Running From God

Title: Running From God

Bible Book: Jonah

Author: J. Mike Minnix

Subject: God, Running from; Disobedience; Witnessing; Evangelism


Running From God

J. Mike Minnix



Today we look at the man who tried to run from God. This story is as up-to-date as today's morning newspaper. We can see our age, our generation, and even ourselves in this account of Jonah. First, I am going to give you an outline of this book and then we shall look at the first 2 chapters of this book today. Perhaps we will consider the other chapters in a later message. This book breaks down very naturally into 4 parts:

1. Running - chapter 1 - Fleeing from the presence of God

2. Swimming - chapter 2 - Falling into the hands of God

3. Walking - chapter 3 - Focusing on the will of God

4. Sitting - chapter 4 - Fussing about the love of God

I really like the book of Jonah, for more than one reason. After studying Hebrew for two years at Gardner Webb University, I took my third year of Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary over 40 years ago. For the final exam, our professor told us that he was going to choose a chapter from the Old Testament for us to translate. Of course, we had no idea ahead of time which chapter that might be. Out of 66 Old Testament books he could have chosen a chapter from any Bible book. In my studies at Gardner Webb College, Dr. Thurmond Lewis had used Jonah as a book for us to work through word-by-word during my second year in Hebrew. You cannot image my delight when the seminary professor at Southeastern announced the day of the Hebrew final exam that the chapter we were to translate was Jonah, chapter one. I knew that chapter word-for-word in Hebrew and naturally aced that test with a perfect score! Any other chapter from a different Bible book would have been more difficult for me, but Jonah, chapter one, was perfect for me. So, since that day I have had an even greater affection for this book.

I also love this book because it reveals so much about human nature and about God's nature. We are going to look today at Jonah Running and Jonah Swimming. There are great truths in these two chapters and they can edify the saved and evangelize the unsaved.

This story is not fictional. Perhaps you have heard the story of the man in the community who was a great liar. He just could not tell the truth. One day he had gone fishing and when he returned he told everyone he had caught 265 bass in just an hour. They went to the preacher and asked him to talk to this liar and try to help him. So the preacher went to the man and tried to use a little psychology on him. The preacher told the man about a bear that came into a revival meeting where he was preaching and that a little dog was there. The little dog jumped up at the appearance of the bear and ate the bear alive. The preacher hoped this would show the liar how ridiculous his lies really sounded. "Now, what do you think of that?" the preacher asked. The man replied, "Oh, I know it is true - that was my dog." Some liars are just beyond help. But this story is not a lie or fairytale, it is a true story.

In 2 Kings 14:25 we discover that Jonah was a real person and he was a prophet of God. This person we are reading about was not someone who was the figment of an over active imagination, but was a real man who went through a strange but very important experience.

Another reference to Jonah can be found in Matthew 12:39. Here we find that Jesus speaks of the occurrence of Jonah as a real, historical event. There is no question that Jesus taught that Jonah was a real person who was swallowed by a real fish because a real God caused it to happen!

There is no better way to look at Jonah than just reading and commenting on this amazing story from the Old Testament.


A. Hearing the Word of the Lord

The Word of God came to Jonah telling him to go to Nineveh and preach a message of coming judgment. It is interesting that God declares judgment to warn us and to woo us to His salvation. God’s word is not mean-spirited, but is a message of love, grace and mercy.

What a wonder it is that that living Lord of glory chose to speak to sinful men. Jonah had in his possession the most wonderful thing possible and earth - he had God's Word. Oh that we might understand the importance of God's Word in our lives. People are looking to every kind of earthly adviser but many of the same people will never consult or open themselves to the God and His Word.

What was the word Jonah received from the Lord? It was a command, "Go." God was sending Jonah to Nineveh to preach a message of warning concerning a coming judgment. Nineveh was a large city, larger than Babylon. It was founded by Nimrod shortly after the experience at the Tower of Babel. The city was over 1,000 years old and was a pagan place. The sea-god Dagon was worshiped there. Also, the people were the enemies of the people of God. It was natural that Jonah did not wish to go there, but we who are God’s people are not to act naturally, but are rather to act in the supernatural will of God.

B. Hiding from the Face of the Lord

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh to hold a revival meeting or to pastor a church. Everything about this call disturbed Jonah. He was prejudiced against those people and had no concern about their salvation. Prejudice is a cruel and evil thing. The Bible declares that those who are in heaven are praising the Lamb of God are from every tribe, tongue and people on earth. God does not love any race, any gender, or nation more than another. He is not willing that any should perish but that all might come to repentance.

This call from God was to bring Jonah from Comfort to Commitment.

This call from God was to bring Jonah from Cowardice to Courage.

This call from God was to bring Jonah from Complacency to Compassion.

Jonah just did not want to go. God said,"GO," and Jonah said, “NO", and we say, "UH OH!"

