught him, by means of the rapidly growing and speedily decaying plant, that it was proper for Him to exercise mercy toward the repentant city (Jonah).

Even some of the strongest Christians find themselves running from God.
Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed.

Sometimes we run away from God to find God and ourselves. The Sign of Jonah became important for the coming of Christ. A sign of Jesus coming out of the tomb after three days alive as Jonah came out of the fish. As well as the mercy of a God who is determined to save his people.

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!
He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” (Mark 16:7)

Don’t stay locked in your past. Don’t keep focusing on yesterday with its heartaches and problems. It’s not important how many people have disappointed you, failed you, and done you wrong. The crucial issue now is not what they did, but what God has done . . . and what He’s going to do.
Go forward. Keep believing. Keep moving!

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