Instead

There are simply times when the easiest and quickest solution to the problem at hand is just to walk away, right? Ever walk or perhaps even run the other way? You see or hear something, then without a moment's hesitation, you turn and run, hoping to avoid the confrontation, escape the demand, or just plain ignore the situation? I think we could all answer in the affirmative to this one on at least one occasion in our lives. It is sometimes more "convenient" to pretend we did not hear - but I am going to meddle a bit here - what is the cost of hearing and then not doing? It is probably less "costly" in our eyes to just ignore the need - but who will meet the need if we were the ones designed and equipped to do it? I imagine it is less "relationally intense" to avoid the confrontation - but what walls will be built by avoiding the difficult discussions? It is likely we will ignore a few things in life we really were being directed toward because we held the solution, but we just didn't 'feel like it' at the moment. We all are guilty of this from time to time. Going the other direction isn't always right and things may not turn out well for us in the end!

One day long ago, God's Word came to Jonah, Amittai's son: "Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They're in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer." But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God. He went down to the port of Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish—as far away from God as he could get. (Jonah 1:1-3)

Jonah finds himself in one of those "I heard that, but I am gonna do this INSTEAD" moments in his life. He turned and ran - his 'instead'! Have you ever wondered why God put the "stories of struggle" - those 'instead moments' - in scripture? I think it is because God wants us to realize he knows we struggle with stuff - especially obedience! This struggle doesn't make God any less "interested" in our obedience - in fact, it strengthens his resolve to bring us to the place where we stop running - where we stop pursuing the 'instead' in life! God tells him the need of a nation - Nineveh is in "a bad way" - they have a need and God wants to use Jonah to meet it. Too many times, we are the ones "in a bad way" in life. What if the one God designs and equips to come to our rescue resists his call, choosing the 'instead'? We'd be left there "in a bad way", without any rescue. Oh, maybe God would raise up someone else, but the fact remains, the one God burdened first is likely to be the one God designed and equipped specifically for the need!

In looking at Jonah's response to God's request, we probably see a lot of our own struggles with obedience at times. We clearly hear the voice and intention of God. He wants us going one direction - we choose the other - the 'instead'. Does it ever surprise you how much you and I are willing to actually "spend" on running the opposite direction? Look at Jonah's flight - it cost him a fare on a ship headed to Tarshish. In trying to get as far away from God as he could get, it cost him! The same is true whenever we attempt to resist the thing God asks of us. The sad truth is obedience "costs" us something - but disobedience may actually cost us more! There is indeed a 'cost' to the 'instead'. I don't know what steps of obedience God may be asking of each of us today, but I do know we have two choices - go WITH God (toward the intent), or go AWAY from God (toward the instead). On the ship to Tarshish (the instead), Jonah had no traveling companion - on the journey to Nineveh (the intent), he was held by the hand of God. Somehow, the "going WITH" seems a whole lot more appealing to me than the "going AWAY" does! I don't like to be in alone in a crowd of strangers - especially in a close environment like the confines of a ship! There is truly no escape if we find ourselves in company we'd rather not keep!

As a child, someone always took my hand as I crossed the street. Why? To keep me safe! Imagine the journey of obedience (toward intent) - hand in hand with God. Maybe we'd be less inclined to run to the 'great instead' if we reached out to take his hand a little tighter! We'd certainly be a whole lot safer! Just sayin!

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