We know that Jonah is in trouble when we read, "But Jonah ran away from the Lord..." Isn't that something - a man running from God.  Excalty where did Jonah expect to go where God was not present? You can run from God, but you can't hide from God. I expect that everyone of us has attempted the impossible task for running from and hiding from God. In essence, you may run from the will of God but you cannot ever escape the presence of the Lord.

Disobedience to God led to disaster in Jonah's life, and being disobedient to God will ultimately lead to disaster in every life. This is still true. It has always been true. That is why we have an epidemic of unwed mothers, millions of slaughtered unborn babies, a plague of alcoholism and drug abuse, shattered homes, and a teenage suicide rate that staggers the imagination. In fact, I read recently that suicides have climbed so high among all ages in America that it now is higher than those who die in traffic accidents. Listen carefully, the problem today is one of disobedience to God in the life of His people, and one area where that is especially true is in the area of soul winning. Jonah did not want to witness to these people even though the Lord had told him to do it.

This is one of the missing ingredients for revival in our generation. God has told us to go but we have said 'no' and the result is a world on the brink of disaster. You may think that I am exaggerating the link between our witness and the problems we are facing. I will spare you a long discourse, but I can share one fact to emphasize this fact. When we look at the statistics among Christians, we find that the percentage of people experiencing problems in our nation is the same among us as it is with the world. We have become like the people who don’t know Christ. It is difficult to tell a Christian from a lost person today. The rate of almost every sinful habit in America is the same between those who claim no relationship to the Lord and those who claim to be born again.

Our witness to the world is not only to tell people about Jesus but it is also to live a different kind of life that backs our witness. We are to follow Jesus. Sadly, our witness to the world today has become this: Knowing Jesus doesn’t make much difference in one’s life. No wonder we are collapsing as a society, a nation and a world. And, we note that this problem of disobedience is affecting our churches in a negative way.

C. Hurting the Cause of the Lord

Jonah was about to learn a hard lesson - a believer can't run from God. You can try but you will not succeed, even if you try, and try, and try again. Jonah was about to find out that no matter how hard you run from God, He is already ahead of you. His feet are swifter than yours. If you go to a dark place, the light to God is already there. If you go up to Heaven, He is there. If you make your bed in the place of the dead, He is there. In the words of a famous boxer, "You can run, but you cannot hide."

Jonah found a ship bound for Tarshish. It is enlightening to see how the devil will always make it easy for you to find a ship that promises to help you run from God. The devil always has an easy road out of town - a path for you to try to escape the Lord's will and way. So, Jonah ran down to the dock and there was a ship ready to leave. Let me tell you something important at this point, just because it is easy to disobey God does not mean that God is in it. Jonah ran from God and at first everything went his way. He found a boat, found room on the boat, and then went inside and fell fast asleep. He had "peace like a river" but he was out on a troubled sea outside the will of God for his life. All Jonah cared about was Jonah and since Jonah was going where Jonah wanted to go and doing what Jonah wanted to do, and as long as Jonah was not inconvenienced, then Jonah thought everything was just fine. Many people are the same way. They think they are doing well because a few things are going their way.

Listen to what Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men." Jesus said that we are "good for nothing” if we lose our saltiness (our witness). I heard a preacher who is on a salt-free diet say that when he eats anything with salt in it he can tell it right away. He said that the salt is in there saying, "I am here." When we live, truly live, for Jesus, it says to the world, “He is here!” But, when we fail to live for Him, the world goes on its merry way. At this point in Jonah’s life, he was good for nothing. He was running from speaking up for the Lord. He was running from standing up for the Lord. I wonder how many of us are doing that? Are we hiding in the comfort of the ship of anonymity? Or, are we standing up for Jesus saying, like the salt, "I am here."

Many of us are hurting the cause of our Lord because we are not standing for Him. Perhaps we are doing that because we are ashamed of our own lives. Some may be running from God because we are involved in things we know we should not be doing. Some are just lazy. Some are indifferent. Some are rebellious. Whatever the reason, it is harming the cause of Christ and it is harming you, or it soon will harm you! Jonah found that out the hard way.

You may think you are hurting no one through your behavior. I want you to look at the sailors who were on the ship with Jonah. Note the fear and dread he caused them. Look at the Ninevites who were nearing the point of incurring the wrath of God. What was Jonah doing? Sleeping! Many Christians are just like that. We sleep while the world worries.

At times I am asked if it bothers me if someone falls asleep in church. Friends, it bothers more that we fall asleep in the World and fall asleep apart from the will of God in a world. As the world becomes more pagan, the church seems to have fallen into a deeper sleep. Are you hurting the cause of Christ? If you or I are disobedient to the will of God we are hurting others and we are headed for a few hurts of our own.


We learn from this story that Jonah was cast into the sea. He was going for an unwanted and impossible swim.

