Thursday, August 11, 2016

Are you running? (A Short Study on Jonah)'s something I used to do and something I need to do. I type the word and can hear Forrest Gump say, "I was runnang." Friend, whether you enjoy running or not, whether you've jogged today or haven't since school, can I remind you we are all running a race.

We're not competing against one another and we're not sure where the finish line is, but we could compare life to a race. Hebrews 12:2 refers to this - "Let us run with perseverance the race set before us..." and 1 Corinthians talks about it as well in 9:24, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

Today, I invite you to join me as we study one who ran - the prophet Jonah. Are you familiar with his story? Remember the big fish? That's part of it, but there are so many more things we can learn about God, Jonah and even ourselves in these four short chapters. Join me?

This post is a bit different than my typical ones as it requires you to open your Bible and do some studying for yourself. I trust God will meet you in the pages of Scripture and the Holy Spirit will give you discernment as you read the Word that has the power to transform. If you feel led to do this with a friend, I encourage you to do just that. Tonight at Titus24U I had the opportunity to work thru this study with sisters in Christ and I'm grateful for the insight they shared and the work God did. If you want to do it individually, I know God will meet you there as well. Also feel free to leave comments or ask questions, so we can grow together in this community as well.

Before we begin, let's pray -
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord we approach your throne with confidence. We trust you will speak through your word and work in our hearts. Help us know you better as we see you in this story. Help us learn from Jonah's example and apply the lessons to our lives. Lord, humble our hearts and give us a teachable spirit. Use this time for your glory and our good. In Jesus' name...Amen

What do you do when you make a mistake? When you are in a hard place? How do you respond when God leads in a direction you don’t want to go? When He gives a job you don’t want to do? When He requires an action you think is too hard? Do you run away? Try to hide?

Open your Bible to Jonah and read chapter one. Who was Jonah? Describe his attitude towards God. How did he respond to God’s call?

How does God respond? 

Have you ever acted like Jonah?

Now move on to chapter 2. These verses are a prayer Jonah prayed. When did he pray this? Where was he? What brought him to this place?

Do you see how Jonah's running led him to the belly of a whale? Well, he didn't literally run in there, but his heart ran away from God and because of that he found himself in a stinky, smelly place. Do you ever run from God when He asks you to do something you don't want to do? Something that seems impossible? 

Friend, running for our health is good, but when it comes to running from God it's all bad. Read the first six verses of chapter 2 again. What were the consequences of Jonah's running? Who allowed these consequences to happen? 

Think about your own experience with running away from God...have you too fell in the pit? Felt trapped? Lacked peace? 

Jonah 1:3 tells us Jonah payed a fare to get on the ship so he could go in the opposite direction God had told him. Friend, we too pay a price when we disobey God and go our own way or do our own thing. Our running has consequences...may we remember that the next time we're tempted to lace up the sneakers of our heart!

Now take a minute and focus on Jonah 2:8 - "Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them." I believe (and so do most commentators) that Jonah is including himself in the those he is talking about. What worthless idol was he clinging to? What worthless idol do you cling to? 

We either worship God or we don't - there is no neutral ground. We don't have to have a golden calf to worship an idol - we can worship self, comfort, people, money, sports, food or anything else we put above God. When we do, we turn away from God's love. We must set our hearts on God or we'll be running in the wrong direction.

We've looked at the consequences and reason for Jonah's let's continue in his prayer and see the start of him running the right way. What insight do we get from verse 7? Do you ever forget God?

What do we see Jonah do in verse 9? How has his heart changed? 

Friend, if we want to run with and for God, we must do what Jonah did - be grateful, keep our promises, admit Truth and confess Jesus as Lord. 

As we reflect on these two chapters, I want to ask you a question - "What do we learn about God?" This sounds like a simple question, but take your time - there are many answers. 

We learn much about God and who He is in this story, but the lessons don't end there. What do we learn about prayer? What about following God?

One of the things I glean from Jonah's prayer is the importance of hiding Scripture in our heart. The chances are pretty slim that Jonah had a Bible in the belly of the fish, but he did pray words from Scripture. Look at Psalm 18:6, 31:22 and 42:7. Do you see any similarities? Have you hidden God's Word in your heart so you can pray it back to Him?

It's good and necessary to learn about God, His Word and His people. The next step is to apply this to our lives, so I encourage you to pause for awhile and really go to God in prayer so He can examine your heart and help you answer these last few questions. I also urge you to take the time to write them down...putting something on paper is powerful and is a step towards acknowledging our problem, struggle and/or sin. 

Are you running from God?

What are the consequences?

Are you willing to repent?

How can you run with and for God instead of from and against Him?

Friend, I didn't just pray for God to lead women to my blog, I asked Him to meet you here. I trust He did that as you spent time in His living and active Word. Chances are some of the stuff He revealed to you is hard...don't run away from it. Remember He is a God who will go to great lengths to show us running away is bad. We can't hide from God and He will never forsake us. He is sovereign and His plan will unfold. It will go much better for us if we work with Him and not against Him. 

In a spiritual sense, the question isn't - "Are you running?" but instead "Are you running towards God or away from Him?" Friend, He set the course, He knows the direction you are going and longs for you to finish well! Instead of running for gold, let's run for HIS GLORY!!

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