I love The Jesus Storybook Bible! I love how it helps us see Jesus and the hints of His coming that are in the Old Testament stories. I love how it continually speaks of God’s love and mercy and of His plan for saving sinful people. I love how it sneaks up on me and hits me right between the eyes while I’m innocently reading a story with one of my granddaughters.
Take, for instance, the story of Jonah – “God’s Messenger”. I had to smile – and then wince – when I read Jonah’s words when he was trying to run away from God and away from his assignment to Nineveh:
“Jonah went ahead with his not-very-good plan. ‘One ticket to NOT Nineveh, please!’ he said and boarded a boat sailing in the very opposite direction of Nineveh.”
How many times do we know exactly what God wants us to do, and then stubbornly head in the opposite direction? How often do we pursue our “not-very-good plan” by running away from God and from the clear mission He has given us?
We hop on a ship heading some place like:
We can’t do what God is telling us to do. It’s too hard. So we buy our ticket to run away from God, and as soon as our ship launches, the loving storms of God’s relentless pursuit descend on us, and everyone on that ship suffers along with us.
Tullian Tchividjian, in Surprised by Grace (a book I just finished reading and that you will be seeing more quotes from in the next few weeks), puts it this way. “When we run from God, His response is more likely to be stormy and upsetting than quiet and subtle. He knows how to make us miserable. And it makes those around us miserable as well.”
Tchividjian (I wonder how you pronounce that?) draws three lessons from the account of Jonah attempting to run away from God:
- “You can’t outrun God. It’s futile to try. It’s impossible to outpace his pursuing affection.”
- “God’s mercy is massive. The storm tells us that God spares no expense in going after those who run away.” He reminds us that “Jesus is the storm.” His incarnation loudly proclaims that God spares nothing in order to pursue those who run away from Him. Jesus came to free us from enslavement to ourselves and our desires.
- ”The storm isn’t punishment; it’s an intervention, brought on by God’s affection rather than His anger.” It’s an act of mercy when God sends the storm into Jonah’s life. God was using it to liberate Jonah from himself.
The author goes on to say:
“Jonah thought that running from God would make him free. Instead it made him a slave. We can experience true life and freedom only when we come to realize that God is God and we are not – something that Jonah was profoundly resisting.
“Submitting self to God is the only real freedom – because the deepest slavery is self-dependence, self-reliance. When you live your life believing that everything (family, finances, relationships, career) depends primarily on you, you’re enslaved to your strengths and weaknesses. You’re trying to be your own savior. Freedom comes when we start trusting in God’s abilities and wisdom instead of our own. Real life begins when we transfer our trust from our own efforts to the efforts of Christ.”
Today I’m praying for God’s grace to embrace the mission He has for me. I’m praying that He will help me remember that it’s not my efforts; it’s His. It all relies on Him, not me. He’s God and I’m not. I just need to do what He tells me to do.
I don’t want to run, unless I’m running toward Him.
(Photo from Shutterstock.com)