Running from God, Part 2
From the series You Were Made for More
Have you ever driven a stick shift? Most people have a hard time using the clutch to shift from one gear to another. In this program, guest teacher Ryan Ingram explains how that struggle translates to our spiritual lives – as he picks up in our series “You Were Made for More”. Don’t miss how we can shift our lives to the more God has for us, as we continue our study of the book of Jonah.
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About this series
You Were Made for More
Facing the "Jonah" in All of Us
What do you know about the story of Jonah? Maybe you remember something about a big fish, a violent storm, and an evil city called Nineveh. Well, in this 10-part series, Chip has teamed up with his son Ryan Ingram to teach through the book of Jonah… and share there’s actually a lot more to this familiar Bible adventure for us to learn. They’ll unpack what Jonah’s life reveals about handling adversity, God’s love for all people, and how we can experience the more we were created for.More from this series
I want to say something that is so obvious, but we have to say it. When we run from God, we shift away from the more we are made for.
How do we run from God? I think it’s in the areas where His will doesn’t make sense. I think it’s honestly, most of the time, don’t we have a better plan than God’s? I know You created the universe and all that stuff and it seemed like You had some pretty good Old Testament plans but I’ve got a pretty good plan for my life. I got it from here.
We run from Him when we resist what God has clearly shown us, revealed to us in His Word. When you go, okay, there’s much that when He said, “This is how life is to operate, how life is to work, that He has been so clear on. And we just go, “No, I just, I pick and choose the parts that I like and I don’t like this part, but I like that part.” And it’s when we run from God, when we run from God, we shift away from the more we are made for.
Well, then how do we shift into the more we are made for? Let me give you two things that God has shown us clearly. These are two fundamental shifts we need to make in our lives to live out who God has made you to be and into the person He has created you to be.
The first is simply this shift. The shift to God’s heart for the world. God’s heart for the world. To embrace His heart for the world and the way He sees the entire world around you. John 3:16 is probably one of the most famous verses in the entire world, and even if you don’t go to church, you know this verse. And it says this, “For God so,” help me out, “loved the world.” “For God so loved.” Like, the attitude, the intention, the disposition of the God of the universe is not that He’s against you, out to get you, down on you, but loves you.
And who does He love? The world. Every single person on the planet, regardless of whether you agree with their politics or not, regardless of where they live, regardless of what they are doing, regardless of how they are living, He says, “I love them with an everlasting, passionate, all-consuming love.”
“Whether they are Ninevites or Israelites, I love them. I love them.” And God sees the great heartache and pain of the world and He sends His Son right into the heart of it? Right into the heart for you and for me. “That He gave His one and only Son. That whoever believes, puts the weight of their life on Him, shall not,” and will you say this word with me? “…perish.”
Like, God’s heart is that you would not perish, but have eternal life, or it’s the eternal life, now. Notice that it’s present tense, “have.” It’s the eternal kind of life of peace and joy and hope that begins now in the presence of Jesus, the Spirit deposited inside you, and forever more.
And His heart’s desire is, “I so love you, I so love you, I’m so for you. And there is a sickness of the soul that has separated you called sin from My presence and there’s a direction and intention that that pathway is destruction. And this is My heart for you. My heart is to keep you from harm and to bring you into My family. I love you.” Isn’t it a fascinating thing that God calls this prophet to Nineveh and he runs the opposite way.
You know, I was wrestling this week of, like, why didn’t Jonah want to go to Nineveh? And I think my human, kind of, first reaction is, like, well, Nineveh and you heard who they are, it’s like, “You’re going to die.” You got a word like that, that ain’t good.
But at the end, chapter 4, Jonah tells us. He says, “I knew You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.” He is quoting Deuteronomy, the very character and nature of God, because he knew that he’s going to Nineveh to proclaim this news. What is he giving them? He’s giving them a warning. He’s giving them a head’s up.
