Jonah: You can run but you can't hide.
Jonah may have refused to go to Nineveh but God refused to give up on Jonah. God could easily have said, "All right, Jonah. Go ahead to Tarshish. If that’s the way you want it. I'll just get someone else to go to Nineveh." But God was as determined to work with Jonah as Jonah was determined to avoid Nineveh. God is as concerned with the messenger as he is with the message.
When we run from God, there is no place to hide. I've had my own 'in the belly of a whale' experience. Nearly 12 years ago I began to suffer severe consequences for my disobedience. My family was falling apart. I was unhappy and I was frantically trying to find some contentment in my life. I traveled all over the state of Georgia looking for a job and a place to relocate. I interviewed for teacher and administrative positions in Macon, Savannah and the Atlanta area. Finally, I accepted a teaching position at Duluth High School. I felt good about teaching in one of the top ten schools in Georgia and receiving pay in the second highest paying county in Georgia.
But contentment can be very elusive. You might think that a person couldn't possibly be lonely living in a community of 4 million. I'm sure I was the loneliest guy in Atlanta. Without going into a lot of detail let me just say that God took me into the belly of the whale. There was an inexplicable darkness in my life. I felt like I was being suffocated by my own attitudes of self-reliance and self-justification. I finally realized how futile it was to think I could run from God. I wanted to be left alone but the Hound of Heaven pursued me with a persistence that was mind-boggling.
In the midst of my darkest storm when the gales were blowing and the waves were sweeping over me, when I found myself sinking into the deep, black waters of despair, I heard the voice of God whispering to my heart. "Why don't you give up trying to do it your way? Why don't you try it my way?" In my attempt to run from God I discovered him to be in the place I was fleeing, waiting there for me even before I arrived. There was no place to hide.
There are reasons for the storms. Sometimes it’s the only way God can get our attention. I began to have long discussions with God. I blew the dust off my Bible and began seeking him. A willingness began to blossom in my heart and I told God I was tired of trying to do it my way. I reached a point in my misery where there was nothing left for me to do but to cry out in my despair: "Please save me from this misery. Tell me what to do and I'll do it."
If you find yourself in troubled waters, if you've been swallowed by a problem that is too big to handle, if you've been thrown overboard by the trials of life and you feel yourself sinking into the cold, murky waters…then God is trying to get your attention.
Joe Louis, the great boxer of the 1940's was about to meet Billy Conn in a championship match. Joe said these words that continue to live on through the generations: "You can run but you cannot hide." We can run from God but there is no place to hide. The Psalmist said, "Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you're there! If I go under ground you're there! …..you're already there waiting!" (Psalm 119)
God pursues us because he loves us. He refuses to allow us a place to hide because he loves us too much to allow us to become self-absorbed in our own difficulties. You may think God is a million miles away but "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him…" (Psalm 145:18) If trying it your way hasn't worked out very well for you, why not yield and try doing it God's way. If you really think about it….we really having nothing to lose except all the things in life that make us miserable.
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.