EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)–Who is the most famous fugitive in the Bible? Jonah is famous for being the prophet who ran from God, but then ran into God in the depths of the ocean. He discovered there are no hiding places from God.
Think of the hideouts and hideaways Jonah used to hide from God:
— Geography. Jonah thought he could hide from God in a foreign land.
— Religious prejudice. Jonah thought the pagan Assyrians didn’t deserve God’s compassion.
— Self-pity. Jonah thought God was being unreasonable, so he retreated into feeling sorry for himself.
— Stubbornness. Jonah thought he could just say “No” to God.
Of course, hiding from God is impossible, but sometimes building hideouts and hideaways is something we do anyway. Then God comes knocking, just as He did with Jonah, to ask why we’re hiding from Him.
People don’t usually quit their jobs and move to a foreign country to hide from God as Jonah did. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try to build modern hideouts and hideaways. Think about the following examples. Have you built any of these in your life?
— Work/career/advancement. Sometimes we know God wants us to do something for Him, but we hide out in our jobs or careers. When He comes looking for us we say, “But Lord, I’m working to provide for my family … oh, yes, and to be able to give more to Your work.” Or, “But, Lord, you gave me talents. Don’t You want me to use them?” Or, “But, Lord, I just need the next five to 10 years to get established in my career. Then I can start cutting back on work.” Working hard is commendable. But since all our work is for the Lord (Colossians 3:23), He may have a different assignment for us in His kingdom. We have to be prepared to do what He wants, not what we want.
— Family. This is subtle. Everyone knows family is important to God. We don’t know if Jonah had a wife and children, but what if he’d said, “Sorry, Lord. I can’t go preach to the Assyrians. I have to be at my son’s soccer game.” Who hasn’t allowed family to become top priority and used the Bible to justify it? We are in complete control of our family’s schedules, and if family leaves little time for God … whose fault is that? It’s a sad day when we’re so consumed with family that we can’t hear the Lord knocking on our own door (Revelation 3:20).
— Leisure. This is another hideout that’s easy to justify “in the name of the Lord.” “The Lord doesn’t want us to be so stressed out, but to carve out time for recreation and entertainment.” However, we live in a society in which entertainment is a way of life. Jesus and His disciples drew away from the crowds on occasion, but that was so they could be refreshed for further ministry. Hiding from God in leisure is a sign we have let the world distract us from the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
— Ministry. What better way to avoid doing something the Lord has called us to do than by doing something He hasn’t called us to do! “But, Lord, can’t You see that I’m up to my neck in six-year-old boys in my Sunday School class? I couldn’t possibly take the Gospel to the homeless in the inner city.” When we hide from the Lord in ministry, we are missing our most important ministry: to the Lord (Luke 10:41).
Are you running from the Lord and hiding out in any of these places — or other places only you (and the Lord) know about? Don’t forget: There are no hideouts or hideaways God does not know about. You will eventually come face-to-face with Him at a time and in a place you least expect.
Be a follower, not a fugitive. Run to the Lord, not away from the Lord. Hide in the Lord, not from the Lord. When the Lord sees you next, may He see your face, not your back.
David Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and chancellor of San Diego Christian College. For more information on Turning Point, go to www.TurningPointOnline.org.