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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney

#728. AWAY FROM GOD’S PRESENCE (13/1/23)


‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.’ (Jonah 1:1-3)

Summary: Like Jonah, we will run away from God’s call if Fear, hatred and pride are not kept in check through a fresh experience of God’s presence.


You can watch this devotional at:

During my most difficult times, when I am feeling overwhelmed or alone, I can find myself imagining a life in which I am free from all responsibilities and living in the countryside. While this vision may seem appealing at first, it's important for me to recognise that it is essentially a desire to run away from God and my responsibilities. It's natural to have moments of weakness and to feel the temptation to escape from our struggles, but turning away from God is not the solution.


It's true that we cannot physically flee from the presence of God, as He is omnipresent and present in all places. However, we can distance ourselves from God in our actions and thoughts by turning away from His will and choosing to follow our own desires instead. Jonah is a good example of someone who did this, as he deliberately went in the opposite direction to where God was calling him and resisted God's will in favour of his own preferences. This can be due to a variety of factors, such as being offended by God or finding His will distasteful to us. It's important to remember that God's plans and desires for our lives are always good and loving, even if they may be difficult for us to understand or accept at times. What caused Jonah to flee from God’s call?


FEAR

It’s likely that Jonah was afraid to go to such a hostile and wicked city. This was totally outside of his comfort zone. Like Jonah, fear is something that I’m sure we all struggle with. If fear is bigger than our faith, we will run away from God’s call.


HATRED

The Assyrians were a long-standing enemy of Israel. They were a threat to them. they were renown for their idolatry and wickedness. Jonah may have been struggling with an understandable distaste for such a wicked culture. Righteous indignation at wickedness, however, becomes very wrong when we no longer want certain people to receive God’s mercy; as we shall see, later in the story, Jonah becomes angry at God for showing mercy to them! I’m sure that we can all, like Jonah, relate to finding it hard to forgive or even like certain people. If hatred eclipses mercy, we will run away from God.


PRIDE

Whilst it’s a good thing to hate wickedness, it’s never a good thing to think that we are more righteous than others; Apart from the grace of God we are all ‘dead in sin’! Jonah seems to have forgotten that he knew God because God had revealed himself to Israel by grace; he knew God’s ways because he was born into God’s chosen nation, and that by His grace. Jonah may have been thinking that the city of Nineveh, unlike Israel and himself, were not deserving of God’s mercy. Jonah seems to feel that they are unworthy of his help. We are all prone to whitewashing our past and believing that others are less worthy of grace. If pride is allowed to blinker us from the gospel of grace, we will run away from God’s call.


RESPONSE

Are we being led by fear, hatred and pride? Like Jonah, we will run away from God’s call if Fear, hatred and pride are not kept in check through a fresh experience of God’s presence. The antidote to fear, hatred and pride is to keep celebrating the gospel in the presence of God.

 

COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY


1. NOTICES

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

2. ICEBREAKER

Share your ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ from the Christmas and New Year season.

3. RECAP OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE - PLEASE SHARE IN YOUR GROUP


WHICH WAY AM I RUNNING?

On Sunday we began our series is the book of Jonah which we’ve entitled ‘I AM JONAH’. The Subtitle of this series is ‘Learning to run toward rather than run away from God's mission’. Through this book, God wants to re-commission us for His mission to bring the gospel to our communities - our ‘Nineveh’s’. He wants to put His Spirit in us so that we don’t run away but run toward His mission.


‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.’ (Jonah 1:1-3)

BIG IDEA: God calls all of us to His mission. We have to choose whether to run toward or run away from God’s call.


On Sunday, we talked about SIV: Serve, invest and invite is a simple strategy of building relational bridges in order to bring our friends to Jesus. We serve real needs, we invest time to deepen relationships with people and invite them into church community and events such as alpha. We love to invite people to come to know God through the gospel but this will usually occur after we have invested in a relationship. You might find it helpful to watch this interview with Brenda together:


4. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • What are the various communities, outside the church, that God has put you into?

  • Do you find yourself running away or running toward sharing your faith with people? Please give reasons and examples for your response.

  • Why do you think Jonah ran away from God call?

  • How do you Serve, Invest and Invite in your communities?

  • How will the power of the Holy Spirit help us in our mission? (See Acts 1:8)

  • Let’s now pray for specific people that God has put on your heart and in your life.

  • Let’s pray for each other that, by the Spirit’s empowering, unlike Jonah, we would run toward God’s commission to share our faith and the gospel with those in our lives.

  • This week, lets each make a list of non-believing friends and pray for them daily.

  • Next week, come ready to share how God has used us to Serve, Invest and Invite.




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