You ever wonder why you give somebody a head’s up? “Hey, head’s up!” I was playing golf the other day, “Fore!” Look out! Why do you give somebody a head’s up? Well, you give them a head’s up and let them know that harm is coming, destruction is coming, a ball is flying through the air and if you don’t look up, you might get hit in the head with it. And so, I’m going to give you a warning, I’m going to yell it out, because I want to keep you from harm. Head’s up.
And Jonah says, “I don’t want to give them a head’s up, because I’m afraid they’ll listen and repent and they won’t get what they deserve.” Because I was thinking, like, okay, who do I give a head’s up? Who do I say, “Look out”? Who do I let them know, man, “Don’t go down that direction”? Well, certainly people I love. And I was like, well, it’s just people you love. And I started, well, no, it’s more than that. It’s more than just people you love, it’s people I like. Well, no, it’s even more than that. I mean, you see a ball coming out, it’s a total stranger, what are you going to say? “Head’s up! Watch out.”
So, who are the people that you would not say, “Head’s up” or “Look out” to? The people you hate. The people you want to get hurt. Now, chances are you don’t have any Ninevite at your workplace. And these extremes sometimes cause us to miss out on the moment. You know, in Jesus’ day, in the cultural customs of their day when He said, “Love your enemy,” an enemy defined was simply one whom you would not have into your home. All of a sudden, it expands.
And head’s up, there’s heartache coming. I don’t think we do a good job at this, because we live in the world of, like, “You do you and you know what? You’re going to get what you deserve.” Like, when we get God’s heart for the world, He so loved that He gave, He sent. He’s like, “I don’t want any harm. I so love the Ninevites and I know what they are doing is so broken. But I’m going to send you there to give them a head’s up, because I love you. God’s heart.”
And we take this verse so personally and it’s wonderful. And that’s absolutely true, but we have to expand it out to your neighbors, to your co-workers, to your classmates, to that person who posts that just annoys you online, to the person of the opposite political party.
And where we begin to get God’s heart, that He has this everlasting, all-consuming love and He sees that there’s a direction and path that you’re headed. There’s a process of the state of your heart that – perish, destruction, harm is coming – and we can’t help but say we love you. Head’s up.
First fundamental shift is that we have to embrace God’s heart for the world. He’s clear on that.
Secondly, is then respond to God’s calling on your life. God’s calling on your life. And you’re like, “Well, Ryan, I don’t have a calling. You’re a pastor. You have a calling. In fact, you are paid to be good. I’m good for nothing.” No, wait a second, that’s not…right?
That’s for prophets. Notice what Jesus said. Final words to His disciples, we know it as the Great Commission. “And Jesus came to them and said, ‘Therefore, all authority,’” or all authority, “has been given to Me.” By the way, real quick, “all authority,” means Jesus has the final say.
Jesus gets to say and be able to be the one who is like, “Hey, this is what is going to happen.” He’s in charge. He has all power, all authority in heaven and on earth, “It has been given to Me.”
Then He says this, “Therefore, in light of that reality, go. Go and make disciples.” Go and tell people, “Head’s up.” Go and let them know that He loves them with an everlasting love and has done what we could not do [for ourselves].
And you no longer have to work your way to God, but God has worked His way to you and He has done and covered the cross and the pain and the punishment and invites you into the family of God. “Therefore go.” And then when we hear the “go” we’re like, well, “Is it Nineveh?” Five hundred and fifty miles away from home.
It’s interesting, the tense of that word in the Greek, “go” is actually “while you go.” While you go. “Therefore, as you go about your day, make disciples.” Therefore, as you are going to work, make disciples. Therefore, as you go to your school. Therefore, as you go to your CrossFit. Therefore, as you go, you know, to your spin class. As you go to the coffee shop. As you go wherever you go, as you go, that you embrace you are a called one by God, separated out, immensely loved to share and express His love to a hurting and broken world, one in which He died for, He died for you, you experience His grace. And how could you not share that? That is the more.
