So, believe it or not, I have been running. Running as far and as fast as I can.
No, I haven’t been running physically. That hurts my shins. A lot.
The kind of running I have been doing has been spiritual. And let me tell you something:
It hurts more than physical running does.
I can’t remember who, most likely Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once stated that it is more costly to not follow Jesus than it is to follow Him. Or maybe it was C.S. Lewis. For all I know, it was both of them.
Either way, that statement, that idea, is a trustworthy one.
It is indeed more costly, and the most dangerous, endeavor to undertake. Running from God is very dangerous.
And I don’t mean that it is more dangerous, and more difficult, because of the wrath of God and His response to our running.
Let me be clear about this: God will pursue us if we run, but not with wrath. Rather, God will pursue us with love and patiently wait for us to stop running and turn back to Him. Yes, He will allow difficult circumstances to come into our lives and we will have a harder time in life than we would if we pursued God’s call on our lives, but we can’t blame God for the mess we get ourselves into.
That being said, there comes a point when you can’t run anymore. You get so tired, and you are in so much pain, that you have to stop running.
This isn’t some kind of taking a break or something like that. This is a full stop. And you can’t start again.
You have no choice but to turn around and go the way you came, returning to God and His calling on your life.
There are two great examples of this found in the Bible.
Sleeping with the Fishes
The first one that comes to mind is the story of Jonah. We all know Jonah, right?
Jonah was called to preach a message of judgment. to the people of Nineveh. Now, Nineveh was a pretty wicked place, and they weren’t well liked. A lot of people actually felt like Nineveh deserved whatever punishment God would throw at them.
Jonah was one of those people. When Jonah received his marching orders from God, he decided to go the other way. Jonah even tells God that the reason he ran was because he knew that the people of Nineveh would repent and that God would have mercy on them (Jonah 4:1-3).
Well, as the story goes, Jonah’s attempt to run away was thwarted, first by a fierce storm and then by being swallowed by a large fish. He spent three days and three nights in that fish (1:17).
Jonah ran until he couldn’t run anymore. Only when he responded to God’s call did his life get better. Not only that, but a city that was set apart for destruction was saved.
Eating with the Pigs
Another classic example of running til you can’t run anymore is found in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you the whole story word for word.
However, as we know, the son demanded his share of the inheritance and then ran off, living free with his newfound fortune. Then a nasty plague hit and he lowered himself to live among pigs and feed them and, quite possibly, eat the slop he was feeding them.
He had hit rock bottom. Having spent all his money on partying and women, and having no friends (because he had no money), there was nothing for this guy to do. He couldn’t run anymore.
So, he went home. True, he went home with intention of becoming a slave, but he went home. And he was welcomed home!
His life got better, his father was happier, he had his family and friends back. All because he stopped running and returned to God.
The Benefits of Returning Home
Responding positively to God’s call isn’t just about us. It’s about the people around us, too.
When we respond positively to the call of God on our lives, it creates a sort of ripple effect in our lives. Our response could lead us to a place where the gospel needs to be preached and someone hears it for the first time from us and they are saved.
Or our story encourages another person to respond to God’s call on their lives. Or we end up starting a movement that impacts hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Whatever your return looks like, it’s not all about you. It’s about God moving in this world to bring about change and salvation.
My Personal Marathon
This is what I have been running from: this blog, my ministry, my calling to preach and teach. I even swapped degree programs in college to get away from it.
And I am tired. So very tired. I have been in spiritual turmoil every since I started running.
Now the running is over and the slow walk home has begun. The start hasn’t been easy. My times of testing and temptation have been fiercer than ever, and I have fallen in the road more times than I can count.
I’ve been dragged down by thoughts of incompetence and my glaring lack of qualifications.
The enemy has tormented me a time or two and has done all he can to prevent me from moving forward on the path God has designed for me.
But I’m done running.