Don't Go To Tarshish
"Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying 'Arise, go out to Ninevah, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.' But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." - Jonah 1:1-3
It has been a sick couple of weeks in the Marley house. By sick, I mean ill, and by ill I mean Morgan and I contracted a virus that seems to be going around the city in rampant fashion. It started with her, and then as every married couple knows, I was inevitably not far behind. I woke up yesterday with all the early signs; sore throat, congested, stuffy nose. I knew that there was way too much work to do at the office to stay home, so up was the only option.
After a long day, I came home to rest a bit before home group. Home Group is such a joy for my heart. I value Wednesday nights for the health of our church, my wife's soul, and my own. Not only do I value it, but I know God has led me to be in community. I go because I trust it is good for me, but I go also because He has said it. But, I am a sinful person.
I know it is hard to believe, but the dark stain of sin doesn't pass over pastors. By the grace of God the penalty of sin in my life has been eradicated by the blood of Jesus, but the power of sin still wages war against my flesh and at times, like Jonah, I succumb to it.
So as I lay down an hour before home group, I begin to think: "You have never missed a home group before. This isn't a big deal. You are sick. People will understand. Just stay home and rest. You deserve it. You worked hard all day. People don't understand all the stress you take on. Just miss ONE night."
And without notice, I instantly lost sight of why I go to home group in the first place. You see, although I love people and deeply appreciate their value and role in my life, they are not the primary reason why I go to home group. They hold value to me and therefore they are a secondary reason, so that I may encourage, exhort, rebuke, help, restore, and even receive from all those God has placed around me. But the initial reason why I go to home group, is because of God.
I think it is the same also with you. No matter WHAT or WHERE it is that God has called you, do not forget WHY you go there.
Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah, but the next verse records that instead he fled to Tarshish. For me, I knew that I was called by God to go to home group, but I was 5 minutes away from fleeing to my bed. Why did I (or why do we) respond like this?We focus too much on our own ability to understand what God has for us in Ninevah (Home Group) and too little on simply trusting and being obedient to what God has called us to do and where God has called us to go.
Jonah didn't want to go to Ninevah because it was a wicked city and he was sure that if God sent him to preach repentance to that city, he would be persecuted and possibly killed. So that same voice that began to convince me to stay at home, convinced Jonah to run to Tarshish rather than obey God.
What was actually waiting for Jonah in Ninevah was not judgment and persecution, but humble repentance and redemption. You see, I had a version of home group in my head that allowed me to skip out unseen and unnoticed. But God did not see it that way. He had something else planned.
Every day we have this same choice to make. Will we go to Ninevah or will we go to Tarshish. The circumstances may look different, but the principle stays the same. WIll we be obedient to the voice of God or will we heed all the other voices in our lives, including our own? Will we trust God and go to Ninevah, despite the bleak outlook from our finite perspective, or will we run to the fictitious comforts of Tarshish? Christians know what God has led them to do and be daily and where he has called them to be daily, because the Holy Spirit is a faithful guide. We simply give ear to too many other voices that slowly convince us that Ninevah is too scary, tiring, anxiety-filled, depressing, or perhaps dangerous.
I went to home group. I was able to speak into some of my brothers lives. By God's grace I believe that those words changed them for good. Who knows where the ripple effect of that will stop?
Today, don't run to Tarshish, go to Ninevah because God called you to.