In fact, the apostle Paul, when he’s writing to Philemon, he said this. And it’s this short little book, it’s a letter to this church leader. And he says, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you’ll have a full understanding of every good thing you have in Christ.” Like, there’s something about this that when we are active in sharing, when we begin to just share what God has done in our life, we experience the more we are made for. It sets your heart afire and you begin to experience Him in unique and profound ways.
I think we run from that. I think we are running from our calling. I think we are running from our calling in our day the same reason, maybe, that Jonah ran. See, he prophesied that Israel would be successful in this campaign and expand their borders. Well, you know what happened to him. He’s a hero. The wealthy, the elite, the noble loved him.
I’m sure he got paid handsomely. He had a very comfortable life. Can you imagine what they would think of him if he went to their arch-enemy and gave them a head’s up? He would be hated, wouldn’t he?
I want to give us just a very simple application “Prayer, care, share” - where you would write down three people that are in your life, in your world who do not know Jesus. And then pray for them every single day for five weeks.
See, we complicate it. Would you write down three names, at least, and pray for them? Would you write, “John 3:16” and then the prayer that I have underneath there.
Heavenly Father, would You give me an opportunity to share with someone in some way about You today?”
When I was a senior in high school, this became a reality. It was the summer before my senior year that God got a hold of my heart. In high school, I wasn’t really walking with Jesus and I was trying to just fit in. I mean, like, I just want to fit in. It was so intimidating, right? I wasn’t popular, I just was trying to hang out with anybody that would hang out with me.
And then over the summer, like, Jesus got a hold of my heart. And there’s something that happens, like, when you encounter Jesus and He gets a hold of your heart, it’s like you’re so excited and you want everyone to experience what you just experienced. You’re like, “This is amazing!” And so, I was sitting in my U.S. Gov class at the beginning of school. Our football coach was teaching it. It was dreadfully boring and there was like, we’re sitting around tables. There’s like, five of us at a table. And so, like, I have this newfound passion and excitement and faith in Jesus. And I turned to Preston.
Now, Preston was the most popular kid in our school. I mean, he knew everybody; everybody knew him. Everybody wanted to be him. He was, like, I mean, so cool and I was so not. And I just turned to him and I said, this is how sophisticated I was at seventeen, “Has anybody told you about Jesus?” Now, mind you, the football coach is lecturing on about something, who knows? “Has anybody told you about Jesus?” And then Preston kind of looks at me and goes, “No.” And I asked, “Can I?” “Sure?”
And I’ve got to believe it was just simply because we were stuck in class and it was boring as all get out and he’s like, “Yeah, why not? I don’t know. This crazy kid sitting next to me, I’ve seen him around, sure.”
And I just began to share how Jesus changed my life. That was as simple as that. At the end of class, you know what he said to me? He’s like, “Could we talk more about this?” I was like, “Yeah.” And he was like, “Could I come over to your house and talk about this?” “Yeah!” “Could I invite some friends?” “Sure?” And all of a sudden, a guy who doesn’t know Jesus started a Bible study at my house to know Jesus.
And I began on a 3x5 card and I wrote down the names of every one of those guys, and I just began to pray for them. Every day I just sat by my bedside table. And I know this isn’t the way it always ends up, because sometimes we are praying for people for years and years and years and eventually God shows up. But I got to see every single person on my 3x5 card come to know Jesus.
Preston was April 24th, 1999. It’s tattooed on his arm. Years later he would get married on that day, because it was so significant in his life. To this day, one of my dear friends. My wife, for my fortieth last year had people share, send in videos to share who were significant in my life. And Preston is on there thanking for a moment that a seventeen-year-old kid just got outside of himself because Jesus had changed his life and couldn’t help but share it in probably the worst way.
And God honors that. He’s like, “That changed my life; thank you.” The entire course of his life. God’s heart for the world He loves. And where we would embrace that God’s calling on our life is the people in your world to just simply begin to love them. It’s the more. It’s the more we are made for.