Ignite – Run

How do you respond when someone important in your life asks you to do something you really don’t want to do?


Do you:

Pretend you didn’t hear?

Say you’ll do it but you know you won’t?

Negotiate hard to show why you’re not the best person for the job?

Find a really good legitimate excuse not to do the job?

Do it anyway but with an attitude?

Joyfully drop all your plans and do it!

Of course we all have had issues with authority figures in our lives, especially when they want to push us in a direction that we don’t want to . And we have all these very natural and perhaps even understandable responses! But did you know that these same responses, when we use them on God, could lead to some major, unintended consequences? We will be studying some events in the life of a man whose response to God was very natural, very understandable, and very similar to how many of us would respond. His name was Jonah. So – when you think about Jonah, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A big fish! But this is not the story of a fish! It’s a story about our choices and how they impact our ability to find and live out the purpose for which we were created.

 Jonah 1

What an amazing story! This whole chapter is so graphic, it’s almost like a film or a play. I see it like a play that is divided into 3 acts. Act 1 – God’s call, Act 2 – Jonah’s response and Act 3 – the consequences of that response.

Let’s begin by looking at  verses 1-2… “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of AmittaiGo to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

Now the first thing to note is that these words, ‘the word of the Lord came to….’ occur over 100 times in the bible. The word of the Lord came to Abram, Samuel, Elijah, Nathan, Jeremiah, Haggai and to many others. In this case and in many others, we are not told how this ‘word’ came. Perhaps it was in a dream, or maybe he saw a vision, or an angel. Perhaps it was something less dramatic; someone else gave him the message or God’s Spirit convicted him as he read God’s word. All we know for sure is that the Creator had a specific role that He intended for Jonah to play

Often at Mavuno, we teach that every one of us was created for purpose. None of us was created to be born, go to school, get a job, get married, have kids and then die. We all know instinctively, or at least we hope, that there is more to life than that! It was Mark Twain who said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you discover why. “

What is that purpose? How can I find it?

Have you ever struggled with these questions?

Well, what I can tell you is that we all share a GENERAL PURPOSE and we all have a UNIQUE PURPOSE. Our general purpose is true for all of us – we were all created to display God in our lives and bring people to Him. That’s fundamental for all of us. Along the way, we begin to discover that how we express that purpose is different from person to person. Each of us is unique- we have different gifts, personalities and passions and each of us has unique situations & challenges – different families, neighborhoods, and workplaces. All these things point towards the unique contribution that we were created to make. Ephesians 2:10 tell us ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance to do’. But even as you enter the process of finding your unique purpose, it will always be something that will help you express your general purpose – to know God and to make Him known

We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that some are more called than others. But everyone of us has a God-given purpose! The difference is how we choose to respond to our purpose. Jonah’s response was rather dramatic!

Verse 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 to Tarshish to flee from the LORD.”

So a little context here; Jonah was a prophet. A prophet was a person who was appointed to call God’s people back to God’s purpose for them. In general terms, people often forget their purpose and the prophets role is to remind them that they were created to live for something more. In that sense, Jonah represents all of us. We were created to live such lives that people around us are drawn towards their Creator!

Now Jonah lived in Israel. If you know something about bible history, there were 12 tribes in Israel. At some point, they completely disagreed and the 10 northern tribes bunched up together and retained the name Israel, while the 2 remaining tribes formed a nation called Judah. Now, Nineveh, the place God was asking Jonah to go to, lay inland to the east – the location of modern day Iraq. But Tarshish, the place that Jonah decided to go lay to the West. And not just west – the far west. It was the farthest trading point on the western side of the Mediterranean Sea! 2000 miles  away from Nineveh, it was the farthest known point away from where God wanted Jonah to be.

Now, why would Jonah do the exact opposite of what God was calling him to? At this point, it doesn’t say and so we have to guess. Perhaps it was about CONVENIENCE. It was a journey of almost 750 km by foot (470 miles) – which would take him over a month on harsh terrain! Or perhaps it was FEAR – Nineveh was also the capital of Assyria, the most powerful of Israel’s enemies. They had the reputation of being a brutal people. When they conquered a city, they would rip open the bellies of pregnant women, skin their leaders alive and cut off the heads of the men to put in a heap outside the city as a warning to their other enemies. So maybe Jonah feared what they’d do to him if he preached to them. Perhaps it was TOLERANCE – what if Jonah thought the message was harsh and severe? It was a hard message, wasn’t it? Preach against Nineveh’s wickedness – no one likes being the one who has to bring such a message. Maybe it was more to do with COMFORT – Nineveh is near present day Baghdad while Tarshish is in the much nicer resort area of Majorca, Spain. It’s like, “God I like your plan but you need to show me how this works for me!” Or maybe Jonah was just OVERWHELMED. Why me Lord? What if I fail? I’m the least likely person to do this!

These are all possible reasons why Jonah runs away, but you’ll have to wait till chapter 4 to find out. At this point, all we can see is that God said do one thing and Jonah did the exact opposite!

I’m glad that we teach about purpose. That’s awesome! But we can easily fall into a common mistake about purpose when we refer to it as ‘my purpose’. Actually, it’s not ‘my purpose’, it was never about me! It’s ‘God’s purpose’ for me! And that brings a problem, doesn’t it? What happens when God’s purpose for me means going to places where I’d rather not go? What happens when it means risking my comfort, or losing my status or even losing my proximity to family & friends? At such times, many of us, like Jonah, do the thing that comes most naturally – we run!