A. A Provision for Jonah

Note that Chapter 1, verse 17 tells us that God provided Jonah with a great fish. There is a lesson here for us. God did not send the storm or the fish to punish Jonah, He rather sent both to turn Jonah around and to transport him to his proper destination. God gave Jonah the first recorded submarine ride in history. Friend, the STORMS AND THE GREAT FISH that God sends our way are NOT TO DESTROY us BUT rather TO DELIVER us! You may be going through some problem right now that is perfectly designed to draw you closer to God. You see, God does not want to HURT you – His desire is to HELP you! It is the devil who comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. Our Lord is a God of love. So God sent a transportation system to get Jonah to the place where he belonged.

There is one thing for sure, when God got Jonah in the belly of that great fish, He got Jonah's attention. Jonah was now willing to listen to God. Sometimes the Lord must do things just like this to get our attention. Could it be that God has sent hardship into your life to help you – to guide you to the right place in your life? Yes, indeed! Don’t curse your problem. Ask God why you are going through it.

I am reminded of the story of the farmer who was teaching his son about how to treat a mule. He told the boy never to yell at a mule and to never mistreat the mule in any way. One day the boy was working with the mule but the mule would not cooperate. The ole mule sat down and would not move when the boy tried to lead him. He jerked his head this way and that way and refused to cooperate with the boy. Finally the old farmer picked up a two-by-four and wacked the daylights out of that old mule. The boy said, "Dad, I thought you said that I was never to mistreat the mule." The farmer said, "That's right, son, but sometimes you just have to get his attention." Don't make God have to get your attention.

B. A Prayer from Jonah

"In my distress I called upon the Lord"...

It is a shame that more people call on the Lord in distress than at any other time. What is greatest statement in the next line, "…and he answered me." God will use the storm and the fish to turn us around, but He is right there to hear us when we pray - like the prodigal when he came to Himself and decided to go back to the father.

When Jonah prayed, he did so sincerely. He was in distress in the digestive juices of that fish, with no food, no drinking water, no decent place to sit or lie down. Rotting fish were floating around in there - it was awful. My friends, Christians cannot go to hell, but they can know a kind of life close to it right here on earth. The most miserable man in this town today is the man who is saved by the blood of Jesus Christ but is outside the will of God for his life. That is where Jonah was, and it was not a very pleasant situation.

Jonah did not have to be in this condition. He could have avoided these awful circumstances. Please listen, if you are out of God's will, and the great fish has not come along yet, turn back to God before the storm winds start to blow and you feel yourself falling overboard. Call on God now. Believe me, the storms are coming for the child of God who is out of God's will.

Perhaps you are living in what seems like an ocean of trouble right now. Do what Jonah did and turn to God. Call upon the Lord! Do so sincerely. He will hear you and guide you toward the shoreline of peace.

C. A Praise from Jonah

What a place for a thanksgiving service - in the belly of a great fish. Jonah was thanking God before he got out of the belly of the great fish. Believe it or not, the sin of ingratitude is one of the worst of all sins. Look in Romans 1:21. In that list of terrible and horrible sins, we note that the first mentioned is that of not glorifying or giving thanks to God! If Jonah had been grateful for what God had done for him, and lived like it, he would not have ended up in the fish’s belly to begin with. In thankfulness, he would have obeyed the Word when the Lord called him.

Look at what Jonah does when he gets his gratitude in the right place. "What I have vowed, I will make good." Jonah is a changed man. He is now willing to do whatever God directs. That is what you told God when you got saved. Didn't you? In Romans 10:13 the Bible says that whosoever calls upon the name of the LORD will be saved. That means that everyone who ever really got saved did so by receiving Jesus as LORD! Lordship calls for obedience.


Jonah finally ended up on dry ground. The great fish spit him up. Even a fish can’t stomach a backslidden believer! We need to look at our own lives today. Are we living for self or for the Savior? Are we running from God or walking with God?

Someone here today is out of the will of God. You are headed for a big storm and a great fish. Turn around now. Come back to God now!

There is someone here who is sensing God’s leadership to become a part of this church family. Obey His voice. Come today and be part of a Bible-believing, Christ-exalting church family. The Word of the Lord always leads upward - just obey it.

Most importantly, someone here today is living without the assurance of a personal relationship with the Lord. When I talk about the Lord speaking to you and guiding your life, you are not sure that you know what that means. If you will open your heart, He will speak to you. His first words to you will be, "Come unto me..." Trust Him today. Turn from your own way and believe upon Him as the one and only Savior of the human soul. Trust me, you can't run from God forever, for you will meet Him one day! The time will come when you will run into Him face to face. That can be a pleasant experience or a horrible one. You can be ready to meet Him. That is why Jesus Christ went to the cross. He died to take your sins away. Come to him today. Believe on Him today. Repent of your sins and receive Him into your heart today - for this is the day of Salvation.

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