Run Pt. 1 | Jonah: The Astonishing True Story

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I’m going to be honest with you. I never liked running. It never made sense to me. Especially track running. What’s so exciting about running around in circles? It’s exhausting and you always end up right back where you started. It’s like a race to see who can be first to get back to where you already are. I don’t get it! I never liked running.

Until my senior year of college.

My suite mate was a runner. This guy would run ten miles a day! And he didn’t even run track. He just did it because he liked it. And I just thought he was stupid for doing it. But seeing him always running and sweating kind of hurt my ego. I was lazy. I didn’t run unless I was late for class, and then I would show up all wheezy and sweaty. It was a little embarrassing. I realized that year that I should probably try running more often.

So I tried it. And for the first two weeks I hated it. I was sore, and it wasn’t even fun. Totally not worth it. But just shortly after those two weeks, I stopped being so sore. And I got used to running. In fact, don’t tell anybody this, but I actually started to like it. I liked pushing myself. That feeling of accomplishment was nice every time I beat my own distance. Feeling the wind fighting against me was a challenge I enjoyed. The sense of freedom I got while running full speed was invigorating. And best of all, I had a new sense of healthiness. During that year, I got used to running, and I liked it.

God is passionate about people; sinful people- those that are religious sinners, like Jonah, and those that are rebellious sinners, like Nineveh. Now, we’re all sinners, and we were all lost at some time. But He is relentless in running after lost, sinful people. Actually, He specializes in it.
Throughout the story of Jonah, there is a theme of running. God tells Jonah to run to Nineveh, but Jonah runs from God. Then Jonah gets convicted and chooses to run to Nineveh. It’s all throughout the book. But the whole reason of this running is because God cared deeply for the sinful city of Nineveh. But he also cared just as much for the runaway missionary, Jonah.
The story really has the same features of anybody reading this book. Either you haven’t yet completely understood the Gospel and let it have its saving grace implanted into your soul, like Nineveh. Or you’ve heard it, maybe even put your trust in it, but you are still trying to do things you’re way, like Jonah. Both are running in the wrong directions.
So as we walk through the story of Jonah, you’re going to see some very obvious comparisons between this story and your life. There are some things that will jump out at you and be so obvious that you can’t ignore it. But also certain treasures that require a little digging and a little more introspection. So let’s start with the main character of this story.
Interestingly, contrary to the popular children’s Sunday School belief, the book of Jonah is not about the fish, which is only mentioned three times. It’s not about Nineveh, which is mentioned only nine times. And it’s not even about Jonah, who is mentioned eighteen times. It is about God who is mentioned a whopping 38 times in the 48 verses of the book. It’s about His endless grace in pursuing the religious and rebellious sinners like you and me.
So the story is about God, and more specifically the character of God, who is both loving and merciful and who relentlessly runs after His people. If you think about it, it’s the same message as the rest of the Bible: Jesus loves people.
But that’s just the beginning. There’s a second part to this theme. Yes, Jesus loves people, but He also calls us to love people. And this part is really what we struggle with the most. We all love to say, “Oh, Jesus loves me! Jesus loves you! Jesus loves everybody!” And He absolutely does. But He calls us to love everybody too. That’s not as easy and acceptable as just letting Jesus love us.
Jonah vividly displays the hesitation to love people. God commanded Him to love a specific group of people with a specific truth, and Jonah was not willing to obey. At least, not at first. He was happy to let Jesus love him, but he wasn’t so happy to love people himself. So he did what so many of us have done at some time. Run.
What about you? We'll look a little bit more at this question and study the cause of running, but for now I simply want you to do an honest gut-check: Have you been sitting comfortably in God’s unconditional love for you without reflecting that love towards others? Have you been running from God’s command to love others like He loves you?

James Robinson has been the Youth Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, TX since June 2014. He was drawn to work with students because he believes teenagers are in a highly moldable stage of life where it is absolutely imperative they allow the Gospel to identify who they are. As a Student Pastor, James says he has the inexpressible joy of regularly speaking that life-shaping Gospel into the students' lives.