Running Away

August 19, 2012

David Sorn

We will run away from our call to share Jesus with people if we think we are better than other people.

Running Away

August 19, 2012

David Sorn

We will run away from our call to share Jesus with people if we think we are better than other people.



Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

In and out a little bit this summer, and it’s good to be back. I missed you guys.

Well, if you’ve ever hung out with a toddler before, one of the things you might notice is that toddlers are terrible at sharing.

Kids in general are not every good at it.

For a toddler, if they’re playing with their Green Shovel, and their friend all of a sudden decides he needs that green shovel and asks for it (or more likely just takes it)…it’s over.

You might as well expect an all out brawl, or at minimum a crying fest.

Toddlers have a really hard time understanding that, just wait 2 minutes, and that other kid is going to get bored and go steal someone else’s toy & you can play with the green shovel again

Even for elementary age students, sharing doesn’t come that natural.

I can remember back when I was in elementary school, and we played the original Nintendo...we all thought those 8-bit graphics were so good, that nobody wanted to let anyone else play.

I’m pretty sure I just made my neighbors watch me play MegaMan rather than giving them a turn.

When I was just entering high school, my family was one of the first in our town to get the internet…

Which now that I think of it…is really odd…because my parents are usually so behind when it comes to technology

My dad still doesn’t’ know how to answer calls on his cell phone

Is it the green or the red?!?

But anyway, I was more than willing to let my friends come over and look at AOL, but again, they should probably just watch me.

And as adults, sure we now understand the concept of sharing, unlike, say a toddler, but are we any better at it?

I’m not sure.

And this is evident, not just with how we treat our possessions, but how we treat our most treasured thing: Knowing Jesus.


Thankfully, the Bible has a challenging story on this, and it’s from a place that maybe you weren’t even expecting: The Book of Jonah.

Before we get into the passage, a little history on Jonah for you.

Jonah was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom.

By this time, Israel was divided in two:

2 tribes to the South: Called Judah

And 10 tribes to the North called Israel.

Jonah was from Galilee (same place as Jesus) and he prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II, which was 786-746BC.

So…quite some time before Jesus even. A good 750 years, in fact.

Let’s take a look at chapter 1 today.

It’s on page 753.

(Jonah 1:1-3) – NIV

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 12 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish(. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Okay, 3 little verses, but there’s a lot to explain contextually here.

We’re going to see from the rest of the book, that when God says, “Preach against it,” he means tell them to repent, (which is to turn from your evil ways) and be forgiven.

So, God is offering forgiveness to the evil Ninevites.

But who are these people and where is Ninevah?

Ninevah was one of the great cities of the Assyrian empire, and eventually will actually be made the capital city.

Interestingly enough, the ruins of Ninevah can actually be found across the river from Mosul, Iraq where a chunk of the fighting of the Iraq War occurred.

But Jonah does not want to go talk to those “evil people” in his eyes, so he flees for Tarshish.

Well, where’s that?

This seems like a great time to put up a map!!


Tarshish was on the Southern Tip of Spain.

So look at where he was supposed to go, and where he went.

And for Jonah, since no one really sailed on the Atlantic in these days, this is like going to the ends of the earth.

He’s trying to get as far away as possible!

But let me tell you something.

You can’t run away from God.

(Jonah 1:4-16) – NIV

4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” 7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” (EXPLAIN) They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” 9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) 11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” 12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” 13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

We’ll do verse 17 and chapters 2 & 3 all next week.

So our friend Jonah’s in a big pickle:

If he goes to Ninevah…he could very easily be killed. They were a violent people who were oppressing the peoples all around Israel.

The Ninevites were so cruel that they had become famous in the area for their mass murders of people in the cities they conquered

If they weren’t murdering the masses, they would often torture the people they captured just for fun, and then parade entire cities in long lines while they walked them back to Nineveh to become slaves.

These are the people God has called Jonah too.

And they are creeping up on Israel.

In fact, not too long after Jonah’s death, the Assyrians (ninevah’s a city in Assyria) will exile the Israelities in 722BC

But if he goes to Ninevah, and is successful, what will his countrymen think? This is the enemy!

It’s hard to understand Jonah’s problem because a lot of these cities and names aren’t familiar with us. This is the best parallel example I could come up with:

In 1939, at the start of WWII, Germany brutally invaded Poland

Imagine if God said to a Polish prophet on the eve of that invasion: “Listen, I know Germany is on your door step, but I need you to go to Berlin and tell them to repent, and I will forgive them.”

That’s essentially what God asked of Jonah.

And Jonah runs.

But you can’t run away from God.

I want you to know that.

If God has called you to do something…maybe it’s to go somewhere, to say something to someone, to be something…

If God has called you…you can’t hide from Him.

He’s everywhere.

It’s a silly thing, running away from God.

Don’t even try it, he’ll just have to whip up a storm to get your attention.