Maybe we run by pretending we didn’t hear! (What? That can’t have been God!) Maybe we say we’ll do it but we know we won’t! Maybe we negotiate with God to show him why we’re not the best person for the job! (We call that ‘praying about it’) Maybe we find a truly legitimate excuse not to do it. Or maybe some of us do it but we do it with a grumbling attitude! The truth is that when it comes to God’s purpose for us, many of us are runners!

So Jonah runs to Tarshish. Not only was it far but it was a place where people didn’t know God, and of course, no one would know Jonah. Have you ever noticed how when Christians are disobeying God, the first thing they do is stop coming to church? Or they move to a church where no one knows them.  Or they come to church but they take off immediately it’s over. They are trying to run away from God.

At this point, the author does something interesting.  In the KJV, verse 3 says ‘He went down to Joppa. After paying the fare he went down to the ship. Verse 5, ‘Jonah had gone down to the side of the ship.’ 2:6 you hurled me down to the bottom of the sea.

What’s the point here? I believe it’s the key thing God wants us to learn. If you forget anything else, please remember this; every step away from God’s purpose is a step down! It may look like it’s the smart thing to do. It may look like the thing that will keep you safe or protect you from harm. It may seem like the only way to prosper. And indeed that was true for Jonah!

At first things seemed to be working well. Jonah managed to find a ship going his direction. He managed to buy a ticket and get on board. He was even able to sleep comfortably. Maybe he even said, ‘wow, God seems to be really opening doors!’ But not every open door is from God. Once you choose to run away from God, sin always provides quick transport! Have you looked at people who you know have done wrong and disobeyed God and yet nothing seems to happen to them? In fact they even seem to be doing well and thriving. But circumstances alone do not prove God’s permission or blessing! The interesting thing is that even though the cost of following God’s purpose may seem high, the cost of running from God’s purpose is always much higher!

Jonah found this out the hard way. What are some of the costs of running from God’s purpose? First, surprisingly it cost him FINANCES. He had paid for a long voyage to the farthest place he could go by ship. It must have cost him quite a bit. Plus if you’re relocating to another country, chances are that you carry your most precious belongings with you, to start a new life! But everything he had with him was thrown overboard Remember, every step away from God’s purpose is a step down!

Second, it cost him PEACE OF MIND. You know you can have it all; money, possessions, security, a good job and family. But without the peace of God, all these things are empty. Every step away from God’s purpose is a step down 

Third, it cost him his DIGNITY. He probably ended up smelling and looking rather fishy! But it was more than just personal appearance. The rebuke of the sailors ‘how can you be asleep when we are dying?’ must have really stung! What a hypocrite Jonah must have sounded when he had said to the sailors, ‘I worship the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land? Every step away from God’s purpose is a step down! 

Lastly, we see that it cost him HIS LIFE. Of course we know from the rest of the story that God chose to save his life. But at that moment, as far as the sailors and Jonah were concerned, Jonah’s disobedience had led to a deserved death for him. Every step away from God’s purpose is a step down! 

 Are you a runner? What are the areas in our lives that we are potentially running away from God?

Running from Relationship – Some of us don’t want to get too close to God. Perhaps we’ve been hurt before. Maybe we’re just afraid of what He might ask us to give up or to do. Or perhaps we’ve been turned away by the behavior of hypocrites who claim to be Christians. The real issue here is trust. I don’t trust that God has my best interest at heart. And so whether we’re serving God and working in church, or have never surrendered our lives to Jesus, we’re runners from relationship, on a one-way ticket to Tarshish!

Running from Obedience – Some of us are holding on to something in our lives that displeases God. We know it’s not right but right now it’s what we want! I know God doesn’t want me to date this man, or to sleep with my girlfriend, or to cheat on my wife, or to neglect my children, or to look at porn. We may even be justifying ourselves by saying, ‘God is the one who made me this way’ or ‘surely God understands’ or ‘surely, this is even better for the kids’. But deep inside, we know we’re on the first boat to Tarshish!

Running from Purpose – For some of us, we no longer have a passion to share about God with others. Life with God has become dry, our love has grown cold. We’re no longer as excited to tell others around us about God. We’re surrounded by people who don’t attend church but rarely think about inviting them. Our family members are in trouble, we can see our un-churched colleagues struggling with issues God has sorted out for us. But we’re not living lives that are bringing others closer to God and to their purpose. And yet God wants our lives to count for much more than just ourselves. He wants to invite us to join Him in a daring mission to show His love to a needy world. He wants to ignite our hearts with the same passion He has for lost people.

Stop running! In one way or the other, we’ve all been runners. But God is teaching us something. Every step away from God’s purpose is a step down!

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4 Responses to “Ignite – Run”

  1. chebet kose Says:

    Am blessed.Thank you


  2. Most welcome… Please feel free to share with your friends and family. Blessings


  3. Standing on Sunday, praying that God would ignite the fire in me to reach out to the lost, I felt really challenged. Sometime last year I reconnected with a group of my classmates after about 24yrs. From the moment we started communicating, I have this desire to impact their lives and somehow draw them closer to God. Only a few of us are actually born again, I realized that recently, I have not even thought or prayed for them specifically, I’ve been busy with my life and serving, and working out my salvation! What is that?
    totally rebuked and turning over a new leaf! God helping me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not a comment, just letting you know that we’re streaming also in The Gambia, West Africa.

    Liked by 1 person

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