Jonah Running Away From God
Introduction: Could you be a fugitive? There was a song
that said “you can’t outrun the long arm of the law.”
Imagine trying it.
Seeing your face on a “wanted” poster.
People glancing at you in a restaurant.
Feeling chills every time a cop car gets behind you.
Well, you can’t run from God either,
but you can try and get out of obeying Him.
A Pastor colleague noted that Jonah was "son of Amittai,"
a name derived from the Hebrew root that means
"to be faithful." But, of course, Jonah proves to be
anything but a "son of faithfulness."
The trouble with disobeying God is that it produces an
intellectual fugitive. You wind up running away from the
call of God – running away inside your mind.
How can you tell?
How do you know if you have been doing some running?
Let’s call today’s sermon “Running from God.”
So, what is the first sign that you are running? ….
A. Escaping Service.
1. Show me a Christian who has five good reasons why
serving God in a ministry isn’t possible right now
and I will wonder if their middle name isn’t Jonah.
Often their focus is on what they want for themselves in life
rather than on what others around them need.
God says: 2"Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it,
because its wickedness has come up before me."
As in today we’d say: “You want me to put Your truth on
my Face Book page?” Many of my
friends will unfriend me for that!
As in today: “You want me to march for Pro-Life in the 4th of July parade?
What if my non-Christian boss is there watch with his family –
that could cost me my next promotion.
Preach “against,” really?
Excuse # 1 “No, sorry God,
but saying negative things just isn’t me.”
Excuse #2 “Sorry God but what you might call wickedness
our society calls good.”
Excuse #3 “There are some really powerful people in that place
and they won’t want to hear words of condemnation.”
2. It’s amazing how when you are keen to escape from serving God,
the “circumstances” will seem in your favor.
3 Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish.
He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for
that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and
sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
Amazing! The ship - just right.
The timing - just right.
The fare – just right.
The destination – just right.
Ah yes there is a verse that says:
“There is a way that seems right to us
but the end of it is destruction.”
A Jain proverb holds: “Running away from any problem
only increases your distance from the solution.”
Many a fugitive from God has found that after deciding to
run from God’s call the next thing they experience is…
B. Encountering Storms
1. William Du Plessis was in my first congregation.
A pastor whose wife Mavis pleaded with him not to leave
the ministry to go into business. Nothing wrong with
being successful in business unless… God has called you
to something else. The outcome of the story was that he
owned his own business and did well and Mavis learned
to love the things of this world and walked away from
God. Unhappiness entered their marriage.
William ended his days in a facility for the mentally
unstable. Beware of running from God to favorable
circumstances – they change rapidly
4Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a
violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.
For everyone else aboard this may have felt like a
terribly unlucky event – I bet they didn’t even know.
Here’s the bad news – there will be times when your
disobedience to God causes not only
your life to be disrupted – but others loose too.
5All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own
god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the
ship. Have others suffered loss – is their cargo into the sea –
because you disobeyed God?
How much did William’s leaving the ministry cost Mavis?
2. Funny how the one running is often the last one to notice
the problem they caused! I tell you now – you can run,
but you can’t hide.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell
into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, "How
can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will
take notice of us so that we will not perish." 7 Then the
sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out
who is responsible for this calamity."
They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
I don’t know what I make of the casting lots thing –
but I know this there is no peace in the storm that you cause by
running from God. And sooner or later life will point you
out for the fugitive you are.
Glenda Millard said: “Running away was easy; not knowing
what to do next was the hard part.”
Somewhere in the midst of the storms you are going to be….
C. Exposed Shamefully.
1. No matter how much of a “private person” you want to be
– all will come to know your story.
Illus: My friend in the ministry awoke one day to find that
his secret, extra marital affair was all over the newspapers.
He was running from the vows he made in marriage.
He was running from the lifestyle to which we are called in
pastoral leadership – he thought it could stay “private.”
8So they asked Jonah, "Tell us, who is responsible for
making all this trouble for us?
What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from?
What is your country? From what people are you?"
That first question is the vital one:
who is responsible for making all this trouble for us?
Life’s storms will force you to own your guilt.
2. Owning your guilt means facing up to your sin.
Anna Russell wrote a poem about not accepting one’s own sin:
When I was one, my mommy hid my dolly in a trunk,
and so it follows naturally that I am always drunk.
When I was two, I saw my father kiss the maid one day,
and that is why I suffer now from kleptomania.
At three, I had the feeling of ambivalence towards my
brothers, and so it follows naturally I poisoned all my lovers.
But I am happy; now I've learned the lesson this has taught;
that everything I do that's wrong is someone else's fault.
9 Jonah answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD,
the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
10This terrified them and they asked,
"What have you done?" Come on Jonah out with it – so he
confessed. (They knew he was running away from the
LORD, because he had already told them so.)
3. Encountering Storms and Exposed Shamefully has the
purpose of bringing you to personally own the consequences of
what you have done. I had to smile when Basketball’s
Michael Jordan said : “I never looked at the consequences of
missing a big shot... when you think
about the consequences you always
think of a negative result.”
12"Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it
will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great
storm has come upon you."
Stop blaming others for your situation.
Stop with the clever excuses.
Stop even with the shoulder shrugging.
If you stop all that you will be on the way back. It’s called:
D. Expressing Submission
1. People can’t keep you from feeling and experiencing the
results of your disobedience. 13Instead, the men did their best
to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew
even wilder than before.
Neither your parents nor your friends can smooth over the
results of what you have done. Oh, they might try –
they might try as hard as they can
(the men did their best to row back )
but it will be to no avail.
2. People must release you to go back to your service for
God. 14Then they cried out to the LORD, "Please, LORD,
do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not
hold us accountable for killing an innocent man,
for you, LORD, have done as you pleased."
See they thought they were consigning Jonah to die. Some-
times to the one doing tough love it may even look like that.
If only there was an easier way – but no.
There has to be an expressing of submission.
3. People can learn from the experience of the fugitive from
God’s call. 15Then they took Jonah and threw him
overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they
offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
Isn’t that last bit an amazing thing:
At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they
offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
OK very quickly – this final point:
Escaping Service can lead to Encountering Storms
that will mean being Exposed Shamefully.
Yet it’s a loving mechanism by which God wants to bring the
fugitive to Express Submission so that the runaway can be ……
E. Experiencing Salvation
1. The most important part of today’s sermon is here at
the end. God loves the runaway enough to make a way
back into His will – but often through great discomfort.
17 Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah,
and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
For some it has to be finding the way back through
the walls of a jail cell.
To others the return path into service for God includes a
body broken by illness.
Others come back through the forest of regretted memories.
God’s salvation is often tough on the backslider,
but it’s always gracious.
Conclusion: Charles Stanley preached: “One of Satan's most
deceptive and powerful ways of defeating us is to get us to
believe a lie. And the biggest lie is that there are no
consequences to our own doing.
Satan will give you whatever you ask for
if it will lead you where he ultimately wants you.”
Here are the words to help all of us:
1. Recognize your tendency
to want to run from the will of God.
2. Stop calling the circumstances for running “favorable.”
3. Repent of willfulness.
4. Get back to serving.