And yet, interestingly enough, Bible readers tend to judge Jonah kind of harshly.

I think part of the reason is that they don’t understand the context of who Ninevah was to him.

But, that aside, we still tend to, from our armchair prophet perspective, look at Jonah and say, “Really?!? You got a direct Word from God to go somewhere and you tried to RUN away. How embarrassing.”

And yet, as we mock Jonah, a massive plank protrudes from our own eye

Because God told us to do basically the same thing:

It’s in the Great commission in Matthew 28: Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations

(Acts 1:8) – NIV

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Bible is clear over and over and over again that our calling as His followers, is to SHARE the Good News of Jesus Christ with other people

But what we do?

We pull our best Jonah…and we run.

We shirk the calling. We say, that must be for someone else. You must have me mistaken God…I’ll just go over here…and I’m sure you’ll call someone else to do it.

Or, we say, “God that’s too risky. Or those people are evil anyway. I’ll just hang out w/ Christians”

We’ve been given this blatant and obvious call to share the GOOD news of Jesus Christ…and yet…we run away.

Perhaps for different reasons.

We’re scared. We don’t know what to say. We fear the loss of our own reputation.

And we could do a message on each of those, and have on some of them (check out the videos for our “Evangelism is not a Swear Word” series or “Call of Duty” series online)


But, since we are studying Jonah chapter 1 today, we have to consider the main reason why Jonah didn’t go.

And for him, it wasn’t so much about that “he didn’t know the right words” or “he needed to brush up on apologetics first” or “what would people at work say?”

No, for Jonah, he didn’t go, because in his mind, GOD was making the wrong move by offering forgiveness to the Ninevites!

We see what he was thinking before he left in Chapter 4 of Jonah

(Jonah 4:1-2) – NIV

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

He knew that God would be compassionate to the Ninevites and he was MAD about it!

Why?? Because he wants God to destroy the wicked! Not to forgive them!

But that’s not how God works, and it’s not how we should work.

Are you familiar with the story of Corrie ten Boom at all?

If you’re not, you should read her book, “The Hiding Place.”

Corrie was a Dutch Christian who helped many Jews escape the Holocaust by hiding them in her house.

Eventually, an informant tipped off the Nazi’s, and her family was taken away.

Her father died 10 days later in a prison, and her sister died in a concentration camp.

Corrie, however, survived.

A few years after the war had ended, she was speaking about forgiveness in Munich when she noticed a man in the crowd.

He was one of the guards from the concentration camp!

He came up to her, and asked for her forgiveness.

She wrote that it was the most difficult thing she ever had to do, but after all, didn’t God forgive her everyday?

After she forgave him, she wrote, “For a long moment, we grasped each other’s hands. The former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then”

But that kind of thinking…that kind of love…that kind of mercy…for evil people…

It just seems wrong to us. It seems like the wrong way to go about it.

What they need…is PUNISHMENT…is JUSTICE. Not forgiveness.

And that’s exactly Jonah’s gripe with God.

These Ninevites don’t need mercy, they need to be punished!

So he runs.

And I think we sometimes feel the same way.

We spend a lot of wasted energy as Christians making sure the world knows its evil, and what good does it do us???

We, like Jonah, we run away from our true calling to go and share God’s mercy, and we join Jonah in his thinking by assuming what people need, is not mercy, but JUSTICE!

And Christians have sadly become somewhat notorious for this, particularly in America

Nowadays, Christians are more often known for what they’re AGAINST than what they’re for.

Christians are against abortion

Christians are against actively engaging in homosexuality

Christians are against getting drunk

Christians are against sex out of marriage.

It’s like the world is very well aware of the things we say are wrong, but are they as aware of what we believe about the radical forgiveness of God??

We make sure every knows they’re wrong, and evil, and ruining our country and culture!

And it’s sad.

And I think it all comes from the same bad theology Jonah had.

We look at people…and rather than seeing people who are sinners just LIKE US…we somehow trick ourselves into thinking, they’re worse than us.

Which isn’t true.

And I wonder if that’s not at least a portion of the reason for why we struggle with evangelism (telling people about God)?

Let me make this more personal.

Maybe you have a coworker or a neighbor who has a wild lifestyle.

They party. They come to work drunk. They cheat on their spouse.

Sadly, often our first thought is not that these people need forgiveness, but that God oughta teach them a lesson. They cheated on their spouse, and they have kids. Hmm.

Christians always seem to be more concerned that people know they’re WRONG…rather than they know forgiveness!

Now, I’m not saying we don’t need to call people to repent, but repentance comes with forgiveness and mercy.

For instance, Jesus reaches out to A LOT of people that you and I would just avoid because of their lifestyle.

He reaches out to the demon possessed, the prostitutes, the thief on the cross, the Roman occupiers.

