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‘Run with God,’ Vines challenges students

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Longtime Southern Baptist pastor and leader Jerry Vines challenged students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary March 20 to maintain their personal spiritual walk and preach the whole counsel of the Word of God.

Using the entire book of Jonah as his text, Vines urged students to learn from Jonah’s experience and submit to the will of God for their lives. Vines noted that though Jonah knew God’s will, he rebelled against God. The early portion of the book depicts the reluctant prophet as an escapist who is running from God, he said.

“It says in Jonah 1 that the Word of the Lord came to Jonah,” he said. “God sends special people to special places for special purposes. The call of God on Jonah’s life was to go and preach to Ninevah. Jonah knew that inherent with preaching comes the possibility that people might repent of their sin. Jonah did not want this, and instead of arising and going to Ninevah, he arose and went to Tarshish.”

The chapel sermon was part of the annual E.Y. Mullins Lectures on expository preaching. Vines is president of Jerry Vines Ministries and is a two-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., for 24 years before retiring in February 2006.

Though Jonah knew he could not escape the presence of the Lord, he still attempted to get away, Vines said. God, though, still reigned.

“The Bible says the Lord assigned the big fish to swallow Jonah,” he said. “We are dealing with a miracle here. The Lord prepared this fish to be a prison house for Jonah. R.T. Kendall says this fish was not a pleasant place to live but it was a good way to learn. If you run from God, you will find yourself in a whale of a mess, maybe not in the belly of a whale, but in a situation just as severe.”

In chapter two, Jonah turns into a “Biblicist” and began running to God, Vines said. Like the prodigal son in Jesus’ New Testament parable, Jonah turned from his rebellion in humble repentance, he added.

“Jonah made the best decision of his life in the worst place of his life,” he said. “Jonah begins praising God for his deliverance and declares that salvation is of the Lord.”

Hebrew scholars say Jonah’s prayer included eight to 15 references from the Psalms, which suggests a pattern for the believers’ prayers, Vines said.

“The Bible gives point and passion to our prayer,” he said. “The Bible activates our prayer and prayer applies our Bible.”

Quiet times should include two elements: the Word of God and prayer, Vines said. He challenged students to be serious about their devotional walk with God during seminary because preparing for ministry can be spiritually draining.

“As a student in college, I studied my Bible to take examinations and read Scripture for the purpose of testing,” he said. “I was not reading the Bible for my own spiritual growth, and I became cold in my heart toward God.”

After repenting, Jonah is restored by the Lord and becomes an “evangelist” running for God, Vines said. When Jonah submitted to God’s call and went to Ninevah, he didn’t make up a story but instead preached a message from the Lord, Vines said. That should be instructive for Christian ministers, he said.

“It is not for us to derive our own message from our own minds,” he said. “The Bible says in 2 Timothy 4, ‘I charge you before God … preach the Word.’ That is the command of the Bible. You are accountable before God for your message. He gives us the message. We don’t make up the message.”

After declaring the Lord’s judgment against Ninevah, Jonah went outside the city to wait for the result. Upon hearing of Ninevah’s repentance, the prophet became angry with the Lord, turning into a “nationalist” who, instead of running with God, was running into God, Vines said.

“Jonah says to the Lord, ‘I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. I knew that you were a compassionate God and that you would forgive them,'” he said. “It is not that Jonah did not want the Lord to be compassionate; it is just that Jonah only wanted the Lord to do that for Israel.”

While the Bible is silent on Jonah after this account, Vines speculated that the prophet eventually repented again. Vines challenged seminary students to do the same throughout their lives and ministries.

    About the Author

  • Garrett E. Wishall