Upon Jesus’ resurrection he tasked his disciples to make disciples with what we call the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20), and we believe this same commission applies to all believers too. That said, it can be a pretty hard commission to follow. I often doubt my effectiveness in doing any of those things and worry incessantly about talking about God withnon-believers. It’s actually pretty scary! If you’re someone who considers running away for any reason when thinking about speaking with anyone about God, then you can come and join Jonah and myself and countless others who struggle with answering the commission.

 

Jonah’s story is a short one near the end of the Old Testament about a man who God calls to preach to a bunch of wicked men in Nineveh. Jonah’s response to God is to run away because he doesn’t want God’s grace to extend to them. I don’t know if he had access to the Psalms, but it’s abundantly clear in Psalm 139:7-12 that we can’t flee from God no matter where we go. Nonetheless, Jonah tries to flee the presence of God by going as far as he could fathom – Tarshish, somewhere in modern day Spain. I think the equivalent for us today might be boarding the next shuttle bound for space.

 

Those familiar with the story know that Jonah’s attempt to flee God goes quite poorly, and Jonah ends up inside the stomach of a fish. Here is where Jonah finally decides that he’s stuffed up and calls on God. We can see that it takes some considerable unrest and distress for Jonah to have reached that point thoughWe might expect God to be angry but we see Him be patient and again calls Jonah to the task.

 

This reminds me of my own life! When things are going well, it can become all too easy to ignore God’s voice and instead seek out my own path. And then, like Jonah, left to my own devices I find myself in some desolate place like the belly of a fish and realise ‘uh oh… God I need you now!’ If I were GodI think I’d be rather smug and say ‘I told you so’ like I’m tempted to do whenever I find out I’m right (which Alanna can tell you is often!), but instead God just says to Jonah the exact same command He had given the first time. Knowing now that it’s impossible to flee God, Jonah does as he’s asked.

 

I’m actually jealous of Jonah’s preaching that happens next in chapter three. His message consists of about eight words, and the people of Nineveh start to believe in God and turn from their wicked ways. I don’t know about you, but I strongly suspect that God is involved in this process rather than any inspiring way Jonah might have said the words! What this can tell us, then, is that God can use even our most unwilling and shortest words to bring about His purposes. The scripture from Matthew I begun with ends “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (28:20b).

 

What’s clear is that God is with us all the time. It is God who convicts hearts, it is God who wins people to His kingdom. He does ask for our involvement, but He gives us the necessary tools to participate. 

 

Being well versed in Psalm 139 I’ve never tried to physically flee from God’s presence, but I certainly do try to avoid Him in other ways, whether it’s avoiding praying or trying to go about life without His help. In particular, with mentoring at the school, from the start I have required God to make it happen because I felt ill equipped. But as soon as things begin to go well I often start to take credit for the successes, and as you might expect, by taking things upon myself they start to go downhill again. As a perfectionist I get upset by the perceived failure, and in my own version of the fish-belly I call on God to take over, and once again God comes through with love and grace and things just work

 

So take encouragement that all of us experience the desire to run when God calls us to speak about our faith with non-Christians, even prophets of the bible. God is gentle and patient and wants you to be a part of His plans, even if He has to ask twice. Then, God will provide all the necessary tools to do just what He asks.