Thursday, October 7, 2021

Running With God

The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” – Jonah 3:5 

Back in 1954, Governor Christian Herter of Massachusetts was working hard on the campaign trail as he ran for a second term. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes, he arrived at a mid-afternoon church barbecue. He hadn’t eaten a thing since breakfast, so he was really hungry. As Governor Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving the chicken. She put one piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. Using his best manners, Governor Herter asked, "Excuse me. Do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?" She responded, "Sorry. I'm supposed to give only one piece of chicken to each person." 

Normally the governor wasn’t one to throw his weight around, but he was starving. So, he looked the woman in the eye and said, “Do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state.” Without missing a beat, she responded, “Do you know who I am? I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”

Wouldn’t it have been nice if the prophet Jonah had been as good at following orders as the lady serving the chicken? The job of an Old Testament prophet was NOT complicated. Simply say WHAT God wants you to say, WHEN God wants you to say it, to WHOMEVER God tells you to say it to. For the Old Testament prophet, Job #1 was OBEDIENCE. The job wasn’t complicated, but it WAS really hard. Quite often God told His prophets to say things they didn’t want to say at times they didn’t want to say them to people they didn’t want to say them to.

That’s the way it was with Jonah. When he got God’s marching orders to preach God’s message to the people of Ninevah, he ran the other way. And you remember what happened next. Jonah boarded a ship. Fierce storm. Jonah confessed that the storm was his fault. The sailors tossed Jonah overboard. As Jonah was about to drown, he cried out to God in prayer. God saved his life by providing a great big fish to swallow him and give Jonah a free ride back to shore. And as soon as Jonah turned to the LORD and confessed his willingness to do what God called him to do, “The LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10).

At last Jonah began running WITH God and doing the work he’d been called to do. He was ready and willing to obey the LORD, but it’s pretty clear that he wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. When he got to Ninevah, he started preaching on Day One: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned’” (Jonah 3:4). Now, this is probably just a small sample of his message, but it seems safe to say that Jonah didn’t preach a lengthy sermon. He didn’t tell them to repent. He didn’t teach them how to repent. He didn’t seem to give them any hope that they could do anything to stop God’s judgment from coming if they DID repent.

Yet, amazingly, “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (v. 5). It’s hard to imagine how Jonah’s short-and-not-too-sweet message got through to them. But whatever the reason may be, GOD … WAS … BEHIND IT. God was at work. Just as God provided a fish for Jonah in chapter 2, God provided all that was needed for the people of Nineveh to repent and turn to Him. It certainly wasn’t Jonah’s preaching that won them over. It was ALL God.

And “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (v. 10). On the heels of showering Jonah with undeserved compassion, God showered the wicked people of Nineveh with undeserved compassion as well. You see, neither Jonah nor the people of Nineveh were too far gone to be reached by God’s mercy and grace. And neither are you.

I’d like to share two insights from Jonah’s latest adventures:

Insight #1: It’s not enough to just run TO God. You need to start running WITH God. Some of us are running from God, like Jonah in chapter 1, and we’re going nowhere fast. We need to come to our senses, make a spiritual U-turn and run TO God. But running TO God is only the starting point. Once we get to God, we need to start running WITH God. A surfer is not a surfer if he just paddles out TO the waves. He has to mount his board and start riding the waves. It’s the same way when you’re a Christian. Once you run TO God, you’ve got to start running WITH Him. Join Him in His work. Find out where He is moving, and move with Him. Find out where He is working, and work with Him.

Insight #2: In the Kingdom of God, the shortest distance between two points is obedience. It would have spared Jonah and the sailors on that ship a whole lot of pain and suffering if he had obeyed God’s word way back in chapter 1. If God is bound and determined to have you do something for Him, you’ll do it for Him eventually … one way or another. But it will save you and those around you a whole lot of pain and suffering if you obey quickly. The shortest distance between where you are right now and where God is calling you to go is obedience. So, don’t wait until the final chapter or two of your life to obey. Obey God’s word today. If you can’t beat Him, join Him!

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment