In 1937, Joe Louis became heavyweight champion of the world. He had incredible punching power, knocking out 75% of his opponents. In 1946, he was slated to fight Billy Conn who, in pre-fight interviews, told reporters he would use a “hit and run” strategy. Louis was asked, “If he runs, will you chase him?” Louis responded with the now famous words, “He can run, but he can’t hide.”
The story of Jonah begins with him running from God. But Jonah soon discovered, “he could run, but he couldn’t hide.” It’s impossible to hide from God! God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh, a city known for wickedness and brutality. Jonah hated these people and wanted them judged by God. Since he knew God would forgive them if they repented, he decided he would not preach in Nineveh. He would go to Tarshish instead.
Although he was God’s prophet, Jonah was running away from obeying God’s will. Today, things have not changed. Many of us who profess to be Christians know what God wants us to do, but we’ve decided not to obey. The story of Jonah teaches us some very important lessons about what happens when we run from God. Here are four of them:
1. Running from God may initially give us a false sense of security.
In Jonah 1:3, when Jonah arrived at the port in Joppa, he found a ship ready to go to Tarshish, exactly the place he had in mind while he ran from God. Things seemed to have been working out perfectly.
2. Running from God is a downhill road.
To get to Tarshish, Jonah went down in the ship, down below deck, and eventually was thrown down to the bottom of the sea. Make no mistake, when we fail to obey God, we’re on a downhill road.
3. Running from God may cause us to sleep through God’s wake up call.
In Jonah 1:4-6, the ship was hit by a great storm. The storm was so intense that the experienced mariners were afraid; but somehow Jonah was fast asleep. Sometimes God sends storms into our life to wake us up, but sadly we often sleep through His wake-up calls. We are lulled into complacency because our consciences are not bothering us.
4. Running from God makes us resist repenting.
Jonah admitted to the sailors that the storm came as a result of his disobedience. He also knew that if he repented, God would forgive him. But Jonah did not want to repent. Instead he told them, “Throw me into the sea.” It’s as if he was more willing to die than to repent. How did his heart get so hard? Disobedience can take us to places we had no intention of going.
Jonah was eventually thrown into the sea and immediately the storm ended. That would have been the end of the story had it not been for the mercy of God. God sent a great fish to swallow him. From the fish’s belly, Jonah finally repented.
Don’t wait for God to send a fish. It’s time to repent right now. Never forget, you can run, but you can’t hide from God. So stop trifling with His mercy and run to Him in repentance today.