“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 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).
Jonah was attempting to physically run from the presence of the Lord and the task God had for him. That sounds ludicrous, right? Can someone ever run from the presence of the Lord?
There are a few ways that come to mind on how we sometimes run from God.
1. LOVE THE WORLD
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. This sounds contradictory to the verse that says “For God so loved the world” (see John 3:16). If God loves the world shouldn’t we? When John 3:16 says that God loved the world, it’s speaking of all of humanity, which we should do also. But 1 John 2:15 is referring to worldly affairs. Riches, beauty, earthly goods, pleasures.
To love these things, is to distance yourself from a God who has called you to take up your cross, meaning to die to yourself, and follow Him (see Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24).
1 John 2:16 goes on to say, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”
As you focus your attention and love on the world, you will grow distant from the Father, because these things are not of Him.
Sin separates us from God.
Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
If you are not a believer, your sins separate you from God, but when Christ died on the cross, He died on your behalf. If you accept His gift, you will be saved and brought in to fellowship with God.
Sin also separates believers from God. I am married. If either my husband or I sin against one another, it creates a wedge between us and we must seek forgiveness and be willing to forgive. The same goes for believers. When you sin against God, it creates a wedge in your relationship with Him. Reconciliation comes by seeking forgiveness. The most wonderful thing is that He is a very forgiving Father.
3. KEEPING THE LAW
I know this sounds crazy. How can keeping the law separate me from Christ?
“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace” (Galatians 5:4).
When you try to keep the law, it is possible that you are doing so out of your love for Him, but often it can become your attempt at wanting to be right with God. When this happens you may no longer feel the need for forgiveness and fall out of the grace of God. Our salvation does not come from our works, but from the one work of the cross done by Jesus Christ. And because of this new covenant, we are free from the law.
This is not to say that we are to go on sinning, but the idea is that we are not working for salvation, but working out our salvation (see James 2:14-17).
Have you ever found yourself comparing yourself to another person? The place God has them in, and how it is different from your own?
Peter fell into comparison when Jesus spoke to him about the kind of death in which he would glorify God (see John 21:18-19). Peter turned and saw John and “…said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21).
I love Jesus’ response because it ministers to me when I find myself tied up in comparison. He says this: “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:22). End of story.
I believe that comparing ourselves to others distances us from God, because we are not walking in His specific will for our lives, and our focus is on anything but Him. The goal is not to please yourself or those around you, it is to follow God.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
5. THE CARES OF THE WORLD
Different from number one, the love of the world, I am speaking of the cares of the world. Work, things we think we need to do and accomplish, homework, house cleaning. They invade the mind.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus speaks of the different places that the seed can fall, such as by the wayside and stony places. “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them” (Matthew 13:7).
Jesus explains it saying, “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).
When you care too much about the things of this world, they will be like thorns to your growth and you will fall away from the Lord.
Wow! I don’t know about you, but I find that I regularly fall into these categories and as a result become distant from God. It can be somewhat discouraging to think that we can so often be “running” from God and not even know it.
But I find comfort in Psalm 139:7-10:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.”
There is no where we can go, that God is not still with us. Jonah must have forgotten this truth, because he thought he could run from God. As much as Jonah didn’t want to do as God asked, God still used him. May we not run from God, but thrive right where it is that He has us and be willing vessels that go and do as He calls us to.
On and On by Housefires: