How good and pleasing it can be to our flesh when we come upon a ship that’s available to take us in the opposite direction from where God has clearly called us to go. We think, “If it’s available, it must be for me!” This is what I like to call “The Jonah Justification.”
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 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. (Jonah 1:1-3)
The Gospel frees us to live a life filled with unimaginable joy. But all too often we become fearful about the demands of the Gospel, rather than rejoicing in the delights of the Gospel, and we flee to Tarshish—a destination in the opposite direction of Nineveh—on the first available ship we can find. Oh, we delight in obedience when obedience is delightful. But how often obedience demands from us that which we would rather not give! So, like Jonah, we run.
Yet the beauty in Jonah’s story is how God would not let him do what he wanted. God pursued Jonah . . . and He is pursuing you and me today. Like Jonah, we can run but we can’t hide! We may justify our retreat in our own minds . . . but that makes no difference to God! God is in the business of sending us places we don’t want to go and calling us to minister to people we don’t want to minister to.
A quick moment of meditation today might not send us racing off into the “Ninevehs” of this world, but it will go a long way in keeping us out of the ticket line for a seat on a ship that would take us in the opposite direction! Perhaps a moment of pause this day will have you making that long overdue call or writing that note of thanksgiving. Maybe it will cause you to reflect on the forgiveness that Jesus has poured out upon you—and continues pouring out upon you moment by moment—which will make you willing to forgive others.
It may seem safer and easier to board a ship that’s docked at your port, promising to take you in some other direction from the one God is calling you to take. But we must always keep in mind that every available ship is not available for us to board. Sometimes they are there simply to test our commitment and discipline.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
There is always a way that seems right to us, but if it is not God’s way, it leads to death in the end. It could be physical death or spiritual death. God knows what’s best for us. He knows exactly what we need in order to grow into the person He is calling us to be.
So . . . where are you headed today? If you find yourself on a ship heading in the wrong direction, get off immediately! God may not send a great fish to protect you and propel you to the shore of your sanctification . . . but He will provide you the means and the strength to get going in the right direction again.
One last thing: there was a way of obedience that led to death . . . and it was the way Jesus traveled. He knew that by obediently following the will of His Father in Heaven, it would lead Him to the cross. He went that way with you in His mind and on His heart. He never even glanced in the other direction!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!