And if they’re in sin, yes, he’s calls them to “GO and sin no more,” but BECAUSE they’ve been forgiven!!

Jesus doesn’t just go around making sure everyone knows they’re wrong.

What good does knowing you’re wrong do if it’s not attached to forgiveness?

What if…when it comes to your rageaholic coworker, or the one who swears all the time, or the one who treats everyone like garbage, what if our first thought was to tell them of the forgiveness that can change their life rather than just shaking our head at their sin.

If we think like Jonah did at first…If we get overly focused on OTHER people’s sins…we’re not going to want to talk to people about Jesus.

We’re just going to want to shake our heads at them, avoid them, and run away from our calling.


But maybe the real common thread here is that we’re overly focused on our selves. And our own goodness. And our own happiness.

When I was looking up some info on sharing for kids this week, I couldn’t believe some of the stuff I was reading.

Let me read to you some of the example quotes on a few blogs I came across:

“If you’re toddler has their attention span captivated by a toy, they shouldn’t be expected to share it”

“Kids have a stronger sense of ownership when it comes to objects. It’s challenging for them to give things over, so we should respect that.”

“Kids need to assert their ownership of things, so I encourage my toddler to “hold on tight” to her toys.”

Many of us have grown up in one of the most “selfish” eras & societies the world has ever known.

We’re adults, and most of us still don’t know how to share.

Including Sharing Jesus.

Just like our video showed today.

We’ve got this great gift of Jesus in our lives, and yet we don’t share Him with other people.

Maybe we don’t think the other people are as worthy to play with our Jesus…

Like we just talked about.

And maybe this is even subconscious for you.

But I think a good chunk of people don’t share Jesus because they’re more focused on how evil other people are rather than how Jesus could transform their lives

Or Maybe we thought if we keep giving Jesus out to other people…if we keep focusing on other people…keep sharing Jesus…than we wouldn’t get to enjoy Him as much ourselves.

But maybe you’re thinking? Yeah, but who really thinks that?

Jesus is an infinite source. You can’t RUN out of Jesus.

Well, apparently 90% of churches in America think that. Because their people aren’t sharing Jesus.

See, every church dies eventually.

You want to know the #1 reason churches die?

It’s a sharing problem.

See over time, almost every church grows INWARD.

They get focused on THEIR programs, THEIR resources, THEIR time, and everything in the church is for THEM.

Not the outsiders.

They’ve got this great God, and huh, it doesn’t look like they’re sharing Him.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

God has done some amazing things in your life.

If you’re a believer…forgiven you for everything you’ve ever done and given you eternity in heaven.

It’s such a great gift to share with other people.

Not from a place of condemnation, but from a place of hope.

Don’t worry so much about the words you need to say…just talk about what God has done in your life.

And practice sharing with other people.

What you have.

What you’ve been given.

Many of you have been blessed with a lot, and there’s ways you can use it.

In fact, here’s an easy application of sharing:

We’re looking for a few heroes to open up their homes this fall, so people can have Christian community and so new believers, AND seekers…can have a place to meet & hear about God.

We need someone to step forward and SHARE their home as the Sunday night House group host home.

We need others to step forward and offer their homes as Child care homes…places where we can have babysitters come in and watch the children of people in house groups.

For both of these things, you don’t even need to be there. We just need you to step forward, and Share. Share your home, so we can share w/ people about Christ.

It would be such a blessing to the ministry here and for people who are looking for God.

And for others of you, it’s stepping forward in the most important part of sharing…sharing the Gospel. Sharing Jesus with people.

If there’s any part of you, that’s like Jonah, where you look at yourself as “better than.” You look at yourself as not as sinful…than start seriously praying that God would show you truth.

Because if you see yourself as “better than,” you most assuredly will have more trouble sharing Jesus….just like Jonah.

He wasn’t going to share with “those people,” so he didn’t.

I find that the people who are the best evangelists often aren’t the people who are the most bold or the best w/ words, they are the people who are the most aware of how sinful they are & yet God forgave them anyway!!

And I encourage you to take a step forward this week.

Even if it’s a baby step.

Even if it’s just to tell someone at work that you went to church this weekend.

Maybe it’s just to invite you’re unchurched friend to our awesome series starting in a few weeks called “The Relationship Maze” about family and relationships

Or maybe, some of you are willing to step forward and start finally sharing with people about how God has changed your life.

But here’s the one thing you can’t do: Keep avoiding it.

Because if you keep running away from WHY GOD put YOU ON THIS EARTH.

And I mean that: We are on this earth to do 2 things: Glorify God w/ our lives and tell people about Jesus.

If you keep running away from your main calling…the sea will rage.

We can’t expect the continual blessing of God in our lives if we’re making no steps in the right direction on doing the most important thing he asked us to do.

Don’t run. Find life.

Find life. By Sharing life.

It’s a great concept.

Let’s pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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